Uncover the hidden secrets of Spain’s most enchanting city. From the sun-drenched fortress at the Sierra Nevada foothills to the quaint streets that house traditional Arabic baths, Granada is awaiting exploration.
Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the Spanish city of Granada is a beguiling mix of Moorish history and romantic charm. Guarded by the majestic Alhambra that looks over the city on one side, and the white-washed stone walls of the Albaicin on the other, let yourself be captivated by the magic as you wander the cobbled, incense-filled streets of this enchanting place. Becky Milligan tells us why Granada should be your next Spanish destination.
1. Moorish influences
When you first step foot in Granada, it’s hard to ignore the fiercely rooted Moorish influences that are everywhere you turn. From the towering Alhambra on the mountainside above you, to the cobbled streets lined with little shops selling Arabic lanterns, shoes and incense. Enter the old Moorish quarter, El Albaicín, by Puerta Elvira, a towering portal that transports you back in time. As you wander these bustling streets, make a pit-stop at Teteria As-Sirat for a thirst-quenching tea. Look around you at the colourful tiles and feel like a local as you sip this speciality among friends in this homely teahouse.
Whilst in the Albaicín, ascend cobbled streets to Mirador San Nicolás for one of the most dramatic views of La Alhambra. Admire how the sun kisses the sand-coloured stone, and shadows appear at nightfall, with a soundtrack of live flamenco bringing the area to life behind you. Catch a street performer showing off their talents, or browse handmade trinkets, all the while feeling yourself adapt to this city’s beautifully slow and enchanting way of life.
A mini pilgrimage to the palace itself is the pièce de résistance of your time in the city. As the midday sun beats down on the streets below, seek refuge within the cool stone walls of La Alhambra, intricately patterned to form a myriad of shapes and colours. The palace gardens, namely the Patio de la Lindaraja, are equally as stunning, and hours can be spent here admiring the natural beauty that surrounds this majestic fort, the last stronghold of the Moors in Europe, and soaking up that Spanish sun.
Take a 15-minute drive to the other side of the city to Parque Garcia Lorca, named in memory of the famous Spanish poet. Lined with palm trees and sunny alleyways, this is the perfect place to relax and take in your surroundings. Round off your day with a soothing bathe and a revitalising treatment at the Hammam Arabic Baths, hidden in a quiet backstreet and unbeknown to most.
2. Tasty tapas
Moorish influences aside, Granada is alive with all the traditional quirks of a thriving Spanish city and much, much more. One cannot ignore the fabulous array of tapas bars and restaurants on offer in this buzzing city. A pilgrimage here is not complete without a caña or glass of sangria, accompanied by a tasty treat, from calamares to a full-sized burger. The excitement of guessing your next tapas treat never tires, a simple pleasure in this beautiful Andalusian city.
A stay at Casa del Pilar, just off Plaza Nueva, is a perfect bolthole in which to rest your head after a day exploring, and just around the corner from many great places to eat. For breakfast stroll across the Plaza for a tortilla, or head down the backstreets of the notable Realejo quarter to La Borraja for a unique tomaca treat that you’ll find yourself yearning for every morning.
Finish your day with a passion-fuelled flamenco show in one of the many caves that dot the Sacromonte, home to the Roma community. Although there are plenty to choose from, Cueva del Rocío is notorious for Zambra, the unique twist on traditional flamenco that finds its home in Granada. Or how about practising those moves at El Camborio - a perfectly cheesy bar and club with the dreamiest of settings. What could be better than looking out from the terrace to the Alhambra as the sun sets sipping on a glass of sangria?
3. Granada and beyond
There’s plenty to entertain you in this enchanting Andalucian city, but if you feel like really stretching your legs, head up to the snow-capped Sierra Nevada, a perfect activity hub during both the winter and summer months. From hiking and skiing to mountain biking and tobogganing, time in the mountains is a perfect antidote to your city break with the family. For something slightly more grounded, you can catch a bus out to the hanging bridges of Los Cahorros in the small town of Monachil for a hiking experience full of waterfalls, dipping pools and clambering between towering rock faces.
And to top it all off, the idyllic beach of Nerja is just an hour’s drive away on the south coast. Take in the sea breeze, stroll along the sand and enjoy the many beautiful and diverse aspects of the Andalusian countryside. For the discerning traveller, Granada has a perfect mix of culture, food and exploration, all within easy distance. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in variety of activity and sights to see. Head there now and uncover its secrets.
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