This is the dream of all the world. The dream is to live in Granada. You know, work in the morning, have a one-hour nap in the afternoon, and at night go out and have that life. Go out and see your friends and eat tapas and drink red wine and be in a beautiful place.
Don’t just take Bourdain’s word for it. Have a look at the photos and you’ll understand why Granada is truly a highlight of travel in Europe. Not only does it possess the Alhambra Palace, but it is also home to a stunning cathedral. Add in an old quarter where you can shop by day and where you’ll hear Flamenco music in the evenings.
There’s more to Spain than just sun and sangria. After all, there’s always Granada…Let’s go on our photo journey.
The Alhambra Palace
The Alhambra Palace is indeed the place of legends. It was long the centre of Moorish Spain and its fall in 1492 marked the end of Muslim power in Iberia. It also the beginning of a new Catholic power, which would have dramatic results in the Americas. History aficionados will know that this was also the year in which Columbus set sail on a voyage that would change the course of history. Christian Spain would ‘discover’ a new world.
Alas, poor Potosi…
Although the Catholic monarchs conquered Granada, they kept the Alhambra Palace intact and you can still marvel at its architecture today. Throughout the grounds of the palace, you’ll see colourful flowers, refreshing fountains and plenty of water.
The arches are a reminder of the influence of the Moors throughout this region- an influence that travellers will also notice in the architecture of other cities such as Seville and Cordoba.
The Arabic inscriptions and the use of tessellated patterns are a photographer’s dream. Also, they serve as a constant reminder of the artistic prowess of Muslim Spain prior to 1492.
The arches and pillars are not only artistic but, along with the patio, they provide shade in the heat of a Spanish summer. Although the Nasrid Kings of Granada are long gone, their architecture is often considered some of the best produced in the Muslim world.
The palace of Carlos V is controversial. History recounts that the Christian King ordered its construction having fallen in love with the Alhambra Palace on his honeymoon. Critics consider it jarring in the midst of the palace’s original Islamic style.
The floor of the upper storey of Palacio de Carlos V is made of marble and the ceiling is made of wood. Ironically, Carlos V never lived here and his successor transferred his court to Madrid. That city would later become the official capital of Spain.
It is often the bright colours and water features of the Generalife gardens that leave travellers with their most vivid memories. In fact, in some ways, the gardens are almost more impressive than the palaces. And that says something!
As you walk through the gardens, you can expect to see fountains, water, bright flowers and vistas of the palaces and the city. These were quiet places where the Kings would seek refuge at the end of the day.
We don’t know how the Generalife would have looked originally. However, we can surmise that the influence of Christian culture must surely have altered its appearance.
Visiting the Alhambra and Generalife
Entrance to the Alhambra (including the Generalife) costs 14 euros for an adult and children go free. ALL visitors must have tickets, including children. Morning or afternoon tickets can be purchased and you should book in advance to avoid disappointment. Evening or night visits run from Tuesday to Saturday (March-October) and on Friday/Saturday off season.
With its winding streets and alleys, UNESCO declared the Albaicin a World Heritage Site in 1984, along with the Alhambra Palace. Apart from the usual tourist trinkets, the area also houses some intriguing shops. If you want to get that North African carpet to take home, this is probably the best bet.
The area comes to life at night when its Cuevas fill up with tourists listening to traditional Flamenco music. In the afternoon, this is also a good place to eat alfresco in the shadow of the towering Alhambra Palace complex.
The Albaicin was where the Muslim population lived in the years after 1492. Although the population dwindled, their influence lives on and it is still apparent as you wander through the streets.
The City of Granada
Don’t let all this Moorish architecture and history prevent you from seeing the town itself. Of course, coachloads of tourists from the coast often make a beeline for the Alhambra Palace and totally miss the city. This is a mistake as it is a great place to eat, wander the streets or just stop to take it all in.
Granada Cathedral may pale in comparison to the great cathedrals of Seville and Cordoba, but its precincts are surely among the most charming places in the south of Spain.
Apart from its beautiful facade, the interior is known to be one of the finest in Spain. Entrance tickets for adults cost 4 euro and children go free.
Budget conscious travellers will love the Funky Granada. With its long table in an inner patio, it is the perfect place to meet fellow backpackers from across Europe. On the other hand, travellers who want to pay a little more will like the Palacio de Santa Ines. Full of character, booking this 3 star in advance guarantees the best prices. Those of you who travel in style should check out the Parador.
Food and Drink
During the day the area near the cathedral has a broad selection of restaurants offering relatively cheap eats. At night it’s hard to resist the alfresco options in the Albaicin. Many of the dishes associated with Spain such as gazpacho originated in Andalusia, so make sure to try them out if you’re here in the summer. For those used to the steep prices of northern Europe, a few euro will go a long way here.
Getting to Granada
The nearest major airport is in Malaga and there are bus and train links between Malaga and Granada. Note that the official tourist website recommends arriving by bus (90 minutes). Direct buses from Malaga Airport are less frequent and operate roughly every two hours. Buses between Malaga Bus Station and Granada operate hourly between 7am and 9:30pm. Coming from Madrid, the bus takes about 5 hours and buses leave from Mendez Alvaro Bus Terminal.
Click here to learn more about the monuments of Seville and Cordoba
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