Granada is the queen of Andalucia as well one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. It was the last Arab outpost in the country and is dominated by the highest mountains in Spain (la Sierra Nevada) on which it stands out the magnificent red palace of the Alhambra. The latter is one of the most exciting and romantic monuments in the world and requires, on its own, more than half a day. In addition to the Alhambra, however, there are many other things to see: there is the ancient Moorish quarter of the Albaicin with its many miradores, the imposing Granada Cathedral with the Royal Chapels, the Arab baths, the monastery of the Cartuja, the gypsy quarter of Sacromonte, etc. All this to tell you that you have to stay in Granada at least 2 days, but even more, especially if you want to fully savor the Andalusian city and its traditions. If you do not have much time available, my advice is to participate, as soon as you arrive, to a free city tour (lasts 2h) which will allow you to orient yourself and begin to understand the city.
How to get to Granada and how to get around
By plane: Granada can be reached from Spain with direct flights from low-cost airlines or via a stopover in Madrid or Barcelona. Granada airport is located 17 km outside the city center.
By train: after the plane, certainly the best way because all the center of Granada is limited traffic and it is really difficult to get around by car. From Seville Granada can be reached by train in 3h and 20 and from Cordoba in 2h and 5. The train station is located 1 km outside the center.
By bus: even the bus is comfortable, especially if you do not have particular time problems. The bus station is located in the northern suburbs of the city. To reach the center you will then have to take a bus.
How to get around: most of the city attractions can be visited by walking, but it takes a little effort because Granada is a continuous up and down (your buttocks will thank you). Only the monastery de la Cartuja is a little further away but it can be reached easily by bus.
Where to sleep in Granada
Apartments / Hotel Bellavista: as the name implies, these apartments (of various sizes) are located in the Albaicin and offer a magnificent view of the Alhambra. The apartments are nice and well equipped and, for those arriving by car, they also provide a very convenient wallet parking service.
Where to eat in Granada
- Bodegas Castañeda: very good and very popular historic tapas bar. You don't book and you can't have tables (max 4 pax), but you queue up and, normally, you don't have to wait too long. While waiting for the table you can drink at the counter
- The Diamonds Bar: another very famous tapas bar, specializing in fish. There is always a queue but with a little patience you sit down. Large tables to share with other diners.
- The Picoteo Casa Torcuato : nice and really good restaurant. Specializing in grilling, he makes excellent meat and excellent tapas (everything is also good, even the fish). Very courteous and kind service (about 25 euros / pax with bottled wine).
- Gabriel coffee : not far from El Picoteo, very nice and good. Similar to the Picoteo in terms of menu and prices.
What to see in Granada
The Alhambra: the Palacio Nazaries, the Alcazaba and the Generalife
It is impossible not to identify Granada with the Alhambra. This large architectural complex represents the highest artistic expression of the Moorish world and is one of the most exciting and romantic monuments in the world. Seeing it from the outside it looks like a large fortress with red walls, but in reality it hides inside a real citadel with royal palaces, smaller houses, harems, schools, mosques, barracks, vegetable gardens and gardens. There are mainly 3 distinct groups of buildings on the Alhambra hill: the Palacio Nazaries (i.e. the Royal Palace, built by the Arab kings and subsequently used also by the Catholic kings), i gardens of the Generalife andAlcazaba (the oldest part of the fortress). The most richly decorated part is that of the Palacio Nazaries, where the very famous is located Patio of the Lions and the Sala de los Abencerrajes, which has the most beautiful ceiling in the Alhambra. Then there is the Palace of Charles V, in Renaissance style, completely different from all the other buildings of the citadel, theAlcazaba with the Torre de la Vela (from which you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Albaicin) and, separated from everything else, the gardens and the Generalife palace (the summer residence of the sultans).
How to visit the Alhambra
I had already visited the Alhambra many years ago and I was very happy to see that they have structured the visit much more, imposing obligatory paths and blocking access to some areas (you can finally get some decent photos of the Patio dei Leoni without an inhuman crowd in front of you!). The downside is that finding a ticket to the Alhambra without having booked it in advance is almost impossible because they have set a maximum number of visitors per day (6600). In addition to the limited number, tickets are divided into to protect the complex 2 entrances: one in the morning (8: 30-14) and one in the afternoon (14-18 or 20 in summer). To avoid overcrowding, the entrance to the Palacio Nazaries and the Alcazaba take place in stages every 30 '(so you will find yourself queuing up when you are inside). There are also night visits.
How to buy tickets for the Alhambra
Online presale: if you want to be sure to visit it, you must move at least 2 months in advance by purchasing tickets on the official website, (but not always successful) or from the (very reliable) Get Your Guide website (see box below).
Purchase at the moment: definitely risky but possible. You can go to the Alhambra sales point in the city (C / Reyes Catolicos 40 - h 9: 30-20: 30), at the entrance to the Alhambra (h8-20) or at the electronic ticket offices of the ServiCaixa circuit (they are in a small building outside the car park near the ticket office).
The ancient Moorish quarter of Albaicin and the Arab baths
Albaicin is the oldest district in the city and it has been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO because it is the largest surviving Moorish neighborhood in Spain. The Albaicin is located on the hill in front of the Alhambra and dividing them is the Darro River. The best way to start visiting the neighborhood is to start from New Square and go up along the river taking Carre del Darro. At number 31 you will find the remains of the complex of The banuelo, or the ancient Arab baths of the eleventh century. Today some rooms with brick vaults and the typical star skylights remain visible to us. Carry on and then start climbing from Horno del Horno de Oro Street, where at number 14 there is a beautiful Moorish house (whose entrance is included in the same ticket as the Arab baths - 5 euros). Then go up again until you reach the Saint Nicholas' lookout (from which there is a super view of the Alhambra) e Long Square, the main square of the Albaicin full of bars and restaurants frequented by the locals.
The Cathedral of Granada and the Royal Chapel
La Granada Cathedral it is located in the lower part of the city, near Plaza Nueva, and is a not too exciting Renaissance church. Immediately behind, however, there is Royal Chapel (or Capilla Real) which is instead the most important Christian building in Granada, built to house the tombs of the most beloved kings of Spain: the Catholic kings (Ferdinand and Isabella) e Philip the Beautiful and Giovanna the Mad. Built in the XNUMXth century, this magnificent chapel (which unfortunately cannot be photographed) pays homage to the sovereigns who united Spain under a single monarchy and forged ties with many foreign countries, laying the foundations for Spanish colonialism. It is a monument much loved and felt by the Spaniards and upon entering the solemnity of the place is very much perceived. Not to be missed!
Right in front of the entrance to the Royal Chapel there is the Madraza Palace, a former XNUMXth-century Islamic college and the Corral del Carbon, a magnificent caravanserai of the same period.
The Charterhouse and the most grandiose and sumptuous of all Carthusian monasteries of the country and is located outside the center, in a district north of Granada. Built in the early 500s, it includes a church (where opulence reigns supreme), the sacrarium and the sacristy.
Sacromonte (the gypsy quarter of Granada) and San Miguel Alto
Il Sacromonte it can be reached by climbing along the Camino of the same name and is the gypsy quarter of the city. In Granada there is a permanent population of gypsies who have produced many of the best flamenco guitarists, dancers and singers and the particularity of the Sacromonte are their houses. In reality they are cave houses dug into the mountain where today, especially in the evening, it is possible to see flamenco shows. Right above the Sacromonte, there is then the San Miguel Alto church, the most beautiful vantage point in all of Granada where you can see the sunset. Bring some beers and climb up there to see the sky ignite behind the Alhambra and the whole city behind (there are no kiosks or bars at the top).
Huerta de San Vincente (the summer house of Garcia Lorca)
Garcia Lorca lived in Granada for a long time, the great poet and playwright, and his fans have at their disposal several house-museums and different places linked to this very famous writer (who was born a few kilometers from here). One of them is Huerta de San Vincente, that is the summer house of the poet's family, where he used to spend the summer. The house which is located west of the center has been restored and transformed into a museum; it is surrounded by a park which is the largest rose garden in Europe.