Granada is more than just the Alhambra Palace. It has one of the top universities in Spain and a wonderful Moorish quarter and enjoys an enviable position between the majestic, snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada and the headlands and rocky coves of the Costa Tropical. It is one of the best cities in Spain in which to sample traditional Spanish tapas. There are numerous tapas bars especially in the narrow side streets around the Cathedral.
The Alhambra – the ‘Red’ Castle
The Alhambra is undeniably the most magnificent Moorish palace ever built. It sits serenely on top of a wooded hill and dominates the city. It was originally constructed in the 9th century and was developed later to become a fortress, palace and city all in one.
The Alhambra is now a World Heritage site and Spain’s most visited monument. Consequently, visitor numbers are strictly controlled each day to protect the buildings. Tickets have to be purchased in advance for a specific day and each ticket has a timed entry.
The Nasrid Palaces
The relative austerity of the exterior of the Alhambra palaces belies the sumptuous splendour of the interior. The Nasrid palaces assualt the visual senses with a rich and diverse array of intricate and elaborate vaulted ceilings, domes, friezes and stucco work. The Moors were great gardeners and were particularly creative with the use of water. Visitors emerge from the palace rooms and passageways into the courtyards to be be greeted by languid pools and ornate fountains which blend in perfectly with the architecture to create a stunning whole.
Generalife – “ Garden of Paradise”
It is the magnificent terraced gardens of the Generalife, however, which are the crowning glory of the Moors gardening skills. The meaning of Generalife, “the garden of lofty paradise,” certainly fits the wonderful orchards, pastures, and flower beds. There is an intriguing system of running water. From the Escalera del Agua, leading to the highest point of the gardens, there is a small stream of water that flows down to the remainder of the gardens.
In the city itself, the magnificent Cathedral (just off Gran Via) is worth a visit. As is the case of most Christian buildings in Granada, the Cathedral was built on the site of the former Mosque. The most striking fact about the cathedral is how long it took to build! Work started on 15th March 1523 and was not completed until 1704, some 180 years later!
The Albaicin District – The Moorish Quarter
An evening stroll around the Albaicin, the name given to the old Moorish quarter of the city, is a must. The narrow streets create a feeling of being in North Africa not Spain. The ‘Mirador’ at the Church of San Nicholas has stunning views of a floodlit Alhambra.
Accommodation – The Caseria de Comares’Tourist apartments are conveniently located in the southern outskirts of the city.
Getting around – The city bus service is excellent and cheap. Single journeys are one euro but a card giving eight single journeys for 5 euros is available.
Eating Out – Bodegas Castañeda (Almireceros 1-3, off Gran Via opposite the Cathedral) is one of the most popular tapas bars in the city. Excellent quality and value but customers may have to eat while standing at busy times.