The last city I visited in the South of Spain was Granada and to be honest I fell in love with this city slowly, more slowly than the other two cities, Seville and Cordoba. I am not sure exactly what it was but the atmosphere did not impress me straight away like the other two. It took quite a bit of exploring first before the city warmed up to me. The city center surrounds the impressive Granada Cathedral. There are many affordable restaurants, bars and shops to pass the time, especially around Plaza Nueva but it is a lot like any other city in that sense. You have to head up to Albayzin which is the oldest area of the city to get more of that infusion of Arabic culture and of course one of the main reasons people come to Granada is to visit the spectacular Alhambra.
The hilly area of Albayzin is my favourite part of the city. It used to be the old, Arabic quarter. The white houses with a hint of blue and yellow, decorated with lots of flower pots reminded me of what I loved about Cordoba. Exploring this part of town will lead you through narrow, cobblestone paths and up many stairs that are surrounded by small art galleries, craft stores, tapas bars and Morrocan inspired restaurants.
From one of the main streets in the city center, Gran Via Colón to the Albayzin there are many small streets with hundreds of shops that sell Arabic style art, funiture, lamps and leather bags, shoes and general souvenirs.
The best view of the city is from the Mirador San Nicolas lookout. Here you can see the whole exterior of the Alhambra and in the distance, the snow covered mountains of Granada. It is so beautiful! Walking through the Albayzin which transported me back in time and finally seeing this amazing view was the moment the city carried me away. Artists and craftsmen selling handpainted postcards and jewellery showcase all there designs in this area and sometimes buskers sing traditional flamenco pieces which provide the perfect soundtrack as you look out at this beautiful view!
To the left of San Nicolas Church is the Mosque and their small garden is a nice place to sit and relax surrounded by colourful roses. There is a woman who sits at the entrance of the Mosque that does traditional Henna designs and just up the street there is a Morrocan restaurant that serves an amazing chicken and vegetable cous cous with a traditional spice tea.
You cannot go to Granada without visiting the Alhambra! Make sure you book your tickets in advance. The queues can be endless with people already lining up early in the morning. The grounds are so big and there is so much history to learn and wrap your head around that it is best to book a tour. I booked a tour with Amigo Tours and it was so worth it! The meeting point was in front of the main entrance at 8am, the early time allowed us to beat some of the crowds as a lot of tours start later at 11am when the place is packed. This tour also includes the General Life Gardens which is normally a separate ticket. The Alhambra is one of the most impressive Royal Palaces I have ever seen because of the intricate, carved designs of the buildings and the fountains located inside the grounds. I love how there is a large emphasis on nature and being surrounded by the beauty of nature in the creation of this complex with the buildings centered around gardens and courtyards.
If you have the time during your trip to Granada, head up to Sacromonte which is next to the Albayzin. It is the old, gypsie part of town that is characterised by the many caves where they host traditional flamenco performances at night. It is only a few minutes by bus to Sacromonte from Plaza Nueva.
For a food recommendation around the city center, right in front of the Cathedral is Cafe Dio. They serve a really good chicken burger with fries as well as a variety of juices and really good coffee. Also if you have visited many other cities in Spain you have probably seen the franchise Ale-Hop everywhere. This store sells everything you could possibly think of, well things that you want but don’t really need at a tempting, cheap price. It is a fun and colourful shop to buy gifts. They sell really cute tote bags, wallets, phone cases, electronic accessories and stationary among many other things. It is a shop you can’t miss because there is a statue of a very large cow out the front.
I think two full days to explore Granada is enough time and during Spring it already feels like summer, well the summer I am used to with temperatures already reaching twenty eight to thirty degrees!