Granada is one of the most important Spanish tourist centres. It is famous mainly for the beautiful architecture, multiple monuments, and spectacular views. The numbers do not lie: the hotels in the city, in 2017, sold 2.826.822 overnight stays! Granada province is the only place in Europe, where you can spend a day skiing and then, travel 70 km to Costa Tropical to swim in the sea.
Granada was founded in the seventh century BC by Celtiberians. It was taken over by Greeks, Carthaginians and even Julius Caesar, who named it Municipium Florentinum Ilberitanu. Later, the name was shortened to Florentia. Over the centuries, the colony was ruled by Visigoths, the Byzantium Empire and, since 711 AD, by Moors (as a part of Al-Andalus). The Moors built their own Gharnata next to the settlement, and due to the destruction of the original settlement, the Arabic name was used for the whole territory. Over the next centuries, Granada underwent transformations. Those were its glory days with a peak happening when a confederation with Castile was signed. The gradual aggressive acts of the Reconquista successfully deprived the Arabs inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula of their land and property in the interest of the Christians. The majority of wealthy expatriates from Cordoba and Seville found shelter in Granada, and it is also thanks to them that the city became rich. At that time, Granada was the wealthiest city in the Iberian Peninsula. After the Crown Army conquered the settlements, cities, and towns, Granada Emirate became the last Islam centre to defeat. It happened on January 2, 1492. After 1,5 year siege of Granada, the last Iberian sultan, Muhammad XII Abu Abdallah (the Spanish called him Boabdil), finally surrounded to the Catholic Spanish army.
A legend says that soon after Boabdil’s surrendered, he and his court were forced to leave the city. On his way to the estate he received from Spain satiated in mountainy Alpuhara (on the south side of Granada), he stopped in a place, which is today called El suspiro del moro (The sigh of the Moor) and once again looked with teary eyes on the lost capital – “Cry like a woman for what you could not protect as a man” – his mother told him…
The greatest relic of the cusp of Arab and Christian rule over the city is the famous La Alhambra (Arabic qa’lat al-Hamra – ‘a red castle’ – the name may be connected to the red bricks of the walls of the castle, however, historians claim that it might have been connected to the colour of walls illuminated by torches at night). Without a doubt, it is the best preserved Muslim palace in Europe.
La Alhambra was being built gradually. In the ninth century, it served as a moderate military fortification. Since 1238, when Mohamed ben Al-Arimar became the first Nadir monarch, the castle became a royal residence. At that time, rapid extension of the complex started. Over the next decades, the palace was being refined, new parts built-on, and the news of its panache and beauty reached the farthest corners of Al-Andalus.
When Catholic monarchs conquered the palace, they did not dare to wreck it as they tended to do during the Reconquista, as could be seen, i.e. while visiting the Great Mosque in Cordoba.
After the mosque was torn down – a building which was included into the original Alhambra, they built a church on its ruins. They also built-on a monastery and a royal palace, which, despite the great efforts, is not as beautiful as the creation of Arab architects’ imagination. Alhambra is a true pearl of Andalusia, which you can see from a distance on your way to the city because it is situated on the highest point in the city – on the Hill of Sun. Inside its walls, there are finely ornamented rooms, rich decorations, and beautiful gardens. The palace and Albacin – a district of Granada – in 1984, was entered to the World Heritage List of Culture. Since then, it has become one of the most visited relics in Spain (in 2017, it was visited by 2,7 million tourists and was second only to Sagrada Familia from Barcelona). You absolutely have to see it! From the caste, you can enjoy the view of Sierra Nevada mountain range and its snow-covered tops (the snow stays on the mountainsides from November to the end of April). It is all very charming.
It is good to book a ticket to Alhambra early, especially during the high season. We had to wait in a queue for over two hours on a sunny day with the temperature reaching over 30 degrees. An official website of Alhambra – fees, online booking, other information about the tour – CLICK HERE.
At the feet of Alhambra, there is Paseo del Padre Manjon – a great place to take a walk. There are: an antique fountain from 1609, restaurants, monuments and relics…
Among many Moorish relics, there is Banos Arabes del Banuelo from the eleventh century – the only bathhouse preserved in the area. You can visit it for free (the crowds tend to be irritation, but you may find a moment of peace to take a few photos).
In corners and small lanes, you can spot open Arab baths, so it is best to take a swimming suit in order to be able to feel a unique atmosphere. I especially recommend the following:
The number of monuments in Granada is really impressive. Aside from Alhambra and the baths, you should visit an old district called Albaicin which used to be Arab. It is a true treasure island. I should also mention a renaissance palace Palacio del Marques de Salar – Patio de los perfumes from the afternoon of the seventeenth century. Recently, it has been turned into a Museum of Perfume, presenting the art and history of perfume production from the ancient times until today. The top floor is dedicated to natural cosmetics. Here, you can also learn about cosmetic properties of plants. Its interior is very interesting and has a beautiful patio, columns, plants and elfin smells…
Walking through the narrows streets, you will reach Plaza Mirador de San Nicolas. From it, you can enjoy the amazing view of Alhambra, Sierra Nevada mountains, the city and its surroundings – it is one of the most beautiful places in Granada. You really should visit it!
Near Albaicin, there is a beautiful house built in the Moorish style, Casa del Chapiz (also known as Cuesta del Chapiz) – a must-see place.
I cannot omit the Cathedral of Granada. It was being built between 1523 and 1704, and it is an example of Isabelline style – a variant of late-gothic style in Spain, which emerged during the reign of Isabella I of Castile and her husband Ferdinand. Their remains rest in a built-on separate part of the Cathedral – Capilla Real.
It is a good idea to go for a walk, starting from Plaza Nueva situated in the city centre, towards the famous Paseo de los Tristes near Darro river. You can get lost in it endlessly :)
Right next to it, there is the famous El Sacramonte – a district where among the Gypsies who used to live there, the flamenco culture was born. Even today, in caves, turned into local pubs (penas), and sometimes even on the streets, you can particiate in music and dance performances. In 2010, flamenco was entered to the List of the Intangible Heritage.
Jardines de Zoraya – More info
Tablao Sacromonte - Venta Del Gallo - More info
Those are only some of the places worth seeing in Granada. There is much more of them so in order to avoid getting lost, I put a useful map at the bottom of the text.
A few recommended places:
There is a vast range of places to pick from!
You absolutely should go on a trek using the snowy mountains trails of Sierra Nevada.
Please take a look at the map I prepared for you. I tried to mark the most interesting attractions of Granada.
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