We were lucky enough to get to enjoy four days in Granada. We were able to wander the city and get recommendations from a friend who spent a whole day with us and made our stay extra special. Granada has a different feel from Sevilla (which we visited next) and Málaga, and that is definitely a good thing. Lucky for us we were able to visit distinctly different Andalucían cities.
Granada has the most “old-world” feel to it when compared to the many other Spanish cities we have visited; there are a lot of cobblestone streets, and many narrow streets that head upward (or downward, depends on which way you are coming from). There are neighborhoods that had been typically inhabited by Muslims (Albaicín neighborhood), Jews (Realejo), and there was even the historical Gypsy part of town (Sacromonte – where houses were built into the nearby caves), giving the city a different look depending on where we were. There are no huge buildings and cranes (for future construction) ruining the skyline. Everything centers around the massive Alhambra, which we visited on our last day but saw each day from many points of the city.
We arrived at the train station, near the park Jardines del Triunfo, which had an impressive statue and multiple rose gardens (with many in bloom, providing a sweet aroma whenever we would pass by). At night the statue and the fountain behind it were especially eye-catching.
Our first day we wandered, walked up and down the streets, sometimes getting a bit lost, and eventually arrived at the Mirador de San Cristóbal, which provides full views of the Alhambra. It was populated with many fellow tourists, taking their best selfies with the massive Alhambra in the background, as well as street vendors, with their wares set out on blankets for perusal.
After our pictures at the Mirador we descended and found a really tasty restaurant where we ate lamb skewers and pate with crostinis. Afterward, we returned to the hotel, calling it an early night after traveling from Frigiliana to Málaga to Granada, excited about our next day.
We awoke and had lunch plans with our friend Reyes at one, so we walked a bit more of the city, down the Gran Vía (full name Calle Gran Vía de Colón), which we walked often; a major thoroughfare which was more modern and had many shops, cafes and gelaterias. The Gran Vía was our reference point for returning to our hotel, as it was located right at the end of the street. Jardines del Salón was our first stop, taking pictures of the Fuente de las Granadas, next to the Genil River.
Then it was off to lunch, where we shared a few plates, and began our exploration of the city (with someone who actually lives there!). As an aside, it is so cool to explore a city with a friend, and Reyes made our trip so enjoyable. Our first stop was the Alcaiceria; which is a street with many Moroccan vendors, selling lamps, leather bags, jewelry, shawls, scarves, and other artisanal goods. Moroccan tea shops (Teaterias) are sprinkled throughout (Jesse and I would return the next day for tea). We visited a spice shop where we bought some of the best dates we had tasted (and would have bought some spices too if we were going home after this). It felt like walking the streets of a Moroccan city and was very unique to our Spanish experience.
We walked some more around the city, this time walking upward past the Mirador from the day before, to a higher point to take in the city, the Mirador de San Nicolás, which is a closed church that, on this Sunday, was populated with people enjoying the sunny day; tourists and locals were all taking in the views and slight breeze from this high up vantage point. It was a long walk to reach this Mirador, but absolutely worth it.
Reyes teaches history (among other subjects) and we felt privileged to learn more from her, and she told us other places we should visit in town before we left. We met up with a few of her fellow teachers for rooftop drinks at a bar in town, giving us a different view of Granada.
The next morning our first stop was a teateria, and we may have arrived a bit early, but we found one open, and ordered some great teas along with a couple small pastries. They gave us a small pot of tea for each of us, and the pastries were so good, so we ordered a couple more. It was a peaceful and very tasty experience.
Afterwards, we walked to the Sacromonte, which Reyes had told us about; this area was home to the Gypsies, as well as others considered to be outcasts. Sacromonte is located on the outskirts of the city and was made up of casas de cueva (cave homes), which were dug into the mountain and stayed warm in the winter and cool in the summer, with ventilation. They used different caves for living, for livestock, for cooking, as well as metalworks and ceramics. Some are still in use today. We walked to the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte, where, for a nominal fee, we toured different caves and learned more about the history of the Gypsies (Gaitanos in Spanish; which originally came from the word for Egyptianos, because it was thought that the Gypsies originated from Egypt, though they came from India, through Turkey, to Spain) and the history of flamenco dancing as well.
There was a small cafe on the grounds, which was nice to stop at for a rest and drink after the long uphill walk to reach the caves. There are also benches to take in another high-up view, of the city.
Our last day in Granada was our time to visit the world famous Alhambra. It is important to buy tickets online from the official website (there will be many website when you search “Alhambra tickets”). We bought tickets for the Nasrid Palace and the Generalife (the Gardens), and we arrived just in time to meet our 12:30 appointment time. Nasrid Palace requires prompt arrival, and is about a 10-15 walk from the main entrance, so we had to hustle. It is funny though, there was signs pointing the way…until we reached the palace. There was a line, so we asked the people in front of us if it was the correct line, and then the people who arrived behind us did the same, and we saw this happen often. The Nasrid palace is the only place that requires an appointment time, the rest of the Alhambra can be explored at one’s leisure. The interior garden was a favorite of mine and a nice place to take a rest and people watch while enjoying the peaceful scene.
While there were many fellow tourists exploring the place with us, it did not feel so crowded. We were able to take pictures and wander at our leisure, examine the intricate carvings on the doorways, archways, and ceilings. Standing in awe with literal mouths’ agape.
After leaving the Nasrid Palace we walked to the Generalife (Hen-er-al-leef-aye), which possessed stunning greenery and many flowers in bloom. We took our time, literally smelling the roses at it were. It was super fun to just walk through all the paths in the huge garden, which went on for quite a while.
Eventually we had to leave the Alhambra, and we walked down the hill, back to street level, down the Paseo de los Tristes, which took up back to the Gran Via, where we picked up our bags and were off to the train station, next stop Sevilla! We had a great time in Granada with more places left unexplored, and a yearning to return.