Get lost in Granada
‘Get Lost in Granada’ Ask any Spaniard about this city and their eyes will mist over as if you were talking about their first love. Nestled between three mountain chains in southern Spain, there are few cities as stunning or as mystical as Granada. It is one of Andalucía’s main points of interest.
An hour from the Costa Tropical, Granada is known for generous-sized tapas, a large student population and an extremely rich history at the heart of Spain’s Golden Age. Upon arrival, most visitors head straight for the Nasrid Palace and UNESCO World Heritage site- the Alhambra. The Alhambra is without a doubt the gem of the city and absolutely a priority for a Granada Vacation and deserves a post of its own. However, be sure not to miss the other points of interest in Granada before and after your Alhambra visit: there is enough history, charm, and culture to stay for a few weeks!
While the geographic centre of Granada has a buzzing, cosmopolitan feel, one only need to stray a bit from the main squares and avenues to get lost in the tangle of backstreets. Right off one of the main squares, Bib-Rambla, the Alcaicera is a labyrinth of streets selling spices, silk scarves and traditional artisan crafts. Granada was once the epicentre of the silk trade in Europe and this impressive bazaar was the centre of commercial life. The irons gates at the main entreance to the Alcaicera- still visible today- protected the Alcaicera’s valuable imports.
The most valuable products sold in the Alcaic era nowadays are designed in the Tarafea style. Tarafea is an ancient style of craftsmanship seen in the inlays of boxes, mirrors, furniture, etc., whereby wood, metals, mother of pearl and shells are arranged to make a pattern or picture. With origins in Asia, it arrived to the Iberian Peninsula with the Muslim expansion and Granada is one of the only places in the world where these exquisite pieces are still made and sold. A piece of furniture will sell for thousands. Although the original Alcaicera neighbourhood was destroyed by fire, this newer version still preserves the essence of its predecessor: bright colours, an expectation for bargaining and extremely narrow passages.
Another place to wander, or ‘callejear’ is the hilly Albaycin- the oldest part of the city. Situated above the main thoroughfares, shops and traffic, the Albaycin feels like a small, peaceful village, with its cobblestoned streets and whitewashed houses. It somehow preserves a magical and curious energy that remains from the old Moorish (Muslim under Christian rule) neighbourhood. Once a strategic defense tactic, the elevated location of the Albaycin offers spectacular views of the Alhambra, the sprawl of a modern city, and the Sierra Nevada beyond. Explore the streets inhaling the scent of Jasmine until you find one of the many viewpoints. If you are lucky you might find a spot where a local guitarist has decided to practice, so do as a local and linger for a while.
The Albaycin is also a great place to find typical Andalucian bars and great food. No Granada vacation is complete without some tapas! One could follow in my footsteps and try snails and flaming sausage at Bar Los Caracoles in Plaza Aliatar. Not only was this a great find in terms of food, but one of the regulars was kind enough to show me how to eat these surprisingly tasty little creatures, as well as giving me a few more restaurant recommendations, which proved exceptional as well. If your Spanish is half decent, locals can be a great source of information on points of interest in Granada and culture. Even if your Spanish isn’t great, you will still probably end up knowing how to eat snails, using excessive gesticulations, and having a laugh with the friendly ‘Granadinos.’
Granada is steeped in history, tradition and culture. Two historical figures that must be mentioned in any conversation about historical Granada (or Andalucía or Spain for the matter) are Isabel and Ferdidnand, the Catholic Kings. (The very same Kings who funded Columbus to sail west and united their kingdoms to create modern day Spain.) Before the reconquest (when Isabel and Ferdinand took power from the Muslims in the Iberian peninsula), Granada was the cultural and political epicentre of the Nasrid kingdom- one of the most advanced cultures in the world. When they conquered Al Andalus (The former name of Andalucía under Muslim rule) they forced any remaining Muslims or Jews to convert to Christianity. Unfortunately their reconquest came with a high-price: destroying Muslim rule included burning the largest known library in Europe, building churches over mosques, and banning many Muslim customs. In fact, many historians attribute the Spanish obsession with everything pork-related to the reconquest of Andalucía. These legendary Catholic Kings, who kept their royal headquarters in Granada, are buried in the Royal Chapel, adjacent to the enormous Granada Cathedral. For a very low entry fee you can stand near the tomb of two of the most important people in modern day history.
During Letango tours 7 days in Andalucia tour, our knowledgeable local tour guide will give you more in-depth explanation of the cultural and historical layers of this spectacular city. We will personalize a tour for you and your group, choosing the most relevant points of interest during your Granada vacation. Perhaps the gypsy caves of Sacromonte? Or the working 15th century convent Santa Isabel la Real where you can buy sweets from the nuns? Don’t forget to ask your guide why graffiti is allowed on the Granada Cathedral, or where to get the best tapas in El Realejo, the old Jewish quarter. And whatever you do, make sure to book a second trip back to the spectacular city of Granada.
By Jenna Randall Hill
- Carlos Galvin