Although there are many towns and cities in Spain that appear untouched by time, one in particular stands out as a true monument of the Middle Ages. Granada, located in southern Spain, is just as beautiful now as in the medieval era, when Moorish rulers from North Africa held high court over their Jewish, Christian and Muslim subjects. Once upon a time, Christianity was not the dominant religion, and Moorish Muslims brought their art and architecture to Spain. Granada is a beautiful example of a Moorish city.
Granada is located in Andalusia, a region of Spain known for the customary red tile roofs and simple stucco multi-story buildings. Towering above the old city, you can see the Sierra Nevada mountains glistening with snowy peaks (in fact, Nevada is Spanish for “snowy”). On every narrow medieval street and alleyway, you will find something to amuse and excite you. From history to dining to shopping, the old meets the modern in a pleasant and unforgettable way.
Scenario Number One: “I love history, but there’s so much here. I don’t know if I can see it all in a short amount of time. What should I see first?”
You’re in luck. There aren’t many places in Granada that aren’t immersed in an ancient story, whether it be an ancient gate, a Renaissance home, or an ageless mountain. Don’t assume that the attractions most well-known to Granada tourists (and likely the most crowded) are the ones you should bypass!
1. Alhambra. The word most likely in the back of anyone’s mind when thinking of Granada is “Alhambra.” It’s speculated that the name is “Spanishified” from the Arabic term “Calat al-Hamra,” or “red palace,” because at certain times the sunlight dyes the walls crimson. This ancient palace dates from the 1200s, with some restorations in the 1500s when a residence for King Carlos V was built. Wandering through the rooms of the Alhambra is amazing, to say the least. Arabic tile work, architecture, brightly colored mosaics and oddly-shaped windows and arches abound everywhere you look. If you don’t use at least three rolls of film here, you will sorely regret it!
2. Old houses. Many homes in Granada date back at least three or four hundred years, sometimes more. Two such homes that can be visited are (1) La Casa de Pisa, where one of Granada’s most famous saints, John of God, died and (2) Casa de Castril, a 1500s home which now houses a museum. Notice the ornate facade on the Casa de Castril, paying attention to the detail over the door.
3. Generalife Gardens. The beauty of the outdoors is captured here, just as the beauty of
architecture is showcased at Alhambra. The generalife, Moorish gardens showing the North Africans’ love for fountains and landscaping, is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy Spain’s balmy climate. Take a book, meander through the gardens, and get lost in the medieval charm of the complex.
4. Albaicin. One of the most beautiful Spanish neighborhoods, Albaicin, has barely changed from the days of the Moorish kings. Tiny whitewashed homes, cobblestone streets and narrow pathways come straight from the past. For a wonderful insight into the lives of medieval inhabitants, come here and poke around the old Albaicin. Stand in just the right place and look up over an ancient hill, and you may see the huge, forbidding Alhambra complex perched precariously. There are numerous photo opportunities here!
Scenario Number Two: “History is great, but I want some action of a different kind. Where can I have a good time that isn’t necessarily history-related?”
1. For those of you who get sick with longing when you hear a mournful Spanish tune, think of the fast-paced energy of flamenco dancing! Although associated with gypsies (who also have a huge part of the history of Granada) flamenco’s origins aren’t certain. See a flamenco show in Granada, and if possible, find a gypsy troupe that will provide fantastic entertainment! It’s a wonderful way to remember your vacation
2. Are you the outdoors type? The Sierra Nevada Mountains aren’t just for looking at! Between spring (May) and winter (December) sign yourself up for some skiing, Spanish-style. The slopes command a great view of the city and, if proper preparations are made for your skiing adventure, will be remembered as a great getaway! Come here for an adventure you wouldn’t imagine in sunny Spain.