Granada was first occupied by the Moors in the 8th century, and its golden period came during the rule of the Nasrid dynasty (1238 to 1492), when artisans, merchants, scholars and scientists all contributed to the city’s international reputation as a centre for culture. Under Christian rule, following its fall to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492 and the expulsion of the Moors, the city blossomed in Renaissance splendour.
Today, Granada is one of Spain’s most visited gems, with the jaw-dropping Alhambra and its sister summer palace, the Generalife, acting as the biggest draw. For visiting in-the-know foodies, Granada is the birthplace of Spain’s tapas culture, and the only city in the country that still offers complimentary nibbles when ordering beer at the bar.
Things To Do In Granada
Hotel Casa 1800
Located in the heart of the Santa Cruz district’s labyrinthine of walkways, the total serenity experienced upon entering this neutral-toned, 33-room property is a refreshing surprise. Dating back to 1864, the three-story Hotel Casa 1800 offers suites featuring four-poster frame headboards, exposed brick walls, parquet floors, and the same rich velvet upholstery and marble detailing found in the luminous chandelier adorned courtyard. It is in this cozy sun-soaked space where each afternoon the hotel hosts a complimentary afternoon tea featuring loose leaf, Nespresso, and dainty cakes and sandwiches.
The Alhambra is Granada’s love letter to Moorish culture. Set against a backdrop of snow-topped Sierra Nevada peaks, this fortified palace started life as a walled citadel before going on to become the posh seat of Granada’s Nasrid emirs. Their showpiece palaces, the 14th-century Palacios Nazaríes, are considered the finest Islamic buildings in Europe. Give yourself a good three hours to properly enjoy the palatial property, being sure not to miss the the geometrical ceiling pattern inspired by Pythagoras’ theorem at Sala de los Abencerrajes, the frothing marble fountain at Patio de los Leones, and gorgeous architectural reflections in the quiet pool at Patio de Arrayanes. As one of Spain’s most high-profile attractions, the Alhambra can draw up to 6000 daily visitors. Tickets regularly sell out days in advance so to avoid disappointment be sure to book ahead.
From the Alhambra’s northern side, a path leads to the Generalife, the summer palace of the Nasrid kings. It is here where they could escape the stresses of palace life and enjoy tranquility perched high above the city. A visit to the Generalife is included in your ticket to Alhambra, and the biggest draw is its gorgeous gardens. The landscaping first began in the 13th century, originally containing orchards and pastures. Today, the Generalife gardens feature pristine hedges, colourful flower beds, pretty ponds and refreshing fountains. It’s al fresco theatre also provides a magical setting for the city’s annual music and dance festival.
Mirador San Nicolas
The best views of Granada can be enjoyed after a short hike through the quaint cobblestoned Albayzin neighbourhood. Sunset lovers flock to Mirador San Nicolas each evening to enjoy a jaw-dropping panorama of The Alhambra and Generalife, which sit stoically in front of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Once the sun has splashed across the horizon skip down the street and enjoy a fine feast at Aben Humeya, a nearby restaurant featuring an al fresco patio which offers romantic views of Granda’s glowing architectural icon.
Heladeria Los Italianos
On a hot day you’ll find a line snaking down the street from Granada’s most celebrated ice cream parlour. Local gelato fans rave for Heladeria Los Italianos, an old school shop serving up sweet scoops. When President Obama visited Granada a few years ago Michelle was craving ice cream and appeared unannounced at Heladeria Los Italianos for two finger-licking-good cones (locals like to emphasize that she couldn’t eat just one). Ever since her storied visit the shop has solidified it’s status as one of the city’s sweetest staples.
Unlike most churches in Spain, construction of the Granada Cathedral did not begin until the sixteenth century, as it had to await the acquisition of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada from its Muslim rulers in 1492. While its earliest plans had Gothic designs, such as are evident in the Royal Chapel of Granada by Enrique Egas, the construction of the church occurred at a time when Spanish Renaissance designs were all the rage. Foundations for the church were laid from 1518 to 1523 atop the site of the city’s mosque; by 1529, Egas was replaced by Diego de Siloé who laboured for nearly four decades on the structure from ground to cornice, planning the triforium and five naves.
Alhambra Churreria Cafe
There’s no better spot in town to enjoy a midday snack then at Alhambra Churreria Cafe. Located at Plaza Bib-Rambla since 1933, the historic restaurant specializes in serving piping hot churros served alongside a mug of steaming hot chocolate.
Tapas are small snacks that originated in Andalucia in the 19th century to accompany a glass of sherry. Stemming from a bartender’s practice of covering a glass with a saucer or tapa (cover) to keep out flies, the custom progressed to a chunk or cheese or bread being used, and then to a few olives being placed on a platter to accompany a drink.
Toady Granada is considered the home of Spain’s tapas culture, the last city in the country to keep tradition and offer complimentary snacks for each guest who grabs a drink at the bar. There are tons of local operators that offer daily tapas tours, which help explain the history of the culinary tradition as well as highlight Granada’s most celebrated bars. It’s customary to receive a free plate of food with each drink purchase so be sure to pace yourself as you skip around the city at night as there are plenty of bite-sized morsels to sample while you sip.
If you’re looking to enjoy a delightful day trip outside of the city the Sierra Nevada mountain range can be accessed just a short hours drive outside of Granda’s old town. The drive is seriously scenic so be sure to roll down your windows and let the fresh mountain air toss your hair to and fro. Be sure to stop and visit the picturesque white-washed hillside towns of Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira. The region is a popular spot for serious hikers, whether you’re keen to enjoy an afternoon hike in the sun or want to push your limits by embarking on a multi-day mountain peak camping trip be sure to organize your visit via local mountain guides Nevadensis.
Bodegas Senorio de Nevada
After spending the day enjoying panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains enjoy a pause before heading back to the city at Bodegas Señorío de Nevada. Located a short 30 minute drive south of the city, Señorío de Nevada is the region’s most celebrated winery. The state-of-the-art facility is located at the foothills of the mountains and features a boutique hotel, fine dining restaurant, wine bar and lush vineyard. Oenophiles should be sure to book a tour of the winery’s vineyard, production facility and barrel room. You’ll finish off the experience sitting in the sun while sipping through the winery’s award winning bottles of white, rose and red.
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