Granada - The Alhambra & Beyond
It’s impossible to talk about Granada and not to mention The Alhambra, and even less possible to visit the Alhambra and not feel the magic of what was created all those years ago. It’s position up in the Sierra Nevada of Andalucia gives it a cooler temperature compared to it’s neighbours and makes for a pleasant setting in which to explore all that it has to offer.
Our hotel was well positioned at the bottom of the Albacín, close to the Carrera del Darro which buzzes throughout the evening packed with cafes and bars. While it’s possible to stay in the stunning Parador de Granada which is located within the Alhambra, this is quite a walk up and downhill to get into the town where the evening life takes place. We dropped our bags and headed straight up to the Albacín, where every gap in the houses looks out to the lit up Alhambra and the restaurant terraces look over to it, getting you excited for what’s in store.
The Alhambra is the most visited tourist attraction in all of Spain so it is important to book your tickets in advance. While the outside, seen from the Albacín, gives an impression of dominance and strength, the delicate and refined inside tells a very different story. Located at the top of a hill, it is a city within itself where the Moors bathed, buried, gardened, drank wine, made pottery and pumped water.
A medieval complex consisting of part fortress, part palace, part garden and part government city dominates the view from the town, seeming to overlook the city like a guarding big brother. Split into 3 main sections; the Nasrid Palaces, which were my favourite part, the Alcazaba which offers fantastic views out to Granada and the Sierra Nevada, and the Generalife,the pretty gardens with a smaller palace.
Water was important to the Moots which is evident when walking around, difficult to imagine the Alhambra without the fountains, pools and water features, with many of the decorative features of the palace being created or enhanced by water. The reflections in the water amplify the grandeur of the palace and the sound of the bubbling water create a soothing feeling for visitors.
Every corner of the Generalife gardens holds a secret surprise. Packed with colourful flowers filling the air with incredible perfumes, its unmistakable why this was chosen as the summer palace for the Nasrid rulers, and the views are spectacular.
After about 4 hours exploring the different corners of the Alhambra, it’s time for some lunch. There is only one restaurant within the Alhambra located within the hotel, so it’s a great opportunity to wander back down the hill and taste some delicious Andalucian tapas while reflecting on the grandeur of such a magnificent site.
The afternoon is a great time to walk around the neighbourhood of Sacromonte, steeped in flamenco and a simple way of life that has remained since the Gypsies arrived in this area of Granada back in the 18th century. The caves carved into the hillside where some locals still live give an air back to the flamenco days.
While the Alhambra will undoubtedly dominate any visit to Granada, there is still more to the city which shouldn’t be ignored. The Cathedral of Granada is an early example of the Spanish Renaissance style, taking 180 years to build and decorated with impressive marble columns and gilded altarpiece.
And to finish off your trip to Granada, set aside some time to enjoy the Hammam Al Andalus, decorative Arab baths where you can relax in the hot and cold water or indulge yourself in a massage, the perfect end to a perfect few days discovering Granada.