Granada is a sun-drenched city and capital of the province of the same name, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, where the Beiro, Darro, Genil and Monachil rivers meet. Granada is a traditionally conservative but with a vibrant alternative culture. Visitors fall in love with this and once you’ve visited it is easy to see why.
Granada began life as an Iberian settlement in the Albayzin district. Muslim forces took over from the Visigoths in 711, with help from the Jewish community that lived at the foot of the Alhambra hill in what was called Garnata al Jahud, from which the name Granada comes; granada is also the Spanish for pomegranate, the fruit on the city’s coat of arms.
After the fall of Córdoba (1236) and Seville (1248), Muslims sought refuge in Granada, where an independent emirate had been set up and was ruled from the lavish Alhambra palace for 250 years and Granada became one of the richest cities in medieval Europe. By the 15th conquering Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, entered Granada ceremonially in Muslim dress. They set up court in the Alhambra for several years. In the 17th century Granada fell into deep decline. The Romantics revived interest in its Islamic heritage during the 1830s, when tourism took hold. When the Nationalists took over Granada at the start of the civil war, an estimated 4,000 politically left or liberal citizens were killed, among them the famous Federico Garcia Lorca.
Feria del Corpus Cristi - (Corpus Christi Fair) The big annual fair, which starts 60 days after Easter Sunday, is a week of bullfights, dancing and street puppets; most of the action is at fairgrounds by the bus station.
Festival Internacional de Musica y Danza (www.granadafestival.org). For three weeks in June and July, first-class classical and modern performance takes over the Alhambra and other historic sites.
Granada has a small airport 12 kilometres west of the city which serves a limited number of flights - for budget airlines you're much better off flying into nearby Malaga. Spanish airline Iberia provides daily flights to and from Madrid. There are also budget flights to and from Barcelona, Rome and Paris airports by Vueling.
Travelling to the city centre can be by taxi (about 28 EUR) or by bus (3 EUR) which takes about 50 minutes to reach its final stop the Palacio de Congresos (a convention centre, south of the city center). It has about 12 stops throughout the city centre including Gran Via de Colon (opposite the cathedral) and Triunfo.
Regular buses run from Seville, Malaga, Madrid and Cordoba as well as a few direct services to the port of Algeciras. The modern and organized bus station is located about kilometres from the city centre. It takes about 15 minutes by bus (local bus routes 3 and 33, outside the Cathedral on Gran Via de Colon) to reach the centre, or reasonably cheap taxis are also available.
Three trains run daily to Algeciras via Antequera and Ronda. Granada is also on a stop on a line between Almeria and Seville, with four trains daily. There are also two daily trains to Madrid via Cordoba, one or two daily to Barcelona via Linares-Baeza and Valencia, and one to Linares-Baeza. For Malaga, take the Algeciras train to Bobadilla and change to a Malaga-bound train there.
The train station is well served by buses just exit continue straight down the street to the main avenue (Avenida de la Constitucion) and turn right - within one block you'll find bus stops that will take you to the city center.
Most sights are with walking distance of central Granada. Plaza Isabel La Catolica is a block west of Plaza Nueva and marks the intersection of Gran Via de Colon (main street heading north) and Calle Reyes Catolicos (main street heading southwest to Puerta Real. The intersection then splits into Calle Recogidas and Acera Del Darro, west and south respectively). The cathedral and royal chapel are just to the northwest of this square. The Alhambra and Albayzin (the Arabic quarter) are on opposite hills on the east side of town with Carrera del Darro and a small river separating them.
Walking in Granada is definitely the best way to experience the city, but it can also be confusing. Streets are short, winding, and narrow but with a good map you can find your way around.
Buses cover nearly all sights of interest and are frequent. Most city buses travel along Gran Via (stopping in front of the cathedral). The small red and white minibuses with "Alhambra Bus" written on the side are the best way to explore Granada, the Albaicín and to get to the Alhambra. Routes 30 and 34 connect the city center to the Alhambra, with 31 traveling up to Albayzin. The buses cost 1.20 EUR per trip, but you can also buy a multi-trip card (5 EUR for 7 trips, 10 EUR for 16, and 20 EUR for 33 trips).
Most major sights are within walking distance of the city centre but buses will save you walking uphill.
Alhambra - tickets are adult 13 EUR, senior and student 9 EUR and under age 8 free it is open 8.30am-8pm 16 March to 31 October and to 6pm from 1 November to 14 March. Night visits are also available – check the website. One of the more splendid sights of Europe, a network of lavishly decorated palaces and irrigated gardens, a World Heritage site and the subject of scores of legends and fantasies.
Albayzin - On the hill facing the Alhambra across the Darro valley, Granada’s old Muslim quarter (the Albayzín) is an open-air museum in which you can lose yourself for a wholemorning. The cobblestoned streets are linedwith gorgeous cármenes (large mansions with walled gardens)
Malaga Cathedral – built between the 16th and 18th centuries, Malaga Cathedral also known as Catedral de la Encarnación on the site of a mosque, it is still unfinished as the main façade and south tower is incomplete. Along with the splendid sculptures and rare antique architecture, the cathedral also houses a museum.
Granada is one of the last places where you can get free tapas with every drink, and some have an international flavour. There are also some good Moroccan and Middle Eastern restaurants, particularly in the Albayzin. There’s a revived trend for teterías, most of which serve light desserts – others larger menus. Plaza Nueva is rimmed with restaurants, most with alfresco seating. The more obvious places can be a little touristy. For better options hunt around the backstreets or head up Carrera del Darro.
The best street for drinking is the slightly run-down Calle de Elvira, but other cool bars line Río Darro at the base of the Albayzin, and Campo del Príncipe attracts a sophisticated bunch.
Granadino crafts include embossed leather, taracea (marquetry), blue-and-white glazed pots, handmade guitars, wrought iron, brass and copper ware, basket weaving and textiles. Look out for these in the Alcaiceria and Albayzin, on Cuesta de Gomerez and in the government-run Artespana in Corral del Carbon. The Plaza Nueva area is full of jewellery vendors, selling from rugs laid out on the pavement, and ethnic-clothing shops. For general shopping try the pedestrianised Calle de los Mesones or the expensive department store El Corte Inglés.
The excellent monthly Guia de Granada (1 EUR), available from kiosks, gives a comprehensive list of entertainment venues and places to eat, including tapas bars.
Granada’s strong Moorish bent is reflected in its hotels, many of which have taken old medieval mansions and converted them into Moroccan-style riads. Most of these establishments are found in the Albayzín quarter. As in all Andalucian cities, it’s worth booking ahead during Semana Santa and Christmas.
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