Granada

For other places with the same name, see Granada (disambiguation).

Granada is a mid-sized city located in Granada Province in the Andalucia region of Spain. Rich in history and culture, Granada is a very worthwhile city in Spain for a tourist.

In addition to a rich multicultural history, the Alhambra and other monuments, a student-driven nightlife, and skiing and trekking in the nearby Sierra Nevada, Granada offers a break from the summer heat of other Andalusian cities such as Córdoba or Seville. Spring and Fall are also both excellent times to visit. With much more cultural interest than other cities like Malaga, Granada is never overcrowded (although one should still book tickets to the Alhambra at least one day in advance).

Understand

Granada and the Alhambra

History

Granada has been continuously inhabited by humans for at least 2500 years, originating as an Ibero-Celtic settlement prior to the establishment of a Greek colony in the area. Under Ancient Roman rule Granada developed as an economic center of Roman Hispania, with the construction of aqueducts, roads, and other infrastructure. With the fall of the Roman Empire the city was ruled by the Visigoths before being reconquered by the Byzantine Empire, all the time being maintained as a strategic military and economic center for the region.

The Moorish conquest of 711 brought Islamic rule to the Iberian Peninsula and Granada was quickly established as a center of Al-Andalus, the Muslim name for the region. New agricultural practices were introduced as the old Roman infrastructure was put to use for irrigation, leading to a major expansion of the city as it grew from the river valley up to the hills currently occupied by the Alhambra and the Albayzín, with a major Jewish settlement, the Realejo, existing within the town. Following the fall of Córdoba in 1236 to the Christian Reconquista, the city became the center of the Emirate of Granada, and for the next 250 years Granada stood as the heart of a powerful and self-sufficient kingdom with the construction of the royal palace and fortress, the Alhambra.

Skirmishes continued between the Emirate of Granada and the Crown of Castile, and in the late 15th century the Christian Reconquista set its sights on Granada. Following a military campaign led by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, which included a siege of the walled town, King Boabdil of Granada was ultimately forced to surrender the town in 1492, bringing an end to Moorish rule in the Iberian peninsula and marking the end of the Reconquista.

The fall of Granada came at a crucial moment for Christian Spain, as it was that same year that Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to the Americas, bringing back reports of the wealth and resources that could be gained there. Flushed with the success of the Reconquista, Spaniards conquered much of the Americas and brought great wealth to the new Spanish Empire. In the case of Granada, the Christians soon forced the existing Jewish and Muslim residents to convert and began making significant changes to the appearance of the city in an attempt to hide its Muslim character, including replacing the city's primary mosque with the massive Cathedral and constructing a large Christian palace in the heart of the Alhambra. Persecution against the Muslims and Jews took its toll, and over time the city began to suffer economically as these populations abandoned their homes in the area.

Granada remained a largely medieval-style city well into the 19th century, going through many economic slumps and seeing much of its architectural heritage destroyed. However, the last half of the 19th century saw Granada incorporated into the national rail network and the first stirrings of tourism thanks to reports of sites like the Alhambra to a global audience. However, the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s sunk Granada's economy, and it persisted largely as a bureaucratic and university town until the late 20th century, when the city underwent a massive period of modernization and development which brought new business and visitors to the city. Today you can still see this modernization in the reconstruction of old buildings in the city center and expansion of the town along the edges of the city.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 12 14 17 19 23 29 34 33 28 21 16 13
Nightly lows (°C) 1 3 4 6 10 14 17 17 14 10 5 3
Precipitation (mm) 44 36 37 40 30 16 3 3 17 40 46 49

Granada has a fairly mild climate; hot summers and short but cold winters with a mild amount of precipitation. The area has a very dry climate, so summers will get hot but not too uncomfortable due to the lack of humidity. From about November to April you will need a jacket and warm clothing, as it does get quite cold. Rain is most common in the fall and early winter months and rain spells lasting several days can occur during this time of the year, but the rest of the year you're likely to see little else but sunshine. Snow is not unheard of in Granada but it is very rare - if you want snow you have to go up into the Sierra Nevada mountains, which remain snow-capped for the whole winter.

Get in

Map of Granada

By plane

Granada has a small airport, the   Granada-Jaén Airport, situated 15 kilometers (half an hour with normal traffic) west of the city which serves a limited number of flights - for budget airlines you're much better off flying into nearby Malaga. Iberia provides daily flights to and from Madrid. There are also budget flights to and from Barcelona, Rome and Paris airports by Vueling.

Connection to the city centre can be either by taxi (about €28) or by a bus (€3). The airport bus takes about 50 minutes to reach its final destination, which is Palacio de Congresos (the local convention center, south of the city center). It leaves roughly on the hour but will generally be hitched up to a plane arrival. It makes several stops throughout the city centre including Gran Via de Colon (opposite the cathedral); you can catch it back from stop 1a on Gran Via de Colon (next to local bus stop Gran Via 1).

By bus

Regular Movelia and ALSA buses run from Seville, Málaga, Madrid and Cordoba as well as a few direct services to the port of Algeciras. Malaga is well serviced by buses and is a good place to transfer if a direct service is not available. The modern and organized   Granada Bus Station is located about 5 km (3 miles) from the city centre. It takes about 15 minutes by bus (lines SN1 or SN2 and then change to LAC line in Caleta) to reach the city center, or reasonably cheap taxis are also available.

By train

Three RENFE trains run each day on the picturesque line to Algeciras via pretty 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   Granada Train Station is well served by local bus service: just walk out the front door and continue straight down the street to the main avenue (Avenida de la Constitucion) and turn right - within a block you'll come across a bus stop that will take you to the city center.

Get around

Most places of interest are with walking distance of central Granada. Plaza Isabel La Catolica is just a block west of Plaza Nueva and marks the intersection of Gran Via de Colon (the main drag heading north) and Calle Reyes Catolicos (the main drag heading southwest to Puerta Real, where it splits into Calle Recogidas and Acera Del Darro, heading 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.

On foot

Walking in Granada is definitely the best way to experience the city (especially the older parts), but it can also be confusing at times. Streets are frequently short, winding, narrow, and some put you in very close proximity to auto traffic, to say nothing of the multitudes of scooters that dart down narrow alleyways and around cars and buses. Larger streets have sidewalks separating pedestrian traffic from vehicles, while alleyways have short iron posts along the side to make a small informal sidewalk. With a decent map you can find your way around, but many streets are so short they won't be named on a map. Still, if you keep some of the local landmarks in mind (church towers and hills are frequently good ones) you can maintain a general sense of direction - which is often all you need to find your way around. Additionally, Granada has several hilly areas (most notably the Albayzin and the entrances to the Alhambra) with many stairways and steep streets, and climbing them can be strenuous - buses can take you to the major tourist sights if the climb is too much. Mind your step in the residential areas! Granada has a serious problem with dog excrement, and while the street sweepers do an effective job they won't save you every time (however this is much less of an issue in the heavily touristy areas).

By bus

The local Alhambra Buses go where regular buses can't

The local buses cover nearly all sights of interest and run quite frequently. Most city buses travel through the heart of town along Gran Vía (stopping in front of the cathedral). The small red and white minibuses with "Alhambra Bus" printed on the side are the best way to explore Granada, the Albaicín and to get to the Alhambra: route C3 connects the city center to the Alhambra, with the C1 traveling up to Albayzin and the C2 to the Sacromonte. The buses cost €1.20 per trip, but you can also buy a multi-trip card for €5, €10, or €20 (€0.79 per trip). Timetables for the individual routes are not available, but major bus stops along the main boulevards will have screens telling you when the next bus arrives. If you're at a smaller stop, you can find out when the next bus is coming by sending a text using the SMS system — directions are printed with images on each bus stop sign, which are easy to follow even if you don't know much Spanish.

By car

Driving in Granada is a nightmare best avoided at all costs. The central district is a mess of narrow, one-way streets and is restricted to buses, taxies, scooters, and tourists with hotel reservations, enforced by a system of traffic cameras that will capture a photo of the license plate and fine violators. Hotels will often recommend not driving in, but if you're insistent you can contact the hotel in advance with your license plate number and they will give you directions to their hotel or a parking garage which you must follow exactly or risk a fine. Outside the historic center streets are wider and travelling by car isn't nearly as much of a hassle, but there are few tourist sights in these areas.

See

If you intend to stay in Granada any more than three or four days the Granadacard is a good investment . Valid for a 3 or 5 days, it provides direct entry to the Cathedral, Capilla Real, Alhambra & Generalife, Monastery of La Cartuja, Monastery of San Jerónimo, Parque de las Ciencias (Science Park) and provides a 25% discount for non-EU citizens who visit the Fine Arts and Archaeological Museum. It also gives 5 or 9 urban bus journeys (to the bus station, science park etc.) and a 24-hour ticket to the tourist bus. Cost is €33.50 / €37.50 if you book it in advance.

Central Granada

Oriented around the intersection of Gran Via de Colon and Calle Reyes Catolicos, central Granada is the historic center and bustling heart of the city, with its many shops, restaurants, bars and attractions situated along narrow cobblestone and brick alleys or on the edge of one of the many serene plazas in the area. Walking through you're sure to take in the sights, smells and sounds of superb architecture, good food, and pleasant conversations among residents.

Gazing up into the Capilla Mayor, Cathedral of Granada
Shops in the Alcaiceria

The Alhambra

Court of the Myrtles, Palacios Nazaries
Palace of Charles V

The Alhambra: Part fortress (the Alcazaba), part palace (Palacios Nazaries), part garden (the Generalife) and part government city (the Medina), this medieval complex overlooking Granada is one of the top attractions in Spain, with many visitors coming to Granada expressly to see the Alhambra. The last Moorish stronghold in Europe, the Alhambra reflects the splendor of Moorish civilization in Andalusia and offers the visitor splendid ornamental architecture, spectacular and lush gardens, cascading and dripping water features, and breathtaking views of the city. This impressive fortress complex is deservedly listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Alhambra was a palace, citadel, fortress, and the home of the Nasrid sultans, high government officials, servants of the court and elite soldiers from the 13th to the 14th century. Other notable buildings belonging to a different time period are also located within the Alhambra complex, most notably the Renaissance style Palace of Charles V, which houses the Alhambra Museum (with historical artifacts from the site) and the Fine Art Museum.

But in order to fully appreciate the unique architecture of the Alhambra set within the surrounding landscape, it is advisable to see the Alhambra for afar as well as up close: several locations in the Albaizín (most notably the San Nicolás Viewpoint) or Sacromonte - both covered below - allow you the opportunity to truly admire the Alhambra's spectacular location, lying just above the city of Granada.

The Alhambra is a vast complex, composed of many structures and gardens on its lush grounds, which alone are worth exploring - it is totally free to do so and they are open nearly all hours of the day - but there are four primary attractions: the Alcazaba, the Palace of Charles V, the Palacios Nazaries and the Generalife.

Official web sites at and . Mar-Oct every day 8:30-22:00 plus F/Sa 22:00-23:30; Oct-Mar every day 8:30-18:00 plus F/Sa 20:00-21:30 (ticket office closes one hour before attraction, evening visits to Palacios Nazaries only). €13 combo ticket for Palacios Nazaries, Alcazaba and Generalife, €7 for just the Alcazaba and Generalife, €8 for an evening visit to the Palacios Nazaries, and €5 for an evening visit to the Generalife. Palace of Charles V free.

Reservations: It is highly recommend that you book tickets to the Alhambra in advance, as the number of visitors allowed inside the Palacios Nazaries is limited and tickets tend to sell out. These can be booked online , by phone (+34 902 888 001), or in person at the main entrance to the Alhambra or at the Tienda de la Alhambra shop on Calle Reyes Católicos in the city centre. Note that the online and phone reservation services require a credit card (which you must bring with you to the Alhambra ticket office to pick up your tickets) and charge an extra 10% fee on top of the cost of admission. Several hundred tickets are reserved for sale on the day but these usually require arriving early and queuing for an hour or two. The "Granada Card" or "Doble de Oro General" can still be available after the regular tickets have sold out. Failing that, quite a lot of the grounds are accessible without a ticket. This general caution applies to cruise ship land tours (e.g., from Malaga); failure to book Alhambra tours early (before or during cruise) may mean no tours/"buses" are available.

Note that visiting hours are split into 3 periods: morning (before 14:00), afternoon (after 14:00 to first closing time), and evening (F/Sa only). Tickets are issued for a specific period and access to monuments will not be granted outside that period. However, once inside visitors may remain until closing time. In addition, the Palacios Nazaries can only be accessed for a half-hour time window (shown on the ticket) within your visiting period. As such, it's a good idea to plan your visit around these restrictions - for example, if you have a morning ticket (before 14:00) and your Palacios Nazaries ticket is for 13:00, get to the Alhambra grounds at least a couple of hours before your appointed timeslot for Palacios Nazaries and spend it touring the Alcazaba and Generalife.

Getting there: From central Granada, the C3 bus offers a direct connection to the Alhambra from Plaza Isabel La Catolica. There are three stops for the Alhambra: Generalife (closest to the ticket office), Carlos V (closest to the Palace of Charles V) and Puerta de la Justica - fare is €1.20. A taxi from the central district (head to the stand on Plaza Nueva) will cost you around €6. On foot, you can walk up to the Alhambra from Plaza Nueva (about a 30-minute hike) by taking Cuesta de Gomerez and heading straight - the ticket office is on the far side of the grounds, near the Generalife. If coming by car from outside the city, you can bypass the historic district by taking the Ronda Sur-Alhambra exit (A-395) from the freeway and following the signs to the parking lot (€1.75/hour).

The ceiling in the Hall of the Two Sisters, Palacios Nazaries
Fountain in the Generalife Palace

These are the four primary attractions, but the grounds hold many secondary sights as well, some of them quite splendid in their own right and many off the beaten path. If entering the Alhambra on foot from Plaza Nueva, you'll travel up Cuesta de Gomerez through the   Granada Gate, an ornamental archway which marks the entrance to the grounds. From here you can continue straight into the Bosque (forest), a delightfully lush and shady wooded area in the canyon beneath the palace complex with streams running along the footpaths, fountains and statues and, in the summertime, fragrant smells from the trees. If you take the rightmost path up the hill and make a right up the next path you find, you'll come across the   Bermejas Towers, an outpost of the Alhambra on the very edge of the complex, with massive square towers perched on a hill over the neighborhood of Realejo. The towers themselves are locked up and mostly in ruins, but the views of Granada and the Alhambra are splendid. If you take the leftmost path from the Granada Gate you'll travel up to the   Justice Gate (Puerta de Justica), an imposing Moorish-style archway and entry that served as the primary entrance to the palace complex in days of old.

Within the main palace complex, just above the Justice Gate is a lovely courtyard area, the   Square of the Cisterns (Plaza de los Aljibes) between the Alcazaba and the Palace of Charles V next to the Wine Gate (Puerta del Vino), another picturesque horseshoe-shaped archway which once protected the grounds. Continuing along the small road past the Palace of Charles V to the upper part of the palace complex, you'll come across a line of woodworking and souvenir shops, the prominent   St. Mary Church, the ruins of a village and the   Parador. Though most of the Parador is a restaurant and hotel, parts are still open to the public, including the lovely courtyard entryway and the ruins of a Franciscan monastery, which holds the lovely remains of a small chapel with a view into the hotel's lavish patio area.

Above the main palace complex, to the east of the Generalife, are a number of visitor facilities, namely a large parking lot. A short hike uphill from the parking lot is the   Silla del Moro, the ruins of a guard outpost directly above the Generalife Palace. While it requires an uphill hike and is isolated from the rest of the grounds, the Silla offers what may be the most spectacular view in all of Granada, giving you a rare opportunity to look down at the Alhambra palace, as well as a sweeping vista of the city, the valley and the surrounding mountains, with the added benefit of not being nearly as crowded as the San Nicolas Viewpoint in the Albayzín or requiring admission like the Alcazaba.

Albayzín

The Albayzín: Pleasant plazas, white-washed buildings, Muslim character and marvelous views

Situated on a hill above the center of town and across from the Alhambra, the Albayzín (also spelled Albaicín, Alayzín, and Albaycín) is an ancient Muslim neighborhood popular with visitors - and rightly so. Among its narrow, winding streets one will find beautiful white-washed old buildings, splendid Arabic shops and restaurants, scenic gardens, and marvelous views of Granada and the Alhambra. Today part of a UNESCO World Heritage site (along with the nearby neighborhood of Sacromonte and the Alhambra, covered below), Albayzín dates back to the fourteenth century and was built as a defensive town and thrived as one of the centers of Granada under Muslim rule.

Entering the Albayzín is simple enough - from Plaza Nueva it's just a matter of walking north (uphill), or proceeding east along the Rio Darro (to the Paseo de los Tristes, covered below) and turning north on any of the side streets. However, if coming from the Cathedral or anywhere else in central Granada, the best entrance is via   Calle Calderería Nueva (near bus stop Gran Vía 1), a stepped cobblestone street lined with Arabic restaurants, tea shops, bakeries and shops selling imported goods from North Africa. However once inside the Albayzín you'll find the layout of the streets very confusing, with many steep sections and stairways - though this is indeed part of the charm of the neighborhood, always with a new path to explore or a hidden surprise waiting to be discovered. However, if the climb or the confusing layout sound like too much, you can also take the C1 minibus to the top of the hill from Plaza Nueva.

Carrera del Darro

Below the Albayzin is Carrera del Darro, a narrow street winding from Plaza Nueva along the meandering Rio Darro. This is one of the most scenic walks in Granada, packed with pedestrians strolling the cobblestone way, who have to squeeze to the side every few minutes as a taxi or a minibus passes by. Old shops, apartments, and other buildings cluster up the hill in the Albayzin on one side, and across the Rio Darro along the other side is the steep hill upon which is the Alhambra. Along the street are beautifully preserved buildings, remains of Arab houses, stone bridges crossing the Rio Darro, and plenty of nice restaurants.

Sacromonte

Sacromonte

Locals often consider the Albayzín a world away from the rest of Granada, but even the Arabic quarter can't hold a candle to the relative isolation and uniqueness of Sacromonte, a gypsy (Roma) district situated east of the Albazin, demarcated by the road Cuesta Chapiz. The neighborhood is noted for its many cave dwellings built within the sides of the hill poking out here and there between the scrubby bushes and cacti. The district is also famous for its flamenco shows popular with tourists and the amazing views of the Alhambra.

To get to the neighborhood, you can walk or take the C2 minibuses up Carrera del Darro to Paseo de los Tristes. From there walk up Cuesta Chapiz until you reach Peso de Harina (where you'll find a small plaza with a statue of a man with a strange hat, Chorrojumo, who was regarded as the king of the gypsies). From there walk along the Camino del Sacromonte.

North Granada

Inside the cloister of the Cartuja Monastery

Stretching north of central Granada, the north side of town encompass a set of newer neighborhoods with wide boulevards, modern and grand classically-designed buildings and lovely urban parks. This section of town is defined to a great degree by the presence of the local university (Universidad de Granada), government buildings, and two of the main points of entry into Granada - the train station and the bus depot.

South Granada

The bustling modern center of Granada, Puerta Real

Defined by its proximity to the Rio Genil, the main river through Granada, the south side of town is an interesting mix of old and new. To the east, on the foothills beneath the Alhambra, sits Realejo, once the Jewish district under Muslim Granada and now a sleepy neighborhood with many scenic villas and gardens among its narrow streets. To the west, closer to the center of town, lies bustling   Puerta Real. Surrounding the intersection of Calle Reyes Catolicos, Calle Recogidas and Acera Del Darro, Puerta Real is the center of modern Granada, a district of grand classical and modern buildings and the city's primary shopping destination. South of the river is a modern section of town with many apartment highrises and office buildings.

Do

Learn

For those wishing to make a real attempt at learning the language, there are plenty of Spanish language schools in Granada.

Buy

As in much of Spain, be aware of siesta - most shops close in the afternoons, which depending on the business can be anywhere from 13:00 to 17:00. The main exception to this rule is large department stores and chain stores. However, nearly everything is closed on Sundays.

The area surrounding Puerta Real serves as the city's main shopping district.   El Corte Inglés, Spain's department store chain, has a large store between Calle Acera del Darro and Calle Carrera de la Virgen just south of Puerta Real, while   Calle Mesones and the adjacent pedestrian streets between Puerta Real and the Cathedral are home to a large number of fancy clothing and gift stores. If you're looking for postcards or other tourist wares, the Alcaiceria south of the Cathedral (see above under See) is chock full of souvenir shops, although you can also find plenty of souvenir shops along Cuesta de Gomerez on the way up to the Alhambra from Plaza Nueva. If a mall is more your speed, the nearest one to central Granada is the   Centro Comercial Neptuno, on Calle Neptuno next to the freeway (take Calle Recogidas west from Puerta Real).

Eat

Granada is notable as most of its bars will serve free tapas with each drink, which makes eating out in Granada very inexpensive - a blessing for the local student population. Lunch is generally from 13:00 to 16:00 and dinner from around 20:00 to the late hours of the night (though even at 20:00 most tapas bars will be deserted, as locals eat dinner very late).

There are many popular restaurant areas where you are sure to find something good. Just about every plaza in town holds at least one outdoor restaurant. Calle Elvira and the adjacent streets north of Plaza Nueva have perhaps the largest concentration of tapas bars in town. Plaza San Miguel Bajo is an area of outdoor fairly low priced restaurants in the Albayzín district and Calle Navas running south from the city hall in the center of the city is a pedestrian street lined with a wide variety of restaurants.

Drink

If you want to try a local wine ask for "un costa" – the quality is extremely variable and it is more like sherry (but not fortified) than a table wine.

Another option is "tinto de verano", or "summer wine", which is red wine and lemon Fanta. Absolutely delicious and very refreshing.

The local beer is Cerveza Alhambra, an excellent lager from a local craft brewery which you can get just about anywhere in Granada. Alhambra Premium is the most common, but you can also get other varieties like Alhambra Especial and Alhambra Negra, which are darker with a slightly higher alcoholic content.

Sleep

Plaza Isabel La Catolica, Granada's central square

Budget

Mid-range

Stay safe

Luckily violent crime is not usually an issue. However, be very careful about your belongings: As in any city, there are many thieves & pickpockets in Granada (especially in tourist areas and around the Cathedral). Sometimes thieves use distractions and work in teams. Be watchful, and don't set bags down where they could be whisked away from you. Police officers generally do not speak English - if you are robbed they will probably direct you to the police station and connect you with someone who can understand your language, who will have you make a report.

Beware of Gypsy women - particularly around the Cathedral (though you may find them in other tourist locations) - who "offer" you sprigs of rosemary. They'll hold one out to you, but take it and they'll demand payment (and if that's not bad enough, they consider coins bad luck so they won't accept anything less than €5). Though not really a grave threat, their persistence can be quite alarming. Avoid eye contact, firmly but politely say "No, gracias" and don't let them shove anything into your hands.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 15, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.