Granada Travel Guide
Introduction to Granada
Located a reasonably short distance from Spanish sun destinations like Malaga, the city of Granada used to be a major centre of Moorish influence through to the 15th century. Crusaders put an end to that, but left most vestiges of that era remarkably intact.
Today, the culture and history of this mid-sized city in Spain serves as a refreshing counterbalance to the controlled chaos of more touristy destinations like the Costa del Sol, so if you are seeking some culture to go along with your time on the beach in Spain’s south, give Granada a try.
Cultural Experiences in Granada
The Alhambra is the attraction that is the runaway tourist draw in Granada (and for good reason), so those with limited time should prioritize it on their itineraries when they arrive here. Starting out as an unremarkable fort in the 9th century, it was resurrected from its ruins in the 13th century by Emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar, who sought to build a mighty fortress worthy of his magnificence.
It was converted into a palace in the early 14th century, where it served as the home of Spain’s final Moorish rulers. The ceiling, arches and mosaics are designed with a unique Arabic form of architecture that was one of the few during this period that developed without being influenced by Byzantine trends, making for a wonderful afternoon of admiration for those that dig ancient building techniques.
That isn’t all when it comes to palaces in Granada though, as there are two other complexes that those with ample time should also take the time to check out. Generalife Palace served as the summer palace for the emirs that ruled Granada, as its hillside location, gorgeous courtyard with a lengthy reflecting pool and fountain, and extensive gardens created an atmosphere of relaxation that the rulers of this portion of Spain sought solace in from the stresses of commanding their territory.
The Charles V Palace was constructed in the late 15th century within the walls of the Alhambra by the Holy Roman Emperor of the same name after the conquest of this formerly Moorish emirate. Built in the Renaissance style, the one feature you shouldn’t miss is its internal circular courtyard.
Considering the square exterior shell of the building, it comes as a surprise to those that aren’t aware of its existence, and even if you know, it is still an awesome sight to see.
Another Renaissance structure worth checking out in Granada is the Monastery of Saint Jerome. Known as the first Christian Church constructed in the honor of the Virgin Mary, this place is well worth dropping by to check out its unique altar, as well as its cloisters, which boast a pair of well-tended gardens at the heart of both.
Other Attractions in Granada
Despite the permanent victory of Crusader forces over the Moors in the Iberian peninsula in the 15th century, citizens willing to become subjects of the Spanish crown were allowed to remain. In Granada, the Muslim quarter was known as Albayzin.
The winding streets are a charming place to get lost for an afternoon, as you’ll be able to properly appreciate the dwellings that the more humble residents of Moor-era Granada lived in. Plan on having dinner here, as there are many excellent local restaurants located in this part of town.
However, don’t leave this part of Granada though without spending some time at Mirador San Nicolas. It is at this scenic outlook where you can get the best panoramic pictures of the Alhambra, and the other palaces mentioned earlier in this guide.
The pictures here at be taken at sunset, and with buskers gathering for the inevitable crowd of tourists each evening, you will also have the opportunity to be entertained by some the best street artists in Spain. Just be way of pickpockets, which often take advantage of distracted visitors.
Nestled amid the mountains of the Spanish interior, there is plenty of attractions just outside city limits for lovers of the outdoors.
If you are looking to play in the Sierra Nevada, there are several things you can do outside Granada while staying there. In winter, skiing is possible, while hikers and mountaineers clamber across the landscape during the warmer months of the year.