* Just wander the hilly, cobbled streets that snake through the souk-like shops in the Albaicín — it’s like a bumpy, hassle-free Marrakech without the dust


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Ever fancied a trip to Morocco but weren’t quite sure how you’d cope with the hustle and bustle?

Then a trip to Spain’s Granada could be your perfect test run. This city feels like the illegitimate child of Spain and Morocco.

Just wander the hilly, cobbled streets that snake through the souk-like shops in the Albaicín – it’s like a bumpy, hassle-free Marrakech without the dust.

Yet, head to the cathedral and sit in a sunny plaza with a frosty bottle of Alhambra Reserva and you couldn’t be anywhere else but Andalusia.

Part of a group of swish design hotels, Room Mate Leo is possibly the funkiest hotel in Granada – think giant abstract paintings, elaborate gold, leaf-shaped lamps, and geometric wallpaper. Less than 500 metres from the cathedral, it comes with 33 hip, spacious rooms, a sun-drenched terrace, and free pocket wi-fi devices you can carry around the city. Doubles from £52, room-matehotels.com.

Hotel Palacio de Los Navas

On a quiet street close to Granada’s former Jewish quarter, Realejo, sits this 16th-century palace, now an adorable, three-star boutique hotel, with 19 bright rooms, decorated with nature prints and terracotta floors. B&B doubles from £52, hotelpalaciodelosnavas.com.

Shine Albayzin

This 16th-century mansion sits opposite the slow-flowing Darro river, which divides the Alhambra and the Albaicín neighbourhood. All 12 well-finished rooms have tasteful modernist decor. Request one looking out to the Alhambra – you won’t be disappointed.

Gar-Anat Hotel

Once a shelter for pilgrims, now a pretty, three-star boutique hotel with 15 rooms wrapped around a courtyard in a gorgeous 17th-century building.

Sign up to a free Walk in Granada to get your bearings before tackling the maze-like streets on your own.

There are three tours, but first-time visitors will benefit most from the Essential Granada tour. On this 2½-hour outing, you’ll saunter around the areas surrounding the cathedral while passionate guides reel off facts, Moorish history and anecdotes that’ll bring Granada to life.

Wear comfortable shoes and carry water, sun cream, and small notes for a tip.

The Alhambra, Spain’s most-visited tourist attraction, sees more than two million visitors a year, but don’t let that put you off. This enormous, pink-tinged 13th-century castle, set against the Sierra Nevada mountains, sits on a hill surrounded by broccoli-green trees.

Inside there are ornate Moorish bathhouses, serene Arabian gardens and rooms clad in colourful azulejos tiles.

Tickets are hard to get; book online months in advance. If you’re not a planner, check the website at midnight the day before you want to go, and you might get lucky.

Like a lot of ancient cities, Granada was strategically built on higher ground to protect itself from attack. Therefore the city’s old Muslim quarter, the Albaicín, threads its way helter-skelter-like over hills and is well worth a visit.

Here, wafts of sweet incense and fresh herbal tea float through the slender streets as vendors peddle everything from multi-coloured Turkish lanterns and ceramic bowls to Arab clothing and leather bags.

Dip into a tetería and treat yourself to a Moroccan mint tea to get the full experience.

The Botanical Gardens of Granada University don’t rival the Alcázar in Seville. However, if you’re looking for a shaded, quiet spot, then this small green space in the city centre is just the ticket. Perch yourself on a bench beside baby lemon trees, cacti and lofty ginkgo biloba trees and take a well-earned breather.

You’re going to want to give your sore legs a break after climbing Granada’s many flights of stairs. What better way to do it than by visiting Hammam Ál Andalus.

This silent, shadowy Arab bathhouse is housed in an ornate 13th-century building at the foot of the Alhambra Palace. Inside, you’ll find four baths surrounded by teeny passageways, intricate Moorish ceilings, colourful azulejos tiles, and tranquil rest areas with silver mint tea decanters. The massages are certainly worth the small extra fee.

Observing a flamenco show in Granada is a rite of passage. For a fun but touristy experience, head to La Zambra de María La Canastera to watch flamenco inside one of the hollowed-out caves of Sacromonte.

If you want a more authentic experience, call +34 958 227 712 and book a place at Granada’s oldest flamenco theatre, Peña La Platería, which runs shows at 10pm every Thursday.

You’re going to need a good breakfast to tackle Granada’s extreme gradients, so pull up a chair at La Fontana. This tapas/ flamenco bar-come-cafe, blessed with an idyllic sunny terrace, is just a few steps from the pretty Darro river and has Alhambra views. The local breakfast choice is a simple tostada with tomato.

Don’t expect silver service at this small, tatty tapas bar on Calle Navas. It’s loud, messy and busy, but you don’t come here for a relaxing, sit-down meal. Famous for traditional fried fish, so share a half racion of lightly battered prawns or calamari for lunch. If you can’t get a table, sit at the bar and bark your order at frantic bartenders and see what tapas turn up. Don’t be politely British about it or you’ll be waiting all night.

Hidden away amid the tourist-heavy trail of underwhelming tapas restaurants on the wrong side of Calle Navas, sits a cosy, cavernous bar. Bartenders won’t greet you with open arms, but it’s a place to enjoy no-nonsense tapas, such as grilled pork, rice and fried fish, free alongside a frosty bottle of Alhambra Reserva.

A typical mid-level Spanish restaurant with marble bar tops, classic, neutral decor, and waiters in black-tie. Tables outside and meaty raciones aplenty. But if you want to make the most of the free tapas, pull up a stool at the bar and watch small plates appear with every new glass of wine or beer.

Granada is the capital city of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of four rivers, the Darro, the Genil, the Monachil and the Beiro. It sits at an average elevation of 738 m above sea level, yet is only one hour by car from the Mediterranean coast, the Costa Tropical. Nearby is the Sierra Nevada Ski Station, where the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 1996 were held.

In the 2005 national census, the population of the city of Granada proper was 236,982, and the population of the entire urban area was estimated to be 472,638, ranking as the 13th-largest urban area of Spain. About 3.3% of the population did not hold Spanish citizenship, the largest number of these people coming from South America. Its nearest airport is Federico García Lorca Granada-Jaén Airport.

The Alhambra, an Arab citadel and palace, is located in Granada. It is the most renowned building of the Islamic historical legacy with its many cultural attractions that make Granada a popular destination among the tourist cities of Spain. The Almohad influence on architecture is also preserved in the Granada neighbourhood called the Albaicín with its fine examples of Moorish and Morisco construction. Granada is also well-known within Spain for the University of Granada which has an estimated 82,000 students spread over five different campuses in the city. The pomegranate is the heraldic device of Granada.

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