Granada is the capital of the province of Granada in the Andalusia region of Spain. It is home to the Alhambra Palace and Generalife and for this reason it is considered to be one of the 'Most Beautiful Cities in Spain'.
Spain This Way comment: Granada is home to the Alhambra Palace and Generalife which are the most visited attraction in Spain and one of the most beautiful attractions in Europe. The town itself though is something of a disappointment.
The beautiful Alhambra palace and fabulous gardens of the Generalife are not to be missed in any visit to Andalucia. The Moorish architecture and beautiful gardens of the palace are very beautiful.
The Alhambra complex is undisputedely the highlight of a visit to Granada but it is by no means all there is to see.
Granada itself was first occupied by the moors in the 8th century and thrived in the period 1232 to 1492 under the Nasrid dynasty. Fine moorish buildings were errected. Following this there was a period of Renaissance growth all adding to the splendid buildings of the town.
Somehow despite the famous Alhambra and the other buildings to see Granada town itself can at first seem somewhat disappointing being a bit scruffy and somewhat sprawling. However if you dig deeper and enjoy the mix of Arab and western culture, the scent of the spice markets, the flamenco and the buzz from the student nightlife you may end up being charmed.
There are various noteable sights to see besides the Alhambra. A favourite is the Albaicin quarter of town which still displays much of its Moorish past. As you wander around the cobbled streets you will notice lots of villas decorated in Moorish style . The streets are narrow and winding and often steep as the Albaicin winds up the hillside and the area offers some fabulous views over the city, the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The highlight of this area is the El Banuelo, the Moorish baths. These were built in the 11th century and are in use now. The waters in the baths have varying temperatures and as you relax in them you are surrounded by wonderful arches with stone columns, mosaic decorations and the ceiling has star-shaped openings to let in the light. These are the best preserved Arab baths in Spain - those in Girona are also well worth a visit.
The old city centre near the cathedral is a charming area containing Granada's two main squares, the Plaza Bib-Rambla and the Plaza Nueva. There is also a reconstruction of the Moorish bazaar, The Alcaiceria, that burned down in 1843.
The Cathedral is an imppressive Gothic and Renaissance structure and the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel) has a beautiful wrought iron screen created by Bartolome de Jaen surrounding the tombs. The Cathedral, also called the Basilca of San Juan, has a sumptuous Baroque interior covered in silver and gold artwork and the Capilla Mayor (main chapel) has a magnificent gold altarpiece.
Also to see are the town hall which is housed in the Palacio de la Madraza which was originally an Arab university and the Corral del Carbon with its galeried courtyard which is the oldest remaining Arabic building in Granada. Also the Casa de los Tiros, a palace built in Mudejar style.
The Sacromonte is a cave area in the hillside and once the gypsies of Granada lived here. The gypsies have left this area now but it is a popular place to visit in the evening for flamenco shows.
Alhambra Palace and Generalife
The Alhambra palace was built during the Nasrid dynasty in the 13th centruy and is a very soothing and beautiful mixture of rooms and patios. The Alhambra palace has become so popular that numbers are now restricted and tickets must be bought in advance.
The Generalife is on the east side and was the country estate of the Nasrid kings. The gardens are all laid out in a Moorish style and are stunning. These too were built in the 13th century. As with most Moorish gardens water is a very important part of the gardens which incorporate pools and rills.
The Alcazaba is also sited on the Alhambra hill. This is the earliest part of the fortress. At the top there is a bell turret, the Torre de la Vela. This is the spot where a cross was first errected to mark the defeat of the Moors by the Christians.
Places to visit near Granada
Nearby Guadix is absolutely fascinating with its troglodyte town.