Recently voted in Trip Advisor’s top 25 landmarks to visit, the Alhambra dominates the skyline of Spanish Granada. A long weekend is plenty to appreciate the highlights and get a flavour for this historic place.
Being a hub for the Costa del Sol, Málaga airport has plenty of cheap flights to and from UK airports. The clientèle varies wildly from stag/hen parties on the discount airlines (e.g. Ryanair), and families through airlines better known for package holidays like Thomson.
Once you’ve reached the airport, you have a few options for the trip into Granada. Tourist information suggests that the bus is quicker than the train though, of course, you can always hire a car. With the bus, you can either take one direct from the airport or change in Málaga. While a direct service from the airport sounds great on the surface, there are not as many, so you may end up hanging around for hours at the airport. Changing buses in Málaga is fairly painless The service is regular and comfortable. Note that while you pay on the bus from the airport to Málaga, you need to buy a ticket from the bus station for the leg to Granada. Bus times here.
Finally, the bus station in Granada is out of town. There are plenty of taxis at the station that will take you into the old town near the Alhambra for a reasonable price.
Granada offers great variety in aesthetic. The outskirts may fool you into thinking that it is just a city, indistinguishable from a hundred others. When you get further in, however, you see the real character of Granada. Winding narrow alleys, whitewashed buildings and terracotta roofs comprise the Albaicin district. Locals hang around the plazas and lookout points over the city, and restaurants and cafes are hidden around every corner.
Sacromonte is known as the gypsy district and cave houses line the street. It’s worth a wander up here as it not only offers stunning views of the Alhambra, but shows a completely different aspect of the city. For 5 euros, the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte showcases furnished cave houses which you can enter and explore for yourself.
Along the river, you’ll find a more touristy area. Restaurants line the Plaza Nueva, offering tapas, paella and other local treats. These tend to be a touch more expensive than the more secluded places hidden away in the Albaicin. You don’t have to stray far from this main street to experience something more Spanish, however. A short detour onto Calle Elvira offers a more authentic experience. Try Bodegas Castañeda on this street for the feeling of a true Spanish bodega, complete with ranks of jámon hanging behind the bar and discarded tapas on the floor.
Of course, the walls and towers of the Alhambra dominate it all.
What to Do
Visit the Alhambra, of course! A historic fort, this huge complex of gardens and palaces overlooks the city. In the Arabic style, the exterior is imposing and austere, saving the beauty for within. Religious influences are resplendent throughout with the whispering water of Arab fountains and noisy water of the Christian ones. With such a rich history, a guide is a must. Knowing not just what you’re looking at, but the stories behind it, breathes life into the experience.
Watch flamenco. Even if you’re not into dancing, flamenco is culturally significant to Granada. A show consisting of a guitarist, a singer and a dancer is well worth watching. There are plenty of options in the city. Try Le Chien Andalou for the intimate cave setting.
Enjoy the view. If your legs are up to it, a hike up to San Miguel Alto between Albaicin and Sacromonte offers unrivalled views of the city, the Alhambra and distant mountains. Even without the hike, wherever you look there is something either breathtaking or interesting.
Take a bath. The Arab baths will transport you hundreds of years back in time. Feel the stresses of travel melt away as the hot water, music and massage soothes those aching muscles from all the hills.
The cathedral, churches and monasteries will also draw the eye as you wander around the city.
What to Bring
Bring strong legs and sturdy shoes! Granada, particularly the interesting original areas, is built on hills. Most of the pavements are uneven and slippery when wet. Granada can also get really hot in the summer so a hat and water are advisable.