The first image I got of Granada was the opposite of what I thought it would be. As the female voice in the train woke me up announcing we had arrived, a clear picture of the station started taking shape in my mind: bars, shops, and people running everywhere. You can imagine my surprise when, as I entered it, my eyes saw nothing: the only bar in the station was empty and outside, no sign of a cab. Fortunately my friend and I had been pretty lucky in what concerned timing and no more than two minutes after we got out of the station a cab with two old Americans arrived.
I was starting to think I’d overrated Granada when the cab took a turn and we found ourselves in the middle of the Gran Via de Colon: beautiful white buildings, people filling the sideways and then, the Cathedral. From the outside, it simply looked huge, but from the inside… It’s one of those cathedrals where it doesn’t really matter if you are atheist, you will be amazed by its architecture: the beautifully painted ceiling with its golden details is surely worth the ticket (3.50€).
…the traditional gipsy quarter of Granada…
To have a magnificent view of the city and of the Alhambra, the Mirador de San Nicolas is ideal: take the bus from Plaza Nueva (ask the driver where to get off) then follow the arrows. The view is so stunning, I could have spent the day staring at it. If you need to eat or drink, there are a few cafés right next to it (be ready to meet the new Gipsy Kings, always singing around the area, another sight I could have stared at the whole afternoon!) From there ask directions to the Barrio Sacromonte, the traditional gipsy quarter of Granada, famous for its unique position in the general panorama of flamenco. The little streets are typically special and some of the graffiti on the walls are really impressive. From the Barrio Sacromonte walk down towards the Calle Caldereria Nueva, full of teterías (perfect for a tea break) reflecting the feeling of the Albaicín, the neighbourhood that reminds you of Moroccan medinas and makes you wonder if you didn’t end up in Marrakech instead of Granada.
Be sure not to miss the Alhambra: book in advance (www.alhambra-tickets.es or, when in Granada, using the bank, La Caixa’s, cash machines) to avoid bad surprises. The entrance for the general visit is 13€. I know some people will flinch at the price, but I can assure you that it is more than worth it: I would pay it again if I could go back tomorrow. It took me five whole hours to visit it all, and everything, from beginning to end, is simply stunning. If you want to avoid spending more don’t bother buying the audio guide: Washington Irvin might be a great writer, but after twenty minutes listening to someone reading parts of his book I can guarantee that you will have enough.
…bring good walking shoes.
The best place to stay is the Hotel Carlos V (www.hotelcarlosvgranada.com): located on the Plaza de los Campos it is within walking distance of everything you have to see (the Alhambra remains a whole other story of course, bus 33 from right outside the Cathedral will take you there). For a quick breakfast, dinner or drink, the Bar Enostrum (Calle de Pavaneras) is perfect: croissant jamon y queso (Spanish ham & cheese), fresh orange juice, gaspacho, a selection of fresh fish, mojitos: they have everything.
One more thing to know about Granada? Bring good walking shoes. The cobbled streets are not the best nor the easiest thing to walk on!
Images courtesy of the Granada Tourist Board