Visiting Andalusia, we were struck by the number and height of the mountains, which otherwise in Europe can only be found in the Swiss alps in such concentration. Nestled between the Sierra Nevada mountain tops, often covered in a powder sugar layer of snow, lays Granada, a town which astounded us.
The town tries to bridge the needs as an international university town, a provincial capital, a home to a quarter of a million people and more than two million people a year visiting it’s Moorish remnants of it’s past, the castle and fortress complex of Alhambra.
Not being an Muslim emir of medieval times, either indefinite patience to get into the castle or a good hand full of money to pass the lines of keen visitors to the palace is needed, which we, to be honest, both lacked. We enjoyed a stroll in the rest of the fortress and the gardens full of blooming flowers and flowing water, giving us an insight of these early architects astonishing skills.
The most beautiful part of Granada is the Albaicin, the Moorish area of the city and the oldest part of Granada. Most of it is car-free.
Cobble-stoned, narrow paths squeeze through tiny passages of old town houses up to the top of the hill, which lays opposite the the Moorish Palace, offering a breathtaking view of Alhambra.
Several little squares lined with tapas bars, teterias (tea rooms) and restaurants, churches, museums, small theaters invite to spend just a little more time on the lively streets of Albaicin. Not to forget the Arabic Bazaar, Alcaiceria, bursting with souvenir stalls along the Calle Acaiceria selling a variety of Arabic craft work such as the fajalauza (traditional local painted ceramics), taracea (wooden inlay, in items such as desks, chessboards, or trinket boxes), and typical granadino farolas (stained-glass lamps).
Of course there are more places worthwhile to visit in Granada in the more modern part of the town. A little tourist train takes visitors around comfortably even with mobile WiFi and a app to download for more information.
There is not much to fault about Granada. Obviously a busy city like Granada has its share of beggars, gypsy women wanting to read your future and pick-pockets. But city council could do more towards cleaning up their less touristy streets and public parks, installing public toilets as the whiff of urine in some of them hangs heavily in the air.
We liked the lively squares with infinite tapas bars and restaurants filled with street music and artists, the mix of Arabian and Spanish culture and the stunning setting of Granada in middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains.