- Moorish Magnificence
- City life
- Tapas and tagines
Sun-baked and history-steeped, Granada allows you to travel from the romance of a mediaeval sultanate via the teashops and bazaars of Morocco, through centuries of Catholic Andalucia, and finally to the tapas bars and bustling streets of a modern Spanish city – all in one day.
500 years ago, when the Moors were driven out of Granada, Boabdil, the last sultan, is said to have wept as he turned his back on his beautiful palaces. Looking at the city today, it’s easy to understand his grief. Chief of Granada’s attractions is Alhambra, the vast complex of forts and palaces that sits sentinel above the city, commanding spectacular views and drawing hordes of tourists year round. From its famous turrets, you can gaze over the city to Albayzín, a winding maze of hilly streets that was once the Moorish citadel and is now a good place to stop for a mint tea and a hookah pipe in of the many teterias (tea shops). Further uphill you come to Sacromonte, the gypsy barrio that gave the world flamenco, where many of the homes are actually caves built into the hillside. Down in the city-centre, Granada’s Spanish past takes centre-stage at the Capilla Real, the chapel that houses the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabel, the royal couple who not only ousted the lamenting Boabdil, but also sent Columbus on his first world-changing voyage of discovery.
Granada is one of the few cities left in Spain that still offers free tapas. Join the locals at around 9pm for the evening bar-hop, enjoying a whistle-stop tour of the local cuisine as you go. You’ll be given a tapa with each drink, with the dish often increasing in quality and complexity the more drinks you buy. Calle Navas is the best place to start…
- Although cabs are flaggable in the street, it can be tricky to pin one down in the evening, so try one of the ranks close to Granada’s big-name attractions, such as Alhambra, or call Teleradio Taxi Granada on +34 958 280654.
- Tipping culture
- 10 per cent is the norm in bars and restaurants; hotel staff and taxi drives will appreciate a few discretionary coins.
- Siesta and fiesta
- As with much of southern Spain, most businesses wind down at around 2pm, (when most Granadans have lunch) before reopening from 4pm until 7 or 8pm. Banks close at 2pm. No one thinks about dinner until after 9pm, and the bars and clubs don’t fill up until 11pm, keeping the cerveza flowing until the wee hours.
- Packing tips
- Bikinis and swimming shorts – although you’re a couple of hours from the coast, you shouldn’t go home without a visit to a hammam baths.
- Recommended reads
- Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving is a collection of short stories by the 19th-century star of the American literary scene. Salman Rushdie'sThe Moor's Last Sighmay be set mainly in Mumbai, but takes its title from the story of Granada's last sultan and frequently refers to Alhambra. For a lively look at Andalucian history, try Jason Webster’s Andalus: Unlocking the Secrets of Moorish Spain.
- Granada’s location between the mountains and the Mediterranean is reflected in its cuisine, with classic Andalucian dishes combining fresh seafood and upland specialities such as sausages or ham. The city’s Moorish past can still be tasted in an assortment of spiced and honeyed creations, and the culinary influence of Moroccan immigrants has made mint tea and sweet pistachio pastries tea-time staples. Look out for jamon de Trevelez, a snow-cured ham from a Sierra Nevadan mountain village and the ‘challenging’ local speciality tortilla Sacromonte – an omelette made with brain and testicles.
- Time zone
- GMT +1
- Dialling codes
- +34 for Spain; 958 for Granada.
- Do go/don't go
- Spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit as the climate and crowds are less intense. During July and August temperatures can reach 40˚C and it has been known to snow in the city during the winter.
Don't go home without...
…a handmade Spanish guitar – there are numerous instrument makers working in the city and their guitars are among the best in the world.