Greetings and salutations my traveling friends! Are you ready to plan a weekend away in Granada? I know I am – let me take you on an adventure!
As many of you know, we are currently living in the south of Spain in the region of Andalusia. We had the amazing opportunity to take a weekend away for the first time since February and we decided that our destination was going to be the beautiful “Moorish Jewel” city of Granada.
I had heard such amazing things about going to Granada but since moving here we hadn’t had a chance to visit, then COVID-19 happened and no one was going anywhere.
However, Father’s day weekend everything changed for us and the first chance we got – we threw our bags in the car and headed towards the mountains of the Sierra Nevada.
Little History of Granada
Granada has a very interesting history. Granada’s history reads like an excellent thriller, with complicated plots, conspiracies, hedonism, and tricky love-affairs. Muslim forces took over from the Visigoths in 711, with the aid of the Jewish community around the foot of the Alhambra hill in what was called Garnata al Jahud, from which the name Granada derives; Granada also happens to be Spanish for pomegranate, the fruit on the city’s coat of arms – funny enough. The Moors held Granada as a stronghold until it finally fell to the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I in January 1492, who also chose this beautiful city as their final resting place.
What I loved most about this city is how much of history has been preserved in the city. Not just buildings and monuments (though those didn’t hurt either). Like we were staying in “Albaycin” which is the old Arab Quarter that sits in the shadow of the Alhambra. The best way to explain this neighborhood is – stairs, lots and lots of stairs. It would be like visiting Santorini (I’m assuming since I haven’t gone yet, but Hyrda was the same). The whole neighborhood is built on the adjacent hill right across from the river and the Alhambra. They could have flattened this area out in sections to make it more “tourist” friendly with roads wide enough to drive or bring a bus. Instead, history and the integrity of the city have been saved because of the pride of the people and their love for their city and their history.
Our hotel, Casa Del Aljarife, was in the perfect location. I was removed from the main hustle and bustle of the main roads closer to the cathedrals and the bars but just a short (trust me I had to time it) 6 minutes uphill/stairs from all the hustle and bustle you could want!
When we arrived it was mid-afternoon so that meant that everything was about to get shut down for siesta time. This gave us plenty of time to settle into the hotel, make sure that all my work stuff was handled for the evening, changed our shoes, and off we went! One thing I’ve been grateful for as we start to travel again is the fact that most of these towns are empty. The locals (once we got the green light) flew the coop like the rest of us did and so we mostly saw a handful of other travelers and backpackers wandering around the city. I don’t think I saw, except once, a plaza that had more than 30 people in it at once and that was at like 9 pm in front of the Royal Chapel.
Honestly, I could have spent a week just wandering around the streets. This city is so interesting and has so many little nooks and crannies of history that I would never get bored.
Tips for visiting:
Touring the Alhambra
BUY YOUR TICKETS EARLY! I was warned about this long before we arrived so I knew I needed to pre purchase my tickets, especially traveling in the summer. The general ticket is 90% of the grounds but if you want to go into the palace, there is another ticket that you have to purchase and a specific time for the entry and tour. DON’T MISS YOUR TIME SLOT. Be in that line 10 mins early to make sure that you don’t miss it because if you do, they will not give you another ticket for a different time.
If this is your first time to Europe you should know that the random OLD water fountains are there to help you cool off or just getting a drink. I wouldn’t drink out of the basin, personally, but the water is cold and refreshing!
Stop at an Arab Bath House
There is only one REAL one left in the city, Hammam Al Andalus, but there are lots of other newer bathhouses that I encourage you to check out. The treatment is totally different from any other spa service you’ve tried and if you go to the Hammam Al Andalus you know that you are in the same building that was used in the 13th century!
I know that you can park if you’re driving or take a taxi but trust me you need to walk. Mostly because parking is a nightmare and can be expensive in any larger city during peak hours. But also because so much of this city’s charm is found on little alleyways and narrow roads that a car won’t fit down.
Trust me. If I can hike this city with 50lbs extra on my back between a camera and a baby and I’m still telling you it is worth it….it is.
The next morning we woke up to our delightful breakfast at Cafe 4 Gatos before we took on the Alhambra! Now we didn’t go into the Nasrid Palace. I wanted to save that for when we could come back as a family together. It still took us seven hours to walk around everywhere but the Palace.
Essential Tips for Traveling with Children
So plan to bring water (big mistake on our end) and snacks if you are traveling with children. Also, don’t feel pressure to do everything at once. We left to have lunch and then went back to finish the rest – the tickets you buy for the general admission are good all day.
There is so much more to see and do in Granada and I can’t wait to share that with you the next time we go back but these are some highlights, tips and advice on how to really enjoy this “Moorish Gem”.
Till next time folks!