Granada – A Big City with Arab Atmosphere
A Spanish idiom says: "If you have not seen Granada, you have not seen anything." The big city fascinates numerous tourists with its Arab district, the impressive cathedral and the famous palace complex of the Alhambra every year and constitutes a memorable cultural experience.
Geography - At the foot of the Sierra Nevada
Granada is the capital of the province of the same name in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia and one of the most frequently visited cities worldwide. It has an area of 87.8 km² and a population of about 240,000 people and lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada in the north. The Mediterranean climate in the city creates mild winters with an average temperature of 13 °C, warm spring and autumn months as well as hot summers.
Culture - Following the traces of Moorish and Christian rulers
Like many other parts of Spain, Granada was settled by different peoples. Besides the Phoenicians, Iberians and Romans, the city is characterised by the hundreds of years of Moorish rule (711-1492). One of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Europe was built in that time. The Alhambra is a unique example of Islamic art and has been part of the World Cultural Heritage since 1984. The castle complex, which was erected during the Nasrid dynasty, is world-famous for its beautiful stuccoed ceilings and the Fountain of Lions. From the impressive palace, you have a great view of the city and the historical district of Albaicín. The former Moorish residential district is also part of the Cultural Heritage of the UNESCO and a must for every traveller. Visitors should not miss out on the picturesque alleys, the whitewashed houses, the colourful, idyllic ambience and the Moorish architecture. The cave dwellings of the neighbouring district of Sacromonte are equally worth seeing. Another cultural highlight is located in the city centre. Granada Cathedral was built in the Renaissance and accommodates the tombs of many famous Spanish kings such as Ferdinand II and Isabella I of Castile.
Experience - Almond soup and Arab souvenirs
In Granada, you can taste local delicacies like the ham from Trevélez, Gazpacho or Ajo Blanco, a kind of almond soup with garlic, olive oil and salt. Other culinary specialities of the city are the tortilla de sacromonte and the pollo al ajillo (chicken with garlic). Granada hosts a number of events, which make the city shine and create a unique ambience. One example is the International Music and Dance Festival in June, which ranks among the most significant ones in the whole of Europe and takes place in the palaces of the Alhambra as well as in the gardens of the Generalife. Other worthwhile festivities are the Semana Santa (Holy Week), the Fiesta de las Cruces ("Festival of the Crosses") on the 3rd of May and the Festival of Albaicín on the 29th of June, which is celebrated in the district of the same name. This district is also an excellent location for going shopping. In contrast to the main shopping centres near the cathedral and the Calle Recogidas, you find beautiful Arab handiwork and art handicraft in Albaicín, which make great souvenirs.
Activities - Hiking in the Sierra Nevada and relaxing in an Arab bath
In addition to the typical sightseeing tours, Granada's surroundings - in particular the Sierra Nevada - offer many opportunities for cycling and hiking tours. Travellers who prefer a short hike through the city can go for a walk on the hills of the district of Albaicín. From there you have one of the best-known views of the Alhambra. Another special experience is a visit to one of the Arab baths in Granada. After an eventful day, you can leave all your cares behind in a traditional ambience and feel like in Mohammed I's time (sultan of Granada from 1232 to 1273).
Unfortunately, there are thieves and tricksters in Granada like in other big cities. You should keep an eye on your handbag, wallet or camera, especially in the city centre and in the district of Albaicín. Travellers who are planning on visiting the complex of the Alhambra should either set off very early (at the beginning of the opening times) or preorder or buy tickets online because there is a limited number of tickets per day.
A trip to Granada is particularly suited for travellers who want to dive into the history and culture of the time of Moorish rule as well as those who want to discover a significant cultural asset of humanity. Together with the cultural events and the Arab atmosphere, the city is the ideal destination for cultural and historical holidays.