Easily reached on a day-trip excursion from Club La Costa World on the Costa del Sol, Granada – steeped in incredible history and culture – is a dream location for holidaymakers who love their cameras and is undoubtedly one of Spain’s most photographed cities.
No visit to Granada – or even to Andalucia – would be complete without seeing the jewel in the city’s crown that is the Alhambra Palace. Visited by around 3 million people every year, the Alhambra is Spain’s best preserved monument from the period of Moorish occupancy and richly deserves its status as a World Heritage site.
Amazingly intricate and beautiful, the Alhambra was both the home and the fortress of the Nasrid Sultans, 23 of whom ruled during Spain’s last Moorish dynasty between 1212 and 1492. The name derives from the Arabic ‘al-qala’at al-hamra’ which means ‘red castle’ – a fitting description of the sandstone buildings that make up the main part of the palace complex and appear to glow red in the late afternoon sunshine.
Strategically set on a hilltop overlooking the sprawling city below, the Alhambra remains at once mesmerisingly romantic and stunningly photogenic. Yet it is also a lasting testament to the genius of the Moorish engineers, who cleverly ensured that fresh running water from the melting snows of the Sierra Nevada mountain range was channelled throughout the palace complex to provide a pleasantly cooling, ‘air-conditioning’ effect against the stifling heat of the high Andalucian summer.
Such is the popularity of the Alhambra Palace as a tourist venue, daily entrance numbers are limited and tickets are best bought online in advance to avoid the long and often disappointed queues. Your tickets will also be strictly timed, so make sure you arrive on time so as not to miss your allotted slot.
History on every corner in Granada
Spain is steeped in its own history, but nowhere more so than in Granada – a city with more heritage on offer than almost any other in the country.
- Granada’s Cathedral – commissioned by Queen Isabella following the re-capture of the city by the Catholic Monarchs – was the first Renaissance church built in Spain and had its foundation stone laid on the site of the ancient mosque in 1523.
- Almost adjacent to the Cathedral is the magnificent Royal Chapel (Capilla Real), where the remains of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were eventually laid to rest.
- The Bañuelo – built by skilled Arab craftsmen over 1000 years ago and thankfully saved from destruction in the wake of the purge by the Catholic Monarchs – is the best preserved bath-house in Spain and the oldest Moorish work still standing in Granada. This marvel of Arabic ingenuity is open to the public and entrance is free.
- In the area between the Alhambra Palace and Sacromonte is the seemingly other-worldly ‘Albaycin’ district. This old, whitewashed Arab Quarter – once home to over 40,000 people and 30 mosques – is a maze of narrow streets and tiny houses that cling precariously to the hillside below and opposite the opulent palace – and the contrast could not be more stark! Enjoy a Granada adventure like no other as you experience the tiny shops and atmospheric bars with terraces where the sunset glows a flaming red over the Alhambra above.
The modern city
After tasting all that Granada’s wonderful history has to offer, it’s also fun to simply wander through the streets and lanes that form the ‘modern’ city centre, marvelling at the rich cultural mix. Open-fronted shops where guitar makers still ply their skills sit next to ‘teterias’ (tea houses) where you might pause for a refreshingly delicious Moroccan mint tea.
Despite the name, the Plaza Nueva is the oldest square in Granada and is lined with wonderful shops and noisy bars where an ice cold beer or a crisp, dry ‘fino’ sherry will still be served with a traditional free ‘tapa’.
For those holidaymakers with hire cars who want to make their own way and follow their own timetable, Granada is a very straightforward, 90-minute drive from the Costa del Sol. Alternatively, you could choose to join one of the regular excursions by luxury coach from Club La Costa World on which you can relax and enjoy all of the many splendours of this wonderfully atmospheric and beautiful city.
There are many who visit Spain who would say that if you only have time – or inclination – to visit one single city on your holiday, make certain that city is Granada.