Visiting Granada Spain

Granada, Spain – Beyond the Alhambra

(Granada is best known as the home of the stunning Alhambra Fortress, but in this post we’re going to focus on some other sights in this amazing city and leave the Alhambra to the next post).

From Gibraltar, we drove northeast towards Granada along the Costa del Sol of Spain – which was quite beautiful. Since were were visiting in March, it really wasn’t beach or swim weather, but we stopped in a couple of beautiful towns to get a feel for the coast. There are lots of vacation homes, resorts and golf courses along the coast. I’d love to go back and spend more time in this area. Gibraltar to Granada is about 284 km or 176 miles via the route we took.

It’s a scenic drive from Gibraltar to Granada. We stopped briefly in Estepona, a wealthy small town on the coast and then in Nerja, a resort town with a pretty setting on the Costa del Sol. We didn’t have the time to stop in Marbella or Malaga, even though those cities would be definitely worth visiting.

Costa del Sol

Leaving Gibraltar in the distance…until next time!

Granada

Granada is one of the main tourist destinations in southern Spain, known primarily for its 13th century Alhambra palace/fortress, one of Europe’s best known treasures. While the Alhambra is outstanding, Granada is fun place to visit for many other reasons as well (my next post will focus on the Alhambra specifically).

We arrived in Granada in mid-afternoon and found our way to our apartment, located in the historic (and hilly) Albaicín (also Albayzín) district, just across a large ravine from the Alhambra. Luckily our apartment had a designated space in a parking garage just a couple blocks away. Parking space is at a premium in this old, charming district.

Our apartment was in a great location – within walking distance of downtown Granada (if you don’t mind lots of stairways winding down to the main city) and just a bus ride from the Alhambra. Be prepared to get your exercise walking in Granada (up and down many small hills and stairways) or learn to use the bus system. There was a bus stop just a block from our apartment.

A view of the Alhambra and the mountains beyond Granada from the Albaicín district.

One of the things the Albaicín area of Granada is known for are the flamenco dance shows, many of which are performed in little hillside caves that are part of the restaurants and bars in this areas of town, just across the ravine from the Alhambra. The flamenco art form, in which the dancer creates their own interpretation, is indigenous to southern Spain.

We made reservations online about 24 hours in advance for a flamenco show which was within walking distance of our apartment. The show lasts about 1 hour, with several dancers performing with live musicians.
Evening view of the Alhambra from the Albaicín district, near where we saw the flamenco show.

Central Granada

There’s a lot to explore in Granada. We noticed a strong north African/Arabic influence in the city, both as an important part of its long history and currently – with many internatioinal students, since Granada is home to one of Spain’s largest universities. We found many Arabic restaurants, shops, and historical sights in addition to traditional Gothic European architecture.

Cathedral and Royal Chapel

Granada’s 16th century cathedral is located in the heart of downtown Granada. One of its key treasures (located in the Royal Chapel) are the ornate tombs of the 15th century Spanish monarchs – King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella; they requested that their remains be brought to rest in Granada, the city they considered as their crowning achievement of the Reconquista. Their roles in the Reconquista of Spain and commissioning of Columbus’ exploration of the Western Hemisphere changed the course of Western history. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside the Royal Chapel. The figures on the tombs of the King and Queen are quite interesting and definitely worth a thorough look. Their actual remains are in simpler coffins in the crypt below the tombs, you can view these as well.

We’ll cover the magnificent Alhambra in my next post, it is the primary reason why tourists come to Granada, but I recommend you take a little additional time to see more of this marvelous historical city.