Planning a trip to Granada? Andreina Cordani has the scoop.
Even if you’re not into historic monuments, the Alhambra palace is unmissable. But you can’t just turn up and go in – you have to either book a ticket online at http://www.alhambra-patronato.es or get up at dawn on the day of your visit, climb up the hill and join a monumental queue in time for the ticket office to open at 8.30am. A good queue-dodging trick is to walk past the gift shop to the ‘pay by credit card’ machines and reserve your ticket using a card. For some reason there’s hardly anyone there.
Although hordes of people trail through it every day, there’s still something haunting about the incredible, intricate and beautiful Nazarid Palace. Like the Sala de los Abencerrajes, the place where 16 princes met their death at the Sultan’s orders after their chief had dared to fall in love with the Sultan’s favourite wife, Zoraya.
After taking in the Nazarides, wander through the Generalife, the gardens which surround the Alhambra, or explore the winding streets of the Arab quarter, or Albaicín, which crowds up the hillside opposite the Alhambra. Winding cobbled stairways, narrow streets and whizzing Vespas make it feel like a real adventure.
If you do have transport, take a day and head into the Sierra Nevada, the mountains which surround the city, for spectacular views and great ham, sausages and other local produce in every village.
The food and drink
Most of the time, if you order drinks at a certain time of day, you’ll be automatically served a small plate of tapas as well – it’s built in to the price. And if you stay to eat, around €20 can usually buy enough goodies to fill two hungry bellies. One not to miss is the deep fried aubergine/eggplant drizzled with local honey.
For relaxed tapas in a friendly atmosphere, try the Riviera on Calle Meriem. Just around the corner in Calle de Elvira, the Albaicín’s main street, is Salinas, a popular restaurant for both locals and visitors which makes a mean paella. In the Sierra Nevada, non-vegetarians can seek out the local blood sausage – which is delicately spiced and much nicer than it sounds.
As you walk through the streets of Granada, you’ll often catch the gorgeous scent of a tea-stall or Moorish-style teahouse, and although they might be a bit touristy, it’s worth stopping in and trying their special tea blends.
Granada is not especially car-friendly – those beautiful, narrow Moorish streets eat wing mirrors for breakfast and the whole place is subject to a crazy, seemingly ever-changing one way system. Most central hotels don’t have parking, and the ones which do will charge heavily, so make sure you factor that into the price of your trip.
Another mode of transport not to bother with is heels. The combination of steep hills, winding streets and cobblestones is an ankle breaker – I tried walking round the Albaicín in wedges and looked like an idiot. The Spanish tend to be have a pretty relaxed look, anyway – dressing for fun, in jeans and pretty tops, rather than to impress.
Photo: cc Flickr/ronancrowley