It may be compact, but Granada’s mix of Iberian and Arab heritage, from traditional Andalusian tapas bars to bustling bazaars...
...and traditional Moorish bathhouses, only adds to its charm. Throw in some of the world’s most fabulous historical buildings and the Sierra Nevada mountains on its doorstep, and you have a city just begging to be explored.
Granada is a compact city, and most visitors find it easy to navigate on foot. Districts such as Albaicín and Sacromonte (as well as the Alhambra) have steep, winding streets, most of which are too narrow for cars and taxis. Elsewhere, taxis can be flagged down in the street and are reasonably priced. The official ones are white with a diagonal green stripe on the front doors.
There is also a good city-wide public bus service. Granada’s main bus station is at Avenida de Juan Pablo II, 3km north west of the centre. All services into the city centre and suburbs operate from there, except for nearby destinations such as Fuente Vaqueros and Viznar. A number of companies operate sightseeing buses — some hop-on, hop-off — that cover all the main sites.
There is also a tourist train, the Granada City Tour, which has a see-through roof and operates two different routes during the day and evening. Both routes include the city centre, Plaza San Nicolas in the Albaicin and entrance to the Sacromonte neighbourhood. The daytime route also includes the Alhambra palace. A Granada Card Tourist Pass includes travel on public transport as well as entrance to many of the most important buildings and monuments.
Albaicín (or Albyzin), the Moorish district of Granada, is the oldest part of the city, its winding cobblestoned streets full of bars, cafes and restaurants. Awarded Unesco World Heritage status in 1994, it is one of the best places to stroll around and take in the sights, sounds and smells. Located on a hillside facing the Alhambra, there are dramatic views of the palace as well as of Albaicín itself from the palace’s famous rose gardens. To get an idea of what a traditional Moorish bathhouse would have been like, head for the recreated hammam (Turkish bath) just behind the church of Santa Ana, complete with mosaic walls and plaster arabesques.
The Realejo district, on the southeast-facing slopes of the Alhambra, was once the city’s main Jewish quarter. Today, it is a lively residential district, known for cármenes (large mansions with walled gardens), narrow, winding streets and authentic tapas bars. At its heart is the Campo de Principe, a large square flanked by bars and restaurants. A guided walking tour, tracing its secret alleyways, monasteries and private gardens, is a good way to get a real feel for the district.
Sacromonte (or Sacred Mountain), set in the hills above Granada, is home to the city’s thriving Roma community who settled there after the Christian conquest of 1492. Many of them still live in caves (albeit modernised) dug out of the hillside, some going back to the 14th century. The area is famed for its late-night flamenco clubs and bars, some of them located in caves. While the area is great for a glimpse into Granada’s grittier side, it’s inadvisable for lone women to wander around its more isolated streets, especially at night.
Voltage: 230V, 50Hz
Currency: Euro €
Time zone: Central European Standard Time (GMT+1)
Language: Castilian Spanish
Population: 240,000 approx.