I heard about Granada once or twice before because I had two friends study abroad there– I thought, “Why Granada? Never heard of it. Sounds pretty random.”
After this past weekend, I am ashamed. I should have known about this sooner. Granada and The Alhambra are absolutely must see in your lifetime, and although it could be done in a weekend for sure, I would love to go back and spend more time there. It’s a city infused with Moor and Christian cultures, and is essentially a fusion of Arabic surroundings with a Spanish touch. Absolutely incredible.
We left at 8am from Madrid at Plaza de Los Toros via private bus. It was right next to the highway so that’s why we met there. It was just over a 5 hour trip. About halfway through, we stopped at a huge rest stop with everything from food to souvenirs. They even had microwaves so you could heat up your own food.
Immediately coming into Granada, it looked like any normal town. But once entering the main street, you can notice the historic charm with intricate architecture and spotless streets. Seriously, the streets were so clean that when you walk on them you feel like you’re going to slip. We checked into our 4 star hotel, . It was worth the price, as it was less than a minute walk to the main street in Granada– Calle Gran Via de Colon, and the Granada Cathedral. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel are buried in a different site in the city, Capilla Real, which we didn’t go see. There are tapas bars wherever you go, and you can’t go wrong with any of them in Granada, as opposed to Madrid, where the free tapa with a small beer (caña) is dying out.
We went to a bar that advertised ten euros for ten tapas. I ordered that after ordering my own beer. Some tapas bars will do this as well- advertise what they are offering. Ones without signs will most likely be the free-tapa-with-a-caña bar (order “una caña” first, and wait for the tapa). Take heed though, you might wait awhile as Spaniards really do take their time. Don’t forget to explore the town and walk through the small streets covered with tapestry and stores full of fun trinkets. And most importantly, don’t forget to bargain. Always ask “cuanto cuesta?” (How much?).
After this, we went on a guided tour of the streets of Granada in Albayzin all the way up to the San Nicolas viewpoint and back down. They were offered in English and Spanish. I recommend this as you will learn a lot about the history of the city from the ancient water system to the 24/7 praying nuns in a tiny church who take turns praying for the rest of their lives. We got to step inside a small church and see them. Once inside, several different feelings can be developed and can vary from person to person. It really is something to witness.
From Plaza de San Nicolas, you can see the Alhambra from afar which is absolutely breathtaking and worth spending time at. Seeing this part of Granada first will orient you with the background for visiting the Alhambra the next day. The walk back into town was a good way end to the tour as we took the crowded and energetic Paseo de Los Tristes and ended up in Plaza Mayor where more tapas bars were. It is recommended to not eat dinner, but to go bar hopping, as each bar has something different to offer, and it’s really cheap (around 1-2 euros for una caña).
Around 9pm we walked back up into Albayzin to watch a gypsie flamenco show in their historic caves. It was 18 euros and a must see. There are a few different places to watch, and the one we went to was Zambra Gitana. Just make sure it’s in a cueva and not a concert hall and you’ll be set. It was an authentic and intimate experience, and did I mention the free sangria?
We retired back to the hotel, and it got chilly. It was the end of August. We rested up and went out the the discotec that night and after receiving several recommendations from friends that have visited, we decided on Club Mae West. It was very cheap to split the cab among four, and ten euros to enter with two free drinks (I got two mojitos, yum). There were indoor and outdoor venues. The Spaniards stay out late, we left around 4:30 am but they are normally out until 7am.
The hotel had a free breakfast buffet. Don’t miss out on the classic Spanish food, “Tortilla de Patatas.” It’s simple and pan fried but so good.
We set off on the bus to the Alhambra. Make sure you have tickets ahead of time– our group took care of it and it will be a different experience for those on their own. Give yourself two to four hours for the palace gardens and the Generalife. Walk around slowly and take it all in, but don’t be late for the scheduled time of your chance to see the Alhambra Palace, Palacios Nazaries. There are also other sites to see such as the bathhouses and another palace that you can pass through quickly.
That has been my best weekend thus far in Spain. My homestay mom was so happy for my trip as that is her favorite place in all of the country. When Michelle Obama visited, they closed down the entire place for her. Do not miss this gem of a city when in Spain!
About the Writer
Daphne is a Texas born and raised student and adventurer currently living in Madrid. She likes to explore by seeing the green practices and environmental health concepts in every city, taking the public transit each city has to offer, and finding food that only locals know about. Daphne is also a huge fan of craft beer. A big proponent of traveling alone, Daphne enjoys roaming around by herself as well. When she’s not running or riding her bike, she likes to social dance– salsa, country two step, waltz, and more– whatever’s available in the city that she’s in.