If you have limited time to spend visiting Granada, this is how to make the most of your stay.
A little bit about Granada before you visit
What an interesting past Granada has had! It reads like a political thriller with invasions from the Muslims in 711, becoming one of the richest cities in Europe, to the Christians invasion in 1492 and the expulsion of Jews in the 17th century. Granada then declined in popularity during the latter part of the 17th century and then made a revival during the Romantic movement in the 18th century. Granada has a medieval Moorish heritage.
The most important building in Granada is the Alhambra. Originally it started out as a fortress, palace and small city during the 9th Century. When the Nasrid Dynasty arrived in 1238 they started to renovate and add palaces to the original building. When the Spanish King Ferdinand and his wife Queen Isabel conquered Granada in 1492 Alhambra became a Christian court. The building fell into repair during the late 18th century and early 19th century and was home to thieves, criminals and beggars. In 1870 it was declared a national monument and in 1984 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To Travel Too Tip
As soon as you know that you are travelling to Granada and you want to visit the Alhambra you do need to book as far in advance as possible.
You can expect to spend at least a few hours visiting the Alhambra.
You can’t leave Granada without a wander through the old medieval Moorish area known as The Albaicin. High in the hills that look across to the Alhambra you will wander through a maze of narrow winding cobbled streets.
When the Muslims were forced out by the Spanish their Mosques in this neighbourhood were demolished and Christian Churches were constructed on their sites. The Moors left behind their homes for the wealthy Christians to inhabit.
Muslims built their homes in narrow cobblestoned alleyways. Enemy soldiers would get lost in the maze of the narrow winding streets and also it created shade when walking during the hot midday sun. Muslims would meet in the local Hammams (local baths) whereas Christians would meet in open squares.
When you are walking through the alleyways note the position of the doorways to each home, they will not face each other. This was done for the privacy of the families.
Museo San Juan de Dios – House of Pisa
In the 15th century, the Pisa family built Casa de los Pisa. Today their home is the Museum San Juan de Dios. San Juan de Dios (St John of God) was born in Portugal in 1495. He moved to Granada in Spain to care for the poor and founded the monastic order of the Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God. He died in 1550 at the Casa and was canonised in 1690. The Pisa family preserved all of his furniture and his belongings and in the 19th century, the building was acquired by the Hospitaller Order of St John of God.
The Church holds the remains of San Juan de Dios which apparently has not yet decomposed. The Museum contains a lot of paintings, furniture, porcelain and metal work and the iconography of St John of God and is considered an important source of history.
The Central Courtyard and the Fountain is typical of the noble homes built in the Albaicin neighbourhood.
Address: Calle de Convalencia 1
The Carmens of Granada
A Carmen is a house in Granada that has a garden – a country home in the bustling city of Granada built by the Moors. The Carmen House is surrounded by a wall for privacy, they contained gardens of vegetables, herbs and flowers. All Carmens were built on slopes with views across to the Alhambra. The Muslim way of life in Granada, a small paradise in a city, the first paradise before their souls cross the 7 heavens before they reach their final heaven.
Unfortunately, the Christians demolished a lot of the Carmens to replace them with their own small palaces or noble homes.
Calle Caldereria Nueva
Calle Caldereria Nueva – the most beautiful street in the Albaicin area. It is now full of tea houses and souvenir shops. It links the top of the Albaicin to the bottom.
Mercado San Augustine
Located close to the Cathedral in Granada, this market covers 3 city blocks. It is located on the old Convent site and was converted to a market in the 1970s. A great place to stop and sample the local Vermouth, olives, olive oil and artisan bread. The usual hub bub of locals shopping greets you as you enter the market.
The Cathedral of Granada is classified as one of the largest in the world. Funny enough, on our road trip through Spain each Cathedral we had come across had claimed the same title. The first level is built in Gothic style, the 2nd floor in Renaissance style and one of the towers was not built due to lack of funds.
The Cathedral dates back to 1523. It has its entrance off the Calle Gran Via de Colon 5.
To Travel Too Tip
Beware of the gypsies in the area selling bunches of lavender.
Silk and Spice Market – The Alcaiceria Market – The Grand Bazaar of Granada
Established in the 14th century it was destroyed by fire during the 18th century and rebuilt in the Neo-Moorish style. When first constructed the market was double the size it now is and for security for the stall holders and their goods it had 10 main entrance gates that were made out of iron.
Today there is little resemblance to the silk and spice market but a market place filled with local souvenirs.
Located next to the Cathedral is the Royal Chapel built during 1505 – 1517 in Flemish Gothic Style. The Chapel contains the tomb of Isabella I of Castile and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon. In another tomb the remains of their daughter Joanna of Castle and her husband Philip I of Castile.
The external area surrounding the Royal Chapel was once the market place for traders.
The famous oldest Tapas Bar in Granada that is frequented by locals as well as tourists.
The one place that you can enjoy a substantial free Tapas with your beer, wine or local vermouth. It was buzzing at lunch time and it was hard to find a table.
Address: c/-Almireceros 1 y 3 18010 Granada
Open from 11.30am to 4.00pm then from 7.00pm.
Two days was not long enough for us to enjoy the sights of Granada, here are the Top 10 by TripAdvisor for you to be able to explore more of this unique city.
Granada has a range of accommodation available that will suit all types of travellers.