Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Granada, Andalucía [Part II of III]

Ever since I moved to Madrid, I’ve been constantly told by many about the beauty of a city south of Spain called Granada. I made the trip spurred by its seemingly amazing ability to captivate the hearts of everyone who’s been there. Now that I’ve visited Granada, I couldn’t agree more. If you can’t find it in the sights and sounds, you’ll certainly feel it in the air!

Granada City in Andalucía is the capital of the province with the same name. It got its name from the Moors who invaded Spain from North Africa in the 8th Century, thereafter spreading Islamic culture and influences all over Spain. This cultural invasion continues to be strongly felt especially in the Andalucían region, its long lasting impact leaving Granada not only with a distinctive flavour, but also one of the most impressive ‘jewels’ of the Moorish legacy - the Alhambra, a Moorish Palace and Fortress. Since 1984, UNESCO has declared the Alhambra, Generalife and Albaicín quarter of Granada a World Heritage Site. Check it out here.

Today, Gran Vía de Colon, a wide north-south axle runs down the center of the historical city like a huge scar, separating its old quarter on the east from the newer part on the west. In the west is where you can find the archetypal attractions of a Spanish town – churches, the cathedral, plazas, shopping district & the tapas trail.

A mosque used to stand at the site now occupied by a cluster of important buildings - The Royal Chapel, The Cathedral, Church of The Sagrario and The Merchants' Exchange.

Above: The Capilla Real, or the Royal Chapel, built in the 1500s, is where the remains of King Ferdinand & Queen Isabella are buried.

Above: The front of the Cathedral

**Note >> The open space in front of the Cathedral is where several gypsy fortune tellers like to hang around. They first approach you by handing out 'free' sprigs of rosemary plant and then offering to tell your fortune, taking their time and holding you back until you get the hint and give them some token.**

Above: Sculpture of a water carrier and his donkey, with the tower of the Cathedral behind it.

Above: Street musicians, strumming their guitars to beautiful Andalucian music.

Above: Arabic calligraphy

Above: Truly appealing to your senses, small shops line the streets offering traditional Arabic craftworks, incense and confections, creating a perfect blend of rich visual, alluring scent and sweet taste.

Above: The NH Hotel at Puerta Real, the crossroads of the city’s shopping zone.

Above: The Fountain of the Battles at Puerta Real Square – a popular venue for outdoor celebrations.

At the east side of Gran Vía, you can find the old Arabic quarter of Granada city, at a district called Albaicín. Built on a hill, it bears the typical characteristics of an old town – with steep, narrow cobbled stone streets and lots of tiny nooks & crannies to explore. The way to fully enjoy it, is to walk into its labyrinth without a map.

Above: Carrera del Darro, a recommended walk along the river Darro (or stream as it appears to be), by the hillside where the Alhambra sits.

Above: Looking up from Paseo de los Tristes, along Carrera del Darro, you’ll see the imposing Alhambra, looking majestic here with the sun rays beaming down from its back.

Above: As you wander deeper and climb higher into the maze of Albaicín, turn back and you’ll almost always find an attractive view of the Alhambra showing up between the gaps.

Above & Below: Houses with a touch of Arabic influence

Above: Located at the highest point of Albaicín, Plaza de San Nicolas is the place to enjoy the magnificent view of the Alhambra and the snow capped mountains.

Geographically, the city of Granada lies in a unique position at the foot of the Sierra Nevada (which literally means ‘snowy mountain ranges’ in Spanish). It’s a popular winter sport destination for skiers and mountain climbers from all over Spain and has the highest peak (Mulhacén) in continental Spain at 3,478 metres. The Sierra Nevada reputedly has a relatively long ski season (mid Nov – mid Apr) plus the air temperature here tends to be warmer compared to some other mountain resorts, due to its southerly position.

It really is quite surreal to see snow capped mountains knowing that not too far away, there is the Mediterranean Sea, glistening under the sunny blue sky. Hence it is commonly said that one could go skiing followed by sunbathing at the beach within hours ;)

Above: Scenes in Albaicín

Above: The Puerta Elvira, one of the largest and oldest remaining city gates, marking the entrance to Elvira Street, which is famous for food and entertainment.

More on the Alhambra of Granada, to be continued…


  1. Great photos & post. Glead that Granada has captivated you and lived up to expectations.

  2. Thanks Mark! Yes I enjoyed Granada and wish I could stay longer...


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