Cave-living gypsies. One of the front-runners for the new seven wonders of the world. Flamenco dancing in centuries-old taverns. The remains of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Great food. All of this and more, set against a snowy mountain backdrop. What more could you ask for? Granada has it all.
Like many cities in Spain, the history if Granada is as long as recorded history itself. Originally inhabited by the Ibero-Celtics, the city engaged in trade with Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Greeks. It was colonized, first by the Greeks and then by the Romans, who named it Illiberis. The city passed through the hands of the Visigoths as well before being conquered by invading Moors between 711 and 713. It eventually became a very important city under the Moors, and was the last Moorish stronghold on the Peninsula in 1492 before falling to the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella.
The city flourished under Muslim rule, and most of the visitor destinations in the city date from this time and the period of Spainâ€™s Golden Age in the centuries following the Reconquest. The most famous visitor attraction in the city (if not in all of Spain) is without a doubt the Alhambra, the magnificent Moorish Palace of gardens, towers and fountains built in the thirteenth century by the Nasrid Sultans. Seeing the Alhambra can be tricky: check out our Alhambra tips and advice page for help. Once youâ€™ve seen the Alhambra, head to the San NicolĂˇs church to get a postcard-perfect view of the Alhambra set against a snowy mountain backdrop. The AlbayzĂn, or old Arab quarter, still features some interesting old architecture and some of the best local places to eat and drink. See the Puerta de Elvira, which the catholic monarchs used to enter the city after it was taken. The archaeological museum is also located in the AlbayzĂn district.
Like most Spanish cities, Granada is packed to bursting with churches, cathedrals and convents: if you only see one make sure itâ€™s the Cathedral, a towering structure dating from the Renaissance Era. The cathedral, peculiarly sandwiched among the narrow streets of the old town, is home to the remains of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, whose 15th century marriage united most of Christian Spain and paved the way for the great Spanish Empire that would follow. Other noteworthy churches and cathedrals include San JerĂłnimo and Santo Domingo. The Sacromonte Abbey is also worth a visit.
Granada is a good place for shoppers: the city features a centuries-old handmade guitar industry: you can find their shops all over town, but in particular in the Realejo district. You can also get finely made, handcrafted wooden items with inlaid designs such as tables, chess sets, etc. Glazed pottery from Granada is called â€śfajalauzaâ€ť and it is of fine quality: the original Fajalauza factory is open for visits.
Depending on whom you ask, flamenco dancing was invented in either Granada or Sevilla, but in any event, either city is a great place to see some. In a hill above the old Arab quarter are a number of caves that have been home to gypsy families for centuries. Forget about bats and bears: these are caves with cable TV, internet and all the other modern conveniences of life. Some of these caves feature nightly flamenco shows, with or without dinner included. Itâ€™s a bit touristy, but how often do you get to see dancing in a cave?
Other places nearby Granada: Sevilla,