It has been far too long ago since we were in Granada. Time constraints….and we are a bit more focused on Sevilla, mainly for practical reasons. But every time a guest returns from a day trip to the ‘Moorish Jewel’ and tells us what they did that day I can only think: soon again. Walking through the old town, with the clear skies offering a privileged view of the Alhambra set against the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Of course all first timers go to visit the Alhambra, how could you skip that. But there is more: The old town or Albaicin still has a rawness about it – locals believe that the city council is pushing out low rent residents and students in an attempt to ‘gentrify’ the area, meeting the expectations of the international tourists that visit the world heritage site. But may be it is this mix of inhabitants that makes the neighbourhood so attractive. One moment you catch a glimpse of a little secret patio garden and next you see graffiti protests across an ancient plastered wall.
Amongst the many patios you’ll discover pomegranate trees – the fruit trees are everywhere in this part of Andalucía as the Arabs brought them over from the Middle East and Asia when they colonised Southern Spain. In fact in Spain, pomegranates are called Granadas – and you see references to the fruit in odd places – even the pollards in town are modeled on pomegranates!
Most visitors go to Plaza de San Nicolas, as it offers unprecedented views across old town towards the Alhambra, but the square is almost always packed, even off season. Yet most don’t know that next door, to the east, is the intimate patio garden of the Granada mosque, with a charming geometric layout with a small fountain at its heart. This quiet space is open to the public and offers the same great views without the hordes. To the west there is another square, with the same elevated position, and this one is popular with local students and musicians. In the street below the squares, are a few restaurant and bars that provide a more rarified environment in which to relax and soak up the atmosphere.
Tired of walking around: Granada has two baños Árabes (Arabic baths) Hammam Baños Árabes which is older and smaller than the Aljibe Baños Árabes. A visit to one of these is a must for the sheer lazy pleasure of it. Both baths offer a bath and aromatherapy massage that lasts for two hours (bath 1 hour 45 minutes, massage 15 minutes) and both need advance reservations.
The best Moroccan food in a city that is well known for its Moorish throwbacks? Had enough tapas for one day? Then may be recline on lavish patterned seating, try the rich, fruity tangine casseroles but/and make your but note that Restaurante Arrayanes does not serve alcohol.