A city of classical beauty, the unique heritage of two great civilizations, Granada is the jewel in the Spanish Crown …
240,000 (but it's double that when the university students are in town)
San Cecilio, San Juan de Dios and Virgin de las Angustias
The Feast of San Cecilio on the first Sunday in February
Día de La Cruz, 3rd May
Feria de Granada, Corpus Christi week
Celebration of the Virgin de las Angustias on the last Sunday in September
As you approach Granada for the first time, you just know you are arriving somewhere special. Soaring high above the city is the spectacular back drop of the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains. And what a city lies below! A city of classical beauty, the unique heritage of two great civilizations.
The mesmerising Alhambra Palace and its exquisite gardens, one of the world's greatest wonders; the narrow, cobbled streets and beautiful walled gardens of the ancient Arab quarter, El Albaicín; the magnificent Cathedral, just one of many superb examples of Renaissance architecture; the caves of Sacramonte, nostalgic legacy of the gypsies.
A city which inspired García Lorca, Andalucía's finest poet, and continues to inspire many of the worlds greatest flamenco artists. Among the city's many cultural activities are the International Theatre Festival, Tango Festival, International Jazz Festival and the International Music & Dance Festival, one of the most prestigious musical events in Europe.
Above all, a people's city, full of life and colour, energy and fun. As witnessed by the spectacular fiestas, such as 'El Dia de la Cruz' when the entire town is adorned with spring flowers, on patios and balconies, on houses, in shop windows - everywhere - and everyone spills out into the streets dressed in their traditional costumes to dance the night away in a riot of colour, music and merriment.
It's a very special place, Granada, the jewel in the Spanish Crown.
Located at an altitude of 730 metres, just at the point where the Sierra Nevada mountains meet the fertile plain of the Vega at the confluence of the Darro and Genil rivers, the mountains rise up steeply, immediately behind the city. Easy to defend and with a constant supply of water from the snows melting in the high Sierras, the rich soils of the Vega provided a plentiful supply of food.
First settled by native tribes in prehistoric times, the Romans built their own city here and the Arabs, who invaded the peninsula in the 8th century, gave it its current name of Granada.
In the 9th century the city rose to prominence after the fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba. Under the great Nazrid dynasty the kingdom of Granada stretched from Gibraltar to Murcia. This dynasty bore twenty kings until King Boabdil was forced to surrender Granada to the Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, in 1492. It was the last city to fall to the Christians.
During those three preceding centuries, a magnificent and rich Islamic culture flourished here, leaving Granada with architectural marvels which include, of course, the Alhambra Palace, the gardens of the Generalife and the district of Albaicín.
The Alhambra is considered by many to be one of the greatest wonders of the world. A massive castle constructed over many centuries on its hilltop position, it consists of gardens, fortifications and sumptuous palaces and was home to the Arabic Sultans who ruled this vast kingdom. Here they created their vision of heaven on earth. Nowadays it is Spain's most visited monument.
The Albaicín is the old Arabic quarter located on a second hill, opposite the Alhambra. It is characterised by narrow, cobble-stoned streets and passageways, more often than not bedecked with beautiful flowering plants. It still retains a a strong Arabic feeling.
There are many squares with terraces and places to laze about or have a bite to eat. The Albaicín is an oil painter's paradise with an attractive view, almost always involving views of the Alhambra, at every turn. At night, when the Alhambra is lit up, it's a view which dreams are made of.
And then there are the gypsies, who arrived about 600 years ago and made their homes in the caves of the Sacromonte. It was the mix of Arabic influence combined with gypsy lifestyle and temperament that created Flamenco.
If you read any of the tourist guides to Granada they will tell you that the Sacromonte is a tourist trap, inviting gullible tourists to see second rate Flamenco performances. Maybe that was true a few years ago and perhaps is still true of some. Whether or not you go to one of these shows, it's an interesting area to take a stroll through, and enjoy a tapa or two or some lunch.
The main commercial hub of this thriving city spills out on the flat lands immediately below the Albaicín and the Alhambra. The population is somewhere between 250,000 and 350,000 depending on whether or not the students are in residence.
It's one of Spain's major university cities and the high numbers of young people have added spice, colour and night life aplenty to the city's appeal.
All Spanish cities have a vibrant nightlife and Granada is no exception!
It was this lower part of the city which the Christians transformed into a Renaissance-style city with its magnificent Cathedral, built on the site of the Great Mosque, as its centrepiece. When it was finally completed it was considered to be one of the most majestic churches in Christendom, rivalling St. Peter's in Rome.
And there are plenty more superb examples of both Moorish and Renaissance architecture throughout the city, including La Capilla Real, the Royal Chapel, which was built as the mausoleum of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand, the massive Palace of Charles V, an outstanding example of Spanish Renaissance architecture built in the centre of the Alhambra, La Madraza, the Moorish University, the Monastery of La Cartuja and many churches built by Moorish craftsmen after the Reconquest, in Granada's unique "mudéjar" style.
For those who just want to soak up the relaxed style of the city, there are plazas (squares) everywhere with their bars and cafes, flower sellers, bootblacks et al.
There is nothing more pleasant than to have a late morning breakfast of chocolate and churros at a table in the Plaza Bibarrambla, a stone's throw away from the Cathedral.
Or just strolling through the streets filled with fruit, vegetables and spice vendors, as well as chumbos, snails, lottery tickets and fine lace … or through the covered market, El Mercado San Agustín, just off the Gran Vía, where fish and meat are sold.
The best time to visit Granada is in the Spring and Autumn when the temperature is just perfect with warm sunny days. During July and August it can be very hot and some days the temperature reaches 40C. Not surprisingly, this is when the city is at its quietest, the students are away and many residents escape from the city heat to relax at the beach. And in winter it can be distinctly chilly here.
But whatever the time of year, this beautiful city will always enchant. As Federico García Lorca wrote, "only sighs glide on the waters of Granada".