I wrote an earlier post about my time in Málaga, Spain back in April 2010. I came to Spain from France, while studying abroad, for about a week and half to discover more of Spain. While in Málaga the people I had traveled with decided that we should get out of the city and go to Granada to see the Alhambra and the old neighborhoods all painted white.
Granada, Andalucía, Spain
Granada lies in the Andalucía region of Spain and is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains. It sits at an elevation of 2,421 feet which is kind of impressive considering that the coast line is only an hour away by car. Today is known for its beautiful town center, the prestigious University of Granada and the Moorish citadel and palace, the Alhambra.
Take a look at my Flickr page for more pictures of Granada
For me, this city was the perfect place to take some gorgeous pictures and to just enjoy being. Granada is only about an hour and half bus ride from the Málaga bus station and four of us decided to leave early in the morning. The tickets were fairly reasonable, as I remember (I think it was under 10 euros), nothing ridiculous and the bus ride will take you through some of the most spectacular views of Spain. In a weird way it reminds me of southern California because the sun is always shining and this region of Andalucía has a relatively dry yet mild climate for European standards. It was April and although we wore jackets the highs were in the 60’s.
Most people come to see the Alhambra and that’s why we had come. To even see every part of the Alhambra takes days, and most people don’t have that amount of time to budget to be in Granada. However, after visiting I would choose to take time out of your schedule to be in Granada for longer. Although I only spent a day I wished I spent more time to just enjoy the architecture, food, wine, and the people. The city is surrounded by amazing beauty and is a distinct city because of the old Moorish buildings painted white. They stand out against the contrast of the darker brown landscape which for me is quintessential Spain.
So more about what I did see in Granada. We had enough time to walk around the city center, around where the bus lets you out. It’s quite cute and they even have a building for tourist looking to understand and explore more of the Andalucía region. If you’re getting off the bus or a plane and heading to the Alhambra there are shuttles that take you up the steep hill that the Alhambra sits on from Plaza Nueva. However walking through the city center gave me more chances to take some photos of the architecture and allowed for a more relaxed experience. After years of traveling I’m all about the more relax traveling experience.
After walking through the city center, which is really not that big, we found that we must climb up this steep road called Cuesta Gomerez towards the entrance of the Alhambra. Honestly I didn’t know much history about the Alhambra. The only thing I knew is that it was once important to Islamic people as well as Moorish. Southern Spain’s history is covered with conquest which is clear from the architecture; a mix of different styles from other centuries.
While in Málaga, I heard that the Alhambra was worth going to Granada for but we didn’t realize that we had to book months in advance to actually get into the Alhambra. We thought we could just show up and get right in because that is usually the norm for most places in Europe! So we ended up only getting to see the gardens of the Alhambra which still offers plenty to see and honestly I didn’t need to see the inside. It will just give me the excuse to come back to Granada. Book in advance!
More about Alhambra below but to see it fully you need to walk to the Albayzin neighborhood just north of the Alhambra. Here people walk the narrow streets from Plaza Nueva where you will hit Mirador de San Nicolas, what I believe is an abandon church or what it looks like. Many people go here to lay out in the sun and take pictures of the Albayzin neighborhood as well as the Granada and the Alhambra. Some say the experience is best seen by night-time but I went during the day after I had visited the Alhambra.
Cute little plaza that sits right under the Alhambra. There is a tourist office here as well as some other sites, tourist shops and food. You can start your long climb to the Alhambra or the Mirador de San Nicolas. Picture below is a side street near Plaza Nueva.
Mirador de San Nicolas
The city is quite hilly and there is one neighborhood, Albayzin, that sits next to the Alhambra. Going there gives you an idea of how ordinary Granada people live and offers a great photo opp of the Alhambra. It is one of the highest points of Granada and the viewpoint that everybody goes to is Mirador de San Nicolas. We had a guide who lived in Granada and showed us how to get to the Mirador de San Nicolas by foot, but for the average tourist I can see why it’s confusing.
The neighborhood that is directly north of the Alhambra filled with white buildings and narrowed cobbled streets. It’s the old Moorish quarter of Granada.
The Alhambra Gardens
First off the gardens are gorgeous and well maintained. I can’t believe whomever built this had this much space to work with because the gardens are very large and there are several sections. Admission to the Alhambra Gardens include:
- Cypress Grove, Secano (dryland), San Francisco Gardens
- Alcazaba: Jardín de los Adarves (Wall-walk Garden)
- Partal: Portico of the Palace, gardens and passageways, Palace of Yusuf III, Promenade of Towers
- Generalife Palace: Lower Gardens and Upper Gardens (Patio de la Acequia, Patio de la Sultana and Water Stairway)
There are lots to see, but all the above can be seen in one afternoon. It’s recommended that you bring your own food. if you get hungry. as there is no food inside the gardens and walking in the sun becomes exhausting.
Some of the gardens have a modern twist added to them but it’s very clear that many parts of the garden are from when the palace was founded. Once we entered and passed the cypress trees we were will be able to see an entire panoramic shot of Granada. We passed the entrance and entered the Generalife where we discovered manicured bushes and trees. They were surrounded with perfectly cut stones with water rushing through them in little canals from a centrally placed fountain. Alhambra gardens were the perfect place to relax and just be. No thinking critically just enjoyment. No stress or worry about rushing through them.
Many of the trees let out different scents and apparently the gardens grow oranges as well as jasmine! There are parts of the gardens where vines are growing up posts adding to an already remarkable setting. I took some time to sit on a bench and just enjoy what was around me. It was everything that I thought a Spanish garden and courtyard would be and more. I got commanding views of the entire city as well as a view of the Sierra Nevadas in the distance that still had snow adding to the vividness of the area. There is also another hill next to the Alhambra (the Albayzin neighborhood) that is perfect for taking photos of the Alhambra as well as it’s scenic from the Alhambra itself.
One part of the Alhambra gardens takes you close to where the palace walls and the city edge meets. Some of these walls look as if they been here from when the Alhambra was originally built although that’s probably not true. The Alcazaba is one of the furthest sections of the Alhambra, from the entrance, and has palm trees, jasmine trees, Spanish towers, pools of water, and views of the snowy Sierra Nevada’s. Many vines are growing on the walled part of the garden and it’s a great place to go to get some shade and step away from the crowd.
At the Partal section you can get the best view of the Albayzin and see the white buildings that adorn it. There is more Moorish architecture as well as bell towers and inner gardens filled with more gardens. Near the Partal there is the Palace of Charles V, an avant-garde building of its time that makes a total circle once you get to the center. A truly stunning building!
Make sure to spot out the pottery when coming down the hill of the Alhambra. Cuesta Gomerez has many shops that sale Granada pottery, taracea, tiles and other traditional handicrafts. When leaving I ended up buying some Granada pottery that I still have today! And below I list the the sections of the Alhambra with some pictures.
Generalife is the first part we hit while at the Alhambra. It consists of upper manicured gardens as well as lower gardens. This part had quaint fountains, cobbled stone pathways, vines and manicured bushes! A very delightfully, relaxing part of the Alhambra. It’s also a great place to sit and have a snack and enjoy the sunshine.
Palace of Charles V
This is the round structure near the center of the Alhambra. It’s stunning and it’s what I equate to a quintessential Spanish experience!
The place to get a great view and some photos of all the white buildings that are opposite of the Alhambra! More Moorish architecture with inner court gardens as well as big court yards. A great view of Granada.
Is the walled garden part and is closest to Granada below. Another great place to see some Moorish architecture as well as to get away from the crowd.
Well this was only one day of information and I’ve already covered a lot! There was much to see in Granada and I barely scratched the surface. Granada is a fantastic city and I would love to go back and spend more time to actually see more of the Alhambra and the rest of the city.
For anybody who wants to see more photos I’ve posted them all on my Flickr account starting when I arrived from Málaga up to the Albayzin.
images by: shawnvoyage