After a very brief stop-over in Madrid where I was lucky enough to have dinner (aka Spanish language bootcamp) with Chris’ spanish Señora, Chris and I hopped on an overnight bus to Granada. Here are my top five favorite things from our visit to the southern city!
1. Walking around
Our bus was supposed to get into Granada at 6:30 am, but because of an unexpected daylight savings time, we arrived at 5:30 am. Since our hostel wasn’t open yet, we had some time for some early morning exploring. Our hostel was situated in El Albayzín, the older Moorish part of the city that still has the narrow streets that wind and crawl every which way up the mountain. And although this escapade would be followed by much more walking around during the normal daytime hours, it was pretty cool to poke around while the city was waking up.
2. Tapa hoppa
Granada is the city in Spain where the whole “get free tapas with your drinks” culture started, and therefore it is the only city where it still holds strong despite economic unfeasibility. In most other cities in Spain you might get some olives or chips with your drink, a small tapenade if you’re really lucky. In Granada, you get a small meal. In order to fully enjoy this dying cultural gem, most of our meals involved three to four hours of us going to a bar, getting a drink and seeing what food came with it, then “hopping” to the next bar for the next course.
3. The Alhambra
This palace/fortress on the mountain is the main destination in Granada and completely worth the visit. Chris and I devoted an entire day to exploring all of the nooks and crannies of this massive site and I’m so glad we did. The Islamic architecture was stunning, the extensive gardens were just beautiful, and the views out onto Granada through every window were almost unbeatable (keep reading for the caveat). It’s a little expensive, but if you make it to Granada make sure you include The Alhambra in your visit.
One of the many water-filled courtyards of the palace
The whole palace was covered with beautiful Arabic script and colorful geometric patterns
A beautiful view out some beautiful windows
4. Cave houses
Another one of the better known attributes of El Albayzín are the cave houses. These are houses that are actually built into the site of the mountain like caves. Closer to the base of the mountain these are pretty standard houses, complete with plumbing and electricity. But as you hike higher up you encounter a more hippie community of people living a more rugged lifestyle. These cave houses still have walls and doors, yards and fences, but they don’t have paved roads or modern utilities. Currently these houses are protected as a UNESCO world heritage site, but some developers are hoping to get that removed and turn the area into a resort. While I would hate to see such a unique community taken over by tourism, after seeing the view I understand why…
Nicer cave houses on the bottom of the image, the real cave houses scattered across the top of the mountain
A closer look at one of the cave houses
An unconventional front porch
5. Enjoying the view that never got old
Of all the amazing things we saw, the view over Granada that could be seen as you climbed up the mountain was by far my favorite. We spent a lot of time just chilling in a park or on a wall enjoying this vista.
Alhambra on the left, Granada on the right
Although I just as soon could have never leaved this spot, I’m glad I did because I had exciting adventures in Madrid and Sevilla ahead of me!