Adored by its inhabitants and praised by visitors from around the world, Granada is one of Spain’s most beautiful cities, with loads to offer to thrill seekers and culture vultures alike!
Granada was first recognized as “Ilbyr” by native tribes during the prehistoric period, becoming the city of “Illibris” when the Romans moved in to colonize southern Spain. It was finally christened Granada by the Arabs following their invasion of the Southern peninsula during the 8th Century. Standing to the south-east of the city of Granada at the centre of the Penibetic Mountains is the Sierra Nevada massif, which with it’s unique structure and characteristics, constitutes the most extensive and diverse mountainous area in Spain. The impressive mountain extends down to the western end of Almeria and the tallest peaks can be found on the Mulhacen which climbs to 3 482 meters and Veleta standing at 3 392 meters. The mountain was christened “Sierra of the Sun” by the Arabs and is home to one of the most precious and varied fauna beds anywhere in Europe. Its principle plant communities include the Holm Oak groves, deciduous forests, chestnut trees and Melojo Oaks; as well as high mountain groves and padded brushwood on the very highest summits, where the species have diversified to cope with the winter temperatures and icy winds by forming a cushion along the ground. The massif also houses a multitude of flora, including numerous invertebrates that are exclusive to the range, such as over twenty species of butterfly.
Among Granada’s most famous and enchanting monuments is the Alhambra City, a series of pristine palaces and gardens built under the Nazari Dynasty during the 14th Century, which has been dubbed a “brilliant jewel of universal architecture”. The remarkable palace of Charles V stands at the heart of the Alhambra fortress providing an outstanding example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, while the colossal estate also embraces the breathtaking summer palace, Generalife, which is recognized for its fountains and gardens. Standing proud at the foot of the Sierra Nevada and overlooking the city of Granada below, Generalife was previously favoured by Muslim Kings as a place for rest and relaxation. The complex houses the “Patio de la Acequia” or Court of the Water Channel, which features a long stream framed by flowerbeds, fountains, colonnades and pavilions, and is thought to best preserve the style of the medieval Persian garden in Al-Andalus. Other distinctive monuments found within the city include the Cathedral, which houses the Royal Chapel where Isabel and Ferdinand lie buried; the Monastery of La Cartuja as well as many churches constructed in Granada’s unique “mudéjar” style by Moorish craftsmen after the Reconquest. An area known as the Sacromonte Hill overlooks the city from the North, and was previously home to Granada’s large gypsy community, although is now more often recognized for its network of cave dwellings. Over the past decade, the settlement has become increasingly popular with immigrants of all nationalities including a large contingent of expats.
With reference to culture and festivities, Granada is one of the best places to find
traditional Flamenco, influenced again by its prolific Gypsy community. It was indeed the “Gitanos”, as they are known here, who composed the passionate guitar riffs of the “Jondura” or “Duende” and introduced the “Zambra”, a flamenco dance and song party which has its origins in the 16th Century, and was often featured at the wedding celebrations of the Moriscos of the city. Granada and its Province have a deep passion for the Cante Jondo, which is evidenced during its many festivals, competitions and conferences. One of Granada’s most famous celebrations is the annual ‘International Music and Dance Festival’, which was inaugurated in 1952 and has since become one of the most important music festivals in the entire country. The festival usually runs from the last week of June through to the first week of July, when Granada is brought to life with a cocktail of ancient music, chamber and symphony performances and local flamenco routines. It is a real treat for music lovers and highly recommended to anyone interested in dabbling in a bit of local culture.
As far as gastronomy is concerned, Granada is among the Spanish Provinces that has retained the tradition of serving tapas with its wine and beer. Whilst not known for its extravagance, Tapas is the most informal, cheap and varied way to dine in Spain, offering the perfect opportunity to sample some REAL Spanish cuisine. If you fancy following the local tapas trail, or “a Tapear” in Granada Province, you are likely to be introduced to such tasty morsels as stewed snails, grilled prawns, Andalucian style potatoes, and meat in some kind of sauce, which are commonly eaten with the fingers or cocktail sticks. Other local dishes include soft broad beans fried with cured ham, bunches of stuffed Swiss chard, thistles, pipirrana salad, and not forgetting the famous gazpacho, a form of soup which is served cold. A famous specialty of the provincial capital is the Sacromonte Omelette, a dish which is quite an acquired taste combining eggs, marrow, cooked cow’s brains and bulls testicles. Clearly not suited to every palate!
Essentially a visit to Granada will provide you with an enchanting journey of culture, festivities and fine cuisine, with something going on all year round. And the best news is that it is only a short drive away from the Costa Blanca, so jump in the car and get going!