Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The City of Granada, Spain

Downtown Granada.

We did not get the best impression of the city of Granada, Spain.  Don't get me wrong - the Alhambra in Granada is phenomenal, but the Alhambra is an isolated little village atop the city of Granada and you can spend your entire stay up there if you want to without delving into the city below.  Which is almost what we did, since we stayed at the lovely Hotel América inside the Alhambra walls, but we trekked downtown into the city one afternoon to check it out.

My first reaction while in the taxi into town was sad disappointment over all the graffiti.  Probably more than I've seen in any other European city.  The calamity is stupendous as there is graffiti on many of the historical monuments.  We started our self-guided walk through the city at the Plaza Nueva, located at a very busy intersection of cars, taxis, and buses.  Walking a short distance, at the corner of the two main streets, Calle Reyes Católicos and Gran Via de Colón, we came to the large Plaza Isabel La Católica where Queen Isabella sits in bronze with Christopher Columbus at her feet, granting him permission to seek the New World in 1492.

I like how the sidewalk along the boulevard is extra wide for pedestrians and paved with attractive checkerboard tiles.

Very close to Plaza Isabel is, as can be found in the center of most European cities, the Cathedral.  Construction of this grand cathedral began in 1523 atop the site of a mosque and took 181 years to complete.  It is an enormous structure, but nevertheless a little bit confusing to navigate around the exterior.  How so?  Just look at the photo below - the Granada Cathedral is entirely overbuilt.

Shops, buildings, and kiosks abut the Cathedral such that you never quite know if you're still within the perimeter of the church, and there is no plaza or square in which to stand and take a wide shot of the whole structure.  The best photos I could get are from very up close.

Stalls abut the Granada Cathedral.

After some searching we found the small entrance to purchase admission (4€) to enter the Cathedral.  Only my daughter and I considered the admission price worth it, so we toured inside.  It is a magnificent masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance style in gold and white, with a grand altar and many chapels.

Sanctuary of the Granada Cathedral.

There is also a free bathroom inside, once you've paid admission.

What was most disorienting for us however, was trying to find the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real).  Granada's Royal Chapel is one of the city's top 5 attractions and it is located directly behind the Cathedral.  But, like I said, it's hard to know where one building begins and the other ends among the maze of stonework.  It wasn't until I got on my computer and looked it up back at the hotel that I realized these photos I took were of the Royal Chapel:

We did eventually find the entrance with the admission price of another 4€ per person.  At that point we were either too tired from searching, too hot from walking, or it was just too late, I can't remember, but we didn't go in.  I regret it now.  King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella are buried in the Royal Chapel, and there is an extensive exhibit of artwork from Queen Isabella's collection.

I guess the combination of traffic, graffiti, crowded architecture, confusion, and summer heat added up to a less than favorable impression of downtown Granada.  Earlier in the day we had strolled through the outer quarters of town, the Albaicin district and the Sacromonte gypsy quarter and I loved the distinctiveness of both these districts.  The white limestone gypsy caves are fascinating.  I also liked The Artisan's Market in town - a narrow alley of Moroccan-style shops that make you feel like you just set foot in Marrakesh.  The little red mini-buses that take you around town for 1.20€ per person are convenient, too.

Gypsy caves in the Sacromonte district of Granada.

At the end of the day we headed back up to the Albaicin to Mirador de San Nicolas, or viewpoint of St. Nicolas, for its one-of-a-kind view of the Alhambra.  This small square in front of the old church of St. Nicolas is especially popular for sunset views of the Alhambra and can get very crowded at dusk.  It's lovely though, and street musicians add to the ambiance by playing flamenco guitar under the trees.  We decided the evening was worth a little refinement and opted to sit and enjoy a drink below the mirador. The evening and sunset were unforgettable.

Sunset on the Alhambra.


  1. Oh, great post today!

  2. Hubby and I visited Granada and the Alhambra back in 2003. What a magical place the Alhambra is. We had such a difficult time getting in though at the gate, luckily, there was another tourist in line who could translate for us so we managed. I loved it there, what a wonderful place to visit although I don't recall the graffiti. That must be something from recent years. What a shame considering this is such a tourist destination.

    And thanks for visiting my blog today. I'm following you too ;)

  3. Wow the architecture is awesome. Exterior of Alhambra is outstanding and I am sure it must have gorgeous interior also.

  4. so beautiful! wow..you are fortunate !! love the sunset!!!
    I am your newest follower from the hop..pls follow back if you can.
    safe travels!

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