What to see in Granada
A little bit of history
Crossing of civilizations since time immemorial and located in an unbeatable situation, Granada is configured as vibrant, lively, cultural, and close metropolis. The Alhambra is the flagship of its vast historical heritage, and it attracts around three million visitors every year.
What you will find is a gritty, compelling city where serene Islamic architecture and Arab-flavored street life go hand-in-hand with monumental churches, old-school tapas bars and counterculture graffiti art.
The city, sprawled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, was the last stronghold of the Spanish Moors and their legacy lies all around: it’s in the horseshoe arches, the spicy aromas emanatinf from steet stalls, the teterías (teahouses) of the Albayzin, the historic Arab quarter. Most spectacularly, of course, it’s in the Alhambra, an astonishing palace complex whose Islamic décor and landscaped gardens are without peer in Europe.
There’s also an energy to Granada’s streets, packed as they are with bars, students dives, bohemian cafes, and intimate flamenco clubs, and it’s this as much as the more traditional sights that leave a lasting impression.
Granada has been inhabited by humans for at least 2,500 years. It started as an Ibero-Celtic settlement before becoming a Greek colony. It flourished as an economic center of Roman Hispania before being ruled by the Visigoths and then reconquered by the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire.
The Moorish conquest of 711 AD brought Islamic rule to the Iberian Peninsula with Granada becoming the center of Muslim Spain. After the Christian Reconquista in 1236, it became the center of the Nasrid Kingdom for the next 250 years before ultimately falling to Christian Spain in 1492. This marked the end of Moorish rule in the Iberian Peninsula.
Although now predominantly Christian, Granada has inherited rich Islamic, Jewish, and Gypsy influences. The Renaissance Catholic cathedral was once a mosque. The Albayzin (old Moorish town) and the Alcaicería (spice market) have an authentic Arabic flavor. Colorful Gypsy culture and fabulous flamenco dancing is found in the caves of the Sacromonte quarter.
Most places of interest are within walking distance of central Granada. Plaza Isabel La Católica is just a block west of Plaza Nueva and marks the intersection of Gran Vía de Colón (the main drag heading north) and Calle Reyes Católicos (the main drag heading southwest to Puerta Real, where it splits into Calle Recogidas and Acera del Darro, heading west and south respectively). The cathedral and royal chapel are just to the northwest of this square. The Alhambra and Albayzin (the Arabic quarter) are on opposite hills on the east side of town with Carrera del Darro and a small river separating them.
Top attractions in Granada