Alhambra and Generalife, Granada
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Alhambra and Generalife, Granada

© / Sergey Borisov

Granada travel guide

Granada is fabled for its exquisite palace-fortress, the Alhambra, but there is more to the Andalusian city than its star attraction. The last redoubt of Moorish culture in Spain offers a potent mix of old and new, with a large student population bringing music and life to Granada’s network of dark, narrows streets.

Present-day Granada has its roots in the 8th century when the Moors conquered large swathes of the Iberian peninsular, starting an 800-year-long rule that transformed Granada into one of the most important cities in Moorish Spain.

The Alhambra symbolised the peak of Islamic splendour in the 14th and 15th centuries, and was used as the home of the Nasrid sultans. There is plenty to see in the fortified complex, which overlooks the city from a forested hill, including buildings constructed by the Catholic kings after the 1492 Reconquest.

Beneath the Alhambra are the winding Moorish lanes and traditional houses of Albaicín, which are essential viewing. The district contrasts with the white-washed houses of the former, cave-dwelling neighbourhood of the gypsies, known as Sacromonte (some people still live in converted cave homes here).

There’s also Alcaicería, the former Moorish silk market, and Plaza Nueva, the city’s oldest square, which is full of bar terraces usually serving free tapas with each drink.

The area around the university is lively, with students filling up the wide boulevards and urban parks beneath grand Renaissance buildings. To the east of the city sits Realejo, which was the Jewish district under Moorish Granada, now a tranquil quarter with many scenic villas and gardens.

When you want to explore beyond Granada, there are lots of options: day trips to Cordoba or Seville; hiking in the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada during summer and skiing in winter; or swimming and other water sports along the Costa Tropical where beaches are less crowded and developed than other parts of Spain.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.