Granada - The last Moorish city in Spain
January 1, 1970
by Sophie Plougheld Voisin
I like to get lost, when I visit a new city. I expect the unexpected, and I always have the most exciting experiences when I’m not planning ahead.
Granada is one of the best cities to get lost in. A historic city with a warm ambiance, Granada is one of the most interesting places I have visited in Spain. From the noise in the crowded tapas bars, to the silence in Sacramonte, a mountainside where people, to this day, are living in caves, Granada is a feast for the senses.
The last Moorish city in Spain
Granada was the last Moorish city in Spain and the Arabic culture is still present in modern day Granada. The Alhambra is a beautiful monument, consisting of the Nasrid palaces, the fortress Alcazaba and the beautiful gardens Generalife. This is where the Moorish Emirs lived and ruled until 1492, where the city was taken by the Catholics. Alhambra is very well preserved and one of the most impressive monuments I have seen. Arabic inscriptions are carved into the walls and the colours, from the ceiling to the flowers in the gardens, are vibrant and eye-catching.
Granada is surrounded by the mountains of Sierra Nevada, and a good place to admire its beauty is from the hill of Sacremonte. There are free guided tours to the hill and while admiring the view, I also learned that there are people living in caves, carved in to the mountains. They live there all year, without water and electricity. Every day these people have to walk down the steep mountainside, to get supplies from Granada. It’s a very interesting tour and from the top of Sacremonte, there is a stunning view over the Alhambra.
Granada has a long, strong tradition for serving tapas, a small dish, when you order a drink in a bar. This is common in Spain, but where a tapa is usually just a few olives or something similar in other cities, in Granada, the tapas are tasty dishes in generous servings. I stayed in Granada for 4 days, ate in tapas bars every day and never payed for it. In some bars you can even choose which free tapa you want with your drink! I tried quite a few places and here is a list of my favorite places, that I really recommend trying in Granada:
The oldest tapas bar in Granada, Los Diamantes, is a must for seafood lovers! It seems that this place is always filled with people, yelling, eating, drinking and throwing their used napkins on the floor (in Spain, the latter means that you’ve enjoyed the food). We went there several times, because of the atmosphere, but especially for their great tapas. We were served fresh prawns, garlic marinated mushrooms and fried sardines. At 2 euros a drink, a visit to Los Diamantes is absolutely worth it.
Babel is located in a quite touristy area, in a street filled with small restaurants and bars, that all serve cheap sangria and free tapas. I tried quite a few of them with a friend, and we both agreed that Babel was the absolute best of them. In Babel, you can choose your tapa from a menu and there are lots of options. Where most of the tapas bars serve typical Spanish tapas, the kitchen at Babel takes inspiration from all over the world, and the Andalusian plates have notes of both middle eastern and Asian cuisine. We payed around 3 euros for a large Sangria and this is where I had the biggest servings. Try the calamari, you won’t regret it!
Chikito is actually a restaurant, but they have a very small tapas bar at the entrance, where I had, what I believe is the best sangria ever made. I didn’t taste the tapas, but my friends thought they were quite average. Still, I would definitely recommend going there for the amazing sangria.
The city is relatively small and definitely walkable. There are lots of great areas, like the old Moorish quarter Albaicín, filled with narrow streets and small cafés where you can smoke shisha and drink mint tea. Granada also has some beautiful hidden gardens, so I highly recommend looking for doors that lead in to these quiet oases in the otherwise bustling city.
I was travelling alone and on a very tight budget, so the obvious choice for me was to stay in a hostel, where I could get a cheap bed and meet other young travelers. I stayed at the Granada Inn Backpackers and it was everything I’d hoped for. There is all-you-can-drink sangria for 3 euros every night, the staff is friendly and a lot of solo travelers stay there, so it’s easy to find someone to discover the city with.
As a music lover, I was very intrigued by Granadas Flamenco tradition. The Andalusian region is known for flamenco, and I was lucky enough to find a Troup dancing and playing right in front of the cathedral. The cathedral is located in the heart of the city and one afternoon I decided to go inside for a mass. It was the first time I have been to a Catholic mass and I was impressed by the cathedrals great choir.
During my stay I went to a few bars and clubs during the nights, one of them a small club with live music several times a week. It’s called Boogaclub and one of the locals told me that the variety of genres played there is quite big. We paid a small entrance fee, around 5 euros, which I thought was a very reasonable price, considering that the band played for more than an hour.
Granada tastes like fresh seafood and cold, fruity sangria. It smells like spices and mint tea. It is the sound of the flamenco dancers steps and the Muezzins call for prayer from the mosque, that mixes with the bells from the cathedral. It is the silence in the gardens of the Alhambra and the noise in the crowded tapas bars. Granada is beautiful, colorful and most of all, it is the rich cultural heritage of Andalusia.