I can already hear my sister saying, ‘You bought a freakin’ goat??’. No, Ashley, I didn’t buy a goat named Granada, don’t worry 🙂
Anyways, back to Granada being the greatest of all time, it’s the best city in Spain. Bold claim to make, right? But it’s true, and it’s time people started giving Granada the goddamn credit it deserves.
When you picture yourself on a relaxing, culturally rich Spanish vacation, what do you imagine? Are you watching flamenco in a small cafe somewhere? Are you drinking wine? Eating amazing tapas all night while Spanish guitar music plays in the background? Granada will give you all of that at the same damn time.
On top of all of that, you also get to experience some of the best of Arabic culture with shisha bars on every corner that also serve amazing teas, a massive bazaar where you can shop and haggle with the vendors, and a Moorish palace/fortress dating back to the 9th century.
I’ll start with the more typically Spanish side. Granada is, in my opinion, the absolute best place to get tapas. Why? Because they’re free! I’m not exaggerating at all, every single time you order a drink someone brings you a small plate of food to go with it and it’s actually delicious every single time. I even found a spot called Bar Riviera where you get to choose which free tapa they bring you (for those with dietary restrictions). This is a dream for budget travelers, you literally don’t have to buy dinner ever in Granada. You can, of course, find tapas all over Spain, but for free? Nope. This gives Granada a major tapas advantage over the other cities in Spain.
And the flamenco. Ohhh the flamenco in Granada is so awesome. How does Granada have the advantage in flamenco shows that say, Sevilla, or any other city doesn’t? Because you get to watch flamenco in caves in Granada. So flamenco actually comes from the gypsies who came to Spain in the 1400’s. They were basically treated like garbage and told they couldn’t practice anything that had to do with their identity as Romany people. So they went up into the treacherous mountain areas where it was harder for the authorities to pursue them and punish them for being themselves.
Flamenco was one of those cultural traditions that were banished, so seeing it in a cave in the hills of Albaicin and Sacramonte (across from the Alhambra, up in the hills of Granada) is about as authentic as it gets (you can read more about flamenco’s history here). The way that the stomping echos against the cave walls, and the wailing style of singing by the flamenco singers, the small intimate space of a cave that only allows for so many people to watch at once, it’s truly an amazing experience.
I don’t have any pictures because you are absolutely NOT supposed to take pictures or video. Seriously, don’t do it. The first flamenco show I went to was four years ago and the dancer actually stopped the entire show until people put their phones away. At this last show I went to the people in front of me were obviously filming and one of the dancers on stage came over and shut it down too. So don’t do it, they can see you doing it and they notice and they will yell at you. You have been warned.
Granada is also home to one of Spain’s top wines, Moscatel de Alejandria from Horacio Calvente. Apparently it’s so good it was included in Neil Beckett’s 1001 Wines to Try Before You Die list. Andalucia in general is becoming a region to watch for wine, get there before all the other wine-o travelers do! And you’ll get a free plate of food every time you order a glass in a bar, don’t forget about that, it’s a major perk.
The Arabic influence found throughout Granada is what makes it truly unforgettable for me. It’s such a unique culture, like nothing you will find in other places in Spain. I’m not much of a smoker at all. I don’t know how many fun concerts and events I’ve missed because I’ve tried to be cool and smoke weed with everyone beforehand and couldn’t function afterwards, but it’s a lot. For me, though, shisha is perfection. It gives you a really relaxing, not overwhelming high and it actually tastes good! No intense coughing, no being so high you can’t move, no smelling like a Phish concert afterwards. I will own a cachimba (same as a hookah) someday, and you’re all officially invited to my imaginary smoking den to smoke shisha with me.
The bazaars and markets in Granada are awesome too. If you love to haggle with vendors (or hate it but have a boyfriend that does love it like I do) you will love wandering around looking at jewelry, souvenirs, clothing, and other knick-knacks and negotiating the best price. And every vendor we ran into was so nice! Completely accommodating and patient with my shaky at best Spanish skills and my boyfriend’s competitive bartering nature 😉
The Alhambra is what brings most tourists to Granada. I’ve been twice and each time I’m still so in awe of it all. It’s peaceful and tranquil and at the same time overwhelming and impressive. I love it there so much, and from what I hear I haven’t even seen the best part yet. They only let a certain amount of people in each day, and even less get to go into the majorly impressive Palacios Nazaries.
I’ve been to the Alhambra twice and haven’t managed to gain access to the Palacios. Regardless of whether you’re wanting access to the Palacios or just the general admission access you need to book ahead. I saw a couple on our way into the Alhambra this time that had come all the way from Turkey to see it and weren’t able to get in. So, although it isn’t in my nature at all to do so, plan ahead! Not that I mind it but I will have to take yet another trip to Granada so I can finally see the Palacios Nazaries because I don’t do the whole ‘planning ahead’ thing so well.
This time at the Alhambra was special because I was with my best friend and the love of my life. Plus, I got to drink an Alhambra beer at the Alhambra (bucket list check!).
Every time I go to Granada, it isn’t enough time. I still haven’t been to the amazing hot springs everyone keeps telling me about. I haven’t gotten a chance to go hiking around the Sierra Nevada mountains. And I’d love to dedicate an entire day to walking all the way up to the edges of the Albaicin region and check out all the caves that are off the beaten path.
I’ve been twice, had a great time each time, and still feel a deep urge to go back as soon as possible. I still feel like there is so many things to discover, and things that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. While there are many impressive and wonderful cities in Spain, none have made me feel that way quite as much as Granada. Granada deserves your attention, but I’m totally ok if it doesn’t get it. That just gives me even shorter lines to look forward to and even better odds of seeing the Palacios Nazaries next time around.