Information about Granada
The population of Granada is about 270.000 inhabitants. Granada is also well-known within Spain for the prestigious University of Granada which has about 65,000 students. As being a famous student city, Granada attracts each year 14.000 students coming from outside to study.
The best time to visit Granada is at the end of the summer when the temperature is just perfect with warm sunny days. Granada has a dry heat which is much more bearable than the humid heat which you will find in other Spanish cities. There is very little rainfall although every few years there are spells when it rains very heavily.
Granada is located next to the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalusia in the south of Spain. It is about 70km from the coast. Being in this position means that it is possible to go skiing and sunbathe on the beach in the same day.
From the time historical records began Granada was ruled by many Caliphs, Arabic sultans and dynasties. The Arabic/Moslem empire once stretched right up into the north of Spain. The various Christian groups settled their differences, joined together and steadily drove the Arabs out of Spain. Granada was the last stronghold and finally succumbed to Isabel and Ferdinand (the catholic monarchs) in 1492. The Moslems and the Jews were forced to leave the country or convert to Christianity. A period of what would nowadays be described as ethnic cleansing ensued. At the same time Christopher Columbus came to Granada to ask Isabel and Ferdinand for a grant to build ships so that he could conquer the Americas. They gave him the money and I am sure you already know the rest.
Granada has its usual quotient of churches, museums etc. typical for a southern European city. However, Granada has the Alhambra which is considered by some to be one of the 10 wonders of the world. In case you don't know, the Alhambra is a massive castle constructed over many centuries.
It consists of gardens, fortifications and sumptuous palaces. It was the home of many of the Arab Sultans who ruled the whole province so I suppose for centuries it received the optimum in interior decoration and architecture.
If you read the Koran, it continually repeats the idea that heaven is a garden with running water. From this perspective you could say that the Alhambra is an Arabic attempt to create heaven on earth. Nowadays, two million people visit the palaces each year and 8,500 people visit the Alhambra every day. It is therefore Spain's most visited monument. Even the biggest philistine would be impressed.
Main quarters of Granada: the Albaicín and the Realejo:
The Albaicín is the old Arabic quarter located on the hill opposite the Alhambra. It is characterised by cobble stoned streets with white washed houses. Despite several centuries of neglect and architectural barbarities allowed by the town council it still retains as a strong Arabic feeling (the Arabic population was ethnically cleansed just over 500 years ago). There are many squares with terrazas and places to laze about and have a bite to eat. The Albaicín is an oil painter's paradise and almost at every turn of the head there is an attractive view, almost always involving glimpses of the Alhambra. If you go to a shop which sells any of the typical granadino pottery (white background with strong blue shapes) you will be sure to read the oft quoted refrain: Give him alms woman because there is nothing as bad as being blind in Granada. Go to Mirador de San Nicolás and you will see what they meant.
The Realejo of Granada was the old Jewish neighbourhood of Muslim Granada. Realejo is now a heavily populated neighbourhood, and its streets are vibrant with a distinctive character.
You can reach the Realejo of Granada from the Alhambra, walking through winding streets, between the Carmenes and whitewashed houses, and the Puerta del Sol, a former laundry that still stands as a witness of the past. The Campo del Principe is the meeting place next to the Church of San Cecilio built on an ancient mosque.
Walking down the streets of Realejo, you will see the Palace of La Casa de los Tiros from the sixteenth century with its stone façade, the Palace of Los Condes de Gabia, and the Church of Santo Domingo, founded by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492.
Monuments: Cathedral, Mozarabic Churches, San Jerónimo and Cartuja Monasteries
Granada Cathedral was built by Queen Isabella immediately after the conquest of Granada on the site of the Mosque. This temple is a masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance style. Cathedral of Granada has impressive facades and a stunning interior with a grand altar and several chapels. In the burial chamber are the tombs of the Catholic kings.
The Mozarabs were Iberian Christians who lived under Arab Islamic rule in Al-Andalus. Their descendants remained unconverted to Islam, but did however adopt elements of Arabic language, architecture and culture. After the Reconquista, churches were built on the former site of a mosque and temples erected in mudejar style: a perfect symbiosis of gothic and Renaissance art with elements of Islamic architecture. San Gil y Santa Ana church, San Nicolas and San Miguel churches are one of the most impressive mudejar temples.
The Royal Monastery of St Jerome was founded by the Catholic Kings in 1492. It consists of a church, two cloisters with gardens decorated with fountains and orange trees, and several rooms. The impressive façade and the tower belong to the first Renaissance. The richly decorated Renaissance interior features coffering, scalloping and sculptures, a jewel of Renaissance humanism. The San Jerónimo Monastery was the first in the world consecrated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
The full name of the Cartuja Monastery of Granada is Monastery of Our Lady of the Assumption. The Monasterio de la Cartuja was formerly a Roman cemetery. Its construction began in 1506 when the Great Captain donated land to the monks. Although the building mixes various styles, the monastery is considered as "the grandest and most outrageously decorated Carthusian monastery in Spain". The Cartuja Monastery is an amazing example of Baroque architecture, with its Doric arches, ornate decoration and intricate sculptures and carvings.
Sacromonte, Flamenco and the Gypsies:
The English wear bowler hats and read the Times, the Swiss make good watches, wear short leather trousers, climb mountains and yodel, Americans eat hamburgers, are not shy, drive big cars, and talk loud, the typical idea of a Spaniard is of a dark haired fiery gypsy woman dancing flamenco with a red rose clenched between her teeth with a bit of bullfighting going on in the background. All the national stereotypes are based on something and the Sacromonte is one of the places that gave rise to the connection between Spain and Flamenco.
The gypsies arrived about 600 years ago and one of the places where they congregated was in the caves of the Sacromonte. The mixture of Arabic influence combined with the particular lifestyle and temperament of the gypsies created Flamenco.
If you read any of the tourist guides to Granada they will tell you that the Sacromonte is a tourist trap, inviting gullible tourists to see second rate Flamenco performances washed down with watered red wine. Maybe that was true a few years ago but nowadays it's not too bad. Even Bill Clinton went to one when he came. There is no point in buying a ticket off someone in the street. Just go there yourself. You can buy a ticket in your hotel and they will pick you up in a minibus.
Spanish cuisine is well known all around the world, Granada and its tapas could not be less. The province of Granada, located between mountains and sea, explains its rich and varied kitchen. The most known dishes are the Tortilla de Sacromonte, Habas Fritas con Jamón and Pollo al Ajillo.
However, you cannot visit Granada without testing its Trevélez ham, its asparagus, its tropical fruit, its olive oil and its wine. You can enjoy all those products by going for a tapas tour or trying to do it at home with the wide range of receipts you can download on the following pdf. Granada de Tapas
If you need any further information regarding your visit to Granada you can check the Granada's Tourism Official Web Site: www.granadatur.com