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Discovering Granada, 4 walking routes and useful tips – Andalusia on the road

The first city I visited in the Andalusian region is Granada, one of the most important provinces and home of the famous Alhambra, an ancient Arab citadel (medina), then conquered by Christians and now an UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage.
In this city, with a strong Moroccan atmosphere, there is so much to see and, above all, to explore, but beware, it is also full of climbs and downs, so be well trained!

Traffic jam, just entering Granada

Arrived late in the evening, after the desert of Tabernas desert and the beautiful landscapes of the Sierra Nevada, the impact with the city was quite traumatic due to huge traffic jam: to drive the last 7-8 kilometres, we needed almost an hour. But we are in Spain, and here it is never too late, not even to go out and eat. So, left our luggages in the great Abadia hotel, just a short walk from the cathedral and centrally located, we immediately went out to the street in search of refreshment.

Calle Elvira, Moroccan atmosphere between Tapas Bar and The houses

The most famous street for tapas and cervezas is, without a doubt, Calle Elvira. This narrow street, in the centre of Granada, is less than a kilometre long and has plenty of tapas bars, tabernas, souvenir shops, Kebabs and the houses. It feels to be in a Moroccan village and until late in the evening the atmosphere is cheerful and vibrant.

Choosing where to eat, with so wide offers is always difficult, but we had a good address for a fresh seafood and so we headed to the Bar Los Diamantes , in Plaza Nueva, right in time before it closed.
About this tapas bar, I’ll talk deeply in a dedicated post, but I can tell that the food is just great!

Walking route N.1 – Plaza del Triunfo> Plaza Nueva – 850 m

Below is the route map. By clicking on “More options” you will be directed to the detailed route on Google Maps.


Best of Granada, in one day

Having a full day available, here’s what we did to visit Granada at its best.


Morning –  Alhambra and Albaicin

After a nice and sweet breakfast in the small bakery / pastry shop La Tentacion, we walked to the beautiful Alhambra, without a ticket, hoping to find some still available at the ticket office (read below). There are obviously city bus services, as the citadel is on top of a hill, but walking, albeit almost uphill, is very enjoyable and lets you discover and photograph glimpses that you would not otherwise see by bus.

Tickets purchased (€ 14 per head), we spent a couple of hours visiting the Generalife, the wonderful outdoor garden, crowded with tourists. The visit to the Royal Palace, Palacios Nazaríes, the most important and scenic, is set by fixed entry times and our turn is at 2:30 pm, so we split the Alhambra visit at two different times of the day.

Walking route N.2 – Plaza Nueva > Alhambra – 1.5km (mostly uphill)

Below is the route map. By clicking on “More Options” you will be directed to the detailed route on Google Maps.

Pastelleria – La Tentacione
Pastelleria – La tentacione
The view of the city on the actual Alhambra route

A nice graffiti art of Alice in Wonderland, along the path to the Alhambra

The beautiful gardens of the Generalife within the Alhambra

The beautiful gardens of the Generalife within the Alhambra
L’Alhambra
L’Alhambra

After leaving the Alhambra around 11 am, we headed, always by foot, to the Arab district of Albaicin, along with a long and deep descent leading to the banks of the Darro River. From here, it begins to climb through a labyrinth of narrow, clean and decorated lanes with flowers hanging on the walls. We are in the Arab quarter. The most frequented area in this neighbourhood is undoubtedly the Mirador de San Nicolas, from where you have a stunning view of the Alhambra and where most panoramic photos are taken. But it is not yet the right time, so we continued to explore the area around.

Walking route N.3 – Alhambra > Albaicin- 1.5km (long descent and then uphill again)

Below is the route map. By clicking on “More options” you will be directed to the detailed route on Google Maps.

The long descent that from the Alhambra brings to Albaicin
The long descent that from the Alhambra brings to Albaicin

 

The view over the Alhambra from the Mirador San Nicolas

 

Plaza Aliatar, a nice spot in the Albaicin
Detail of a Moresque style window, in Albaicin

Albaicin
Albaicin

Before returning to our visit to the Alhambra, we had lunch at the Tabernas La Cueva de 1900, with great tapas based on Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, tomato sauce, bread croutons with ham and a glass of red wine. A very good restaurant near Plaza Nueva I recommend for a stop & go.


Afternoon – Alhambra (Royal Palace and Alcazaba)

At about 2pm we returned to the Alhambra, this time by bus (1.20 €) for the visit to Palacios Nazares and Alcazaba. Despite the time, we still found many tourists, confirming that this site is always crowded, regardless of the time of the day. After a long wait under a burning sun, we finally entered the Royal Palace and the wait was gratified. The interiors are gorgeous, in the typical Moorish style made of arches and gorgeous stone ornaments. The visit is very pleasant and the halls are very photogenic, as well as fresh. Too bad, because of the presence of so many tourists, it was difficult to take particularly interesting photos …

After exiting the Royal Palace, we visited the Alcazaba, the military area, the Alhambra defence and surveillance centre and represents the oldest part of the complex. To get in there, you need to show your ticket.
From one of the towers you have a great view of the city and suburbs of Albaicin and Sacromonte, so it’s worth it.


At the end of the visit, at around 4 pm, tired by the heat and the intense half day we had, we returned to the hotel, walking for about 2km for a well-deserved rest of almost 3 hours.

Details of the wonderful Moorish decorations inside the Royal Palace


Evening – Tapas in the Albaicin, sunset at San Nicolas and Zambra in the Sacromonte Gypsies district

Refreshed and rested, at around 19:30 we went out to walk back to the neighbourhood of Albaicin with final destination the Sacromonte gitano district where we will attend the  Gypsies Flamenco called “Zambra” in the tabernas Venta El Gallo.

First, however, we stop at the Mirador de San Nicolas for the classic Alhambra photo at sunset. The route once again is beautiful but everything is uphill. It starts from Plaza del Triunfo, where there is a beautiful Moroccan door, Puerta de Elvira, the starting point of the famous tapas road (see below). This door reminded me of Bab Boujloud in Fes, Morocco, which is, of course, more beautiful and scenic, but for a moment brought me back there.

Arriving at the San Nicolas Mirador, I found a huge crowd of tourists and photographers ready to capture the sunset scenery. With a pinch of difficulty and with the experience gained on so many trips, I managed to make room for me and take a spot in the front row, but I had to wait almost an hour without doing anything before the sun began to fall.

But now I’m no longer a landscape photographer, or rather, this is not a picture that I’m thrilled as in the past, so I left the place before the sun was completely over.

The Zambra show waited for us in a few minutes, and for me it was much more important from a photographic point of view, or at least I was hoping for it.

And this high expectation has been fortunately confirmed:

The Zambra’s dance, the Gypsies flamenco, overwhelmed me and I left with the goose bumps at the end of the show. Wonderul, full of suffering, passion and rithm. Unforgettable. I would see it again and again, a thousand times.

Obviously in Granada there are several shows of Zambra, more or less touristic places are all along the Caminito de Sacromonte. Now I do not know how the others are, but that of Venta el Gallo has been incredibly beautiful and nothing touristy. I talk about the show itself, not the place, anyway cute. But I will discuss this in more detail in a separate article.

Walking route N.4 – Plaza del Triunfo > Sacromonte – 2.1km (mostly uphill)

Below is the route map. By clicking on “More options” you will be directed to the detailed route on Google Maps.

Waiting for sunset on the San Nicolas Mirador’s Alhambra
The stunning view over the Alhambra
Zambra dancer in a relaxing break
The “Venta El Gallo” restaurant in the Sacromonte gitano district
A gitanos Family
The stage, a few minutes before the show


By summing up, the best of Granada and some helpful advice

The Alhambra 

Of course, the main attraction of this city is undoubtedly the Alhambra, although afterwards, after my experience, there is another attraction for which I would happily return to Granada, the Zambra.
If you look around the various sites, they will tell you that you need to buy the ticket for entry several days in advance, online, because the number of accesses is limited every day.
This is true, especially if you do it like me and try to buy the ticket a day earlier, probably finding it all sold out. However, it’s also true that the limited number of entries relates only to the visit to the Royal Palace (Palacio Nazares), while the whole citadel and then the gardens of Generalife and the Alcazaba are always available.

Now, I do not know if mine was just lucky, but considering that the ticket office opened at 8:30 am, I arrived around 9:30 am and there were several still available tickets for entering at 14:30 (There are 3 pre-established visit slots). Of course, it’s not the ideal time of the day, either for the heat or for a photographic point of view, but I always like to think that any situation can offer great photographs and I do not have to force the case.

My best pictures are always the most casual and instinctive ones.
So do not be discouraged if you can not book the ticket in advance, you probably will find one at the tickets counter desk.

5 useful notes to remember about the Alhambra

  1. Opens at 8:30h
  2. Always crowded and very large. Consider 3 to 4 hours for the visit.
  3. There are fountains with drinking water at various points.
  4. With one ticket you can go in and out several times in the day, except for the Alcazaba and the Royal Palace where you can only enter once.
  5. We arrive from the center of Plaza Neuva with the C3 minibus at the cost of the bus ticket (1.20 € on the bus) (much better to walk on foot, 30 minutes walking)

The arab district of Albaicin

The Arabian district of Granada, also named UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage, stands on a hill in front of the Alhambra. Losing yourself into its beautiful streets is the best way to explore and photograph it.

5 useful notes to remember on the Albaicin

  1. It is advisable to visit it from 19:30 onwards when the light is warmer and the temperature is less strong
  2. Very nice walk from Albaicin to Sacromonte.
  3. Do not miss the sunset on the Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolas
  4. Great tapas bars or restoraunts, from Plaza Larga to Calle Panaderos
  5. Souvenirs. Negotiate the prices, high for tourists. I’ve got a magnet, from 3 € to 2 €

Accomodations in Granada

Here I can only bring my (great) experience with the hotel Excellent our Abadia hotel, central located and with a coffee machine to use for free in the lobby. The rooms are not large but very clean and overlook a beautiful patio where you can relax. The Hotel staff is very nice and helpful. Highly recommended.

The nice patio of the Abadia hotel

My photography, in Granada. How did it go

Unlike what I expected, I did not take a lot of street photography here in Granada. The Arabian quarter, Albaicin, where I expected a more local and genuine life, is actually a tourist area, with well-groomed streets and postcard scenarios. This aspect has disappointed me a bit, which does not mean I did not like it, indeed, but from a photographic point of view it turned out to be uninteresting. I did mostly panoramic, landscapes and details, especially during the visit to the Alhambra.

The most beautiful photo opportunity?

The most beautiful and intriguing photos I made during the Zambra show where, thanks to the fact that I sat in the front row, I had the opportunity to photograph the artists without having other tourists in between. Here I used the Voigtlander Skopar 21mm to capture the whole scene, but also the Summicron M 28mm and 50mm f2, and even the Pentacon 135mm f2.8 to try to capture some details. You will see the pictures in a dedicated article.

In this situation I discovered the convenience of the zoom function in the Leica SL electronic viewfinder, which facilitates the manual focusing even in moving actions and with complex lights as in this case.

 

Conclusions

I liked Granada? Yes, of course, even if I expected, as I said before, to find more real and true traces of an ancient Moroccan medina, which unfortunately is not. That said, the Alhambra remains a wonder to see and the Zambra show worth a trip to this beautiful Andalusian city. I did not mention the Cathedral of Granada, because unfortunately, for lack of time, I only saw it from the outside and quickly. In one day and a half, you can see the best of Granada, but the ideal would be to stop for two full days.

My rating: 6.5 (9 for Zambra only) 🙂

If you need more information, do not hesitate to contact me, I will be happy to answer you.

Thanks for reading,
see you soon, Sabino

This post is also available in: Italian

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One comment

  1. […] telling you about my experience in Granada, today I bring you into an authentic wonder of architecture and history, declared Unesco’s […]

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