At the foot of the Sierra Nevada, the city of Granada is a striking example of the unique mix of cultures that made Andalusia. Its sumptuous monuments and labyrinthine streets made it so famous around the world that the Spanish novelist Pedro Antonio de Alarcón had to ask: ‘Who has not heard of and admired Granada without even visiting it?’.
For those who do make the trip, the first step is a neighbourhood of whitewashed houses and cobbled alleys. The Albaicín, core of the first city of Granada, is a labyrinth of sinuous streets, narrow and hidden, that lead visitors to bright secluded squares. The buildings, however, are impressive, with palaces, large old houses and churches being found along the shining way. Water flows continuously in this monumental complex, from the springs of the four rivers on which confluence Granada was founded, to its cisterns, orchards and ‘cármenes’, houses with unique gardens.
To the East of town and through the Darro river, a basin of water and forest connects the Albaicín to the hill and old Sephardic suburb of Sabika through the nostalgic Paseo de los Tristes. The hill is home to the most famous and imposing sights of Granada: the Alhambra Palace Complex and the agricultural estate of the Generalife, rising to the skies of the Sierra Nevada. The stucco walls of the palace are magnificent examples of Andalusian decorative art and reflect the long history of the place, once a citadel, a fortress, and home of the Nasrid sultans, officials and elite soldiers. The Renaissance touch that was added later is particularly visible in the Palace of Charles V, which houses the Alhambra Museum and the Fine Art Museum.
The architecture of the Alhambra sumptuously blends into the surrounding woods, gardens and orchards, reminiscent of the bewitching era of its foundation. For its unique and singular artistic creations, and being an exceptional sample of its era, the group formed by the Alhambra, the Generalife and the Albaicín was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
To appreciate the setting in full, two spots in the city present a spectacular view: from the Mirador de San Nicolás in the Albaicín and the hillside neighbourhood of Sacromonte, the Alhambra can really be admired. Getting there will also give the opportunity to learn more about the Roman and Iberian origins of the neighbourhood and to be impressed by the building complexity of the Zirí wall, the oldest wall in town and remnant of the time of the Garnata settlement.
These points of view are witnesses to what the city of Granada symbolises and appears to all who visit: a shining city, filled with brightness, history, and secrets. The beauty of its streets and the landscapes surrounding its monuments will ravish visitors in want of exploration and inspiration, and those looking for natural and active types of tourism.