The magnificent Patio de los Arrayanes
I was prepared to be disappointed by Granada, and ready to say that it was over-hyped, but I have a confession to make: I fell in love with Granada and my only regret was that we couldn’t stay longer. Two nights there is barely enough time to wander around the Alhambra, never mind explore every corner of this fascinating Spanish city. I should have entitled this post “Glorious Granada – part one” as we intend to return at the first opportunity, to see the many places on my list that we didn’t manage to see this time.
Planning your trip in advance is essential, particularly if you want to see the Alhambra (who doesn’t?!). If you intend driving there, as we did, you need to research the hotels as well, as the streets of Granada can be very narrow and once you are in the one-way system you may never escape! We booked two rooms in the Hotel Reino de Granada: partly because it is centrally located and also easily accessible from the ring road; partly because of the reasonable price for travellers on a budget; and partly because of the free WIFI, a bonus for budget travellers.
Our hotel in Granada
My advice would be to park in the 24 hour car park, even though the hotel is easy to find, because we were unable to park near enough to the hotel to ask them where their parking was. Shortly after taking the exit to Recogidas we spotted the car park on the left-hand side, and from there it was an easy walk to the hotel.
Another reasonably priced hotel, which is near to the Alhambra and which is also recommended, is Hotel Guadalupe. Of course you could stay within the grounds of the Alhambra in the Parador, but that is definitely not one for the budget conscious. The charming Hotel América is also in the grounds of the Alhambra – and slightly cheaper if you want to treat yourself to a night there – especially welcome if you have booked an early morning ticket for the Palace Nazaries.
If you are going to Granada I suspect that you will be planning to visit the Alhambra, but be warned that it is very popular even in November, so make sure that you have booked your tickets well in advance. Many hotels will be able to reserve your tickets, however our hotel didn’t have any tickets left for the day we had chosen, so we decided to book them on-line on the Servicaixa Alhambra website. Once I had booked our tickets I went to my local branch of La Caixa, inserted the card I had used to make the payment, and our tickets were printed off. Easy!
Our hotel informed us that we could get a bus up to the Alhambra, but we decided that we would appreciate it more if we walked up through the woods, apart from saving us the bus fare.
The Alhambra - straight up that hill
Having read about the importance of being there on time, we made sure that we arrived at the entrance to the Palace Nazaries fifteen minutes early. People were being let through, however they had an earlier time slot and it was made clear to us that we would have to wait until 10, so we checked the latest time that we could arrive, which was 10.15. We had half an hour, which proved to be just enough time for walking around the Alcazabar and admiring the views of the city from there. As we waited to go through the gates into the Palace on our return, we spotted an unfortunate Japanese woman desperately trying to persuade the staff to let her through but to no avail. You have been warned!
Words can’t do justice to the ethereal beauty of the Palace Nazaries, and even photos fail to capture the magic of this place. Every time we turned a corner, I would spot a delicate carving or some colourful tiles that I just had to take a photo of: we spent nearly two hours wandering around and I took over one hundred photos, which has to be a record. The link below is to a small selection of my favourite shots:
Walking round the Alhambra: Palace Nazaries
The courtyard in Hotel América
By the time we emerged, almost dizzy from experiencing the delights of the Palace, we were more than ready for a cup of tea and a seat in the café in Hotel América! Suitably refreshed, we then headed to the Generalife, where my overworked camera was soon busy taking yet more photos. This time I only took 90 photos, however we visited in November, when clearly the gardens weren’t at their best. Having said that we still thought the gardens were lovely and we would definitely like to return in the Spring when the flowers will be in full bloom. Even better, I would love to be there for a concert during Granada’s Music and Dance Festival. Click the link before for a glimpse of the Generalife:
Walking around the Generalife
Luckily it was a lot easier walking down from the Alhambra than walking there – we had been on our feet for hours, and our minds were all focused on lunch. We didn’t have too far to walk before we stumbled upon a suitable place. From the outside Barenostrum didn’t look very prepossessing, and to be honest the main reason we went in was their reasonably priced menú del día, however once we were inside we realised it was a fortuitous choice. The menú del día was an affordable 9.95€, the food was very good, the staff were friendly and we liked the funky interior. We will definitely return there on our next trip to Granada.
Fortified by our lunch, and feeling the need for more exercise after our filling meal, we decided to see more of the sights of Granada. We had a long list of recommended sights, but we soon ran out of time. We enjoyed looking round the Cathedral, which had a lovely light interior, but unfortunately there were large signs forbidding the use of cameras so I couldn’t take any photos to share with you, apart from exterior shots.
Exterior of Granada Cathedral
We enjoyed wandering around the back streets and eventually stumbled on the Jardín Botánico, so strolled around the tranquil gardens before continuing our walk. If you like gardens, our friend Penny recommends Parque Carmen de Los Martires as well as San Jeronimo Cloisters: read her blog for more information about Granada generally. On our next trip we also plan to see the Alhambra at night from the Mirador de San Nicolas, to experience Los Baños Arabes, and visit the Lorca family’s summer house in Parque Garcia Lorca. We will of course eat a tapa or two as well: Granada is a great city for those who like to go out for tapas – “ir de tapeo”.
If you are on a budget, our hottest tip for eating out in Granada is to have a menú del día at lunchtime and go out for a drink in the evening: just order a glass of wine and you will be given a tapa with each drink. We even found a lovely restaurant near our hotel where we could choose which tapa we wanted from their menu to go with our drinks : Restaurante Duque de Medinaceli on Calle Cristo De Medinaceli. We all enjoyed our tapas, prices were reasonable, our waitress was lovely, and so we will definitely be heading there on our next trip.
The most expensive bar that we went into was the trendy Puerta del Carmen, where John and I were horrified by the price of the wine (3.60 € for a glass of wine, with a tiny bit of jamón) though John’s niece Fiona, being used to UK prices, thought it was very reasonable.
One of Granada's many lovely plazas
We then decided to find a bar that had been recommended on several websites: Antigua Bodegas Castaneda. This was a bit cheaper, plus we had generous portions of typical Spanish tapas. I never eat meat and the first tapas were meat-based, so I ordered cheese for myself (3€ for a large plate of cheese plus bread), explaining that I don’t like meat. When we ordered another glass of wine the waiter brought us ensaladilla rusa, which I was able to enjoy too, so full marks to him for being attentive to my needs.
Finally we went for a nightcap in Mesón La Cueva, on Calle Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, which was a ham-lovers paradise. Not the best recommendation in my view, however I had to admit that it was atmospheric. Luckily it was close enough to our hotel to be able to stagger back quite quickly, as by now it was after midnight and temperatures had dropped dramatically.
We wandered into many other bars while exploring the city and we weren’t disappointed by any of them. If you have any recommendations for your own favourite budget eating and drinking places in Granada, please leave the details here for others to read and so that we can investigate them on our next visit. Hasta pronto Granada!
Essential viewing in Granada!