A Local’s Guide to Granada: 10 Top Tips
The Alhambra is perhaps Spain’s most popular tourist destination. However, Granada’s barrios and hills, which are home to the city’s elegant and edgy side, will give you a true sense of this intriguing city.
The rich valley and rolling hills of Granada have long attracted a wide variety of civilizations. Ancient Iberians, Romans, and Visigoths have all left their mark on the city and its environs. The university town of Granada, albeit steeped in history, is also home to a burgeoning art and gastronomy scene.
Barrio Realejo, a bustling medieval Jewish neighborhood, lies under the Alhambra’s southern slopes. A walk through its winding alleyways and green plazas will reveal a city rich in history, but not only because of the Arab and Romanesque architecture; there is also contemporary street art to be discovered. Adding to the mix of old and contemporary, El Nino de las Pinturas’ vibrant paintings depict themes of youth and revolt, such as his picture of the Clash’s Joe Strummer. Also, the usage of traditionally Arabic golds and turquoise-blue patterns and motifs allude to a Moorish history, while lines of Spanish poetry are inscribed in an arabesque hand with swirling patterns. After that, walk to Calle San-Matas/Calle Varela, where local fave tapas establishment Rosario Varela, with its wonderful vintage décor, is a must-visit. Stick around till the evening. Sip a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail (€4.50-10) while enjoying amazing tapas, such as small burgers and pork rolls (both approximately €2.50). If you’re still hungry (and I’m not), the menu, which is a modern take on traditional Andalusian cuisine, is broad and delectable.
Flamenco in its purest form
When looking for true flamenco, stay away from places that hand out tourist brochures, including the famed Sacromonte Caves, which are known for their flamenco. Flamenco dancers flock to the Pea la Platera in Albaicin Bajo, which is located east of the town. Performances are only held on Thursdays from 10 p.m. at this venue. A ticket is €10 and includes a drink upon arrival. To guarantee a seat, call ahead and make a reservation. Also, come early to avoid missing out on a fantastic view. Even better, don’t simply sit there and observe; enroll in courses with Cha Alba, an Albaicin native. Cha has traveled the globe performing and teaching flamenco, and she currently has a studio on Calle Elvira where she teaches (just behind Gran Via). Don’t worry if you don’t know how to dance or speak Spanish; this is an immersive experience, so you’ll pick up the moves quickly.
Craft beer bar
El Fermentador is a welcome addition to the Plaza de Toros/San Lázaro neighborhood’s sagging growth. After years in banking, owner Luis made the decision to leave and follow his dream of opening a brewery in his neighborhood. For roughly €2.60, the eight taps provide a constantly changing selection of fashionable beers and their own light brew. The price of a glass of wine starts at €2. Local specialties like carne y salsa (beef in sauce) and croquetas (bechamel sauce balls deep-fried in breadcrumbs) have found a welcome fusion in tapas, along with my personal favorite: brie deep-fried with a forest-fruit preparation. The Irish Angus beef IPA burger with thick hand-cut chips (€12) is a must-try if you make it beyond the tapas. The handmade cheesecake is well worth saving up for if you have room left over.
The green, 19th-century Jardn Botánico is a shaded city-centre refuge just close to Plaza de la Universidad if you prefer peace and quiet. There’s also a herb garden there (it forms part of the university). Wild Sierra Nevada species, numerous herbs, and 70 distinct huge tree specimens are among the flora growing here. You’ll find yourself at the university’s law building, which is still being utilized for its original function once you climb the stone stairs and pass through a deceptively simple doorway. It’s a magnificent labyrinth of marble corridors and courtyards that dates all the way back to Carlos V’s time of foundation in the early 1500s. Look inside one of the old lecture rooms that still have their original wooden pews and parquet floors if you’re fortunate.
Tapas bar hop
Because of this, it’s surprising how few visitors find neighboring tapas cafes where each round of drinks comes with a whole different gratis tapa. Bodegas Castaeda, with its dark, carved wood and dangling hams, is a short walk from the neighboring Calle de Almireceros. Make sure to sample the vermut (a sweet, spicy fortified wine from Spain) made in the massive barrels behind the bar. As a result, you might expect a spread of traditional fare, perhaps including shaved ham. After that, make your way to Calle Postigo Velutti’s bar St. Germain for a drink. Enjoy a wide choice of traditional tapas while sipping wine from the extensive wine list and gorging on cheese and bread. Keep an eye out for El Bar de Fede on Calle Marqués de Falces, which is just a five-minute walk away. There is a modern touch on traditional cuisine and décor at this bar and restaurant. The wines, drinks, and tapas are to die for. The long mushroom strips presented like tagliatelle are my favorite.
Croissants and coffee
There has been a resurgence of traditional coffee with leche in Granada. One of the important innovators is Minuit Pan & Coffee, which started as a takeout coffee shop and bakery in the Albaicin but has now grown to a larger, more central location just off Plaza Nueva with complete seating. The goal of Ismail and his co-owners was to provide the barista coffee experience to Granadinos that was “kept simple, done well.” Seville is home to the world’s best coffee roasters, and a cup costs around €1.50. While you’re there, try the croissant, a tostada, or a piece of carrot cake, all of which are excellent choices. Or, if you like, you may buy a typical French artisanal loaf to take home.
View of the Alhambra
Trekking to the top for a bird’s eye perspective of this massive structure is not for the faint of heart, but the vistas are worth it. You may either take the stairs from the Albaicn’s Calle Cruz de la Rauda or walk up from the Carril de San Miguel to the Ermita de San Miguel church, located on the Sacromonte hill above the Sacromonte and Albaicin neighborhoods. Early in the evening, open a bottle of wine and watch the sunset over the hills below, the Alhambra directly in front of you, and the Sierra Nevada mountains beyond that. Overlooking the eastern side of the Alhambra, the tower remains of La Silla del Moro (once the seat of the Moors) provide a new perspective over the city on weekends. You can view the palace and gardens below, as well as the city and plains and peaks to the west, if you hike from Camino Fuente del Avellano along the Darro.
Plaza de Gracia may be found to the south-west of the center on a bright day. A glimpse of Granadino family life may be found here on the weekends and early evenings, when parents eat tapas while their children play in the fenced playground or in front of the church. Classic tapas like patatas bravas and patatas con huevos are available at more informal establishments like Bar Manolo and Cerveceria Igra (potatoes with fried egg). Puesto 43, Granada’s first fishmongers since 1913 when the day’s catch was carried up by donkey from the port of Motril, is a multi-award-winning restaurant that promotes Andaluca’s passion for seafood. There has been no change in their dedication to finding the freshest and best-tasting fish. This upscale establishment’s rich, decadent seafood platters sell for between €16 and €20 a person. However, wine costs only €3 a glass, and the raciones (menu-based, larger portions) or free tapas served on tables outside are wonderful. These are typically plates piled high with prawns (gambas fritas), salt cod (bacalao), or fish croquetas.
The music hub
The Plaza de la Universidad, as its name implies, is often bustling with students. There’s a cool bar called Bar de Eric on the corner of Calle Trinidad and Calle Escuelas, just north of the chic second-hand shops. Owner Eric Jiménez is the drummer for Granada’s venerable rock band Los Planetas, therefore this place is somewhat of a rock music landmark. Photos adorn the bar’s inside walls, making it seem like a rock and roll hall of fame. In one shot, Eric can be seen smiling alongside Marky Ramone. Once you’ve done that, make your way across the block to Discos Bora-Bora, a music emporium that sells vinyl as well as music-related books and merchandise, and conducts concerts and parties. Even on “quieter” days, residents adore the lively environment, and proprietors Mariajo and Gonzalo are willing to gush about music with just about everyone.
Fresh from the market
The major indoor market in Granada may be found by traveling north on Gran Via de Colon, past the cathedral, and turning left into Calle Cristo de San Agustin. But it’s not only a terrific location to purchase fresh food; many of the booths have tables where you can relax and enjoy platters of what’s on sale in this modern, polished setting. At Carnicera Miguel Angel, try the 80-year-old family butcher’s famed jamón ibérico (150g for €12.90) or the meat bocadillo (€2.95-3.50) and drink it all down with some beer (€2) or wine (€2.50). Carnicera Miguel Angel’s meats are famous all across Spain.
When to go
Summers in Granada stretch from April to October, while winters are chilly and sunny. Granada is a year-round tourist attraction due to the year-round sunlight. The main fiesta is Semana Santa (Holy Week around Easter), however there are several saint-based festivities featuring music and processions all year round. Because of the extreme heat and dryness in August, many residents choose to go to the shore, and businesses are forced to operate on a very restricted schedule.
Many airlines from all around the UK fly into Málaga Airport. EasyJet flies straight from Gatwick and Manchester for roughly £50 roundtrip to Granada’s own smaller airport, which takes 20-25 minutes via cab (about €30).