Granada’s Alhambra, a 1,000-year-old palace complex that rises like an Arabian Nights fantasy at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, is a hard act to follow. After basking in the glory of its foppish Nasrid rulers amid ornate palaces and even more ornate gardens, everything else threatens to be anti-climactic.
is made up of far more than just a Moorish citadel dipped in a modern Christian
coating. Legendary cultures collide in this Andalucían city, throwing out a
nebulous mix of bohemians, poets, business people, artists and musicians. Here
are some ideas on where to go once the main act is over.
Staggering out of the Alhambra
complex, mouths agape and imaginations fired, inspired visitors usually find themselves
in the Realejo quarter, a precipitous whitewashed neighbourhood that inhabits
the southeast-facing slopes of the Alhambra hill. It is worth lingering here. Once
the city’s main Jewish quarter, the Realejo is notable for its cármenes (large mansions with walled gardens). The Carmen
de los Martires, with its
magnificently dishevelled gardens and restored 19th-century mansion, resides on the site of the oddly named Convent of the
The Casa Museo
Manuel de Falla once belonged to Spain’s greatest 20th Century classical
composer. Inside its walls you will find Manuel de Falla’s original piano and a
scented garden overflowing with jasmine and roses.
Federico García Lorca
Granada’s complexities become clearer when you tap into the life and work of
Spain’s greatest poet and playwright, Federico García Lorca. Lorca was born in
Granada in 1898 and went on to capture the city’s passion and ambiguity in a precocious
collection of poems and plays. The charmingly understated house where he was
born in Fuente Vaqueros, 17km west of Granada, is now a
museum awash with interesting photos, posters and paraphernalia from his
plays. You can also take a pre-bookable guided tour around his former summer
house, the Huerta de San Vicente,
located a 25-minute walk south of the city centre.
de Al-Andalus, offers something a shade less boisterous than a Moroccan
bathhouse and something more authentic than your typical candles-and-incense spa
back home. Bathers recline in Alhambra-like opulence in intricately pillared underground
pools, imbibing mint tea and evoking images of Omar Sharif in the film Lawrence of Arabia.
After you have seen the Alhambra, staying in a hotel that vaguely resembles it
might seem like a distant pipedream. But the dream can be partially realized in
one of Granada’s meticulously restored boutique hotels. The 15th-century Casa Morisca Hotel with its 14
Alhambra-esque rooms arranged around an ornamental patio and fountain, could
compete with the finest of Marrakech’s riads. More Moorish magic can be
glimpsed in the Hotel
Casa del Capitel Nazarí, a 1503 Renaissance palace that is as much
architectural history lesson as plush accommodation.
While Jerez and Seville argue over flamenco’s soulful roots, Granada has
concocted a musical offshoot of its own. The Granadina is an ornamental guitar-driven lament that apes the intricate
stucco and trickling fountains of the Alhambra. It is best heard deep in the
street labyrinth of the Albayzín at the Peña
de la Platería, a bona fide aficionado’s flamenco club with a spacious alfresco
patio that has been hosting dramatic performances since 1949.
Half a millennium has passed since Boabdil the Moor heaved his last sigh, but
the refined customs of Spain’s final emir live on in Granada’s Arabic teterías -- atmospheric tearooms embellished
with puffed cushions, shadowy lanterns and ample stucco. The best teterías are
in the Moorish Albayzin quarter, in particular on Calle Calderería Nueva,
and are popular with late-night bohemians who huddle around hand-painted tables sharing puffs on the ubiquitous
Cynics claim there is no such thing as a free lunch, but the tapas bars of
Granada beg to differ. Thanks, in part, to an above-average quota of students,
the city is one of the last bastions of a noble practice that was once
widespread in Spain. Start your Granada tapas bar crawl on Calle de Elvira or
Calle Navas and gravitate to the organized mayhem of Bodegas
Castañeda, an old-school favourite. A free tapas-plate is dispensed with
every round of drinks you order.
The article 'Granada beyond the Alhambra' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.