Granada, Spain

GRANADA | You picked Granada, Spain! “Yay…” she says. Her enthusiasm dissipates as she pans through picture after picture to decide which should go on the blog and slowly begins to realize that this trip was almost 10 years ago. Eeekkk!! Where does the time go?

In the Summer of 2008, I spent one month in Spain on a study abroad trip for law school. It my first trip abroad sans the ‘rents and my second trip across the Atlantic altogether {that I can remember}. I think this trip instilled in me a confidence to travel that has brought me where I am today {which is through about 26 countries in total}. Quite a turning point. All that being said, I was a 23 year old law student and am hoping you can understand and forgive that recalling the details of this trip may be a little bit difficult. Surely it has nothing to do with the copious amounts of Tinto de verano I consumed…

With that in mind, instead of giving you a breakdown of where to stay, eat, play, etc. (because I can’t really recall), I will give you my Granada Top 10 (plus a few extra pieces of info, because I think you’re special).

INTRO | First I think it’s important to give you some background information. Granada, Spain is located in the south of Spain, approx. 4 hours south of Madrid and 1 hour north of the coast (Costa del Sol). The area where Granada’s located is called “Andalucia.” Sounds enchanting, right? It is… in a magical Arabian Nights kind of way. You see, southern Spain has a large moorish influence provided from its north African ancestry. You will see this influence in the architecture, the food and other goods in the marketplace and, also, in the people. In fact, even one of the classes I took while studying in Granada was Islamic Law. In my opinion, it adds a unique touch to the characteristics of Granada.

TOP 10 | Here are my picks of ‘Must-DOs’ when visiting Granada, Spain (in no specific order because you should attempt them ALL):

1. WAKE UP WITH A CAFE CON LECHE

Cafe con leche (translated: Coffee with milk) is vital sustaining your packed travel schedule, especially if you follow Must-Do #10. The Spanish culture is such that dinner is around 10 pm – 12 am followed by a couple hours of “pre-gaming” before the discotecas open at 2 am. You heard me right… OPEN. You will definitely need a cafe con leche later that same morning to ensure you don’t miss out on that 9 am Alhambra tour. {better yet, push that tour back to 1 pm and sleep off your hangover in Must-Do #4}. There are plenty of cafes around where you can get your “pick-me-up” but our favorite pitstop on the way to class most mornings was Gran Cafe Bib Rambla {<– link}.

2. TOUR THE ALHAMBRAimg_0814

In addition to centuries of history I can’t remember, this was the place where Christopher Columbus was approved to set sail for new land. Pretty sure you know how it ends… and if you don’t… wikipedia-it. 😛 If you have the time, absolutely take the walking tour of the Alhambra and grab a guide that tells you all about the structure. Architecturally, it is an interesting building with its beautiful moorish features unveiling the islamic ancestry. The grounds of the Alhambra are expansive and serene. There are garden  pools and viewpoints of Granada that you can get lost staring at for hours. And, if you’re a fan of mosaics, I can guarantee you the Alhambra will not disappoint. The massive fortress looms over Granada and can be seen from almost any viewpoint in the city. You shouldn’t have any trouble locating it if you’re interested in a visit.

3. GRAB A KABAB

Of course when you visit Spain, you must try the Paella, and EVERYONE will tell you this. But, after about a week of eating Paella, you’ll be ready for something different. One this happens, and it will, you will be so happy to remember that yours truly told you about the kabab. There are multiple places that you can get a kabab, but our go-to was Kabab-King No. 1 on  Calle Reyes Católicos. If you’re a picky eater like me, the Falafel Kabab will save your life from the pounds of jamon you would otherwise be forced to consume.

4. VISIT A TURKISH BATH

This might have been my favorite day spent in Granada. The turkish bath experience was delightful and, if I went back to Granada, this would absolutely be a repeat offender on  my list of to-dos. Again, there are many places that offer a turkish bath experience, but mine was at Hammam Al Andalus {<– Link}. The experience starts in a cave like setting where you change into your bathing suit and pour yourself a cup of tea. {my friends and I searched high  and low for the tea served (Herba Buena) and found what we believe to be THE tea at a local teteria shop… it’s that good}. Next you are shown to the “bath” areas where there are multiple baths to choose from. Some are hot, others cold and others just right. I think there is a method to the madness and some sort of correct progression, but I just kept hopping in and out of each bath as I saw fit. Halfway through my bath experience, a massage therapist called me back to a semi-secluded area of the spa where I was given a lovely back massage. After a few more dips in each of the pools and a couple more cups of herba buena tea, I was sufficiently relaxed and ready to depart. This is a really cool experience that I highly recommend. It would be a good place to stop on the way back from your Alhambra tour before happy hour with some tinto de verano.

5. BROWSE THE BAZAAR AND SHOPS IN THE ALBAICIN

If you’re looking to do some souvenir shopping head to the Alcaiceria {<– Link} on Calle Alcaiceria. While you will see some of the standard trinkets that you find in most souvenir shop locations, there are a few stalls with some neat and uncommon finds to take home for a loved one… or if you’re like me, for yourself. I think a beautiful tea set would make a really nice gift or keepsake and am kicking myself for not taking a set back with me.

In addition to the Alcaiceria, the Albaicin itself is a lovely neighborhood for a walking tour and you’re sure to stumble upon many unique shops and lovely restaurants. Pick a beautiful day to enjoy the scenery and surprises you come across in this quaint area of Granada {and my favorite}. If you find a nice spice shop or teteria, I suggest taking some home because there is just nothing like it.

6. GO TRAIL RIDING BY HORSEBACK

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Yo y mi caballo {me & my horse}

A horseback ride through the countryside is a nice way to see a different side of Granada and its surroundings. The area sits at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains which provides for some pretty stunning views and easy rail riding. If you’re like me and a bit squeamish on a horse, don’t worry, the trail rides are manageable and the scenery definitely outweighs the scary.

7. SIP TEA AT A TETERIA

This advice is good anytime of the day. In the afternoon, you can stop in for a relaxing tea break after a full day of touring and shopping, or head to the tetería in the evening and share a couple pots with a side of hookah {if you’re into that kind of thing}. Even though the wine is plentiful and delicious in Spain, you don’t have to be a drinker to enjoy a night out in this town. One of my best nights in Granada was spent at Tetería Kasbah {<– Link to Location} drinking tea, smoking hookah and chit-chatting my gal pal. Time will pass quickly in this inviting atmosphere {and the teapots are pretty cool too}. Enjoy!

8. WATCH A FUTBOL GAME WITH THE LOCALS

img_0681I may have an elevated perspective on this tip because I just so happened to be in Granada during the 2008 Euro Cup. I’ve never seen cooler {crazier} fans of any sport in any country. Ever. That being said, I am not exactly a connoisseur of sporting events, so take my comments with a grain of salt. The Irish pub we frequented with our amigos was packed wall-to-wall during a Eurocup game and the energy was palpable. This went on for weeks but culminated in an epic win for Spain that ended a 60 year dry-spell. The victory was celebrated all throughout the country with dancing in the water fountains, “Viva España” chants and many requests for besos. While I am certain this celebration was above and beyond the usual futbol victory, I recommend a night cheering on the local team.

9. FINISH THE DAY WITH GELATO 

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I am just going to leave this right here… there’s nothing more to say.

10. STAY UP ‘TIL DAWN DANCING AT A DISCOTECA 

My final tip is to finish the day {or start your next day} at a discoteca. American clubs just do not compare to the large-scale dance party that takes place each night starting at 2 am. Well… at least my memory of it was fun, but please remember that this was almost 10 years ago and I was 23… so my idea of fun then is a lot different than my 31 yr-old-view of fun. But I am like 95% certain that it would still be fun. My research shows that the discoteca we frequented, Granada 10, is permanently closed {SHOCKER!} but another one to check out is called Mae West {<– Image Link}… stay close to your posse! Here are the key steps to a successful night in Spain: (1) drinks {order the Tinto de Verano… a cold summer wine} and tapas {they’re free with drinks in most places; (2) dinner… somewhere… anywhere.. it’s not important, just eat; (3) chupitos!! {SHOTS!}; and (4) dancing ’til dawn at the discoteca. If you have a hangover the next day… see Must-Do #1.

There you have it! My top 10 Must-Dos for Granada, Spain… but wait, I promised you something extra, right?? Ok, here we go:

  • Where I stayed: Hostal Costa Azul {<– Link} – this place is cheap {$33/night}, private, clean and a great location walking distance to most all major attractions. The neighborhood is safe and solo travelers would feel comfortable staying here. If you’re looking for more space, they also have apartments available.
  • If you’re basing out of Granada or just passing through on the way to your next destinations, let me recommend a couple of stops:
    • On one of our last weekends we hopped on the train and took it an hour south to Salobreña. While it’s neighboring cities, Malaga and Marbella are more popular coastal destinations, they are also a little pricier and were further away from Granada.  Salobreña was a nice substitute for a day trip to the beach. A packed lunch, litre of tinto de verano and a beach towel is all you need to enjoy some sun and cliff diving.
    • Drive a little further Southwest to the country of Gibraltar and take the tram up to the Rock of Gibraltar to see the monkeys and some incredible views of Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar. You’ll even get an additional stamp on your passport!
    • And, finally, if you have the time, take the ferry over to Tangier, Africa. But that’s a story for another post… 🙂

I hope you enjoy your trip! Tell me all about it or your Granada experience in the comments below!! xoxo

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