With a population of 238,000, Granada is smaller and more walkable than Seville. Granada has three neighborhoods that are of interest to tourists:
- Old Town (Centro). The center of town, with the Cathedral, City Hall, and many hotels. A short walk up the hill from Centro leads to the Alhambra, a fortress and palace complex built by the Moors in the 13th century and embellished by the Spanish Christians in successive centuries. The Alhambra is one of the most visited attractions in Europe. We joined the adoring hordes with a visit the following day.
- The Albaicín (also spelled Albayzín). The Moorish quarter, built on a hillside rising opposite the Alhambra. On our first day in Granada, we took the bus up to San Nicolás, a famous viewpoint, and then walked down through picturesque winding streets with many shops and restaurants.
- Sacromonte. The highest hillside neighborhood, originally settled by Gypsies (more properly called Roma). Many of the homes and shops are actually caves hewn directly into the rock face of the hillside. The caves reminded us of the little town of Scicli that we saw on our visit to Sicily. Like the Albaicín, Sacromonte is a maze of narrow, winding streets ripe for discovery, romance, and (according to our guidebook) occasional trouble.
On our first day in Granada, we strolled around Old Town and stopped at City Hall to get a map. We saw a few interesting things, like this building with an eagle at the top.
City Hall had some big doors with these unusual antique knockers. The design is a hand holding a piece of fruit.
We could probably have purchased this suit of armor, but the photo was enough.
The highlight of our time in Granada was to be our visit to the Alhambra the following day. It is best to purchase advance tickets online, which we did. There are many purchase options, each with its own restrictions and scheduling requirements. The whole thing seemed to be about as complicated as a visit with the U.S. President or an audience with the Pope, so we decided to walk up there on our first day, just to check it out.
Some of the Alhambra grounds are free and open to the public all day, so we did some reconnaissance in preparation for admission to the inner sanctum the following day.
In our previous visits to Europe we have always been amused by the tiny cars. In Spain the cars are not so small, just ordinary compact cars like we have in the U.S. However, at the Alhambra we did find this Red Cross car, the smallest that we saw anywhere in Spain. For photos of Stephanie and the tiny cars in Italy see Little Cars from our Italy Unguided Tour.
When we finished checking out the Alhambra for the next day’s visit, we took the bus up the hill to San Nicolás Viewpoint in the Albaicín and then walked back down to Centro.
At San Nicolás you can visit the Grand Mosque of Granada. In the courtyard we saw this elegant mosaic of cobblestones. Mosaics of this type can be found all over Granada and also in other Spanish cities. Some of the old streets are paved in this fashion.
In the Albaicín you can relax in a cafe and smoke shisha through a hookah pipe. We decided to pass.