Project Description

At the foot of the Sierra Nevada, between the Darro and the Genil, lies one of the most interesting cities in eastern Andalusia. To its impressive Al-Andalus heritage are added its Renaissance architectural gems and the most modern facilities representative of the 21st century. Last city reconquered by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492, Granada is full of inimitable Arab flavors. Its cuisine, crafts and urban layout are permanently marked by its glorious past. Fountains, viewpoints and Cármenes (villas surrounded by gardens) are helping to draw its unforgettable secrets. It is though quite normal that one of its oldest districts, the Albaicin, is now listed as a Heritage site, like the Alhambra and the Generalife. Huge cultural center for many centuries, under both the Arab and Christian governments, the city now enjoys a cultural agenda and enviable hobbies.

Cycles and film festivals, music and theater are completed with permanent and traveling exhibitions that bring together all areas of knowledge. The former Renaissance palaces host seminars, conferences and symposia, while the most innovative infrastructures receive the greatest events. Granada has a wide variety of accommodations, which include historical monuments as “cármenes” at the heart of the Albaicín or “casas-Cueva” (cave houses) in the Sacromonte. Its excellent transport system, pleasant climate and many opportunities of beach and mountain activites, make Granada a unique destination to see a least once in a lifetime!

After such an introduction, you should expect a huge article swarming of details… Not even close. I apologie, but it is impossible for me to describe in this article a typical day (or more) of sightseeing in Grenada and for a good reason: I’ve done too many of them! Let me explain: I lived for three months in the heart of the city as part of a language course. Thus joining business with pleasure, I learned Spanish and discovered, at a different rhythm from tourists, various aspects of Andalusian culture that were unknown to me. In 3 months, you can imagine that I had time to discover many things, but I was in a different state of mind than when I normally travel for a few days or weeks. Here I felt myself quickly part of the local mass despite my basic level of Spanish. Rapidly, it’s not my travel guide and my camera that I took with me when I was walking the streets of Granada, but my course books and novels on Andalusia. I sometimes spent hours siting on a bench facing a great panorama or at the heart of a bustling square.

Thus, you will not find here a huge bunch of pages nor a plethora of photos, but only a short text about some of places I particularly liked when I was wandering about. Disappointed? I’m sorry, but I did so many things on a whim or with classmates without taking either my camera or my notebook, so it is impossible to write something that would suit my needs… From these three months, I have kept precious memories and new friendships around the world and I think it is the most important! In summary, this is an insight to Granada that I invite you to discover now, which can also still be completed later if I ever go back to Andalusia! You will not find the famous Alhambra in this article as this architectural wonder has its own that you can reach by clicking on the image below. Enjoy!

Cathedral of the Incarnation

Cathedral of Granada made perfect sense since the project of the imperial city of Charles Quint. Built on the foundations of the mosque in 1501 at the request of the Catholic Kings, the Emperor wished to continue in 1492 what was started by his maternal grandparents. This is the greatest symbol of Christianity and the building is part of an impressive monumental site that can be admired for example from the Plaza de las Pasiegas. From there, the main facade of the building, its bell tower and the gate of San Jerónimo can be seen. From the Placeta of Siloam nearby, it is the clock tower and the gate of Ecce Homo that are opened to visitors. Its central location makes it a major monument and the perfect starting point for a scenic walk in the city.

 The Chapel of the Catholic Monarchs was designed as a burial place closely linked to the cathedral, but without being “included” into its architecture. Besides the fact that it is the largest in Spain, one can appreciates its simplicity and richness thanks to the generous donations of the Queen. The Royal Chapel houses today the mortal remains of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile (who initially rested at the Convent of San Francisco in the Alhambra), as well as those of Joanna I, Philip I of Castile and Miguel Infante. Under the graves, a little austere crypt contains the royal coffins made of lead, identified by the initials of each name on the cover. A visit not to be missed!

Monastery of Saint Jerome (San Jerónimo)

Close to the residence where I lived during my stay in Granada is the monastery of Saint Jerome, founded by the Catholic Kings in Santa Fe. In 1492, it was put under the devotion of Santa Catalina and immediately transferred to Granada. The construction of the building started in 1496 and was completed under the direction of Siloam in 1547. For its construction, the Catholic Monarchs have given all arab Stone from the Gate of Elvira (Elvira Puerta). The monastery then had a rich decoration, but was plundered and later transformed into a barracks. It was restored a few years ago, thanks to the collaboration of the University of Granada with Jerónima Order and despite its distance from the historic center, it’s a nice visit to do in this part of town.

So I enjoy visiting every angle of the place and I must say that I was not disappointed. Patios, gardens and cloisters are beautiful, but the marvel of the monastery is without a doubt the church, cleverly decorated with frescoes, paintings, stained glass windows and bas-reliefs that give the place an almost divine atmosphere… And it makes a lot of sens in such a holy place! The facade of the church also has an admirable artistic decoration – Siloam work – with the coat of arms of the Catholic Kings, all decorated with fantastic animals. Not necessarily on to the usual tourist track of Granada, but if you are away at this point from the historic center, it would be a shame not to visit the monastery!

Carmen de Los Martines

Taking advantage of a sunny day, I walked to the heights of the city, close to the Alhambra, to visit “Carmen de los Martires,” which owes its origin to the hermitage and the Carmelite convent which was built in 1492. It is probably the most monumental carmen (name of Andalusian villas which flower gardens are separated from streets with light grids, allowing them to be seen from outside) of the city, not only by its size and the quality of its gardens, but by preserving original features in the middle of a characteristic style of the 19th century. If you are still in a “discovery” mode after your visit of the Alhambra, feel free to take a turn towards Los Martires. If the weather is favorable, you will have a great view of the city and can also enjoy this quiet place!

A recent restoration project allows visitors to admire several styles of gardens : among others are the French garden, the English garden, the romantic lake area, the Huerta, a small wood and a maze. I’ve finally spent a good half a day there and I only came across two couples of tourists, not one more! What a surprise because despite its proximity to the Alhambra, the garden remains somewhat unknown to tourists. In the end, it’s better this way because one can thus enjoy considerable tranquility in a lovely garden close to one of the most visited buildings in the world!

Albaicín of Granada

Narrow streets, small whitewashed houses, little squares with popular, intimate and warm feeling, intoxicating jasmine fragrances: no doubt, we are in the heart of the Albaicín of Granada, the Nasrid’s old district. It is not surprising that UNESCO has classified this site in 1994. The Gate of Elvira, in the center of Granada, is a nice access to this district. There, we simply follow the walls of the Alcazaba Cadima until the charming Plaza Larga. Watch out, the slope is quite steep! You can also start your visit of the Albaicín with a visit to the Interpretation Centre inside Zafra house and then walk along the alleys.

The Albaicín exudes the essence of a neighborhood that evokes both the Moorish architecture and the one of other ancient cities of the Mediterranean. Its charm lies in its particular cármenes, typical houses with a  vegetable garden and a garden that inhabit the area. Here, magnificent views and visits await you: the Mirador de San Cristobal, next to the church of the same name, the old mosque that has retained its patio (today the Church of San Salvador), the Mirador San Nicolas and its beautiful views of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada in the background, and back down to Granada, near the Plaza Nueva, the church of Santa Ana, which has one of the most spectacular Mudejar facades of the city!

Sacromonte

The Sacromonte is the most distinctive district of Granada, known worldwide for its housing in caves and stunning views, and to be considered the cradle of flamenco. Its festive traditions differs in performances and take place daily in the zambras (grottos) and more spontaneously at any time in the bars and terraces of the district. Its singular aspect is also admirable, with its slopes dotted with prickly pear and white houses that turn red at dusk are a beautiful invitation to walk in the heart of its lanes, where we feel like carried away by the unique charm of the neighborhood.

The Abbey of Sacromonte is one of the most important monuments of the city, both historically and religiously. Located on Mount Valparaiso, the abbey plays a big role in the celebration of important moments in the festivals calendar of the city, like the pilgrimage on the first weekend of February in honor of the city’s patron, San Cecilio, or the Cristo de los gitanos procession, the most famous of the Holy Week of Granada. In the entire building, we can find the Holy Caves, the seminar, lead books and relics of the disciples of the apostle Santiago (Saint Jacques). It also offers sumptuous views of the Alhambra, the Albaicín, on the river Darro and the picturesque neighborhood of Sacromonte. If you visit the Albaicín (which I’m sure you will), do not hesitate to “push” your walk a little further and you will quickly discover this unique place!

During your visit of Sacromonte, why not enjoying a short hike along the nearby hill? It is the fact of having seen people climbing a winding path to the top that has motivated me. Just know that depending of your level of fitness, the hike can take upon 2 good hours, some places are quite steep and the path is sometimes difficult to follow. What’s your reward then? Incredible views of Sacromonte and part of Granada, beautiful orange dirt roads and olive trees as far as the eyes can see, the whole set having the Sierra Nevada has a stunning background… What a picture, what a show!

And we end this pretty ballad with a view of the Alhambra, most likely the main reason for your visit to Granada, am I wrong? For my part, I look forward to return to this wonderful city. Maybe would I then be able to provide you with a more complete article, who knows!