The impressive and world-known Alhambra palace, the most visited monument in Spain, is the reference point when it comes to talk or write about Granada in Andalusia. It dominates all aspects of the city, and indeed it is a must-do for all visitors (booking in advance is essential).
But Granada has so much more. A mid-sized city, easy to walk, unless you prefer to explore the beautiful Albaicín quarter, full of slopes, alleys and quiet charming streets, where tourists seek the best views over the Alhambra. These can be found at the popular Mirador de San Nicolás lookout point, where floods of people gather around sunset to enjoy the views. But for a complete city view, here´s a tip: get a taxi and ask to drive you to Ermita San Miguel, an old church on top of a hill, just 10min drive from downtown. The best unobstructed views over Granada and Alhambra, with the sun setting right behind.
We spent a weekend in the city and chose a lovely small boutique hotel, Casa 1800. They also have a sister hotel in Sevilla. This one in Granada, with less than 30 rooms, is a small piece of tranquility in the heart of downtown. Expect charming rooms and attentive service. Some of the rooms overlook the Alhambra. As an added value, the hotel offers a complimentary coffee and pastry service every afternoon to all guests at the lovely interior patio, which is the center of the property. We stayed at Suite 1800, their signature room, a huge and spacious Suite with jacuzzi bath, separate living-room and big balconies with views over Alhambra palace.
From the hotel, it is easy to explore the city. The popular Carrera Del Darro Street by the small Darro river is just in front of the hotel, and it is the starting point from where to walk the Albaicín neighbourhood. Tea shops, small cafes and restaurants are easy to find all over. I like Carmen De Aben Humeya, a little cozy restaurant with splendid views, outdoor terrace and great local cuisine.
The Realejo district is becoming a fashionable area lately. Also a few minutes walk from the hotel, it has become a kind of soho area, full of stylish restaurants, coffee-shops, jazz and music clubs, galleries… try Picoteca 3Maneras, a modern tapas bar and restaurant with surprising local dishes combined with a Northern touch as a reminder of the origins of the owner. Just a few steps from there, Papaupa is also surprising: a retro decor, cozy atmosphere and fusion dishes. They also open for afternoon coffee and late night drinks.
Culture: spend some time visiting the cathedral and nearby streets. The very interesting Royal Chapel is where the Catholic Kings are buried, and you can also see not only the grave but some of the original clothes and jewels they used during their reign. And right next to the chapel, narrow streets where artisans used to work and sell their products are now full of shops with handcraft, but the charm of those times still remain.
Fine dining: Arriaga Restaurant is the place to go. The setting is spectacular: the highest floor of the Memoria de Andalucia Museum, at 60 meters high, and with glass on both sides of the restaurant walls so you can enjoy amazing city views in all directions. However, the food will call most of the attention: a combination of local and basque cuisine, excellent product, great wines (with some surprising ones from Granada), and seamless service. Daniel the maitre is a great host, while owner Álvaro Arriaga, a basque chef who settled years ago in Granada, is the soul of the place. Their tasting menus are really interesting. Booking in advance is essential.
Daytrip: Sierra Nevada, the only place to ski in Southern Spain, is 1h drive from the city. The amazing white-washed mountains and snow landscapes are totally worth it. Between December and March, ski season takes place and it is a popular weekend destination. But you can also go during summer time, less crowded and same as spectacular nature. The finest resort is El Lodge, a small luxury boutique hotel right next to ski slopes, with comfortable rooms and chic atmosphere. Only complaint would be their Sun Deck outdoor restaurant, which still lacks efficient service to match a 5 star, but hopefully should improve.
Distances: Granada is 2h approx drive from Sevilla, 1,30h from Málaga and about 2h from Córdoba. Its airport connects with Barcelona, Madrid and other international destinations.
For private tailormade itineraries to Granada, insider tips or additional activities or requests concerning the city of Alhambra palace, please feel free to contact directly.
BLANCONCIERGE is a privately owned Luxury Travel & Concierge agency based in Seville, Spain, and managed by founder Eduardo Blanco.