Arriving in Granada today felt a bit like a dream.
Boarding our bus just before sunrise, I was an exhausted mess of sleep deprivation. The woe of my 5:30 a.m. wakeup call was sorely felt as I struggled to keep my sleepy eyes open on our warm and cozy bus. I fought this battle just long enough to watch the sun rise, but soon fell asleep for the rest of our 3 hour ride to Granada. As we pulled into the city, I was jolted awake by the bright sunlight pouring through the window, and to my left, I saw the entire city of Granada far below us, a sea of spectacular white-washed houses and sandy brown rooftops. I felt like I had been transported to a whole new world. For a second, I legitimately questioned whether or not I was still in Europe.
I assure you however that yes, Granada certainly is still in Europe, and is in fact, one of the most popular stops to visit in Andalusia. Nestled along the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Granada is a fascinatingly diverse city with a sizeable student population and an important role in Spain’s history. As the last Spanish city to be reclaimed by Catholic monarchs , many say that Granada is where Spain’s Moorish roots are most present today, a fact that you’ll likely notice within just minutes of arriving.
The crown jewel of the city of course is the spectacular palace of Alhambra, a legacy left behind from Granada’s glory days as capital of Al-Andalus. During our visit, my mind was absolutely blown by the sheer grandeur of this palace, created with the intention of serving as “paradise on earth” for the Nasrid sultans that called it home.
Spanning over 100,000 m2, the Alhambra complex can be split into four main sections. We began our guided tour with a stop at The Palace of Charles V, a Renaissance-style building commanded by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in the 15th century. Though the palace is shaped like a square, its inner patio is perfectly circular and today is the site for various musical performances:
We then made our way to the Alcazaba, the former military complex and oldest part of the Alhambra. It’s here that you can take in a postcard-perfect view of Granada:
Our next stop was probably the most spectacular part of the entire complex: the Nasrid Palaces. Comprised of the Mexuar, the Comares and the Palace of the Lions, walking through this space is a truly awe-inspiring experience. Every single façade, ceiling and wall is crawling with intricate details, while serene water features (representing purity) provide the environment with a sense of oasis-like calm.
Last but not least, we took a walk through the Generalife, also known as the gardens of the complex, which, taking inspiration from Versailles, features perfectly manicured French gardens, with sharp geometric shapes and symmetry as a standout feature. Colourful flowers, sculpted trees and vibrant Cyprus tree arches create a wonderfully serene atmosphere, an escape worthy for even royalty.
After a fantastic morning of exploring the Alhambra, for lunch, we got a taste of the Spanish tapas tradition – one, which to our surprise, seemed to never end! After a light salad, many of us had assumed that the meal was over.
With wide eyes, we watched as course after course of tapas, from juicy cubes of pork to honey-drizzled aubergines arrived at our table. Here, we discovered that eating in Spain is truly like a sport, one that requires the most determined of mindsets and the most sizable of stomachs! I must say though, as far as sports go, eating in Spain is probably my favourite.
And so, after our never-ending lunch, we finished our visit with some free time to explore downtown Granada. While some opted to visit the Cathedral, I settled for admiring its façade from the outside and then dived head first into the city’s narrow streets and shopping district, where I discovered a mix of modern retail shops and the Alcaiceria, a narrow Moorish market offering dazzling displays of colourful scarves, ornate ceramics and leather goods. After perusing some shops, and indulging in a scoop of ice cream, it was time to meet reality once again, and board our bus back to the MS La Belle de Cadix. Our visit, though a day long, was far too short for me. What I must say about Granada is that it has tremendously unique character – one that pulls you into continually wanting more.
Talk to you all soon!