Those in the know say that if you see just one town in Spain, it should be Granada. At the foot of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada it is one of Andalusia's most interesting places, and after her visit, Kelly Landry agreed that the city, named after the pomegranate, is a captivating place.
Granada's fascinating history began with Muslim settlement in 711AD. Exploring the Albayzin Quarter is like stepping into Aladdin's Cave.
Granada was the last Muslim kingdom in Spain to be conquered by Catholic monarchs in 1492. Many Islamic buildings were destroyed after Christian conquest, but those remaining are beautiful examples of Moorish architecture.
It has an unmistakable Arab flavor, and the growing North African community has contributed to it with mosques, markets, restaurants and tea houses. If you want a taste of Arabia without travelling to the Middle East, Granada's the place to go.
Oasis Backpackers Hostel
Before setting out to explore Granada, Kelly settled in to Oasis Backpackers' Hostel. Word of mouth amongst travellers to the area have made Oasis a bit of a legend. The restored Andalucian building is in an ancient cobblestoned corridor in the Arabic Quarter. It's not exactly easy to find but well worth the hunt. There are charming candle-lit teashops surrounding the place where you can stop and check your map en route.
It has dormitories and private rooms and such a great vibe it feels as though you are staying in a friend's home. There are great communal areas an open-air lounge with free internet access and a rooftop terrace with 360 degree views. Perfect for watching those famous Spanish sunsets on comfortable cushions and a great spot to make new friends.
Breakfast is included and they have paella parties and barbecue nights in the garden. Activities include tapas tours and salsa classes, and if you are staying a little longer they offer Spanish classes.
Spain's most visited monument means 'red fortress' in Arabic. Construction of the greatest surviving piece of Moorish architecture began in the 9th century. It served as a palace-fortress for Nasrid sultans and is surrounded by opulent gardens.
The UNESCO World Heritage site is perched above the city on a hilltop with the stunning Sierra Nevada as a backdrop. It's the stuff of fairytales.
The Alhambra has three distinct groups of buildings the Palacio Nazaries (Royal Palace or Nasrid Palace), the Place Gardens of the Genralife and the Alcazaba (Citadel).
The Alhambra has inspired romantics for centuries and tends to overshadow the city's other attractions, even though they include Europe's best-preserved Moorish housing architecture, 16th century monuments and gypsy cave houses.
This is the Alhambra's true gem the best preserved example of Islamic architecture in the entire world. It has perfectly-proportioned rooms, courtyards, exquisite tiling and intricate stucco walls. The sultan (or emir) would sit on his throne in the reception area to greet dignitaries who were surely overwhelmed by the grandeur. The large pool and stained-glass windows framing the sultan flooded him with light. That made him difficult to distinguish the purpose of that was that if he suspected trouble, a substitute would be seated on the throne and he is the one who would be attacked!
Adjoining palaces housed bedrooms, harems and children's quarters. The most important part of a Moorish residence was designed to symbolize a paradise, or oasis in the desert the centre garden.
The oldest part of the Alhambra, Alcazaba, was built in the 9th century on the ruins of a castle. The impressive Torre de la Vela is a watchtower with a winding staircase to its top terrace with stunning views. Its bell is rung on festive occasions by young girls in the hope of warding off spinsterhood.
The Comres Hall
This is where emirs conducted negotiations with Christian emissaries. Its domed parquetry ceiling has over 8000 cedar pieces forming stars to represent the seven heavens of Islam.
The perfect place to end your visit, the Architect's Garden is the highest point of the Alhambra. It's filled with fountains, flowers and flowing water and just right for contemplating.
Aljibe De San Miguel
The ancient Arabic bath house tradition is one you must try. Known as hammam
, pools are of different temperatures and the drink of choice is sweet mint tea. Perfect for a relaxing break and to let your thoughts wander back over the centuries.
Aljibe de San Miguel has seven baths in traditional décor and it is recommended you spend time in each bath, graduating from hot to cold. Follow up with a wonderful massage in a private room and you will certainly want to return.
In the old Arab Quarter, Albaicin is a maze of cobblestoned alleys and whitewashed walls, courtyards and an open-air museum. Streets are lined with beautiful carmenes
large mansions with walled gardens. There are Moroccan markets, street musicians and sunny plazas. At night it becomes the centre of Granada's nightlife with bustling bars, cafés and clubs. Unfortunately, it is a haven for thieves and pickpockets as well, so take caution.
Granada holds its own in the Spanish tapas tradition. With more bars per person than any other city in Spain, and most places serving free tapas with drinks, this is one of the country's best places to dine late.
Bodegas Castaneda is an institution and is actually heritage listed. It has floor to ceiling barrels of wine, and in its kitchen chefs busily whip up tantalizing tidbits. Paella, fried fish, vegetable stew the choices constantly change.
If you fancy lingering and want something more substantial to eat, everyone recommends crusty bread with Manchego cheese and local cured ham. Most people enjoy a dry buttery Manzanilla sherry with their food.
Cuevo los Trantos
Right up there with tapas, there's nothing quite so Spanish as flamenco. There are many clubs in the Sacromonte District, home to Granada's gypsy population. Visit one of the little white caves, known as zambra
carved into the hillside, and you will be treated to some of Spain's best performers.
Flamenco is all about passion. The art has three forms singing, dancing and guitar.
Some places drag the tourists in for a quick show and relieve you of as much of your euro as they can, but Cuevo los Tarantos is the real deal. It has been going since 1972 with shows of a very high standard. You can choose from a 9:30pm performance or 11:10pm both offer free transport to and from your hotel.
Granada in southern Spain, around a six-hour drive from Madrid.
Alhambra has three types of entry tickets. General entry to Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces and Generalife Gardens costs around $17. Gardens-only entry is around $9. Night visits between November and February are around $12. To avoid queuing, book a timed entrance ticket on www.Isango.com/Alhambra
Bodegas Castaneda is open between 11:30am and 4pm and from 7pm until late.
Emirates has flights to Madrid from:
- Perth $1739
- Melbourne & Adelaide $1793
- Sydney $1812
- Brisbane $1817
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Calle Real de la Alhambra
Tel: +34 95802 7950
Oasis Backpackers' Hostel
Placeta Correo Viejo, 3
Tel: +34 958 215 848
Cueva Los Tarantos
Camino del Sacromonte 9
Tel: +34 958 22 2492
Aljibe de San Miguel
San Miguel Alta
Tel: +34 958 52 28 67
Tel: +34 958 215 464
Visas: Australians travelling to Spain do not require a visa.
Electricity: 230V/50Hz using European plugs.
Time zone: GMT +2.
Currency: The euro.
Telephone code: +34.