Granada is an extremely special place, teeming with life and with beauty all around. It has a long and interesting history, which culminates today in a feast for all the senses. There are a great many things to do around the city, museums to visit and experiences to be had. However, it is a small city, and many people tend to believe the majority of attractions revolve around the Alhambra. Whilst the Alhambra is incredible and deserves all the attention it gets, there is so much more to enjoy in this city. There is a fairly large expat community that simply adore Granada and the renewed charms it continues to offer. For those of us looking for some things a little different, this article will highlight some ideas.
Located in close proximity to the Granada Cathedral and Royal Chapel, La Madraza was once the University of the Moorish Era. It was founded by Sultan Yusuf I in 1349, in close relationship with the Mosque that became the Cathedral. Today it is under the stewardship of the University of Granada and can be explored. Although it is only a small place, the well-preserved beauty of the interior of the prayer room is a challenge to the Alhambra itself. Guided tours are also available for more context on the different rooms. Also, the University of Granada currently has a contemporary art exhibition of the same name.
Originally a Nasrid grain storehouse which was known as an Alhondiga, it dates back to the 14th century. Later on, it double functioned as a warehouse and inn for merchants and traders. It has an optimal location, being just over the bridge from the Cathedral and the Alcaiceria neighborhood. It takes its name The Coal House from the many coal traders that stayed there and it’s later role as a coal storage bunker. A theatre was also built inside, which occasionally stages performances to this day. Nowadays, there are a number of exhibits inside about the history of the city. It is a window into the everyday life of the city that you wouldn’t experience from places like the Alhambra.
This is an 11th-century public bath complex, dating back to the Moorish occupation. It is also known as an Arabic hammam. Coming here will provide an insight into how important bathing and massage rituals were to the Moorish Andalusian culture. There is a cold room, a warm room, and a hot room, a tradition maintained from the Roman occupation of the region. It is a rare example of surviving Arab baths, due to the zeal of Catholic reconquistas in attempting to destroy any aspect of Muslim culture in Andalucia. It was restored in the 20th century and now provides a good opportunity to see this important part of history every day.
Everyone who comes to Granada becomes quickly aware of where the postcard views of the Alhambra are taken from. As a consequence, the square outside of San Nicolas church is a very touristy spot, with many people milling around and people trying to sell selfie sticks. A far nicer alternative is the view from the Ermita de San Miguel Alto. Be warned, it is a higher vantage point, which requires around an extra 10 minutes of hiking. But the tranquility, peace and the views are well worth it. See the entire city in the panorama below your feet, and even see the Alhambra as a golden sandcastle in the indomitable landscape.
There is an attraction of the bohemian crowd to places like Morocco and the Near East. These influences can be felt strongly in the relics of Granada’s Moorish past. Particularly in the Albaicin neighborhood. As such, it is a settling place for many of Europe’s hippies and bohemian types. Throughout the neighborhood, you can meet many people, sporting dreadlocks, bare feet and playing music throughout the day. Known locally as perroflautas, these free-spirited types are often seen with pet dogs and playing flutes. There are also regular events put on, from folk dances to things more esoteric. If nothing else, it is a great opportunity to enjoy the music and revel in the freedom of the place.
This beautiful mountain range surrounds the city and brings a certain atmosphere to the place. But they don’t only look great from the city itself. If you are feeling adventurous, it is a fantastic place to go hiking. There is lots of pristine air and great nature all around, with creeks and waterfalls, rock faces, trees, and wildlife. Take a bus (181, 182 or 183) to the outside town of Monachil, which is beautiful in its own right. From there, you can take one of the hiking trails along the river and cross the rickety bridges above, the Sendero de Los Cahorros. You might want to check in for a local fiesta if you are visiting at the right time!