Granada area guide: picture perfect
Granada – the city of the Alhambra Palace and the gateway to the Sierra Nevada. Skiing and a building that almost made it on to the new Seven Wonders of the World list. A city for near misses, then.
The Alhambra Palace sits atop a steep terrace that keeps watch on the city below. In the background sit the breathtaking peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and a rolling horizon stretches out for miles before it. The setting is both dramatic and defensive – it is easy to see why the Moors chose this particular spot in which to build their citadel. Inside, the scope of beauty of the Alhambra will take your breath away. The peaceful and enchanting Generalife Gardens echo to the sound of rippling water and gently swaying branches, a perfectly preserved Arabian garden set under the Spanish sun.
Oh and there’s a lovely Old Town, too - a massed huddle of hilly, twisting and tight cobbled streets that are home to brilliant tapas bars where the actual practice of a free tapa still exists.
To explain: 'tapa' means 'lid' in Spanish, and the custom derives from the practice of placing a piece of bread over one's drink in order to keep flies from it. Over time, the bread was flavoured, tarted up, and soon became an attraction in its own right – every drink came with a tasty tapa. Today, there are very few places that still deliver this free tapa with a drink, but Granada has them in abundance. What it also has in abundance is impressive monuments and historical buildings. Aside from the Alhambra, the old quarter of Granada is also home to the majestic Cathedral, the delightful Santa Ana Church, the Basilica of St. John of God, the Castril Palace which houses the Architectural Museum of Granada, the Charterhouse, the Albayzín, the Gate of Elvira and the Almorabitin Mosque.
You might read somewhere that Granada (or more specifically the Sierra Nevada) can offer you the chance to 'ski in the daytime, sunbathe in the afternoon', which is one of those oft-repeated marketing phrases that soon becomes considered unshakeable fact - kind of like 'Guinness is good for you' or 'Yes We Can' - the message being that Granada's supreme location enables its guests to enjoy the two pursuits that are complete polar opposites. Ostensibly do-able if you don't mind chilly sunbathing or slushy skiing, the months of November and April are your best bets if you fancy trying this.
But why would you? Just because you could doesn't mean you should. The nearest beaches – those found on the Costa Tropical at the foot of the beautiful Alpujarras region – are lovely and worth spending the entire day upon, while the skiing at Sierra Nevada is fantastic considering you are on the Mediterranean, so why think of the beach when on the slopes?