Home to the Red Fortress
The Moorish, Muslim Nasrid dynasty of Spain rose to power in 1212, and 23 emirs ruled Granada for over 200 years. Today, the most visible evidence of their reign is the complex, palatial Alhambra built under their rule.
To visit the Alhambra, you'll need to prepare ahead of time as tickets sell out quite far in advance. Several hundred tickets are reserved for sale on any given day, and require arriving an hour or so before your "time." Note that visiting hours are split into three periods: morning, afternoon, and evening. Once you're inside, no matter what time of day, you can stay until closing time. Want to access the Nasrid Palaces? You'll have a strict half hour time window within your visiting period. Ok, now you understand how hard it is to get in, and therefore, must be pretty darn special.
Part fortress (the Alcazaba), part palace, part garden (the Generalife) and part government city (the Medina ), this medieval complex overlooking Granada is a UNESCO Heritage Site and the most visited attraction in Spain. With a repertoire of Moorish arches, columned arcades, fountains and light-reflected water basins found in the courtyards, the Alhambra is paradise in poetry. In the Generalife Gardens, step into the most perfect Arabian garden in all of Andalucia.
The Alhambra towers over Granada, which is crossed by two rivers and sprawls over two hills. This is a stunning – if not easy – landscape. Enjoy a relaxing overview of the city on our Granada City Sightseeing Tour. This double-decker bus lets your feet take a break for 90 minutes. Use as a taxi, or hop on and off as you wish. Stop at the Granada Cathedral, a 16th century church containing the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella.
There are other spectacular areas of town to see, so don't just limit your visit to the Alhambra. El Albayzin is an ancient Arab neighborhood with North African restaurants and shopping stalls filling the winding streets, and houses dating back to the 14th century. This area, along with the gypsy neighborhood of Sacromonte, form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While the word "gypsy" has a negative connotation, you can see what is now referred to as the "Roma" people in the Sacromonte district. This 50,000-strong community thrives in Granada, and their presence has been known here since the 15th century. On Camino del Sacromonte, the Roma are waiting to serve you tapas with a side of zambra – a flamenco variation with an Asian flair. You won't score a deal here, but you will see an authentic, ethnic community.
Granada lies in the heart of Andalucia. With a Eurail Spain Pass, easily access the other Moorish gems in the region: Seville, Cordoba, Jaen. Madrid is a bit over four hours away, and well worth the journey!
A trip to Granada is like going back centuries – when rulers built palaces to showcase the beauty of their religious souls.
Contributed by: Rachel, E-business Editor, who has experienced much more of Europe than she ever imagined, traveling by train.