Sun-baked and history-steeped, Granada allows you to travel from the romance of a mediaeval sultanate via the teashops and bazaars of Morocco, through centuries of Catholic Andalucia, and finally to the tapas bars and bustling streets of a modern Spanish city – all in one day.
500 years ago, when the Moors were driven out of Granada, Boabdil, the last sultan, is said to have wept as he turned his back on his beautiful palaces. Looking at the city today, it’s easy to understand his grief. Chief of Granada’s attractions is Alhambra, the vast complex of forts and palaces that sits sentinel above the city, commanding spectacular views and drawing hordes of tourists year round. From its famous turrets, you can gaze over the city to Albayzín, a winding maze of hilly streets that was once the Moorish citadel and is now a good place to stop for a mint tea and a hookah pipe in of the many teterias (tea shops). Further uphill you come to Sacromonte, the gypsy barrio that gave the world flamenco, where many of the homes are actually caves built into the hillside. Down in the city-centre, Granada’s Spanish past takes centre-stage at the Capilla Real, the chapel that houses the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabel, the royal couple who not only ousted the lamenting Boabdil, but also sent Columbus on his first world-changing voyage of discovery.
Spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit as the climate and crowds are less intense. During July and August temperatures can reach 40˚C and it has been known to snow in the city during the winter.