Moorish Granada rightly conjures up visions of the fairytale Alhambra, the snowcapped Sierra Nevada and passionate gypsy flamenco -- but there's more. Get lost in the winding alleys of the medina-like Albaicín, the old Muslim quarter; nibble free tapas in hole-in-the-wall tascas; and sample some of Spain's hottest nightlife -- no mean feat in a country famous for its fiestas. You too, just like sultans some 800 years ago, will be smitten with this Andalusian city.
Things to Do
Nothing typifies Granada like the Alhambra, the hilltop 13th-century fortress palace of the Nasrid kings, and its cypress tree-studded Generalife gardens. Sense the presence of sultans and courtesans of an earlier era roaming the halls and patios intricately embellished with cedarwood, stucco and geometric mosaics. The whitewashed crooked alleys of Albaicín, the old Muslim quarter, lead to Mirador de San Nicolás, where crowds gather at sunset to see the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada glow.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Even by Spanish standards, Granada's nightlife rocks, thanks to some 60,000 students. Join them on a bar crawl of Calle Elvira and Calle Pedro Antonio de Alarcón for foot-stomping flamenco and impromptu gigs in boho bodegas. Evenings begin over drinks and people-watching on Plaza Nueva and Plaza de Santa Ana. Sip mint tea in Moorish Albaicín, where flamenco fans pile into Peña Flamenca La Platería on Thursday and Saturday nights. Swing to salsa and funk at 1940s theater-turned-club Granada 10.
Restaurants and Dining
Eat Granadino-style with a free tapas crawl (el tapeo) -- if you order a drink -- around Plaza Nueva, Carrera del Darro and Calle Navas. Order appetizers like tangy chorizo and habas con jamón (broad beans with ham). The Albaicín is the place for authentic falafel and kebabs, finished with honey-drenched pastries and shisha. Housed in a 15th-century convent, Parador combines Alhambra views with fresh fare. Locals breakfast on sugary churros (doughnuts) dunked in hot chocolate at Gran Cafe Bib-Rambla.
The Sierra Nevada's rugged peaks attract hikers, mountain bikers and wildlife enthusiasts. Skiers carve Solynieve's sunny slopes in winter, while climbers ascend the highest peak, 11,410-foot Mulhacén, for glimpses of North Africa in summer. Walkers seeking a taste of rural Andalusia head off into the lushly wooded valleys, gorges and chalk-white villages of Las Alpujarras. Back in Granada, you can unwind with a soapy scrub, hammam and massage in the Baños Arabes.