Granada is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain and arguably all of Europe. Granada is a historic city sitting in southern Spain. The city has a rich Islamic history from the period of the Moors that ruled much of Spain for hundreds of years. Following the Reconquista that saw the Christian Spanish kingdoms take over Spain, Granada was the last of the Moorish states to fall. Today the city is famous for its serene Islamic architecture and its astonishing palace complex.
It also boasts vibrant nightlife and is one of the must-see destinations in all of Spain. The city is said to evoke the essence of Spain. It feels like the crossroad of civilizations - as European culture draws tangibly closer to that of the Islamic North African cultures.
Granada is the capital of the province of Granada - one of the autonomous communities in Spain (called Andalusia). The city is situated on the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains at an elevation of around 2,400 feet or 740 meters. For more information about free things to do in Spain see here.
- Population: 472,000 (Combined area)
The main draw of this stunning medieval city is the ancient Nasrid citadel and palace called Alhambra. It is easily the most renowned building in Spain that stands as a monument to past Islamic rule.
- Fun Fact: Granada Is From The Spanish Word for Pomegranate
The site has been used since Roman times, but the existing complex largely dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. Granada fell under the weight of the Reconquista in 1492, a few changes were made by the new Christain rulers - like replacing the mosque with a church.
During the Napoleonic Wars, the wars between the French and Spanish were particularly nasty and the French attempted to blow up and destroy the whole site. They did some damage to the palace and restoration work continues today.
The flagship of the city heritage and architecture is the Alhambra. It sits atop the hills overlooking the city and proved impenetrable for many years. It attracts around 3 million visitors from all over the world annually. The Alhambra is the largest single attraction and is a fortified palace that was once a walled citadel before becoming the opulent palace of the Nasrid emirs that ruled this region. One of the main buildings here is the Palacios Nazaries. Not only is the architecture here stunning, but so is the terrain. It is not hard to understand why it was the site chosen by the Moorish and Spanish monarchies.
- Tip: Tickets Sell Out for Palacios Nazaries And Generalife Gardens So Book Ahead
Notable Buildings In Granada:
- Convento de San Francisco: Now The Parador de Granada Hotel
- Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Alhambra: The Church That Replaced The Complex's Mosque
- Palacio de Carlos V: The Large Palace Begun in 1527
- Museo de la Alhambra: Museum Inside The Palace Exhibiting Moorish artifacts
- Royal Chapel: This Was One Of the Places Spanish Monarchs Were Buried
- Albayzín: This Is A Neighborhood Famous For Its Moorish Architecture
- The Charterhouse of Granada: This is a Monastery of Cloistered Monks
- Palace of the Marqués de Salar: One Of The Great Renaissance Palaces To Visit
Alhambra was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site way back in 1984. It is easily one of Spain's top touristic destinations (including with the Spanish themselves). It is built on a small plateau, some of the buildings may even predate the Moors and date from Visigothic times. This was the well-defended stronghold that allowed the last Moorish emirate to cling on for so much longer after all the others had fallen. It was a palace, citadel, and fortress through this period.
After the victorious Queen Isabela and King Ferdinand finally, after many failed attempts took the city in 1492, the Moors were expelled from the city. They then established a permanent royal residency here.
- Fun Fact: It Was Here That Christopher Columbus Requested To Command An Expedition For India The Resulted In The Discovery Of The Americas
One of the crowning attractions of Alhambra is the gardens of the Generalife. This was the place of rest and relaxation for the Muslim kings of Granada. It was the place they would flee the hectic tempo of the place and administration of the kingdom to. While it has been reserved, it has undergone numerous modifications since the fall of the Muslim state.
There is so much to see and do in Granada. No trip to Spain could ever be complete without visiting this stunning city! Granada is just one of many attractions that will take one's breath away in Spain.