Granada and its Alhambra
Granada is a little town in South of Spain located in Andalucía autonomous region with only 88,02 km². The town is composed of 8 districts (Albaicín, Beiro, Downtown, Chana, Genil, North, Ronda and Zaidín) where, like majority of the towns in the world, some neighborhoods are more dangerous than the others.
The town is well known for the famous Alhambra, one of the most beautiful building in Spain and considered like one of the wonder in the world. Known like red fortress (a little castle with red clay) during the reign of Abdullah ibn Muhammad ( 888-912), Alhambra will know a big change in 1238 when the town has been conquered by Mohamed-Ben-Nazar (known also as Ibn Nasr).
He will transform the little red castle to a palace and after, fortified by his son Mohamed II but it will be completed later between the year 1333 – 1354 with the fulfillment of andalusia art (a mix of spanish and muslim art) during the reign of Yusuf I and Mohamed V.
Alhambra is first at all a muslim masterpiece with islmacic art and it has been declared by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as cultural heritage of the humanity in 1984 and in 1989, the Albaicín neighborhood (the old muslim medieval town) too.
Going there often to pass some weekend or a whole week to relax, I like to walk in the downtown. The Reyes Catolicos street looks like Las Ramblas street at Barcelona but more smaller and without thieves !!! Normally I prefer to go before summer between april and june because the weather is not so hot yet. If you plan to visit the town during july or august, well... buy a lot of water and try to stay in the shade if not buy an umbrella because the day can increase until 40 degrees !!!
Reputed also to be a student town, there are a lot of universities and foreigner students who go there to study or some exchange program like erasmus. At the Plaza Nueva, I like to take my tinto de verano (a drink mixing bad wine with soda lemon) while seating on the terrace of one of the bars. And if I am hungry, there are a lot of restaurants around but normally during day time, I prefer to take the little Elvira street to buy a chicken shawarma (an arabic sandwich).
From the Plaza Nueva, I can choose between to go until the Puente del Rey Chico or Gomérez street. The first one brings me more deeper in the Albaicín district where during the way, I can stop in some hidden places to take a rest and to eat or drink something but the most important point it is that I have a nice view on the Alhambra from below since I'm located at the foot of the palace. The second one brings me up to the Alhambra to visit the fortress. All along the streets, there are souvenir shops and after crossing the Puerta de las Granadas, I enter in a kind of garden and after going up a little more, I find myself in front of the entrance.
One advice, if you want to visit it, try to buy it online, by phone (outside of Spain +34934923750, in the country 902888001) or by servicaixa service (accessible through the spanish bank "La Caixa" when you get cash) so you will avoid the huge line.
You can choose between the general visit, the garden visit or the night visit. The price is 12€ except for the garden (6€) and by internet (1€ fee additional). The visit can be done in the morning (8h30-14h) or in the afternoon (14h-18h) except during the night (summer time 22h-23h30, winter time 20h-21h30). If it is your first time at Granada or you never visited it, it is worth to do it.
I don’t do shopping but the Gran Via de Colon street and around this area are full of shops. The Almineceros little street is full of arabic shops and restaurants where I get used to take a mint tea. Night time is full of places to go, around the Convento de las Carmelias Monastery, there are a lot of places to eat tapas.
One of the thing I like in the South it is this tapas tradition that I can’t find at Barcelona. Normally you order a drink and depending of the bars, you can choose the tapas or the waiter will bring them to you and you pay only the drink, tapas are free !!! Of course, I can find this tradition at Madrid, at Valladolid... in fact majority of spanish towns but not at Barcelona !!!
From Plaza Isabel la Católica until Plaza del Realejo, there are nice bars and clubs to pass the whole night. In fact the downtown is very small and in one day you can visit it or more if you decide to visit Alhambra. I can’t counsel you about hotels because I have local friends and like you can guess, I stay at their place but one advice, try to avoid Albaicín neighborhood during night time. It is dangerous, even people who live there, try to avoid it except if you are in group. One of my friends has been attacked after to get some cash before to join us to a restaurant in this area, hopefully no injuries only lost 400€.
Except the fact that the cost life is cheaper than the other towns, the other thing I like it is the proximity of the Sierra Nevada (a snowing mountain during winter time where people can go to sky) and close to the beach (more and less 1h by taking the bus).
If you want more information about gardens, monuments, museums, traditional celebrations... you can visit the official tourism website of Granada.