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Granada is awesome, with a very unique personality. It’s gritty, full of life, a bit untamed. I’d give it two nights and a day.

Tourists (lots of them) go to Granada to see the ***Alhambra. I’d highly recommend going there, but don’t make it your primary reason for visiting – the city itself is more interesting. The Alhambra, like the Alcazar in Seville, is a massive palace complex in Moorish style (in the case of the Alhambra, it’s authentic; at the Alcazar it’s someone’s idea of what Moorish style should look like). All you see is the physical structure. I wish that someone would put some time into bringing the place to life, either through the audio guide or through some furnishings or pictures. It’s very hard to visualize what the place looked like when occupied. The gardens are lovely, and have great views of the city. 

This isn’t to say that I didn’t like the Alhambra; I just was a bit bored by it. I definitely preferred the two walks Elese and I took up into ***Sacromonte (the gypsy neighborhood with cave houses) and the ***Albayzin (an ancient Moorish neighborhood with winding streets and a phenomenal view of the Alhambra). We watched the sunset from the San Nicolas viewpoint, a view made famous by President Clinton’s visit while he was in office. Sacromonte was fascinating – it didn´t exactly feel unsafe, just unpredictable. I didn’t see many gypsies living there (Granada apparently has a population of 50,000 gypsies, the largest in Spain) – the area has been taken over by “drop-outs,” for lack of a better term. Granada teemed with these people – a youngish, international crowd of unwashed, dreadlocked, haven’t-called-home-in-several-years crew. I definitely got the feeling that the city is a place you can disappear in. 

Another reason to love Granada: free food. Bars serve a dish (we had fried fish, paella, and numerous small sandwiches) with every drink you order. It’s awesome – the beers cost about $1.50 (or did in the mid 2000s), and you can nibble all night. 

Other sites

  • **Capilla Real de Granada (the Royal Chapel): Very impressive. Holds the tombs of Queen Isabel, King Ferdinand, Princess Juana, and Prince Phillip. I particularly liked the small attached museum with art collected by Isabel – several wonderful works by Hans Memling.
  • The Cathedral: disappointing. It’s huge, very white inside, and heavily decorated. The entire center area was covered in scaffolding, so it was hard to get a sense of the place – it felt like walking around a very long, circular hallway.

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