The Land of a Thousand Castles

TRAIN:
Sevilla Santa Justa to Granada
Travel Time: 3h 25min
Total: €90,45
Total per person: €30,15

We took an early morning train from Sevilla to Granada, where we would spend the next two days. Granada was the last stronghold of the moors that had invaded and conquered the city. Famous for Alhambra, it is a city filled with Islamic architecture, monumental churches, teahouses, street graffiti, and old-school tapas bars. There is a lot to experience in Granada and while most are enticed mainly by Alhambra, I would high recommend exploring the city like we did because it’s a great way to experience and taste the eclectic culture that is Granada.

TRANSPORTATION:
Single Ticket: €1,40 (1 free transfer within 60 minutes)
Credibus Card: €5, €10, or €20 (refundable fee of €2)

granada1
WELCOME TO GRANADA!

AIRBNB:
1 Night in Granada
Address:
Plaza de Fortuny 1
Granada, Andalucía Spain 18009
Total: $75 (for 3 people)
Total per person: $25

Our Airbnb host allowed us to actually check in early. He had never used Airbnb before so we were to be his first-ever guests. The flat is not far from the train station and we just needed to take a local bus. You can purchase tickets from the vending machines (cash or credit card) at the LAC stops. If you plan on taking the local bus often, it is much cheaper to purchase a Credibus Card. A €5 Credibus Card will allow you to swipe each journey at €0,87 instead of €1,40. If you plan on traveling as a group and take the local bus, high top-ups lower the cost of each journey (€20 card means €0,83 per ride). Once we got to our Airbnb, our host met us in front of the apartment and helped us get settled in.

DID YOU KNOW?
Tapas are free in Granada when you order a drink!

cathedral
CAPILLA REAL DE GRANADA

Our first stop in Granada was the Royal Cathedral and Royal Chapel (Capilla Real). The chapel is connected to the cathedral and is where the infamous Catholic monarchs Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand are buried. Both require separate entrance fees and tickets can be purchased at the ticket booth – no purchase in advance required. Also, photography is not allowed inside the chapel.

TIP #1:
Chapel Entrance Fee: €5
Cathedral Entrance Fee: €5
Important: No photography allowed inside the chapel

We explored the chapel first since that was where we purchased our tickets. Seeing the tombs of the monarchs, it is very evident just how much they are revered in Granada. The history I learned in the States in comparison to what I learned about the monarchs while in Granada was so different and just as equally fascinating. I already knew about the Spanish Inquisition (the exile or forced conversion of the Muslim and Jewish subjects) and the fact that they financed Columbus’ journey to what they called the ‘New World’. But I’ve come to realize that what they have come to represent and what they are revered for is something else entirely. They were the monarchs that drove the Islamic rulers out and reunited Spain as a whole. And yes, they were responsible for the Spanish Inquisition and it is a mark on their accomplishments, but the unification of the kingdoms under one rule is what awarded them the titles of Catholic Monarchs by the Pope. Queen Isabella also unburdened the enormous debt left behind by her brother and together with Ferdinand, really established Spain as the first global power that dominated Europe for more than a century. (I am still uncomfortable about how Columbus is revered but that’s a different story).

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After the chapel, we headed over to the cathedral. And wow, the interior is absolutely stunning! I just loved the domed ceiling inside! Spain is generally known of its Gothic architecture but while this particular one initially started out with Gothic designs, because construction did not begin until the Spanish Renaissance was in full swing, the end result became more of a Renaissance-Baroquian cathedral. I honestly do recommend checking it out because despite having visited several cathedrals in Spain at this point, this one still managed to take my breath away.

AND YET ANOTHER FUN FACT:
La Madraza, formerly a prayer room, is right by the Cathedral and a well-preserved example of Nasrid architecture. The only Nasrid building that remains in the area, entrance is 2.

streets-of-granda
STREETS OF GRANADA
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PLAZA NUEVA

Once we left the cathedral, we decided to walk around and explore Granada. We passed by Plaza Nueva, the main square with historic buildings to Carrera del Darro, one of the most scenic walks in city. It’s by the river and you can even see the top of Alhambra! There are a few vista points along the walk where you can take some photos like Paseo de los Tristes and Bridge Aljibillo. We also walked by the hammam we made an appointment at for the following day!

On our walk up Carrera del Darro, I asked my friends if we could go up to Mirador de San Miguel. I had read somewhere that it was the highest point in Granada and offers a fantastic view of the entire city. It was supposed to be a half-hour walk up the hills but there are so many small, winding streets in Granada that it took us a little over an hour to get to the top because I was spending half of it trying to figure out if we were going the right direction! We also stopped by a small public garden along the way that had a great view of Alhambra so we took a few photos before resuming our way. 

Despite the directional setbacks, we finally made it to the stairs that would take us up to the top of the city. The stairs were quite entertaining – there were some puns carved into it, some sassy remarks, political commentary, and doodles. It’s actually a great spot for photography but we were all sweating and wanting to get to the top at this point so I just took a quick photo of the stairs.

Once we reached Mirador de San Miguel, I understood why it was such a secret from tourists. The view was incredible! A few locals were just hanging out and drinking cervezas in the shade and it was just very peaceful there. You can see Alhambra from the top as well. Not many tourists are willing to make the trek all the way up so it ended up being very relaxing just soaking up the view and enjoying the quiet. I do highly recommend it as it was rewarding – but maybe pack a bag with snacks and some wine since it is an uphill walk the entire time!

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We still had some time before our reserved dinner-and-flamenco-show so we actually went back to that garden we had stopped by on our way up for some drinks and free tapas. This actually ended up being the best decision ever because I was introduced to a spritzer called tinto de verano, which is red wine and sparkling lemonade. It was like a delicious sangria but with a slight carbonation. It was so refreshing and I was honestly so obsessed with it for the rest of our trip in Spain! Also, speaking of free tapas with the purchase of every drink – they don’t skimp out on the free tapas in Granada. They’re usually simple sandwiches but they’re still size-able despite being free. You can honestly just not have to bother going out to buy dinner when you can get substantial sandwiches for free with every drink!

After our mini-stop of a drink and tapas to get out of the increasingly-hot sun, we decided to check out Mirador de San Nicolas regardless. It’s definitely very touristy and packed with people by the afternoon so for those wanting to get picture-perfect shots, I advise going as early in the morning as possible to avoid the crowds!

There was actually a very chill bar and restaurant right under Mirador de San Nicolas and the view there was just as incredible! I would actually recommend the restaurant instead so at least you can drink to the lovely scenery! The name of the restaurant is Restaurante El Balcón de San Nicolás. We got drinks and a small snack since we still had time to kill before our real dinner. It beats being stuck in the sun and surrounded by people, that’s for sure!

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So one thing you cannot leave Spain without seeing is a flamenco show. Flamenco is a passionate, seductive, three-part art form of guitar, song, and dance local to Andalucía. I had made us reservations at a restaurant called Jardines de Zoraya because they provided a flamenco show with a three-course menu. If you arrived early enough (around 18:30), you are able to enjoy dinner out in the garden. The flamenco show begins at 20:00 and wow it is so captivating! They had both a male and female flamenco dancers and their footwork, their snapping, it was amazing. I also just loved the guitarist – his playing was just as beautiful as the woman’s dancing.

FLAMENCO DINNER + SHOW:
Price: €49
The menu can be found here

Afterwards, we headed back to our Airbnb so we could wake up early the following morning to finally visit the pièce de résistance: Alhambra.

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