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The Alhambra

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Granada: Gateway to Andalusia

Exploring the History and Charms of Southern Spain

Traveling does not come easily to me; I’m a homebody through and through. And yet, on a Sunday morning this past February, our neighbors and good friends pitched an idea beyond 30030: Spain in April. By that afternoon, our flights were booked. I’ve never done something so spontaneous. In the two months leading up to the trip, our get-togethers centered around practicing our Spanish, familiarizing ourselves with the geography, and as expected, discussing tapas. 

In the foothills of the Nevada Sierra mountains, Granada is nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and snow-capped mountains in the province of Andalusia. Its old-world atmosphere makes Granada the perfect destination to begin Spanish travels before exploring more developed cities like Madrid and Barcelona. 

Granada left me in awe of its green, rolling hills against white stone and terracotta roofs. Surrounded by olive groves, the southern Andalusian culture is rooted in agriculture and slow living: one of notable exploration and discovery. 

I don’t take travel for granted. To my surprise, I actively kept a journal documenting our excursions at the end of a long day. I primarily wrote of my gratitude. During the pandemic, I wondered whether I would ever have adventures like this excursion. More so, I wondered whether I would have the opportunity to nourish friendships locally, let alone, abroad. What a privilege it is to travel, and wander Spanish streets; what a treasure it is to have friends who invite you to tag along for their global adventures.

Where to Stay

Hotel Casa 1800 is like going back in time. Built in the last third of the 16th century, this boutique hotel sits at the base of the Alhambra with intimate views of the monument. Guests are greeted with an Andalusian patio and a bottle of cava upon arrival. The 300-year-old building holds a rustic elegance with intricate wooden ornamentation and light-bouncing chandeliers. It is steps away from the most authentic aspects of the city such as Sacromonte, flamenco performances, and garden terrace dining.

Where to Eat

Café 4 Gatos is a local favorite for breakfast or lunch. Ironically enough, four dogs sat sprinkled leashless on the cobblestone patio during our visit, no cats (gatos) in sight. When in Spain, the Pan con Tomate with Olive Oil is never a wrong decision. The tomato smear is a Catalan staple on most Spanish menus.

For dinner, El Trillo Restaurante Granada overlooks an uplit Alhambra and the village rooftops. This is where that quintessential shot of a patterned tablecloth, a bottle of Spanish red wine, and bread with olive oil might make an appearance on your camera roll. 

What to do

Watch the Sunrise

If you’re struggling with the time change and find yourself waking up at 5:30 am, hop out of bed and hit the cobblestone streets towards Placeta Cristo de las Azucenas. This courtyard-like park has incredible city views in the foreground of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. 

The Alhambra 

This is, undoubtedly, Granada’s most popular attraction. With Moorish architecture and luscious gardens, the hilltop fortress is stunning. I recommend arriving in the early morning to enjoy quieter moments before school tours and larger groups arrive. 

Flamenco

There is no shortage of Flamenco performances in the Andalusia region. Whether you experience Flamenco in a dome-like cave or a larger, stage performance, both provide unique and emotional experiences. We ventured to an intimate Flamenco cave at Cueva Flamenca La Comino opposite the Rio Darro sitting inches away from the performers and feeling the floor move with every tap of their feet.

Olive Oil & Chocolate Tasting

Experience an Olive Oil tasting, followed by a Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Tasting at Al Sur de Granada. This local wine shop is dedicated to improving the quality of life through gastronomy. With an ethical and sustainable approach, Al Sur is passionate about provenience, slow and small production, and hosting a natural selection of wines. In addition to the olive oil and chocolate tastings, they also provide paired wine & dish tastings in their charming storefront.

  • The Sunrise at Placeta Cristo de las Azucenas
  • The Alhambra
  • Hotel Casa 1800 Breakfast
  • El Trillo Restaurante Granada
  • Hotel Casa 1800
  • The Alhambra
  • Café 4 Gatos
  • Olive Oil Tasting at Al Sur de Granada
  • The Alhambra
  • Al Sur de Granada
  • Al Sur de Granada