Like Seville, Granada is located in Andalusia, the southernmost region of Spain. The cities share the same customs and project a similar energy, but I found Granada to be especially bewitching. Maybe that was due in part to the significant gypsy influence in the city. The labyrinth of streets in Granada’s northern section are especially dark, narrow, and often steep, with many leading to surprise scenic overlooks of the surrounding city and of the legendary Alhambra.
I’ll admit that I had never heard of the Alhambra before arriving in Spain, but apparently I was the only one. Tickets to the Alhambra’s walled grounds of beautiful gardens and palaces are booked online for months in advance, with only 100 tickets available each day to the procrastinators who stand in line to buy them. I shared a taxi with three others from my hostel at 6:15 a.m. so we would be in line when the ticket office opened at 8:00 a.m. Sleepy and shivering in the morning cold, I wondered whether the Alhambra would be worth all the fuss. I had enjoyed views of the majestic grounds from a distance, and maybe that was sufficient.
Umm…no. It wasn’t!
While it would have been better to purchase a ticket online and sleep until a more reasonable hour, the Alhambra was well worth the sacrifice of time and sleep. The grounds, buildings and overlooks were beautiful, and everywhere I turned, there was another incredible view to capture.
In addition to my day at the Alhambra, I enjoyed exploring the winding streets, happening upon gypsy markets and flamenco dancers and musicians playing to the gathering crowds.
I also climbed steep streets, walking at a 45-degree angle, to reach the many scenic overlooks as the sun began its daily descent.
One evening, I happened upon a grand celebration in honor of a saint (Saint Catherine?) that occurred on one of the city’s main streets. The gala included an ornate float transported by people hidden beneath its skirts, a large band playing a song that observers sang along with, children in robes swinging pots of incense, and group of well-dressed dignitaries leading the march down the street, posing for photos along the way.
Granada is a place where travelers can truly experience the local culture and atmosphere without spending much money at all. Entrance to the Alhambra was only 14 Euro, and I did not pay for any other attractions.
Granada was truly bewitching, and I recommend that you visit if you have the chance!