‘There is nothing in life so cruel as being blind in Granada’. Francisco de Icaza
Although civilizations have flourished on this land since antiquity, the Golden Age of southern Spain came about only after the arrival of the armies of Islam, who had swept out from Mecca in the 7th century across the vast deserts of North Africa and crossed the straits of Gibraltar in the 8th century. This newly-conquered land, at the very edge of Islam, would now be known as al-Andalous (Andalusia).
Medieval Andalucia – a light in the Dark Ages of Europe
The Moors created a stunning civilization that outshone its neighbors in Christendom and in the rest of the Islamic world.
Medieval Andalucia was a light in the Dark Ages of Europe: a land where Muslim, Christian and Jew created an intellectual, advanced and tolerant society. Muslim poets sang of their beloved land as a terrestrial paradise. Jewish poets called al Andalous their second Jerusalem.
No place can serve as greater testament to the glories of Andalucia than the hills of Granada – especially that legendary hill known as the Alhambra. Granada was, for centuries, the last stronghold of the Moors before their final defeat in 1492 to the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella. The fort, palace and gardens of Alhambra, whose beauty were legendary even in their own days, were the heart and soul of the Moors.
The beauty of the Alhambra palace and the Generalife gardens, is not only that the Moors were brilliant architects of bricks and mortar, of precious marble and delicately carved wood, but also of trees and flowers, of cascading fountains and tranquil pools.
You can stay in the shadows of the Alhambra either in the 1908 Alhambra Palace – a gracious, old-world hotel with spectacular views or in the small parador of the 15th century convent of San Francisco.
Granada is one of the pearls of Spain and the most visited by tourists from all over the world. The long-time capital of Moorish Andalucia has to offer the most important reminds of this epoch in Spanish history, with the world-famous ‘Alhambra’ at the top of the list.
Walk through beautiful gardens, charming narrow streets filled with flowers, sit down in one of those typical taverns to have some of that famous ‘Trevelez’ ham and local wine, and breath the centuries of history around you anywhere. There are gypsies singing ‘Flamenco’, and don’t forget to visit the famous ‘Cuevas’ – caves – in the mountain of the monastery of Sacromonte where people still live now creating magnificent artisany.
The city is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, Spain’s highest mountain range with outstanding facilities for winter-sports. The highest peak, ‘Mulhacen’ stands at 3,478 meters. And on the other hand it is not so far from the Mediterranean sea making Granada a great place to visit in any season.
Places of interest in Granada
This cathedral with its five naves is considered to be the most important Renaissance building of Spain. Built in the transitional period of Gothic to Renaissance, especially remarkable is the main chapel, Capilla Mayor, the lateral chapels and of course the façade with its sculptures.
Capilla Real – The Riyal Chapel
The Royal Chapel was built between 1505 and 1521 under Spain’s catholic kings. The northern front was later integrated into the Cathedral.
Also worth a visit is the Kings’ tombs made of marble from Carrara. The museum displays paintings from the collection of Queen Isabel, among them works of Van der Weyden, Botticelli, Bouts and Berruguete, the Queen’s crown and sceptre and sword of King Fernando.
A market building from the 6th century with façade in plateresque style, built close to the Cathedral and Capilla Real.
The old Arabian silk-market, which has lost little of its lively ambience through the centuries. (Though today you are more likely to find gifts and souvenirs there)
This part of the town, located on a hill facing the Alhambra, was the King’s residence during the 11th century. From this time still exist remains of the walls of the Alcazaba, the arcs of Puerta Monaita, Puerta Elvira and Arco de las Pesas, Arabian baths and the Palace of Dar Al-Horra, which belonged to the mother of King Boabdil.
Several churches were built over Arabian mosques, the remains of which still can be seen in the interiors. In Iglesia del Salvador the remains of Granada’s Great Mosque, in the Iglesia (Church) de San Juan de los Reyes of the mosque of the Alcazaba, while Santa Isabela la Real bears the remains of a Moorish palace.
The church of San Juan de los Reyes shows two marvelous minarets, and under the Convent of Santa Catalina you will find the remains of an Arabian house from the 11th century.
Granada’s Archaeological Museum shows highly interesting objects of prehistorical, phoenician and visigothic origins. Also worth a mention is the Church of San Nicolas, from which you have fantastic views over the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada, and also the Royal Chancellery and Real Cancilleria, a renaissance building with baroque elements.
Caves of Sacromonte
For centuries gypsies lived in the mountain caves of Sacromonte lived. Now, many have been coverted into tourist spots, decorated with ceramics and traditional copper-works. They are also the scene for a number of Flamenco performances, something you shouldn’t miss if you visit Granada.
Monastery of Sacromonte
The monastery was built at a place where, in 1594 treasure seekers found the famous lead plates with epigraphs of Saints persecuted by the Roman emperor Nero.
El Corral del Carbon
One of the most important Arabian buildings of its kind – a hotel from the 14th century. In the year 1500 it was changed to serve as a theater.
Palace of the Madraza
In the Arabian epoch this building was a university. Later it was changed totally and the façade today is Baroque. Only the remarkable chapel has been conserved in the original style it was intended.
A baroque monastery built in 1506 with a very beautiful vestry.
A splendid Renaissance temple with an extraordinary altar, built by Diego de Siloe and Florentino, the ‘Indian’.