Welcome to Granada

*Spanish guitar music plays*

Having soaked up the Montpellier sun last week, this time we’re heading even further south, to the splendid city of Granada in Spain. Surely among the most pretty and appealing cities in Spain, this place is filled with all sorts of marvellous sights that rival many of Europe’s biggest metropolises. Because while it may only have 230,000 inhabitants, the various civilisations that have called this city home have let behind a gloriously rich and diverse heritage. So put away those outfits you packed for your weekends in Yerevan and Bergen. Instead, you’ll want to slip on something lighter, along with a pair of sunglasses (because it’s never really cold in Granada).

You may already be familiar with Granada’s most famous monument, the Alhambra. Sure, you’ll need to book ahead of time, but it’ll certainly be worth it (as will trips to the cathedral and Cartuja monastery). But we’re here to suggest some more off-piste attractions. So first up, head to the magnificent streets of the Albaycín neighbourhood, and enter El Bañuelo. These masterfully preserved Arab baths date back to the eleventh century. There are three impressive rooms worth visiting: a cold one (the dressing room), a warm one (for massages) and a hot one (for the baths). Unmissable.

Now walk over to Realejo, the city’s historic Jewish quarter. These days, it’s home to all sorts of cutting-edge street artists, like Raul Ruiz. Better known under the alias ‘El Niño de las Pinturas’, literally ‘the child of paintings’, he’s covered loads of walls in this area with his subtle, poetic and moving frescoes. Proof, if any was needed, that the most exciting contemporary art is to be found out on the streets.

Come lunchtime, you’ll want to try some tapas, and we’d recommend Bodegas Castañeda. Founded in 1927, this institution is popular among locals, who flock here to grab something to eat and drink at the bustling bar. There’s no waiting around, as the staff are super attentive, so do as the Granadans do and order whichever tapas take your fancy, plus a glass of wine or vermouth. Definitely make sure to taste your way through the various hams – spiced, smoked, woody or otherwise – which are served on small slices of grilled bread and sprinkled with olive oil (the house speciality).

As you’ll have understood by now, Granada is a place that has just as much going on outside as in, with each neighbourhood having its own identity. That’s why we’re heading to Sacromonte, on Valparaiso hill. Here you’ll find a large community of Gypsies that was established in the fifteenth century. It’s essentially made up of various cave-like buildings and houses that you can wander through thanks to a one-of-a-kind museum. What’s more, the inhabitants of Sacromonte have also contributed greatly to flamenco culture. Since you’re in town, why not check out a show or even take part in a class?

Now leave the city and head to the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range that’s relatively nearby. With several peaks that surpass 3,400 metres, in winter there are dozens of kilometres of slopes that are worth the trip whether you’re skiing solo, as a couple or with family. In summer, the Sierra Nevada transforms into an incredible place to go walking. Hikers can take in bridges, grottoes and waterfalls, plus a whole load of stunning wildlife. In short, whatever time of year you visit, it’s always a good idea to visit the Sierra Nevada.

As for dinner, go to Faralá. Right in the centre of town, this restaurant has been recognised by the Michelin Guide for its refined spin on traditional Andalusian dishes. In a setting that’s equal parts elegant and laidback, diners can try all sorts of exquisite things that provide a (delicious) insight into local cuisine. Forged by centuries of immigrants coming and going, Granadan food is the cultural hodgepodge you might expect (and is best enjoyed with a side of live flamenco). You won’t forget this meal in a hurry.

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