Have you ever imagined a trip to Morocco, but you were not sure how you would deal with the unrest? A trip to Spain's Granada can be the perfect test. This city looks like the illegitimate son of Spain and Morocco.
Just stroll the mountainous, cobbled streets that wind through the souk shops in the Albaicín (old Moorish quarter) – it's like a rugged and hassle-free Marrakesh, without dust.
However, go to the cathedral and sit in a sunny square with a cold bottle of Alhambra Reserva (local beer), and you couldn't be anywhere but Andalusia.
Spain's Granada seems to be the illegitimate son of Spain and Morocco
Where to stay
Part of a group of sophisticated design hotels, Room Mate Leo is possibly the most fun hotel in Granada – think of giant abstract paintings, elaborate gold, leaf-shaped lamps and geometric wallpaper. Less than 500 meters from the cathedral, it has 33 spacious, modern rooms, a sunny terrace and free pocket wi-fi devices that you can transport around the city. Rooms from £ 52, room-matehotels.com.
Los Navas Palace Hotel
In a quiet street near the old Jewish quarter of Granada, Realejo, is this 16th century palace, now a lovely three-star boutique hotel, with 19 bright rooms, decorated with prints of nature and terracotta floors. B&B doubles from £ 52, hotelpalaciodelosnavas.com.
This 16th century mansion is opposite the river Darro, which flows slowly, which divides the neighborhood of Alhambra and Albaicín. All 12 well-finished rooms have tasteful modernist decor (creams, whites and grays). Ask the Alhambra for one – you won't be disappointed. Rooms from £ 69, shinealbayzin.com.
Once a haven for pilgrims, now a beautiful three-star boutique hotel with 15 rooms set around a courtyard in a beautiful 17th century building. Doubles from £ 55 (room only), hotelgaranat.com.
What to see and do
Sign up for a free hike in Granada (walkingranada.com) to orient yourself before facing the maze-like streets.
There are three tours, but visitors for the first time will benefit most from the Essential Granada tour. On this two-and-a-half-hour tour, you will tour the areas around the cathedral, while passionate guides tell facts, Moorish history and stories that will bring Granada to life.
Wear comfortable shoes and bring water, sunscreen and small notes for a tip.
Alhambra, Spain's most visited tourist attraction, receives over two million visitors a year
The Alhambra, Spain's most visited tourist attraction, receives more than two million visitors a year, but don't let that keep you away. This huge, 13th-century castle, colored pink, set in the Sierra Nevada mountains, sits on a hill surrounded by green-broccoli trees.
Inside, there are ornate Moorish spas, serene Arab gardens and rooms lined with colorful tiles.
Tickets are difficult to obtain; book online (£ 12, tickets.alhambra-patronato.es/en) months in advance. If you are not a planner, check the website at midnight the day before your wish and you might be lucky.
Shop in Albaicín
Like many ancient cities, Granada was strategically built on higher ground to protect itself from attack. Therefore, the city's old Muslim quarter, the Albaicín, follows its path in an uncontrolled way through hills and is well worth a visit.
Here, bursts of sweet incense and fresh herbal tea float through the slender streets, while vendors sell everything from multicolored Turkish lanterns and ceramic bowls to Arabic clothing and leather bags.
Dip into a tetería (tea shop) and indulge in a Moroccan mint tea (about £ 3 per cup) to get the full experience.
The Botanical Garden of the University of Granada does not rival the Alcázar in Seville. However, if you are looking for a quiet and shady spot, this small green space in the city center is just the ticket. Lie down on a bench next to lemon trees, cacti and noble ginkgo biloba and breathe well deserved.
Hammam Al Ándalus
You will want to take a break from your aching legs after climbing the many flights of stairs in Granada. What better way to do it than visiting Hammam Ál Andalus (from £ 30, granada.hammamalandalus.com/en)
This silent and gloomy Arab bathroom is housed in an ornate building from the 13th century, at the foot of the Alhambra Palace. Inside, you will find four bathrooms (one ice cream, one medium and two hot) surrounded by tiny passageways, intricate Moorish ceilings, colorful tiles and peaceful rest areas with silver mint tea decanters. The massages are certainly worth the small extra fee.
Watching a flamenco show in Granada is a rite of passage. For a fun but touristy experience, head to La Zambra de María La Canastera to watch flamenco inside one of Sacromonte's excavated caves (from £ 20, flamencotickets.com/)
If you want a more authentic experience, call +34 958 227 712 and book a seat at Granada's oldest flamenco theater, Peña La Platería (about £ 9, laplateria.org.es), which airs at 10pm every Thursday.
Watching a flamenco show in Granada is a rite of passage (image)
Where to eat
You will need a good breakfast to face the extreme slopes of Granada, so pull up a chair at La Fontana. This tapas / flamenco bar-come-café, blessed with an idyllic sunny terrace, is just steps from the beautiful river Darro and offers views of the Alhambra (almost). The local breakfast option is a simple toast with tomatoes (from £ 1) (barlafontana.com)
Don't expect silver service at this small tapas bar on Calle Navas. It's tall, messy and busy, but you don't come here for a relaxing, relaxing meal. Famous for traditional fried fish, share half a portion of lightly battered shrimp (from 9 pounds) or squid (from 7 pounds) for lunch. If you can't get a table, sit at the bar and place your order (£ 1.70 beers) at frantic bartenders and see which tapas appear. Don't be politely British or you'll be waiting all night (barlosdiamantes.com)
Tucked away amidst the tourist trail of overwhelming tapas restaurants on the wrong side of Calle Navas, there is a cozy, cavernous bar. Bartenders do not welcome you with open arms, but it is a place to enjoy meaningless tapas, such as grilled pork, rice and fried fish, free of charge alongside a cold bottle of Alhambra Reserva (2.60 pounds). Calle Navas, 27, 18009.
A typical Spanish restaurant of medium level, with marble tops, classic and neutral decor and waiters in black ties. Tables outside and plenty of meat rations (large plates for about £ 9). But if you want to make the most of free tapas, pull up a stool at the bar and watch small plates (mini-burgers, local olives etc.) appear with each new glass of wine (£ 2.40) or beer (sterling) ) 2), (labotilleria.es)
EasyJet (easyjet.com) London to Granada from £ 56 return.
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