Before I arrived in Granada, everything I knew about the city I learned from Pinterest and Lonely Planet.
Needless to say I didn’t have a very thorough overview. So when I arrived in Granada in the early afternoon of March 26th, I had my eyes open wide and my ears open even wider.
Granada is a city that is sure to excite all of your senses. Tapas and Tinto de Vino will swell your taste buds, Spanish Guitar will circle around your head, your nose will be excited by a constant mixture of incense and marijuana, and your feet will ache from traipsing the narrow cobblestone streets of the Albayzin, the old Moorish quarter.
Nothing will prepare you for your first visit to Granada. You’ll read about it, you’ll plan out your activities, but as soon as you arrive and the atmosphere hits you square in your romantic heart, you’ll be knocked off your feet.
I arrived in Granada after 24 hours of flights and layovers from Canada, one night’s hostel stay in Madrid, and a 5 hour bus ride that took me through the most scenic Andalusian views. When I got to the bus stop in the city centre, instead of taking the city bus to a spot close to my hostel, I decided to stretch my legs and walk.
And I was grateful I did, because I quickly learned the drastic differences of the Granadaian neighbourhoods.
Greater Granada is much like other small European cities that I have visited in the past. Pretty streets, newer buildings, and families out having Gelato. But that part of Granada isn’t what encapsulates and enchants so many. To truly be wowed, head to the Albayzin.
The Albayzin is the oldest barrio in Granada, and it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1984. It was built on a hill opposite the infamous Alhambra, and its narrow, maze-like cobblestone streets, interspersed fountains, and many incredible vantage points give the area a highly romantic atmosphere.
In the Albayzin, merchants sell Morroccan-infused tapestries, incense, and souvenirs. There are many places to go to have traditional Spanish Tapas (which you will get for free when you order a drink), and Tinto de Verano (a summery red wine). Also, be sure to stop in at some of the Hookah bars in this area and have traditional Moroccan shisha and tea.
And don’t even get me started on the music.
As soon as you step into the Albayzin, you’ll hear the sweet sounds of Spanish guitar wafting out of the many homes in this area. Head to Mirador de San Nicolas to hear some amazing buskers & see a spectacular view of the Alhambra. While this square is usually pretty crowded with tourists and young couples, it is easily my favorite view of the Alhambra in the city.
Music is a big part of life here in the Albayzin. Right now I am staying at Makuto Hostel, and every day here is a sing-a-long where 1-3 extremely talented guitarists also staying here will play some traditional Spanish music, international hits, or their own compositions to whatever audience is available.
The musicians here busk, but from the conversations I have had, money isn’t an issue. They play for the love of it, even though many of them have spent thousands of dollars on school to perfect their craft.
Of course, from my experience, that’s what every starving artist says until someone actually offers them money.
Your anti-capitalism don’t impress me much.
In fact, among the circles I have gained insight to since stepping foot in Granada, i’ve deduced that money and traditional ambition are not of the greatest importance here like it is in the west. Granada is home to a very laid back attitude, wherein having a good time is the most important factor in a day.
I’m not saying that there are no wealthy people in Granada, nor am I saying that Granadaians are lazy, it is just the attitude here doesn’t include a constant hustle. People take times for themselves and for others.
So it is no wonder that Granada still practices the Spanish tradition of siesta. Every day for a few hours in the afternoon, businesses close to allow people to go home and spend time with their families or to take a nap. A day without a siesta or a Tinto de Verano is not a day spent wisely.
I haven’t been in Granada for more than a week, but I can feel myself being sucked into this slower pace of life.
Granada isn’t just a tourist attraction with the Alhambra as its main attraction, Granada is a lifestyle.