Looking for a weekend getaway? Something with culture, great food and a unique vibe?
Granada has it all. Last stronghold of the Moorish kings, it’s infused with history and culture. But it’s not all monuments and dusty churches. There are elegant modern buildings. Interactive science museums. Arab-style baths. There’s even a hippy side too. You’ll be hard pushed to do it all in a weekend!
Top things to see and do:
Obviously. A visit to Granada is not complete without a visit to this World Heritage Site. A stunning Moorish palace, the Nasrid dynasty’s last gasp before fleeing the advance of the Christian Reconquista. It’s a sprawling complex of rooms with domed marquetry ceilings and intricate glazed tilework. Tranquil pools and gardens. Fountains and streams built into the architecture. An oasis of beauty and calm. Book tickets in advance to avoid queuing as visitors are limited to 6000 a day. You can book on-line and pick up at the Alhambra box office or from Caixa cashpoints. Wear comfortable footwear and don’t forget sun protection if you’re visiting in the spring and summer.
The Science Park
A great option for a rainy day. Or just because it’s a fascinating place. If you’re travelling with kids, even better. All the exhibits are interactive and there’s loads to do. Biodome. Butterfly House. Find out about birds of prey with a daily display of falconry. There’s even a planetarium.
Wander the Albayzín
The city’s historic quarter and now home to a growing Muslim population. It’s all narrow, winding streets. Cobblestones and nooks and crannies. You’ll find Arab-style tea houses with hookah pipes and typical Arab desserts. Baklava, gazelle horns, almond pastries. For a modern twist, try Té Ábaco on Calle Alamo del Marqués with its vegan range of cakes and milkshakes as well as the usual range of teas. Stay in a restored Carmen. These are traditional houses in the Albayzín with a courtyard or garden and a high wall separating it from the street. We spent 3 nights in a restored Carmen in Calle San Jose and can highly recommend it.
Search for free tapas
Lots of bars now will give you a free tapa with a drink. Try Los Manueles on Reyes Católicos, just round the corner from the Cathedral. Traditional Andaluz food with a 21st century twist. Tapas you might come across vary from rice dishes to bagels with Iberian ham to spicy chicken skewers. Have fun finding out.
Next to the Darro river, with the Alhambra towering above, the Hammam al andalus is Granada’s Arab baths. Like stepping back in time. A great place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Book in advance either by phone or on-line and get 10% by showing your Alhambra ticket. There are various packages to choose from. Luxuriate in the different pools or add a massage as well.
The nearest international airport is Malaga. Buses from Malaga to Granada run every one to two hours and take between an hour and a half and two hours. There is no direct rail connection between Malaga and Granada. Take the high-speed AVE to Antequera, (25 minutes travel time) and change there for a Granada train (around an hour and a half).
Image: Karan Jain
Where is it?
Almuńécar is in the province of Granada in southern Spain, a short hop from Malaga airport. We drove down from Seville and it took us around 3 hours. The city of Granada is around an hour away, but we'd been there before. (See my previous post).
Where to stay?
We went all out for a half board experience this time and stayed in the Hotel Suites Albayzin del Mar. Set in a residential area just 10 minutes walk from the beach, this is an amazingly kitsch place with mirrors everywhere. It feels a bit like a 70s disco when you first walk in, but has a stunning pool area and gardens and spacious apartments. We had a three bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and it felt very big. Our apartment was on the street side but not nosiy. We sat out on the large balcony in the evenings and watched the world go by.
What is there to do?
Well, this is priamrily a beach location. The beach is stony, but the Mediterranean was flat as a pancake the day we went and much warmer than the Atlantic Huelva coast, where we've holidayed until now. For a future visit I'd invest in some waterproof slippers from Decathlon to make getting in and out of the water less painful! But other than that, I loved it.
It's not called the Costa tropical for nothing and there were the usual palm trees, but also mango trees. It all felt much greener in general than the coasts of Cádiz and Huelva. And warm but not as over poweringly hot as Seville.
We visited the parrot park, a minute's walk from the beach and also the aquarium. I'd actually recommend the parrots, a fraction of the cost and it also included lemurs and meerkats.
What to eat?
Wander round the centre of old Almuńécar and experiement. Most bars give you a free tapa with each drink. We also stumbled on a great pizzeria called Little Italy that I'd highly recommend. Shame I can't remember how to find my way back through the maze of narrow central streets!
All in all a great holiday!