A few weeks ago I had the delight of visiting the Southern Spanish city of Granada. Known for its bohemian culture, impressive Muslim legacy and flamenco-gypsy arts, this dynamic city was bound to entertain.
I was pretty excited to be in a region where delicious Spanish food meets multicultural colour and stunning Spanish landscapes. By the end of my three day visit, I had been suitably impressed with food, art, music and culture. Here are some of the things I did while in Granada.
Listened to Flamenco
Flamenco is the red lady of the Spanish night. Strong, passionate and uncensored, listening to flamenco music can be a powerful experience at best and an intriguing cultural insight at worst.
For me, listening to flamenco was a highlight of Granada. Carried from its gypsy roots to mainstream Spanish culture, flamenco is particularly common in Southern Spain and the city of Granada, where well-established gypsy communities have nurtured the art.
I was a little unsure about how to go about finding good flamenco without booking a tour or dinner package, so our little group took the ‘lets wander and see’ approach, keeping a keen eye on anything that looked like a student bar or local favourite. During our first night in Granada, as we made our way out of the labyrinth of Albaycin, we passed a little bar with a sign announcing flamenco playing the following night. We returned the next day, but, much to our shock and every one else’s delight, the show had been postponed to the following night due to the eagerly anticipated European Cup game.
Returning again, we bought our €6 concert tickets, collected our ‘free’ tumbler of red wine and settled onto little stools with about 20 other eager audience members, having no doubt that we’d found an authentic flamenco venue.
The three piece ensemble was washed in red light as they hypnotised the audience with uninhibited musical passion. Syncopated strums of Spanish guitar, rhythm box and raw vocal power felt almost too much for the small space to contain. A couple of hours passed, tears were spilt, bodies writhed and the wine had kept coming at the bargain price of €1 per cup, making my flamenco experience one of the best musical shows I’ve ever seen.
The bar, El Tabanco, hosts a lovely selection of music, art and other events in its cosy courtyard space. Find it on your way up the hill in Albaycin by following the main alley, Santa Isabel la Real, past the main sections of shops and bars.
Ate lots of tapas & drank yummy Spanish drinks
If you’ve seen my post Travel.Food.Photo.Spain (Pt.2) you will have an idea of the wonderful tapas found in Granada. Think olives from regional groves, spiced tuna tostadas, and fresh salads of tomato, onion and cucumber.
The best value and most enticing food I found was in Albaycin, along the main vein, which starts as Santa Isabel la Real and continues into Camino Nuevo San Nicolas. In particular, Taberno del Beso served good value, tasty meals and Cafe 4 Gato served wonderful €6 raciones with cold drinks and a view of the Alhambra between the maze of Albaycin buildings.
To take the edge off the sultry Spanish sun, you can order a mojito in a giant cup for €5, or a red wine with lemonade in a tumbler for €1-2, and then sit in the street listening to buskers as the day fades behind the city.
Wandered the alleys of Albaycin
Albaycin is the old quarter of Granada, stretched in winding passages and cobbled alleys across the main hill of the city. This UNESCO World Heritage area is where artisans, crafters, musicians and poets flock to, meaning that within the nooks and crannies of this delightful suburb, there are plenty of surprises to be discovered. The steep, topsy streets can hold your interest for hours and offer some spectacular views if you’re willing to climb for them.
I found that street art dances across the old stone walls and pot plants hang from balconies. Geckos flick across glowing street lanterns and flamenco claps can be heard behind closed doors. There are bars and cafes and churches in unexpected plazas, shops selling carpets and scarves from faraway lands, and water pipes waiting to be smoked.
Visited the Alhambra
I know I’ve already blogged about the Alhambra and what a picturesque retreat it is, but I just couldn’t write about Granada and not mention it again. Check out my photo walk through this grand medieval Muslim palace.
Stay tuned for more about my adventures in Spain, Morocco, Portugal and Italy.