February 27, 2020
Granada is in the southern region of Spain at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and at the confluence of four rivers. It is one hour from the coast and you can surf in the morning and ski in afternoon on the same day. The region has been inhabituated since around 5000 BC.
The Romans were in this area and in control until about 700 AD. Then, the area came under Moorish, or Arab, control. The Alhambra was built during the 1200’s – 1300’s for the Nasrid, rulers of Granada under Muslim control. In 1492, the last Muslim ruler turned over the city to Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, also known as the Royal Catholics.
The Royals brought the Christian faith and the worship of Jesus to an area that had not worshiped Christianity for over 400 years. The Muslims and Jews were allowed to stay in Granada but were strongly encouraged to become Catholics. Many of the Muslim converts were called Moriscos or Catholics of Muslim descent. Eventually, all the mosques except one, were converted to Catholic or Castilian institutions.
The Royal Chapel
The Royal Chapel was built between 1506 – 1521 as the final resting place for the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella. Isabella died before the Chapel was completed and was buried in a small chapel at the Alhambra. Many years later, their grandson had their bodies brought into the Royal Chapel to finally be together. The entrance fee is €5 and you are provided an audio tour. The chapel is small but the artwork, sarcophagus’ and chapel are worth the entrance fee. No photos are allowed inside.
This unbelievable cathedral was built in the 1500’s on the top of a mosque and took 181 years to be built. The cathedral is the second largest in Spain and yet it wasn’t completely built. The building is short two 81 meter towers that never got built.
It’s massive inside with its many chapels, vaulted ceilings and two enormous organs. The principal chapel is round and is enhanced by beautiful sculptures, paintings and stained glass windows. There is a nice little museum with paintings and personal articles of Isabella and Ferdinand and multiple hand painted music score books that look like ornate bibles.
The entry fee is €5 and you purchase your tickets in the Catholic book store and gift shop across the front courtyard from the main entrance of the church. You will get an audio guide when you enter the church. Photos are allowed in the church.
Carmen De los Mártires and Carmen de la Victoria
A Carmen is a house and garden with specific characteristics in the Albaicin quarter of Granada. A Carmen will have a garden with grape vines and a high wall to separate it from the street. The gardens will be multi-leveled with fruit trees, water features and are the perfect combination of colour, shade and fragrance. The Carmenes will also have views of the Alhambra palace.
The houses are generally not grand but blend in with the design of the garden. Water will be moving from one garden space to another. Typically most gardens will have pomegranate and fruit trees, rose, jasmine or stock flowers and some garden type produce such as strawberries, lettuce, spinach or onions.
We visited two Carmens that were free: Carmen De los Mártires and Carmen de la Victoria. On Sundays, you can visit the Casa del Chapiz Carmen for free. All three Carmen’s were beautiful and different.
Born into a family of bankers, José Maria Rodriquez-Acosta lived a life of privilege and economic wealth. This allowed the talented painter to dedicate his life to painting and to the designing and building of his Carmen in Granada. In 1915 he began the building process that took 15 years to complete. As you look around Granada, you will see that this house is uniquely different than any other structure around. It’s modern cubism design now houses a library and a museum of his personal art collection.
The grounds of this Carmen are home to terraces, amazing views of the city, statues and some of the first cypress trees used to create arbors and living walls. There are Renaissance fountains, water features and an ornate ossuary that grace the intricate grounds and pathways. Our guide, William, even led us down under the house where there is a series of tunnels and arches that connect to other carmens, an underground prison and a section of the Alhambra.
The estate also boasts a library that displays The Rodriquez-Acosta personal library, Greco-Roman, Asian, Hindu, Chinese and Tibetan collections. During our visit, the library was not open to visitors. The tickets for a guided tour can be purchased at the Foundation for €5. Be sure to check their website for detailed info on tour dates and times.
Looks can be de deceiving and this monastery was an amazing sight on the inside. The Carthusian Monastery is an amazing example of Baroque architecture that is an unbelievable sight to see. Beginning in 1516, the construction of the monastery continued for three hundred years, but was never completed.
The monks and laymen lived here under a vow of silence. They spent their days praying, meditating, tending their personal gardens and doing craft projects. The monks would only leave the monastery three or four times a year but the laymen would leave weekly. Their diet was very simple, they didn’t eat meat and only ate bread and water on Friday’s. They would eat alone in their rooms each day except Sunday’s and Holy Days. In 1836 the lands were taken from the Monks, the cloister, cells and the Prior’s House were destroyed.
The Monastery is located quite a ways from anything else in Granada, but is worth the effort to visit. We walked but you can take the N7 bus from the Jardines del Triunfo for €2 each way. Tickets can be purchased on the bus. The cost to enter is €5 per person and included in the price is an audible guide.
Plaza Mirador de San Nicolas
Up the hill, up the hill, up the hill, up. Yes, you must climb to get to this most famous viewpoint in Granada. Be sure to head up before the sun sets for a colorful view of Alhambra, Generalife and the Sierra Nevada mountains. The plaza is located in the Albayzin neighborhood and it is charming with cobbled streets, small plazas and lined with many little tapas bars to check out.
If the Plaza Mirador de San Nicolas is too crowded for your liking, then just walk a bit farther and you can watch the sunset in the garden of the only mosque in Granada, The Grand Mosque of Granada. Just pass through the small gate – a small donation is very much appreciated but certainly not demanded. Not unusual to have a few faithful offering tea and cookies.
Alcaiceria – Shopping
The Bazaar is one of the few Moorish traditions that survived the Christian conquest of Ferdinand and Isabella. The Arabs were granted an exclusive right to manufacture and sell silk in 500 AD. Today, the stalls aren’t selling manufactured silk, but sell a variety of Arabic craftwork such as painted ceramics, leather, wooden boxes, jewelry and stained glass lamps. They also offer ethnic clothing of the Arabs and Moroccan spices and herbs.
Seriously, it is truly like stepping into a small version of the souks of Marrakech as you wander through this area. The sights, the smells and the items for sale are almost identical.
Directions: We rode the bus from Málaga to Granada and booked the tickets through the Omio app. The bus trip costs €11.75 per person for a one way ticket. The ticket will give you the bus number and seat assignment, but verify the bus location when you arrive at the Estación de Autobús in Malaga (sometimes the bus parking slots change). The trip takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes.