Monday, September 10, 2012

Things to do in Granada

The historic Andalucían city of Granada, in southern Spain is a great place to visit for culture vultures, families and activity enthusiasts alike. Although the activity enthusiasts may get many of their kicks outside of the city!

Granada dates right back to the 8th century, when it was inhabited by the moors. However it was the forward thinking Nasrid Dynasty, in the 1238 – 1492 period which put Granada high up on today’s Tourists Maps and the travel itineraries of many Spain Tours, with their construction of the amazing Alhambra and Generalife. Great foresight guys – the place is a tourist mecca!

So what do we recommend you do in Granada on a short one or two day tour?

Granada Tours

I guess this depends a little on your interests, but for all parties we would recommend that on arrival you jump onto an arranged short or half day Granada Tour. This will quickly show you around the city, and give you the time to see what you like, and note what you want to re visit in more detail.

There are several great options for touring Granada, including bike tours, electric bike tours, Segway tours, open top bus tours and walking tours. We enjoyed a superb Granada Segway Tour with Segway Tours Granada. This is a great balance between Family Fun, Cultural Tour and Extreme! It is also an easier way of getting to see Granada in the mid-summer heat. The Segway allows you to buzz about in silence and access all areas. And they are really easy to master, and above all great fun! Our tour covered the older and narrower more interesting parts of Granada, like Albaicin and Sacromonte, which would have been very difficult to cover on a bus tour.

Granada Culture

For the culture vultures, Granada’s Top Visitor Attraction, the Alhambra and Generalife are a must, and please be sure to book in advance, using the above link, as tickets sell out regularly. I won’t go into any details about these great historic jewels here – they are well covered all over the net!

Just strolling around such an historic place is a joy, walk up by Plaza Santa Ana, beside the River Darro to the Paseo de los Triestes (‘Walkway of the Sad’ – the old route to the cemetery in days gone by), or walk through the Arab Market to the
Cathedral. Just enjoy taking in the age and history of your surroundings.

On the subject of culture, but in a more family friendly format, the new Granada Parque de las Ciencias (Science Park) is a great place to visit for all ages. It’s also pretty huge, so you could easily spend the whole day here. We did just that, with a few hours on the morning, then into town for a few hours at lunch (easy to do by Taxi for about 5 euros each way), and then back again for the afternoon.

The science park is
fun, highly interactive, and home to a host of shows taking place throughout the day.

Attractions include the viewing platform, Planetarium, birds of prey garden, butterfly house, olive press and a host of visiting exhibits. The amazing animated T-Rex exhibition was in situ during our visit. Also being manly indoor the Science Park is a great escape from summer heat and winters cold and rainy days.

Eating in Granada

Granada is a great place to dine out. The traditional Spanish Tapas are easy to find. Relax in one of the many bars with a drink and a tapa. Most bars provide free tapas with each drink, which you can then supplement from the menu. Olives and superb hams are local produce here in Andalucia. For those interested in what’s happening on the 1,000’s of acres of Olive Groves in the area, you can even take an Olive Oil Tour.

We looked at one of the top travel advising sites for their top tips, which sort of worked, and it didn’t for us. What it did do was point us in the right location for some great tapas bars. But we found its success was also its downfall – the top rated restaurants and bars were jam packed, so we took a little pot luck and we were not disappointed.

We had great food and value at La Cueva de 1900, Taberna Las Salinas and one of the travel advisor site’s tips (off peak when we could get in!) Bodegas Castañedas (get the right one – confusingly there are two establishments close to each other with the same name!).

For those wanting to dine somewhere a little more upmarket with great views of the city, the mountains and the distant Alhambra try the Granada Revolving Restaurant or maybe Restaurant Tartessos in the same area, built high up above the Memoria de Andalucía Museum.

Of for close up views of the Alhambra dine the St Nicolas area of Albaicin. Many of the restaurants in this area are built on the hill side, with terraces offering great views over the valley to the Alhambra.

Flamenco in Granada

Granada is famous for Flamenco, and the Sacromonte area is the place to visit to witness this. This area, also called the birthplace of Flamenco, is famous for its cave dwelling, where the local gypsies have practised their own unique ‘less morbid and more upbeat, fun and sensual’ form of Flamenco called Zambra, for many generations. There are many ‘cave bar/restaurants’ where you can go and dine and watch a Flamenco show, or even ‘have a go’ and learn the art. Michelle Obama chose this area to see Flamenco on a visit to the region with her daughter a few years back.

Get active in Granada

For those looking for more thrills, and a little less culture, Granada has plenty options although most of these are based just outside of the city. Try the Aquaola water park just outside the city, or the Fun Park tree top adventure park.

About a 30 minute drive away you have the winter ski resort of Sierra Nevada. A great place to visit in the winter months for skiing, snowboarding and more unusual activities such as riding in the piste bashers. In the summer months the same area is great for hiking, mountain biking, paragliding and rock climbing.
The local rivers, charged with melt-water from the Sierra Nevada area offer great white water rafting fun. Or try an extreme flight, pilots lesson or a more sedate Hot Air Balloon flight over the region.

So there are plenty things to do in Granada?

Oh yes! We have visited numerous times and I still cannot say we have covered 70% of what the city has to offer! Another great excuse to visit again!

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