The capital of the Andalusia region of Spain, Granada can boast a rich history and many well-preserved buildings. Located at the foot of a mountain and also surrounded by three rivers, it’s also easy to realize why both the Moors and the Catholics wanted to claim this city as their own. Like many cities in Spain, though, Granada was successfully taken by the Catholics. Despite the Moors’ loss, many of their original buildings remain in the city. Today, the lively Muslim population and culture has also been revived within the city.
We arrived at Granada by overnight train at around 9:00 AM. The streets of Granada are all windy, stony, and either uphill or downhill. It’s easy to get lost within the streets, but it was fun to just walk around and discover all the different types of buildings and plazas hidden around. Seeing the scenery in the distance makes you feel peaceful, too.
After checking into our hostel, we headed over to The Alhambra, Granada’s most distinguished landmark. However, there was a large line at the ticket window. The announcements notified us that tickets for the Nasdrid Palaces were already sold out for the day. There were, tickets, however, for the afternoon session to see everything else and the gardens. We were willing to skip the palaces. If you want a comprehensive ticket, though, buy ahead online (with an extra fee) or go extremely early in the morning (slightly before opening) to secure tickets. Our hostel person told us that 20% of tickets must be sold at the door, so competition is tough.
We bought tickets at a kiosk – which only takes credit cards – by the gift shop, saving us time waiting in line. However, with time left to spare before our 2:30 PM session time, we had no choice but to take an early lunch. We headed down to Calle calderería vieja because there was supposedly good, traditional Arab food in that area. We walked along the street and a bit in surrounding areas. There are a lot of tourist shops there with restaurants interspersed throughout. We chose a corner restaurant called Baraka. When you walk inside, the place looks small. We were about to leave because it was crowded, but an old woman came out from the kitchen just in time to motion us upstairs.
Both my friend and I ordered the shwarma mixto (€4), a chicken and falafel wrap. Falafel is a type of deep-fried food made of chickpeas. Our wraps were stuffed, and we gladly devoured them. My friend, who regularly gets halal in New York, gave her ecstatic approval. I’d never had falafel before, but I was definitely a fan after that wrap. The sauce was spiced, yet not spicy. As a fan of warm foods, I also liked how the whole wrap was toasted. Baraka also doesn’t skimp on the vegetables, and my friend appreciated that they didn’t put in any onions.
We also ordered a dessert, a crep marroquí con miel (€2). I asked our waiter for the difference between a Moroccan crepe and a French crepe. He began by saying that a Moroccan crepe was thicker. After some thought, though, he decided the best answer was “Más bueno.” Sure, we’ll try it! In addition to being thicker, the crepe was flakier and had some corn flour in it. The honey was drizzeled while the crepe was hot, and it became caramelized.
Because the restaurant we went into was Moroccan, my friend was adamant about trying the tea as well. She ordered a pot of Té andalusí (€2.50). The Analusian tea was fragrant, fruity, and had a beautiful pale-rose color.
After lunch, we took a bus back up to The Alhambra to finally take care of unfinished business. The Alhambra was first constructed by Muhammad I al-Ahmar, the founder of the Nasdrid dynasty. Since then, following rulers continually added to the grounds before it was surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs on January 2, 1492. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We started with Generalife first to get good garden views before the sun set. Generalife is split into upper and lower gardens, both of which are gorgeous. My favorite aspect was the orange trees. The actual oranges are sour beyond belief though, so don’t feel temped to pluck one off to teat.
There is also the Generalife palace, where the Nadrid rulers often went for leisure time. I wouldn’t mind strolling around fountains as a break from work.
The actual architecture of the palace is amazing as well; every archway has intricate, mesmerizing patterns. Trying to fathom how long it took to carve each swirl was mind-blowing.
After the gardens, we continued to the Partal area, which includes the Partal Palace, more gardens, the Palace of Yusuf III, and several towers. Afterwards, we walked to the Alcazaba, the military portion of the Alhambra. From here, you can get a great view of the entire city, including the mountains in the distance.
After solid three or so hours at The Alhambra, it was time to part ways to go see a Semana Santa procession. Semana Santa, or the Holy Week, is the week leading up to Easter, or – as my friend hilariously described it – the week where all the Catholics go insane. Usually, cities will have processions with bands, sculptures, and penitents, men in robes and pointed hats and women in black, with incense and candles. In some cities, procession are held twice a day, once in the morning and once again at night. These processions are certainly an event, and the streets were lined with native and foreign spectators all trying to film or take pictures.
The pointed hats may look like those worn by the KKK, but they are actually capirotes. In the past, flagellants and also those put in public for humiliation would wear the hats. The KKK later adopted them for their own agenda.
After the procession, which lasted a good two hours, ended, we headed back up the hill past our hostel to find dinner. We ended up choosing a place called La Porrona. This was by far the worst restaurant we had tried in Spain. We ordered the gazpacho (€3), the fried eggplant (€6), and the omelette Sacramonte (€8).
The gazpacho was too sour, and we could only eat it if we used the free bread as a buffer. The omelette turned out to be a kitchen sink of left-over vegetables. The overcooked peas inside gave it a strange texture. The fried eggplant was the worst out of all three. They were soggy and didn’t even come out hot. The chef obviously tried to mask his or her inability to cook by giving quantity over quality, so we responded by leaving most of our food untouched. We managed to shove down the omelette, but there really comes a point where you shouldn’t finish a terrible-tasting meal because you feel bad. The waiter was amiable, but I would highly advise not to eat at La Porrona. It was disappointing that we ended our one day in Granada on such an awful meal.
Calle calderería nueva, 1
18010 Granada, Spain