Granada, my first taste of southern Spain

The last weekend in January called us down to Granada, Spain for a friend’s surprise birthday party. This was my first official trip to the south of Spain, so in addition to the excitement of the party, I was so happy to finally be making my way to Andalucía. “Everyone” says that southern Spain is warm with palm trees, amazing seafood, nice people, beaches, and flamenco dancing. However, the end of January (and additionally a rainy weekend) means that it’s actually not warm (the highs were around 45 F)…but Granada lived up to almost every other expectation.

The first thing we did when we arrived (literally the first thing) was meet our friends at a local bar. And the first thing a guiri notices in southern Spanish bars are the legs of ham hanging from the ceiling (they are in Madrid too, but much more here), along with the plastic cups below them to collect dripping fat. But if you can get past that, the bars have a really amazing atmosphere. We went to three or four bars that night, because yanno, that’s how things go in Spain–you go to multiple bars in one night, and rarely remember the exact number.

The beer of choice in Granada
Sorry for the blur. This was taken at a seafood bar that did NOT disappoint. Check out the top left price though–90 euros for a plate of real eel young. Most Spaniards just go for the fake ones, which sounds weird but is really good.
As soon as I walked into this bar I said, this has got to be the most Spanish bar I’ve seen in my life.
One of the bars where you can try a “calicasas,” a drink with many different wines mixed together

Funny story, in one of the bars of the night, an older lady almost stole my purse. I didn’t even notice that she had literally just grabbed it off of the chair behind us and wore it out like it was hers. Thankfully one of our friends noticed and pointed out to her that it wasn’t her purse. She seemed to be pretty drunk so it was probably an honest mistake…but really? For those of you who don’t know, my purse is the least fashionable or lady-like purse ever; it looks like something a hiker would wear.

The next day, our friends (who are from Granada) showed us some of the cool spots in the city. We climbed uphill for a while to reach a beautiful overlook.

There were many small sidestreets
A coat of arms made of street stones
Many houses in Granada are white to reflect the (usual) southern heat
These houses have a killer view of the Sierra Nevadas and the city
I also learned that here, houses are referred to as “carmens” instead of “casas”
Quick group snapshot on our way around the city. Sorry, Diego doesn’t know how to do a normal smile on command.
I’m a fan of awkward photos
“Give him some money, woman, as there’s nothing in life like being blind in Granada”
One of the most interesting and beautiful things about Granada is the influence of Arabic architecture and culture (as they occupied the area far before Spaniards)
Street markets are common here and cater mostly to tourists. They sell clothing, spices, lamps, woodwork, and souvenirs
Delicious looking food in a bakery
On the top shelf are “piononos”, a typical dessert in Granada

That night was the birthday party, which was full of great food, drinks, and friendly Spaniards. After the party everyone wanted to go out dancing, which I was unsure of but went anyway because I’ve always wanted to stay out till 6 am and eat churros and chocolate when the sun is coming up. It didn’t really work out that way, but it was quite the experience. We didn’t go to sleep until around 7 am so Sunday morning was spent sleeping. Then we headed out to see the city more and stopped at this amazing mirador during sunset.

The Alhambra with the Sierra Nevadas in the background

We continued wandering around into the night…



Tons of spices, herbs, and teas

The next day, we went to the Alhambra, probably the most famous thing to visit in Granada. It’s an Arabic fortress/palace that dates back to the year 889. Then in the late 1400s, after the reconquista, Catholic kings took it over. Despite going through years of turmoil, changes of ownership, neglect, and vandalism, most of the original design and architecture still remains today. It is constantly going through renovations to keep the original design alive.

Just outside the Alhambra


The visit itself requires a ticket and is limited to a certain number of people, but you still find yourself surrounded by other tourists.
First impression: wow, this is really cool!
Further inspection: what! Look at that amazing detail!
Close up: you can’t really fathom the amount  of time and effort put into every single wall.


This archway, for example, has detail in every square inch.


Off the main patios you find many different rooms that each have their own unique design (and I presume purpose, but they ran out of audio guides…)
The beauty is striking
One of the most photographed part of the Alhambra, which unfortunately had a bunch of covers from renovation work
It’s impossible to appreciate every single detail as you’re being shuffled through
This photo does not do the ceiling justice, which had tons of small arched crevices
This particular room had a white and blue color theme


Here, Washington Irving wrote his stories about the Alhambra in 1829
One of the hidden rooms that you have to look for
There were many beautiful gardens
The Alhambra was a lot bigger than I expected. It’s not just one building, but a group of many
We think this was an aqueduct
He went to Granada for silence and time, and Granada gave him harmony and eternity.
Views from the Alhambra
Ruins from what was a residential area

After our visit to the Alhambra, we decided it was time to go visit some bars (what else?). This particular bar was really good. Here’s Diego enjoying the squid stew, which I wish I knew how to make at home. Note: this is a tapa, which comes for free with the drink. Dear USA: up your game!

Then, we headed out to visit the San Jeronimo monastery. There’s something about monasteries that really interests me–maybe because it seems so foreign. I suppose we have them in the US, but I’ve never seen one and I doubt they have the same history.


History case in point: stones with names of people who died in the 1600s! Which brings up another thing: in Spain, they let you touch and/or walk on so much priceless history! I feel like in the US we would have this barricaded off.
View of the monastery from the outdoor patio
Orange trees in the patio area
So maybe it’s my sacrilegious humor but I had to laugh imagining soldiers bringing this Jesus figure into battle (as the sign explains)
The church in the monastery
The ceiling was especially impressive
“Treat your soul well, and I will help you too”
I loved the light coming into the ceiling windows

This is a functioning monastery–there are nuns still living there today. We heard them singing in one of the chapels while we were there and it reminded me of the Sound of Music.

That night, we headed home…another trip in the books! But instead of satisfying my “I need to see southern Spain” idea, it just added to it. Now I have to see Córdoba, Sevilla, Málaga, Ronda, and Cádiz. 🙂

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lisa W says:

    Wow! Looks absolutely amazing, Heidi! I can’t believe the intricate work in that building. I guess if I ever make it to Barcelona, I’ll have to find my way to Granada as well. So glad you are making the most of your time in Spain!


    1. Basically I’ve figured out that there are just endless places to see in Spain. I definitely recommend coming back! Barcelona and Granada are at opposite ends of the country, but even that’s not too far.


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