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Granada (Spain)

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Granada from the Alcazaba, in the Alhambra

Granada [1] is a mid-sized city located in Granada Province in the Andalucia region of Spain. Rich in history and culture, Granada is arguably the single most worthwhile city in Spain for a tourist.

In addition to a rich multicultural history, the Alhambra and other monuments, a student-driven nightlife, and skiing and trekking in the nearby Sierra Nevada, Granada offers a break from the summer heat of other Andalusian cities such as Córdoba or Seville. Spring and Fall are also both excellent times to visit. With much more cultural interest than other cities like Malaga, Granada is never overcrowded (although one should still book tickets to the Alhambra at least one day in advance).

You can get more information about Granada and the Alhambra at [2]

Understand

History

Granada has been continuously inhabited by humans for at least 2500 years, originating as an Ibero-Celtic settlement prior to the establishment of a Greek colony in the area. Under Ancient Roman rule Granada developed as an economic center of Roman Hispania, with the construction of aqueducts, roads, and other infrastructure. With the fall of the Roman Empire the city was ruled by the Visigoths before being reconquered by the Byzantine Empire, all the time being maintained as a strategic military and economic center for the region.

The Moorish conquest of 711 brought Islamic rule to the Iberian Peninsula and Granada was quickly established as a center of Al-Andalus, the Muslim name for the region. New agricultural practices were introduced as the old Roman infrastructure was put to use for irrigation, leading to a major expansion of the city as it grew from the river valley up to the hills currently occupied by the Alhambra and the Albayzín, with a major Jewish settlement, the Realejo, existing within the town. Following the fall of Córdoba in 1236 to the Christian Reconquista, the city became the center of the Emirate of Granada, and for the next 250 years Granada stood as the heart of a powerful and self-sufficient kingdom with the construction of the royal palace and fortress, the Alhambra.

Skirmishes continued between the Emirate of Granada and the Crown of Castile, and in the late 15th century the Christian Reconquista set its sights on Granada. Following a military campaign led by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, which included a siege of the walled town, King Boabdil of Granada was ultimately forced to surrender the town in 1492, bringing an end to Moorish rule in the Iberian peninsula and marking the end of the Reconquista.

The fall of Granada came at a crucial moment for Christian Spain, as it was that same year that Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to the Americas, bringing back reports of the wealth and resources that could be gained there. Flushed with the success of the Reconquista, Spaniards conquered much of the Americas and brought great wealth to the new Spanish Empire. In the case of Granada, the Christians soon forced the existing Jewish and Muslim residents to convert and began making significant changes to the appearance of the city in an attempt to hide its Muslim character, including replacing the city's primary mosque with the massive Cathedral and constructing a large Christian palace in the heart of the Alhambra. Persecution against the Muslims and Jews took its toll, and over time the city began to suffer economically as these populations abandoned their homes in the area.

Granada remained a largely medieval-style city well into the 19th century, going through many economic slumps and seeing much of its architectural heritage destroyed. However, the last half of the 19th century saw Granada incorporated into the national rail network and the first stirrings of tourism thanks to reports of sites like the Alhambra to a global audience. However, the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s sunk Granada's economy, and it persisted largely as a bureaucratic and university town until the late 20th century, when the city underwent a massive period of modernization and development which brought new business and visitors to the city. Today you can still see this modernization in the reconstruction of old buildings in the city center and expansion of the town along the edges of the city.

Climate

Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 12 14 17 19 23 29 34 33 28 21 16 13
Nightly lows (°C) 1 3 4 6 10 14 17 17 14 10 5 3
Precipitation (mm) 44 36 37 40 30 16 3 3 17 40 46 49

Granada has a fairly mild climate; hot summers and short but cold winters with a mild amount of precipitation. The area has a very dry climate, so summers will get hot but not too uncomfortable due to the lack of humidity. From about November to April you will need a jacket and warm clothing, as it does get quite cold. Rain is most common in the fall and early winter months and rain spells lasting several days can occur during this time of the year, but the rest of the year you're likely to see little else but sunshine. Snow is not unheard of in Granada but it is very rare - if you want snow you have to go up into the Sierra Nevada mountains, which remain snow-capped for the whole winter.

Get in

Map of Granada

By plane

Granada has a small airport situated 12 kilometers (half an hour with normal traffic) west of the city which serves a limited number of flights - for budget airlines you're much better off flying into nearby Malaga. Iberia [3] provides daily flights to and from Madrid. There are also budget flights to and from Barcelona by Spanair [4] and from Barcelona, Rome and Paris airports by Vueling [5].

Connection to the city centre can be either by taxi (about €28) or by a bus (€3). The bus takes about 50 minutes to reach its final destination, which is Palacio de Congresos (the local convention center, south of the city center). It leaves roughly on the hour but will generally be hitched up to a plane arrival. It has about 12 stops throughout the city centre including Gran Via de Colon (opposite the cathedral) and Triunfo. You can catch it back from stop 1a on Gran Via de Colon (next to local bus stop Gran Via 1). For a full list of stops and maps see [6].

By bus

Regular buses run from Seville, Málaga, Madrid and Cordoba as well as a few direct services to the port of Algeciras. Malaga is well serviced by buses and is a good place to transfer if a direct service is not available. The modern and organized bus station is located about 2 miles from the city centre. It takes about 15 minutes by bus (local bus routes 3 and 33, outside the Cathedral on Gran Via de Colon) to reach the city center, or reasonably cheap taxis are also available. For buses times and fares, see [7] or [8].

By train

Three trains [9] run each day on the picturesque line to Algeciras via pretty Antequera and Ronda. Granada is also on a stop on a line between Almeria and Seville, with four trains daily. There are also two daily trains to Madrid via Cordoba, one or two daily to Barcelona via Linares-Baeza and Valencia, and one to Linares-Baeza. For Malaga, take the Algeciras train to Bobadilla and change to a Malaga-bound train there.

The train station is well served by local bus service: just walk out the front door and continue straight down the street to the main avenue (Avenida de la Constitucion) and turn right - within a block you'll come across a series of bus stops that will take you to the city center.

Get around

Plaza Isabel La Catolica, Granada's central square

Most places of interest are with walking distance of central Granada. Plaza Isabel La Catolica is just a block west of Plaza Nueva and marks the intersection of Gran Via de Colon (the main drag heading north) and Calle Reyes Catolicos (the main drag heading southwest to Puerta Real, where it splits into Calle Recogidas and Acera Del Darro, heading west and south respectively). The cathedral and royal chapel are just to the northwest of this square. The Alhambra and Albayzin (the Arabic quarter) are on opposite hills on the east side of town with Carrera del Darro and a small river separating them.

On foot

Walking in Granada is definitely the best way to experience the city, but it can also be confusing at times. Streets are frequently short, winding, narrow, and put you in very close proximity to auto traffic, to say nothing of the multitudes of scooters that dart down narrow alleyways and around cars and buses. Larger streets will have sidewalks separating pedestrian traffic from vehicles, while alleyways will have short iron posts along the side to serve this purpose. With a decent map you can find your way around, but many streets are so short they won't be named on a map. Still, if you keep some of the local landmarks in mind (church towers and hills are frequently good ones) you can maintain a general sense of direction which is often all you need to find your way around. Additionally, Granada has several hilly areas (most notably the Albayzin and the entrances to the Alhambra) with many stairways and steep streets, and climbing them can be strenuous - buses can take you to the major tourist sights if the climb is too much. Also, mind your step in the residential areas - Granada has a serious problem with dog excrement, and while the street sweepers do an effective job they won't save you every time (however this is much less of an issue in the heavily touristy areas).

By bus

[[Image:Granada alhambra bus.jpg|thumb|300px|T

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