The hill of La Sabika, overlooking the Darro valley, was the site cosen for the construction of this colosal palatical city which was used by the Nasrid Sultans as their residence. Built between the 13th and 15th centuries, the monumental complex, which is enclosed by solid walls, is an expression of all the artistic styles which flourished in the late Musilm period in Spain. The monument includes four different parts: the Arab Palaces - such as the of Comares, which contains the Courtyard of Los Arrayanes and the Hall of Ambasadors - Los Leones, which includes the famous courtyard of the same name and Halls such as Las Dos Hermanas and Los Reyes, beautifully decorated with intricate plasterwork and "mocarabes" (geometrical patterns with the Arabs decorated domes and ceilings); the military zone or Alcazaba; the city or Medina; and the Generalife Gardens. Loyal to their traditions with paradise - like gardens in which fountains and water are a central feature, whilst remains of the Arab Baths still survive.
The Alhambra captivated Christian Emperor Carlos V, who ordered the construction of his renaissance palace inside the complex. The palace today houses the Alhambra and Fine Arts museums. For its extraordinary artistic and historic importance, both the Alhambra and the Generalife Gardens have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. (It is recommended to book visits in advance).
Walking through the streets of Granada, pausing in its squares, admiring its cave dwellings and taking in the charm of picturesque quarters like the Albaycin (B-4) or El Sacromonte (A-5), is perhaps the best way to explore this monumental city. Alternatively, one can opt for a comprehensive tour on a sightseeing bus. The tourist discount card offers a cheaper and easier choice for visiting the city's most emblematic monuments and sites.
Declared World Heritage Site, with its narrow lanes and typical "carmenes", the Albaycin is the quarter that best reflects the true essence of Granada and its "andalusi" (Moorish) legacy. Immediately after entering the quarter via the Elvira Gate (27), we come to two adjacent buildings - the Dar al-Horra Palace (26), the last residence of King Boabdil's mother, and the Monastery of Santa Isabel la Real (25), which Catholic Queen.
The line of walls (22) of the old Alcazaba Qadima, which extends to Plaza Larga and retains gates such as the Arco de las Pesas, leads to labyrinthine tangle of streets in which it is a pleasure to lose oneself. Here we find Church of El Salvador (23), which still retains an orginal courtyard of ablutions from the Muslim period, and the miradores of San Nicolas and San Cristobal.
The Cuesta del Chapiz incline, at the end of which stands a hause bearing the same name (18) which houses the Collage of Arab Studies, leads to the heart of the Sacromonte, a quarter wich cave dwellings, the essence of art and magical charm, origin of the tyoical zambra, the most authentic and primitive from of flamenco.
On a hill know as Valparaiso in the past stands the Abbey (19), which houses valuable artistic pieces and is centre for pilgrims who come to see the remains of martyred saints such as San Cecilio, the patron saint of the Granada, which were found in its underground passages. Descending the Carrera del Darro we come to monuments such as the Casa de Castril (16), the Arab Baths of El Bañuelo (14), the Convent of Santa Catalina de Zafra (14b) and the Church of San Pero y San Pablo (15). The sight of numerous terraces crowded with people sampling the typical local dishes tells us that we are arriving at Paseo de los Tristes. Nearby, are the Mudejar Church of Santa Ana (13) and the Plaza Nueva square, where the Royal Chancellery stands (11).
The appearance of the old Jewish district inside the Muslim city, the Realejo, which has gradually expanded from the hilltops down to the floodplain, has changed dramatically over the years. Only the highest part of the quarter retains its original labyrinthine layout and it is precisely there that visitors are advised to start their tour - not only because it has very steep slopes but also because most of the restaurants are in the lower part. Here we find the old Carmelite Carmen de los Martires convent (5), whose gardens have been declared a National monument, the Manuel de Falla Auditorium and museum (6), the Rodriguez Acosta Foundation (8) and the Gomez Moreno Institute (8). >From the Bermejas Towers (9) the route goes down the hill to arrive at Antequeruela quarter. The old washing place in the small square of Puerta del Sol (Gate) stands near to what is considered to be the centre of the Realejo, the Campo del Principe, a huge square with numerous restaurants and typical taverns with their friendly atmosphere where visitors can take a break for refreshments before continuing the tour. In our itinerary we find beautiful temples such as the churches of Santo Domingo (44), and on the other side of the River Genil, the Alcazar Genil (50) or the Science Parrk (51).
If there is an area of the city where the presence of Christian legacy is most evident, it is the Centre, which also has its fair share of bars and restaurants. On one end of the Plaza de Bib-Rambla square stands the Cathedral (37), with a renaissance dome by Diego de Siloe. Next to the Cathedral is the Royal Chapel (38) where the Catholic Monarchs, their daughter Juana and her husband are buried. Calle San Jeronimo takes us to Plaza de la Universidad square, the Church of Los Santos Justo y Pastor (32), and the complex formed by the San Juan de Dios Hospital and Basilica (30). This lies near the Quarter of la Duquesa, which is named after the Gran capitan's wife, who ordered the construction of the Monastery of San Jeronimo (31) so as to bury the remains of the Jardines del Triunfo, a landscaped square behind which is the Royal Hospital (28) declared a Historic Monument, built over the old Alcazaba of Qadima, which stands next to the Gate of Elvira (27). From here, we can continue on our way to the Cartuja (29), a colossal Carthusian monastery which has been declared a Site of Cultural Interest and is one of the finest examples of the Spanish baroque style.
Near the Cathedral, the artistic facades and coast of arms are replaced in the bustling Alcaiceria (36), a faithful recreation of the old Nasrid silk market. From here, our stroll becomes more peaceful once again as we arrive on the banks of the River Darro. Nearby stand the Palace of La Madraza (39), the Corral del Carbon, an old coal yard, (41) - in the old Quarter of San Matias - and the Palace of Abrantes. Moving on, we come to the Puerta Real or Royal Gate, where the best shops in the city are located, and Plaza Nueva, a square which has a number of typical taverns.
The magic of Granada has always captivated exceptional figures and the city continues to pay them tribute. The Manuel de Falla Cultural Centre and House, the Federico Garcia Lorca House Museum, in Huerta de San Vincente, and the Mariana Pineda European Women's Centre are examples of this. Manuel de Falla, who wanted to be a writer, ended up being a piano virtuoso whilst Federico Garcia Lorca, who dreamt of being a great musician, became one of the best known Spanish poets in the World.
The author of Blood Wedding, who was born in Fuente Vaqueros, had been fascinated by the charm of the Nasrid capital since his childhood. Manuel de Falla, who was Cadiz, only came to discover the city when he was already middle aged and was already very successful. It was a friendship that marked them both and the execution of Lorca by firing squad in the gully of Viznar was a terrible blow to Falla, who left for Argentina, where he died. Granada has also brought to fame Mariana Pineda - the heroine who died for freedom. Daughter of an aristocrat, when the Constitution was abolished during the times of Fernando VII, she fought actively to bring down the absolutist and repressive regimen under which she had to live.
Every year, numerous pilgrims arrive in the city to pay their respects to the remains of the saints housed in the various placed of worship. Of special importance is the figure of Fray Leopoldo, who inspires great devotion, and whose remains rest in the Crypt of the Capuchins Convent (E-2).
The Basilica of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias (E-6), declared a Site of Cultural Interest, houses the image of the patron saint of the city, an effigy which is deeply revered by the Granadan people, who during the festivity in her honour, pay their respects with floral tribute. The san Jan de Dios Hospital is also an important destination for pilgrims. It is a building of great architectural value in which the founder of the Order of the Hospitallers - after whom the Church is named - carried out his pious work.