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Home of the Alhambra, Granada may not be perfect but it is brimming with magic. The energy of its university students and the beauty of the Moorish district of the Albaicín make this unique city exceptional.

By:  Julio Ruiz
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Travel NotesFind out more about this city with our insider guide.
EventsFind out what’s on! Check out our events guide for Andalusia.
Capital of a province made up of 168 towns and villages
Population: 237.929 inhabitants (5% foreign, mainly Moroccan and South American)
Area: 89 hectares with spectacular changes in altitude: from 673 to 800 metres
Stands out for: The Alhambra, the Albaicín neighbourhood and its proximity to Sierra Nevada

“In terms of its energy, you couldn’t ask for anything more”. The question was about where to find the magic of Granada and Ana Marín responded with certainty. One out of every four inhabitants in Granada is a university student. No other city of Andalusia enjoys such a high level of adrenalin, which spreads to and is felt on every corner, in every bar, in every environment. The university is one of its most vibrant symbols but there is so much more. The people of Granada have a strong character that swings between major contrasts: The Muslim legacy and Christianity; the conservative majority in the local government and the student majority of the left. Above all however, the difference is most obvious between the classes: Between the majestic town centre and its wealthy middle class, and the bonfires on the streets of the northern district that are lighted to keep the inhabitants warm from the bitter cold coming down from Sierra Nevada.

The place where the character of the city is most visible is the San Agustín Market. In amongst the hake and lobster, the housewives joke about their mala follá (grumpyness), that local characteristic which prevents them from contain their bad moods. But amongst themselves, they use it as an ironic homemade weapon to amuse themselves. During these conversations, the soul of the city flows. Like in any proud Andalusian enclave they consider Granada to be the centre of everything (“we live better here than anywhere else”). Notwithstanding, Granada becomes more and more open-minded every day due to university exchange students and the tourists who come to enjoy the city´s charm.

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Granada is modelled like an imperfectly designed factory; full of bends and contrasts that jump out at you when looking at any city map. After becoming accustomed to the primitive beauty of the Albaicín and passing by the San Miguel Bajo square, it is easy to see why pride is so omnipresent in daily life. The streets swirl around each other, a maze where it is very easy to become disorientated far away from the noisy traffic. Here the greatest contrast is the fault of architects who in bad taste compete for the prize to design the worst and least aesthetically pleasing apartment blocks on the outskirts of the city.

A key to savouring the city is to rest your weary bones in any bar and enjoy the free assorted tapas that come with your beers. Another advisable way is to go looking for fresh products from the Alpujarras (delicious dried fruits, terrific vegetables) in the stores around the impressive cathedral.

In the meantime, the conversations consist mainly of talk about the longed-for arrival of the AVE (Spanish high speed train), the ecological paralysis from the project involving the largest cable railway in the world, the construction boom that has invaded La Vega and the general underdevelopment of infrastructure that hinders the city’s progress. Granada cannot avoid being compared to Seville and although the inhabitants are puffing out their chests, the tone turns sour when this is brought up. Age-old demands are being tended to slowly but surely. While the Tecnological Park of Health is expanding and the metro will some day solve the traffic chaos, the dual carriageway to the Costa Tropical has been delayed for so long that its completion seems like an eternity away. This leaves commuters in utter despair.

After praising their city, the first complaint any person from Granada will have is about discrimination amongst its districts. “There is a strong division between the visible and well looked-after city centre and the potholes and filth of the districts like Almanjavar and La Chana”, complains Silvia Martín, in reference to the abyss that separates her street from the Gran Vía, which has been recently remodelled. The charm of the city fades on the outskirts but its intensity is unquestionable in the centre near the Albaicín. The Moorish district is today a place of refuge for a growing Muslim population as well as young first-time buyers of dilapidated homes in search of an Alhambra address.

The Nazarite monument is the focal point of Granada. High up in the hills, all eyes are on it as people walk out from the winding streets. The aesthetic experience of walking by the Alhambra is simply unbeatable. The best is to stroll around its beautiful halls, take pleasure in its ornate stone carvings and listen to the murmur of water passing through the courtyards. Above all, let yourself get lost in the gardens of Generalife while trying to avoid the noisy groups of tourists. The key is to choose a good time of year and day. You can even take advantage of the alternatives such as a nighttime visit. It is then when the silence is respected. During these moments you can go back in time and imagine the splendour of the city at a time when it was a commercial centre and fountain of wealth for the whole of Spain.




Granada’s beginning goes back to the 8th century BC when it was an Iberian settlement called Ilturis. It was named Iliberia by the Romans six centuries later. After forming part of the Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo, in 711 the troops of Táriq took over the city and so began a fertile period under Muslim influence. First the Caliphate of Cordoba was created. In the 11th century the Ziri clan arrived to the city. They built the Alhambra two centuries later and created a so far unknown economic and commercial splendour turning it into a capital with 165,000 inhabitants.

The surrender of Granada in the face of the Catholic Kings in 1492 completely changed its character. With them came the expulsion of the Jews and the colonisation of the new Christians. After a period of grandeur in the Baroque era (17th century), the city experienced decisive urban transformation under the influence of the French and English. These plans created town squares, parks and the Gran Vía de Colón, the city’s main artery. In the 20th century, the current appearance of the city was completed with large avenues and apartment blocks of questionable beauty to ensnare the flood of people moving to the capital from the countryside.


Federico García Lorca - poet and writer - probably the most famous spanish author of the 20th century. Member of the Generation of 27, he wrote poems and plays which are held as the pinnacle of spanish artistry. He was shot and killed during the Civil War.

Boabdil - King of Granada - the last member of the Nasrid dynasty. In 1492 he lost definitively to the Catholic Kings. Legend tells that he cried like a woman, for that which he could not defend like a man.

Carlos Cano - composer and singer-songwriter - a musician who vindicated musical styles such as the fado and the andalusian popular folk songs (copla). He stood out for his versatility and intimate style. A lover of poetry, he put to music the works of great writers such as Lorca in over twenty albums.

Contemporary people

Estrella Morente - flamenco singer - an artist with a privileged voice, she has recorded albums which promote the fusion of flamenco with Fado, such as in her collaboration with Dulce Pontes, or which return to the roots of flamenco via legends such as la Niña de los Peines.

Enrique Morente - flamenco singer - a maestro of contemporary deep song (jondo). His eclecticism has led him to fuse his song with jazz, classical music and rock. From flamenco mass to orquestral fantasy, and even the rock band Lagartija Nick. This variety does nothing to diminish his greatness.

Luis García Montero - poet - a protagonist in what is known as the poetry of experience. His verses resound social responsibility and moral meditation. Winner of the National Prize for Poetry and Criticism, he is also a popular essay-writer and journalist.

Miguel Ríos - singer - passionate about traditional rock and roll, he has recorded several albums in styles that range from blues and jazz but always returning to his classical rock roots. His has been a career filled with big hits which have spanned over four decades, and include Himno de la Alegría.

Blanca Li - choreographer


The mayor, José Torres Hurtado (Popular Party), broke the traditional alternation of the last municipal governments in the 2007 elections. His comfortable majority allowed him to alternate easily between pride of the city and victimization before the Junta. While the United Left remained, the Socialist Party lost seats due to their lack of municipal opposition, which was punished by voters. Local opinion was polarised and tensions ran high over debates over the abandonment of the city centre by locals intent to move out to the suburbs. Local government has also been criticised for the quality of culture on offer, seen as outstanding by some, but only mediocre by the majority.


The local economy has one main weak spot. According to the trade unionist Rafael Roldán, “both the tourism and construction sectors, its two driving forces, have been hit hard by the crisis”. If the global markets slump, the domestic economies in Granada are weakened because the industrial network is fragile. Too many shopkeepers depend on the buses that drop off Japanese and Americans tourists into the centre of town. And too many labourers depend on the sale of the new properties they build. Notwithstanding, the forecast for growth is healthy despite unemployment being at 13%, the third worst rate for a capital city in Andalusia. The companies with the most employees are Puleva (dairy products) and Portinox (metallurgy). For decades the city has been longing for infrastructure which is slowly on its way (the metro, dual carriageway to the coast, and high speed train) in order to give the local economy a needed boost.


The reference point for the majority of citizens is the Ideal. Years ago, when a politician was about to start a press conference, he asked "Has the Ideal arrived? If not, we´ll wait to start". The local panorama is now more varied since the appearance of Granada Hoy and La Opinión de Granada. There is an unequal TV audience amongst, and in this order: Localia, TeleIdeal, Canal 21, and Mira TV. The most popular radio station is Cadena Ser, followed by Canal Sur and Onda Cero.


Teachers positively rate education in Granada. The main problem lies in the number of students per classroom, which is on occasion too high. Young children in the suburbs are educated alongside an average of 25 students in classroom. Why? Young couples have moved out of the centre to the suburbs longing for for that ideal house with a garden. In the city centre the most sought after schools are Genil, Sierra Elvira and Los Maristas. On the outskirts of town the bilingual schools College (English) and El Generalife (French) are amongst the best in the area. The school with the highest grades is located in the Albaicín. Gómez Moreno School also has the best ecological canteen in the education community, thanks to the efforts of local parents.


The main environmental problem in the city is the traffic. The metropolitan area has approximately half a million inhabitants. There is a huge amount of pressure to get to the town center, even though entry is partially restricted. In the breathless wait for the planned Metro, public parking lots have become a focal point for noise and pollution. Parks and gardens are not abundant, while urban developments are expanding and invading the one fertile la Vega area. This gloomy panorama is saved by the city´s location in the shadows of Sierra Nevada. This helps to purify the air, and serves as an escape for locals. This incredible National Park, filled with hiking routes and with its own ski resort, is the largest in Spain, and covers an area of 86,200 hectares.


The real estate market in Granada has fallen sharply, about 25% (Source: January 2008) due to the national decrease experienced throughout the country. The primary result of this has been a market rise in rentals. Along with university students, other residents have opted to rent due to the smooth launch of funding introduced by the public agency for the promotion of rentals. "Prices have been disproportionate in Granada partly because of the ambitions of the sellers. They will now gradually fall", admits Francisco Iglesias, from Aingra (the Association of Estate Agents in Granada). Estate Agents have noted a decrease in sales, and are even giving away kitchens and cars in an unprecedented measure to bait possible buyers. The area experiencing the largest growth is around the bus station. Many young couples are moving into the area.


The plan to build the largest cable railway in the world (19 km) between Granada and Sierra Nevada has divided the city. Despite the Junta having paralysed the funicular railway due to its environmental impact, the business sector and the Popular Party are protesting because they believe it is a golden opportunity being wasted. The project would involve an investment of 150 million EUR and would create 2,000 new jobs, but the wealth of the ecosystem of Sierra Nevada has prevailed. The 22 columns, the wiring and the four stations would affect protected species such as the lammergeyers (bearded vultures) living in the National Park. Conservationists have won a battle that would alter forever the countryside of the Sierra Nevada, an area which has been declared a Biosphere Reserve.



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El 28 January 2008 a las 2:06 PM, Luis dijo...

Es una ciudad maravillosa

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El 8 February 2008 a las 6:09 AM, Carolina dijo...

David - ¡tus fotos son realmente impresionantes! Que belleza!

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El 8 February 2008 a las 11:16 AM, Manolo dijo...

vaya fotos!!!!!


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El 21 February 2008 a las 1:10 PM, veronikazul dijo...

Hola la verdad que estando en Madrid y siendo de alli,se agradece ver esto,,,precioso!!y la verdad esque Granada y la Alhambra son de las maravillas que existen mas increibles del mundo

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El 22 February 2008 a las 1:35 AM, Juan Verde dijo...

Un buen lugar para soñar

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El 22 February 2008 a las 6:14 PM, Jandro dijo...

Granada es una ciudad maravillosa y magica,algo caotica por su trafico ya que hos puedo asegurar que es mas chiquita de lo que parece y de punta a punta se tarda menos en ir andando que en autobus jejeje,aun asin es linda por sus rincones,sus monumentos,plazas,vistas y un largo etc,os recomiendo que la visiteis sobre todo en primavera os enamorara.Un saludo

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El 9 June 2010 a las 3:47 PM, jesus dijo...

vamos aver si soi sinceroo yo cro k sevillaaa es mejor ciudad y tenemos mas cosa cm la catedral de sevilla etc…. aun ke la alhambra no esta mal pero lo digo otraves sevilla es mejor k toas las cosas del mundooooo




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