Read up on your Nasrid history, slip a copy of Federico García Lorca’s Gypsy Ballads into your bag, and acquire a working knowledge of Andalucía’s splendid Moorish architectural heritage – Granada is calling and its allure is hard to ignore.
Internationally revered for its lavish Alhambra palace, and enshrined in medieval history as the last stronghold of the Moors in Western Europe, Granada is the darker more complicated cousin of sunny, exuberant Seville. Humming with a feisty cosmopolitanism and awash with riddles, question marks, contradictions and myths, this is a place to put down your guidebook and let your intuition lead the way – through the narrow ascending streets of the Albayzín and the tumbling white-walled house gardens of the Realejo quarter. Elegant yet edgy, grandiose but gritty, monumental but marked by pockets of stirring graffiti, 21st century Granada is anything but straightforward. Instead, this sometimes stunning, sometimes ugly city set spectacularly in the crook of the Sierra Nevada is an enigmatic place where – if the mood is right – you sense you might find something that you’ve long been looking for. A free tapa, perhaps? An inspirational piece of street art? A flamenco performance that finally unmasks the intangible spirit of duende?
Endowed with relics from various epochs of history, there’s lots to do and plenty to admire in Granada; the mausoleum of the Catholic monarchs, old-school bars selling generous tapas, bohemian teterías where Arabic youths smoke cachimbas(hookah pipes), and an exciting nightlife that bristles with the creative aura of counterculture. Make no mistake, you’ll fall in love here, but you’ll spend days and weeks trying to work out why. Best idea – don’t bother. Instead, immerse yourself in the splendour, and leave the poetic stanzas to the aesthetes.