Sat in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada, and host to a plethora of North-African influences, charming tourist sites and winding, old school backstreets, Granada is a city that just has to be seen. Explore the towering fortress, drift out of town and in amongst the olive groves, or bed down in a cubbyhole bar and enjoy the free tapas that comes with your mojitos in this fashionable, downsized take on nightlife. For Andalucía, you see, Granada is strikingly and alluringly atypical.
The yellow-stone walls and elaborate carvings of Al Hambra are the most prominent Muslim relic, and – once you’ve fought through the limited access system (arrive early) - contain some of the most beautiful carvings and tranquil pools you’re ever likely to come across. You can stare out over the entire city from the walkways, while the impressive gardens stretch for miles and invite you to indulge in the tropical wildlife.
If you’d like your own, personal taste of Granada’s history, plenty of the city’s hotels are affordable Muslim houses, with simple fountains in the centre of their courtyards and unfussy yet strikingly picturesque rooms, with restaurants in the arched, almost crumbling basements. You’ll find them tucked away in the back streets of districts like Albayzin, which are invariably ornate, with fountains, streams, and roads so small it’s a wonder the locals can squeeze their cars down them (best not to try yourself, unless you’re prepared to cause a jam and get lost in the one way system).
Away from the mosque, teashops and carpet salesmen, though, there’s plenty here that’s uniquely Spanish, too, like the flamenco clubs that never seem to close (the locals are painfully good), the gothic cathedral, and some of the best tapas restaurants in the whole of Spain.
Unlike vast swathes of the rest of provincial Spain, rock up In Granada and you won’t feel like you’ve been there before. With tourist sites that rival the capitals of plenty of countries, a unique ethos derived from an ancient cultural mix, and more fun to be had than you’re ever likely to get round to, it’s a Spanish gem.