A renowned city, wonderful places to stay, and a vibrant cross-cultural history – Granada has it all. International travelers will soon be able to return and Granada is already bubbling to life. This post is part of my Plan Now, Travel Later series. When the time is right, experience the wonders throughout Granada Spain Streets.
It’s easy to get to Granada by flying south from Madrid. My goal was to explore the Alhambra Palace and it was wonderful ( Check out my video about the experience here) but eating and walking through Granada Spain Streets exceeded my expectations. I arrived on my own with nearly three full days to explore. A shuttle bus made getting from the airport to the center of town easy. There are also city buses and a train station that will scoot you into the town center. My landlady sent specific directions on how to get to her flat in the UNESCO area, the historical town inside the city called Albaycin.
My priorities included being able to walk to the main attractions and close to restaurants and cafes. I didn’t want to wander the Granada Spain streets much after dark, preferring to get up early for pictures and exploring (but this was also before I discovered how safe the city is to walk.) This is where you and I might diverge. I was traveling solo, not into the bar scene, and on a modest budget.
Disclosure: I enjoyed the Spain Food Sherpas Tour as their guest but all opinions and other experiences are my own. As always.
I’d chosen a private room in a neighborhood Airbnb that was full of Moroccan touches. There I could bask in the rays from a glittering lamp, lounge on a bed piled high with colorful pillows and enjoy hand-painted murals that decorated the walls. The shutters opened to a lovely view of the street below. My third-floor room was high enough that tackling the stairs several times a day wasn’t a problem and high enough above the busy street below.
If I were with my boyfriend, we might rent a full apartment for ourselves or stay in a small hotel, but I’ve found that Airbnb or private rooms in hostels serve me best while going solo. There’s company and locals to commiserate with. That’s priceless, especially when I’m in a new city for only a few days.
My landlady, Ani, and I texted several times before I arrived. She made suggestions, answered my questions and when I arrived, offered guidebooks in several languages.
I felt like Alice in Wonderland while sitting in her hand-painted kitchen where the cabinets were embellished with a patchwork of flowers and butterflies. I had easy access to a stove and oven but didn’t really need cooking space. Making a cup of coffee in the morning was about as much as I needed. WiFi was important for keeping up with work and that was plentiful.
Ani pointed out highlights on a foldout map and suggested that walking Granada Spain Streets with a GPS hotspot would be the easiest way to get around. The streets in this part of town twist and turn, there are hidden staircases and sudden plazas. Having the digital guide was perfect and kept me from getting hopelessly lost more than once.
Walking the Granada Spain Streets
The Albaycin neighborhood is a historical center where Northern Africans, Jewish communities, and Spaniards mingled peacefully until Roman-based Catholicism divided the region. Later, Napoleon did his best to destroy the Arabian Palace. Luckily, he was defeated. Today commerce flows freely, and each neighborhood keeps its personality.
For my first night’s dinner, Ani suggested a fine dining restaurant, La Reina. It was a splurge, but sensing her eclectic tastes echoed mine, I jumped at the chance. Keeping her directions close and my GPS on, I walked from the apartment past overflowing bars and restaurants. At that time, the streets were flowing with tourists, shops were open to the darkening night and street traffic was light. With Pandemic precautions in place, it’s coming back to life.
Walking around a corner from the main street, I faced my landmark, an overflowing fountain. Soft lighting cast shadows to the street and reflected off the sparkling water. I entered through a large metal door to find a sleek but warm interior and was led to a cushy banquet table.
I’ve gotten comfortable with dining out by myself and enjoyed having a view of the dining room where I could surreptitiously watch the clientele and servers. Aside from rudimentary pleasantries I don’t speak Spanish. I figured that I could always point at pictures! This night it wasn’t necessary as the menu had English descriptions and staff was fluent in several languages.
For the main course I dipped into a squid-ink blackened and flakey Bacalo fillet cooked tempura-style. It floated above an asparagus cream sauce with truffles. I thought the contrast between the pale, moist fish and black crust was brilliant, but the dark bowl and dark crust was hard to capture in pictures. Usually a glass of wine would be best but wanting less alcohol at that late hour, I ordered a local, draft beer and wasn’t disappointed. The menu was created for allergy conscious diners with plentiful options for organic, sustainable ingredients but not completely gluten free.
Of course, I wanted dessert but opted to find it on my walk back. I’d passed a handful of bakeries between the restaurant and my lodging. One brightly lit patisserie caught my attention – Berlina Pasterleria. While the pastry looked amazing, I only ordered a small cup of hot chocolate. Later I found out that locals tradtionally drink it with churros in the late afternoon.
The dark, warm liquid was rich and thick, sweet enough but deep with dark chocolate fullness. Bliss. Twenty minutes later I unlocked the front door to my building and fell deeply asleep until the Moorish vendors on the street below rolled up their stall doors late the next morning.
Hammam al Andalus and Lunch by the Darro River
Ani suggested that a traditional bathhouse experience would be in order and suggested one of the oldest in town. Since I’d flown into Spain from California the day before, a massage and soak sounded like a restorative luxury. I took her map and left early wanting to wander and not miss my appointment. Since this post is about eating while walking Granada Spain Streets, I’ll focus on the bathhouse experience at another time, but first lunch near the Dorro River.
The afternoon highlight was finding an outdoor table at a little café near the river. The salad and spinach crepe were filling enough and I adored the location. I paired my lunch with a bottle of ‘Sidra,’ labeled, ‘The Good Cider of San Sebastian.’ From my little perch, I was able to watch the flow of people – students, vendors and shoppers – as they followed the river path. There were another half dozen cafes and bars along the waterway. A pair of geese honked up from the riverbed below. The sun shone softly and the world glowed with wonder.
The bathhouse was just around the corner and once checked in, I was invited into a softly lit sitting room with tea and a tray full of oranges with walnuts. It all felt very Arabian, which fit the architecture as well as experience.
After my bath experience, I was welcomed to remain as long as I wished. However, I wanted to cool down and get a bit of work done before it was time to venture out to the culinary highlight of my trip, a food tour with Molly Piccavey of the Spain Food Sherpas that night.
The Piccavey Food Tour Experience
Have you ever followed a blog for its destination pictures and stories? I’ve done that with Piccavey.com over the past few years. Molly is a British-born, Anadalusian specialist. Her passion for Mediterranean historic sites, lifestyle and food is contagious. As one of the Spain Food Sherpas she is in tune with the seasons and creativity of local chefs.
Before departing, I read descriptions but was so excited to finally recognize her as I crossed the plaza. For three hours our small group of four wound through alleys and narrow pedestrian streets. Molly led us into tiny shops that featured local specialties – cheeses, dried fruits and of course, the famous Iberian Hams. We mingled with diners while enjoying appetizers, stews, sweet cakes and local red vermouth. Each taste and dish was all the more extraordinary for her insights.
At one point our way was blocked by a large crowd. Molly explained that it was a procession, one of many before the Easter holiday. I watched as the congregants carried crosses and statues while they marched around the corner. Many held candles as they walked and Molly pointed out at street sign. It was a warning about the waxy streets! Only a passionate, hyer-local guide would have known.
I was sorry to see the night end but happy for the long walk. Molly had inspired me to visit the Royal Crypt and the mountaintop plaza across from the Alhambra the following day. I can’t recommend her expertise enough.
If you are concerned about traveling in Spain, ‘Pandemically’ speaking, check out Molly’s updates on the situation. At the time of this writing, it looks like most travel will be open by July 20th .
San Nicolas – Dinner with a view
The day before as my Alhambra Palace tour ended I looked across the narrow valley to a church plaza opposite. Turns out that the plaza was close to my flat. The following night I strode uphill and used my wits to find my way. ‘As long as you’re going up you can’t go wrong,’ I told myself. I followed small groups strolling uphill. Along the way, as the late afternoon sun cast deep shadows, I crossed plazas of shops, listened to street musicians and paused in parks. Finally, I found the church plaza and could look across as the buttery dusk light warmed the Alhambra Plaza walls.
While looking for a dinner spot with a view I watched roving singers entertain long tables of happy people. There wasn’t really a spot where I could blend in, so I kept on. There were other cafes with dark interiors but I wanted to be outdoors. Finally, I noticed a small group queing along a side street and waited at the café gate. The patio seating was perfect for watching the light change.
Feeling intrepid, I ordered the house vermouth and a plate of croquettes. A few moments later, a basket of bread and small bowl of olives joined me at the table. It was time to settle in and admire the casual, international crowd as many languages melded into a soft buzz.
This was a perfect ending to my solo sojourn and before long I wandered back down through the Granada Spain Streets to pack for my early morning flight to Barcelona.
Other than wanting for a bit more company, it was a perfect trip and I returned to the US just before the flight restrictions and devastation of Covid 19 chilled world travel. Thankfully, we seem to be emerging from the worst of it. I can’t wait to travel again but, in the meantime, I’ll stay up to date with Molly at Piccavey.com and monitor the news.
- Planning a trip to Spain? Keep up with current health and travel recommendations at Piccavey.com
- Enjoy Food Tours? When in Rome don’t miss the Prati Neighborhood.
- Spain Food Sherpas offers tours at three different sites.
- I look forward to visiting one of Spain’s foodie hotspots San Sebastian when I return.