Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains where four rivers meet, Granada is the capital of Granada province, in the autonomous community of Andalusia. Just a one hour drive from Costa Tropical beaches on the Mediterranean coast, it is also near the Sierra Nevada winter sports resort, the most southerly of European ski slopes, open November through May.
Spain's most famous building of Andalusian Islamic heritage is the Alhambra, originally a Moorish citadel and palace, and the Albayzín (Albaicín) quarter has more examples of Almohad Moorish construction. At the conclusion of the Reconqista, the last Muslim ruler in Iberia, Emir Muhammad XII, surrendered the Emirate of Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, ending almost eight hundred years of Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula. Soon after the majority of Granada's Jews were expelled, and much of their quarter was demolished.
The cathedral of Granada, built over the Nasrid Great Mosque of Granada, is at the center of the city, begun during the Spanish Renaissance of the early 16th century, contemporary to the Christian palace of the Alhambra, the University and the Real Chancillería, now housing the High Court of Andalusia. The Royal Chapel of Granada is the burial place of the Catholic Monarchs, their daughter Joanna of Castile and Philip I of Castile. Other important Granadan buildings include the Lonja de Mercaderes and the Catedral e Iglesia del Sagrario.
The city is also known for the University of Granada, with about 80,000 students at five campuses here. The pomegranate is the heraldic device of Granada, the name of the fruit in Spanish.
The Martyred Son
The gay poet, playwright, and theatre director Federico García Lorca, one of the Generación del 27 avant-garde artists and poets that included Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel, was born a few miles west of Granada. He wrote some of his major works in the city, and he was arrested here in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. Thought to have been killed by the fascist Nationalist militia, his gravesite remains unknown. Falangist officers who arrived to arrest him, when asked why the poet was being taken, answered ''His works.'' Today the Parque Federico García Lorca, dedicated to his memory, includes the Huerta de San Vicente, his family's summer home, opened to the public in 1995 as a museum.
Lorca's lyrical works explored themes of romantic love and tragedy, combining elements of Spanish folklore, Andalusian flamenco, Gitano culture, and the cante jondos of his homeland. Later influences included Surrealism. He traveled through impoverished rural Spain, and spent almost a year in Harlem, New York City, with its sensual and thriving gay culture. He witnessed the stock market crash of 1929 on Wall Street, found sex along Riverside Drive and saw racism up close. Literary encounters with the works of Whitman and Eliot caused shifts in his style and the American theater fascinated him. On his return to Spain, after a time of relative freedom to be openly gay, he came to see similarities in the oppression and discrimination suffered by African Americans, a people by whom he'd been so charmed, with the experiences of women and homosexuals in his own more socially conservative society. His works would reflect all he'd seen and experienced. See Poets.org for some of his writings.
The Federico García Lorca Granada-Jaén Airport (GRX) is a small faciliity 17km west of the city center, with flights by Iberia to and from Madrid and many other cities in Spain, with connections worldwide. British Airways has several flights each week to and from London, and there are also budget flights by Vueling to and from Barcelona and 23 more Spanish cities. Transavia and Air Europa are among the other low-cost carriers.
The Granada-Airport bus line connects with the city center, with stops at places such as Avenida de Andaluces, the bus station, Gran Vía de Colón and Paseo del Violón, next to the Palacio de Congresos - a full journey of approximately 40 minutes for just 3 euros. Cars from all the usual international companies, along with some local outfits, may be rented at the airport or other downtown locations, and booked ahead online.
Málaga–Costa del Sol Airport (AGP), is the fourth busiest airport in Spain, not far to the southwest of Grenada, with a lot more direct flights to points in every direction. ALSA runs around 25 buses each day from Málaga airport to Grenada, from Terminal T3 at Arrivals, a trip of about two hours, costing from 7 to 14 euros.
RENFE trains to the train station at the center (Avenida de Andaluces off Avenida de la Constitución) take over 5 hours from Madrid or 4 hours from Seville. For other cities in Europe see the Rail Europe website for fares, schedules and online bookings. The Man in Seat 61 is another good travel resource for anyone interested in trains between Spain and the UK - or most anywhere else in the world.
From Malaga to Grenada there is the ALSA bus, which also connects to points north such as Madrid, Alicante, Valencia and Barcelona and more destinations in Spain and throughout Europe. The station on Carretera de Jaen is to the north, 15 minutes by bus or taxi from city center. For convenience, and to avoid lines and waiting at the station in case the bus you wanted is full, buy tickets online.
Once at the center of this compact city walking is often the best way to get around, or short taxi hops on hot days. GrenadaInfo has the best guide to local bus services with a good map, schedules and ticket instructions. Basic fares cost 1.40 euros and you can transfer between bus routes for up to 60 minutes after you validate the ticket (before getting on the bus). Bonobus smart cards at 5€, 10€ or 20€, on sale from from vending machines at bus stops, give riders a 40% reduction in fare per trip, and can be recharged. Validate the card before boarding. CTAGR is the official website for city buses, trams and the future Metro system, but in Spanish only.
The Granada City Tour "tourist train" stops at all the major points of interest, beginning with the Alhambra, and through narrow streets of the Albaycín. With panoramic roof and windows they offer good views of the city, and an audio system informs you about all the sights along the route. Tickets are 8 euros for adults.
There is no bike share system here, but the Cycling Country website can hook you up with a rental bike and all the gear and info you'll need, and they deliver and collect to/from hotels in Granada.
A three day Bono Turístico card for 37 euros will buy you free entrance to most monuments of interest including the Alhambra, Nazrid Palaces and Generalife, the Cathedral, the Royal Chapel, the Monastery of Cartuja, the Museo de Bellas Artes and the Museo Caja Granada, plus 5 trips on a local bus. For three euros more (Plus Card) you also get 9 bus trips on local red buses and a tourist train ticket.
Currency & Money
Spain’s currency is the euro. There are ATMs connected with most major networks in most banks all around the city, so you won’t have trouble getting cash. Check ahead with your home bank to let them know you'll be here to avoid charge problems with credit cards, and ask about any local affiliate banks to save on service fees. Credit cards with a four digit PIN number are useful, and sometimes necessary.
Media & Resources
Granada Info, a local online guide, also has an LGBT section, but their listings are a bit outdated.
GranadaBackpackers, the website of a local hostel, covers the city in English from the perspective of the hordes of students who arrive here on exchange at the University of Granada, about the lively nightlife scene they generate, at affordable prices.
Visit Grenada is the Grenada Tourism site in English with area history, things to see and do, places to stay and eat, and other practical information for visitors.
Turismo Ciudad de Granada is the official tourism website for the city, in English and ten more languages.
Botanico (Calle Málaga, 2), gay-friendly international/ Mediterranean cuisine restaurant/cafe and copas bar; modern design, terrace seating.
El Balcón de la Luna (Calle Lavadero de las Tablas 15), 9pm-4am gay cafe/ bar, Arcangel nightly men's cruise zone, darkroom, BDSM room, porn videos, naked hours; weekend drag shows, bears' events.
El Bar de Fede (Marques de Falces 1), gay-friendly lunch/dinner restaurant and tapas bar near Gran Vía Cólon, good wine selection, daily menu specials.
Graná Me Mata Centro (Calle Pintor Velázquez 5), 5pm-3/4am gay/straight-friendly lesbian lounge, cafe/bar, videos, live music, games, special events.
La Sal (Calle Santa Paula 11), 11pm-3/4am gay/lesbian, straight-friendly music and dance bar
Six Colours (Calle Tendillas de Santa Paula 6), 11pm-3am gay dance and party club; mostly men, drag and straight-friendly, costume and theme party nights.
Tic Tac (Calle Horno de Haza 19), 10pm-3am gay music and cruise bar/ drag diva cabaret shows, theme parties, mostly men, all ages.
Boabdil Sauna (on Calle del Trevenque behind Carretera de la Sierra 34, Cervantes), 4-10pm daily except Tuesdays men's bathhouse, Finnish sauna, Turkish bath, Jacuzzi, video cabins, cruise zone, cafe/bar.