LAY OF THE LAND
Granada's two main streets are Gran Vía de Colón, which runs roughly north–south, and Reyes Católicos, which goes east–west. The two streets intersect at Plaza de Isabel la Católica, with the cathedral just to the north. Next to the cathedral is Plaza Bib-Rambla—full of restaurants and cafés—and the Alcaiceria, the old Arab market. Reyes Católicos is bounded to the west by Puerta Real and to the east by Plaza Nueva, which marks the start of the Albaicín, while to the south of Plaza Nueva is Realejo, with its tapas bars and nightlife. The area of most interest to visitors is east of Plaza Nueva: Head up the hill to the Alhambra and Generalife, or straight ahead to the Albaicín. This old Arabic quarter sprawls down the south-facing slope to the Darro River, which flows through a steep, narrow gorge dividing the Albaicín from the Alhambra, and is packed with historic hotels and Arabic shops and teahouses.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit Granada is late spring to early fall, but take care to protect yourself from the hot sun during the summer months. Temperatures are more moderate in autumn. Winter brings cold nights and mild days (about 50° F), along with crowds who come to take advantage of nearby skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
HOW TO GET THERE
Granada's international airport, known as the Granada-Jaen Airport (GRX), in Chauchina is ten miles outside the city (34-95-824-52-00; www.aena.es). There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Granada, so travelers must catch a connecting flight via Madrid. Granada is a delightful 157-mile drive along the N-344 highway from Seville, another historic gem in the south of Spain.
Granada is not a driving city, so if you are on a southern-Spain road-trip, drop the car off at your hotel (or Generalife car park, which is guarded 24 hours a day) and hoof it. You'll be glad you did. This medieval city, with its labyrinth of narrow streets and amazing arcades, was meant for walking and marveling at the strange mix of Moorish and Renaissance architecture, a result of its clash-culture heritage. Taxis are relatively cheap (top out at around $10), and the Albaicín-Alhambra Bus Service will escort you around historic Granada for the price of a buck. The red minibuses make sweeping loops through the Albaicín neighborhood and various locations in the former Moorish citadel of Alhambra.
Visitors should take note of the siesta in southern Spain, when shops and restaurants close down at 2 p.m. and reopen at 5 p.m.
The City Pass (sold at the Alhambra and Capilla Real) gets you into every sight listed in the See & Do section (plus a science museum, of little interest unless you have bored tykes in tow) as well as nine rides on the regular city buses, plus a 24-hour ticket for a city tour by sightseeing bus. The pass is good for seven days but allows only one entry to each sight. Price-wise, it only saves you money if you do ride the bus a few times and/or take that tour. Insider tip: Many hotels in town will give you one free pass per double room if you stay at least two nights.
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