For smaller crowds try to visit the Alhambra in March or April.
Granada is very much on the tourist map, primarily due to the popularity of the Alhambra, the majestic complex of palaces and irrigated gardens which nestles amongst the hills on the outskirts of the city. Granada airport is not well served by flights and indeed there is only one direct flight from the UK, from London CityAirport. However, there is a very good bus service from Malaga which takes only 2 hours, making this stunning city accessible to tourists from all parts of the UK. Granada can also be combined with Seville and Malaga or Cordoba to make an exciting triple centre holiday, flying in and out of Malaga.
The Alhambra’s Islamic palaces were built for the last Muslim emirs in Spain and the court of the Nasrid dynasty. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the Nasrid emirs turned the area into a fortress-palace complex. After the Christian re-conquest, the Alhambra’s mosque was replaced by a church, and the Convento de San Francisco (now the Parador de Granada) was built. The Palace of Carlos V, Holy Roman Emperor in 1527, was built in the Alhambra within the Nasrid fortifications. The complex was allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries and the buildings were occupied by squatters. The Alhambra was rediscovered in the 19th century and restorations were started. It is now one of Spain’s major tourist attractions, being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Alhambra covers a vast area but can still get very crowded, particularly during the peak summer months, despite ticket numbers being tightly controlled. The best time to visit is in the spring, when the crowds are not too large, days are sunny and bright and the smell of orange blossom fills the air. Nevertheless, it’s still well worth buying a timed ticket in advance for the Nasrid Palaces. Without this, entry to the Palaces, one of the highlights of an Alhambra visit, cannot be guaranteed.
Granada has many other sights worth seeing, including the Cathedral which has impressive facades and a stunning interior with a grand altar and several chapels. In the burial chamber are the tombs of the Catholic kings. The Royal Chapel is located between Granada Cathedral, the old Fish Market and the Church of Sagrario.
The Albacín district is well worth exploring. It rises on a hill north of the Alhambra and is particularly evocative of old Moorish Spain with its sugar-white houses and steep, narrow streets. It was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1994.
Granada’s weather in March and April is likely to be sunny, with daytime temperatures often climbing to 15 to 18 degrees centigrade – much more appealing for walking round the vast grounds of the Alhambra than the roasting heat of midsummer.