Monday, April 7, 2014

{travel} a romantic getaway to granada, spain

{the view from our airbnb flat}

Granada, you captured my heart so effortlessly and quickly last year that I didn't even see it coming. You were rainy, cold, and filled with people and Easter procesiones, but it didn't matter. I fell completely in love from the very first moment I laid eyes on the majestic Alhambra. I wandered through the gardens of the Generalife Palace in complete wonder and drank in the intricate carvings inscribed in all of the walls of the Nasrid Palace for what seemed like hours. I took photo after photo, each time exclaiming how disappointing it was that my camera couldn't fully capture the beauty of what I was seeing with my own two eyes. Our two days in Granada in 2013 went by all too quickly, and I vowed to come back again before my time in Spain was up. So when Alex and I were planning his spring break trip to come see me I knew that we had to sacrifice a few days in Madrid to get to know Granada's more romantic side together.

{sitting on the wall at the Mirador de San Nicolas}

I went to Granada in 2013 with three of my girlfriends during our spring break from work. We spent a lot of our time in the area directly around the cathedral and Plaza Nueva, only venturing up into the Albayzin for a view of the Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolas and a flamenco show. I knew that I wanted to get to know the barrio with a gypsy soul much better my second time around, so Alex & I booked an airbnb apartment in the area. Best. Decision. Ever. We absolutely loved our stay at the EcoConscious Moorish House & totally recommend it for anyone planning on traveling to Granada. The top picture in this post shows the view we had from our building's terrace. Enough said.

I'm going to try something new and break this post up into three sections - sights, eats, & ambiance. Let me know if you like the new format. Five years of blogging and still trying to get it right. ;)

Sights & Activities: Although I love an action packed vacation schedule as much as the next Type A vacation planner, I also enjoy going to a place and having few obligations. I love the knowledge that I can wake up when I want, ask locals for restaurant recommendations instead of solely relying on TripAdvisor, and wander through the city on a whim. Granada is the perfect city to do these things in because the historical center is quite small and easily navigated. Although the windy streets might seem overwhelming and confusing to a newcomer, you really just always have to look for the Alhambra and you will know exactly which direction you need to head in. Perfect.

Hammam Banos Arabes:

{no photos allowed inside the baths - credit

We started our first full day in Granada soaking in the tranquil Arab baths near Plaza Nueva. With only three other people choosing the same time slot as us, it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. It was an absolutely wonderful way to wind down after a busy week of work and sightseeing in Madrid with Alex. I upgraded to the baths with massage option & it was an absolutely glorious decision. For only 45 euros the two of us were able to enjoy the baths for two hours, with a 15 minute massage with an essential oil of my choice for me.

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I wrote quite a bit about my love for La Alhambra in my post on Granada from last year's trip, but I can't help but to write about it again. La Alhambra is by far one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Knowing how much incredible history this fortress/palace has seen? Well, if only walls could talk... I'd love to hear all of the stories. It is only about 17 euros a person to enter the Alhambra grounds and is totally worth it! Make sure you buy your tickets in advance as they sell out quickly during the peak tourist season. I recommend spending at least 3 hours in the Alhambra, but you could easily spend many more. Just look at that view above. :)

Open-Air Markets - Tea, Spices, & More: 

Good tea is extremely expensive in Madrid, so I was really excited to go back down to Granada and stock up on some tea for my apartment. The area of Granada most populated with these open-air markets is the area directly around the Cathedral. I recommend that you wander around the different shops and stalls before purchasing. Some stores offer many more tea options than others. I paid 2 euros for "una bolsita de te chai" - a small bag of chai tea. I've probably already made 20 cups or so & I still have more than half the bag left. 

Eats & Drinks: I actually was really terrible at taking photos of the food we ate during this trip -- absolutely shocking, I know! So here's a little list of some of the places we stopped at for a bite to eat or a cold caña. Granada is known for its big plates of free tapas served with each drink, so we definitely took advantage of those and ate quiiite cheaply.

  1. La Liria: The photo above on the left is of La Liria. After attempting to Google it, I have come to realize that you cannot find it anywhere on the Internet. It's located in a little plaza just off of the main road that goes from Plaza Nueva to the Alhambra, Carrera del Darro. We stopped here for sandwiches and coffees para llevar (to go) after we left the baths on Friday morning. The little cafe is absolutely charming, but is more of a store for canned and jarred goods than a restaurant. However our chorizo and goat cheese sandwiches were made with love by the refined older woman who ran the store, and we were able to take them to go - a rarity in Spain - and eat them on our terrace at our apartment. Perfection! 
  2. Bodega La Bella y La Bestia: This restaurant would certainly never land on any fine dining list, but it completely embodies the glory of the huge free tapas Granada is famous for. Order a 2 euro beer and receive a huge plate various tapas. Each time you order a new drink you get a new plate with *upgraded* tapas. It's the perfect place to stop post-Alhambra when you are exhausted and hungry and want to eat everything in sight ASAP! 
  3. Bodegas Castenada: Alex & I accidentally ended up in this tapas bar one night. We were wandering around aimlessly, trying to find a good place to sit down for a beer, when we walked by this restaurant. It was crowded and looked fun, so we gave it a shot. I'm glad we did because it is an extremely authentic Spanish bar complete with gruff bartenders, vermuth poured directly from barrels, and delicious tapas of cheese and jamon. 
  4. Cafe 4 Gatos: Our airbnb host, Rob, casually mentioned this cafe in passing as the neighborhood cafe down the road from our flat. It certainly is that, but also so much more. It didn't matter if we walked by Cafe 4 Gatos at 10 AM or at 10 PM, it was always filled with people to the point that they were spilling out onto the street. We decided to go for a desayuno there on our last morning in Granada. I ordered a medio tostada with smoked salmon and cream cheese, while Alex opted for a tostada with tomatoes and cheese. Both were absolutely delicious.
Ambiance: From the beautiful winding streets and cobblestone steps, music floating through the air from street musicians and casas, and the relaxed, hippy vibe of its residents, Granada is unlike any other place I have ever been before. There is a magical energy in the air that settles down inside of you and makes you want to come back for more again and again.

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Until next time, Granada.

xx, Jen


  1. I love this new way of breaking up the post! Makes it very easy to read through. Thank you for all of the info and tips. I'm heading to Granada next week and I'll definitely be following some of your suggestions! Hope to see more posts like this one soon :)

    1. Thanks for your feedback Kelsey. :) I am so excited for you to go to Granada & can't wait to read your post about it when you get back. Have fun!!

  2. Oh my gosh Jen! These photos are just to die. Granada is beautiful! Fancy Pants and I must go. It looks like you guys had an amazing time! :)

    Danielle xx

    1. You must!!! I wish you guys had come to Spain during your big European adventure. I would have loved to show yall around Madrid. :)

  3. Just saw your blog comment that you may be planning a trip to Charlotte... if so, WE HAVE TO MEET UP!!!! I think it's about time we met in person ;) Also, you and your boyfriend are the cutest thing I've ever seen. Perfect couple alert!!

    1. Yes it is! We've only been blog friends for like... 4 years? haha & Thank you, love. You & yours are adorable as well. xx

  4. Your pictures are SO beautiful! Granada looks so romantic. I'm so glad that airbnb exists now so the next time I make it over to Europe I will have a ton of affordable + chic options for a place to stay. Thank you for your recap of the trip!

    xoxo, lauren


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