Our 200 year old apartment was midway up a steep hill in the Albaicín area, Granada’s oldest Arab district and we were lucky to face the impressive Alhambra on the hill opposite. The Albaicín is made up of narrow single-file alleyways, pretty fountains in nearly every square and, of course, sensational Alhambra views.
There is an extraordinary statue in Granada that we walked past numerous times. It is a statue of Queen Ysabel, in 1491, presenting Christopher Columbus the signed document approving the voyage that resulted in Columbus discovering the Americas. Columbus had asked for financial backing five separate times from the Spanish monarchy before receiving approval. His persistence and persuasion, as we all know, eventually paid off!
As we were waiting at this statue for our walking tour to start one morning, we met four different groups of young American school students doing a citywide treasure hunt of Granada’s historical sites. They asked us to take a picture of them in front of the statue to prove they had found it. Lucky students!
Similar to previous cities stops, we visited so many beautiful churches and museums here. We wanted to record and share them all but have to settle on only a few of our favorites before closing the chapter on our stay in Granada, Spain.
Museu Memoria de Andalusia
Andalusia is referred to as an autonomous community and is made up of these 8 provinces: Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Seville. The goal of this superb Granada museum, the Memory Museum of Andalusia, is to showcase the diversity of landscapes as well as the natural and cultural diversity, both past and present, of these 8 provinces and for the visitor, by the time they leave, to ‘know Andalusia’.
The museum is located on two floors around a striking elliptical patio. The Memory of Andalusia Museum incorporates interesting technologies enabling visitors to see, touch, hear and feel Andalusia. The museum employs multiple methods to teach the history of Andalusia from audio visual displays to tactile exhibits that you would interact with. It is extremely well done making the whole museum an enjoyable experience. We were thoroughly engaged at each section on our Sunday visit to this museum and felt a return visit would be worthwhile.
Museum of the Alhambra
On the grounds of the Alhambra, inside the Palace of Charles V, is the Museum of the Alhambra.
The museum, created in 1870, is free but unfortunately no photos were allowed. However, they do have an impressive Instagram account that posts pictures of the collection and they cover the tremendous amount of restoration work being done. Not everything can be on display so on Instagram we have seen many pieces which were not available during our visit.
We highly recommend going through this museum once you have explored the Alhambra.
The small but delightful perfume museum is housed in a 17th century former palace. The museum displays ancient perfume bottles as well as some of the rarest perfume ingredients found around the world. We were able to view the long history of making perfume in Granada. And, of course, there is a shop on the way out where you can purchase a wide variety of perfumes.
La Casa Morisca de la calle Horno de Oro
Much of the cultural history of Granada is from the time when the Moors occupied Granada and we were recommended to visit La Casa Morisca on Horno de Oro Street in the lower Albaicín.
The museum of Calle Horno de Oro is one of the better preserved palatial homes in the Albaicín. It was built more than 500 years ago in the Muslim style and soon afterwards partially remodeled in the new Christian style. Both Islamic and Castilian elements can be found inside. The space is often used for exhibitions and when we visited, there was colorful and contemporary art hung in one of the second floor rooms that caught our attention.
The hedge maze in the outdoor garden also provided another amazing view of the Alhambra.
Catedral de Granada and Royal Chapel
The magnitude and scale of the Granada Cathedral is truly awe inspiring! Even though it is not listed in the top 50 largest churches of the world [Wikipedia] it was still massive. We felt minuscule next to this colossal Cathedral.
There originally were two towers planned for this cathedral, however only one was partially built then its height had to be substantially lowered because the original foundations intended for a Gothic cathedral could not carry the heavy weight of the tower. It took 181 years to build the cathedral we visited today.
The interior of this church is stunning! You are surrounded by massive white columns, beautiful chapels and not one, but two glorious organs located in the center of the church. This was the first time we have found a church with more than one organ. The two organs were completed in 1744 (organ on the side of the epistle) and 1749 (organ on the side of the gospel). They are two beautiful instruments that apparently have different musical characteristics.
The adjacent Royal Chapel was built as a burial place for Isabella I, Queen of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, King of Sicily and King of Aragon. The monarchs died before it was finished but their grandson, Charles V respected all of their design wishes.
The Royal Chapel is one of our recommended monuments to visit. Granada is rightfully proud of the more than five centuries of history of the city enclosed within the Chapel. Unfortunately no photos were allowed inside the Royal Chapel but there are beautiful works of sculpture, painting and goldsmithing to view.
Iglesia de San Gregorio Bético
In this small and simple church we learned of the fascinating group of nuns referred to as the Poor Clares. The Poor Clares, officially the Order of Saint Clare, was founded over 800 years ago by St. Clare and St. Francis of Assisi. There are approximately 20,000 Poor Clare nuns around the world today. Poor Clares are cloistered, although each Chapter is able to make decisions about their particular enclosure, contact with those outside of the monastery, types of work and daily prayer schedules. The Poor Clare spirit of poverty, prayer and contemplation is essentially the same in all branches.
The nuns of Iglesia de San Gregorio Bético pray 24 hours every day with each nun praying for 8 hours daily. Whenever the church door is open the public may witness the nuns, fully covered in their brilliant white habits, silently praying and occasionally singing. It is a peaceful site to see.
Basílica de San Juan de Dios
Certainly the Cathedral of Granada was impressive in its size and grandeur but the Basílica de San Juan de Dios took our breath away. The interior is so richly adorned, we glanced at each other and laughed; we didn’t quite know where to begin. Once again we took so many pictures we had to dedicate a page just to this church.
We are slowly discovering and appreciating the unique cultural differences between the various cities, provinces and autonomous communities in Spain and are looking forward to many more as we continue with our travels.
Salud from the Granadians,
Ted & Julia