Somewhere for the weekend ... Granada

The Andalusian city is justly famous for the Alhambra and its other Moorish remnants, but it is also the setting for a major international jazz festival, writes Cathy Packe


WHY GO NOW?

WHY GO NOW?

The 24th Granada Jazz Festival (00 34 958 222 907, www.jazzgranada.net) reaches its climax this weekend, with performances from a number of internationally known names. Concerts include music from the Terence Blanchard Band and Youssou N'dour. Events are taking place in various venues around the city, and tickets are available online, by phone from 00 34 902 888 902, from the box office at the Teatro Isabel La Catolica on Acera del Casino, and from selected music shops across the city.

DOWN PAYMENT

Granada doesn't have its own international airport, but it is easy to reach the city from Malaga, 75 miles away. Flights are competitively-priced, with connections from all over the UK on full-service and no-frills carriers. A flight this weekend with easyJet (0870 600 0000, www.easyjet.com) from Stansted to Malaga will cost around £131 return; from Liverpool, expect to pay around £120. There are buses and trains from Malaga airport to the city centre, a distance of seven miles; from there, buses and trains link Malaga with Granada. Trains ( www.renfe.es/ingles) involve a change, and often a long wait, at Bobadilla, so the bus may be more convenient, with direct hourly services between the two cities (00 34 952 350 061). Car hire companies at Malaga airport include Hertz (08705 90 60 90, www.hertz.com) and Holiday Autos (0870 400 0000, www.holidayautos.com), if you prefer to use your own transport to reach Granada.

INSTANT BRIEFING

The oldest part of the city - where visitors are likely to spend most of their time - is built on three hills - Alhambra, Albaicin and Sacromonte - and is an attractive collection of narrow alleys and steep slopes. To the south is modern Granada, whose main streets are Gran Via de Colon and Calle de los Reyes Catolicos. If you find the city too hilly to walk around, use buses 30 and 31. These red-and-white minibuses both leave from the central Plaza Nueva; the 30 goes around the Alhambra, the 31 up the Albaicin hill, and they make a number of stops on the way; €4 (£2.75) will buy a book of six tickets.

A tourist card, or bono turistico, is available from the ticket offices at the Alhambra and the Capilla Real, or at the office of the Caja General de Ahorros de Granada at Plaza Isabel la Catolica 6 (00 34 902 100 095, www.caja-granada.es, open 9am-2pm Monday to Friday, and 5.30-8pm Thursday). Tickets cost €18 (£12.50), or €20 (£14) from the Caja General, and give a 30 per cent discount on entrance tickets to many of the main sights, as well as a number of free bus journeys within the city. The tourist office is at Cuesta de Santa Ines 6 (00 34 958 221 300).

REST ASSURED

The best place to stay is inside the grounds of Granada's main attraction, the fortress of the Alhambra. The Parador de San Francisco (00 34 958 22 14 20; www.paradores-spain.com) is housed in a beautiful medieval building, and the rooms have been sympathetically restored. Double rooms here cost €228.92 (£159) including breakfast, but are usually booked up several months in advance. Another historic building, a 16th-century palace just across the river Darro from the Alhambra, has been remodeled and turned into the Palacio de Santa Ines at 9 Cuesta de Santa Ines (00 34 958 22 23 62; www.lugaresdivinos.com). Rooms here start at €96.10 (£67), with an extra €4.50 (£3) for breakfast. Along the Acera del Darro, close to the Teatro Isabel la Catolica where many of the jazz festival events are taking place, are several good hotels. Try the Dauro at number 19 (00 34 958 222 157, www.hotelesdauro.com), where double rooms start at €100 (£70) and singles at €69.50 (£48), with an extra €6 (£4) for breakfast. The Hotel Juan Miguel, along the road at number 24 (00 34 958 521 111, www.hoteljuanmiguel.com), has double rooms starting at €68.50 (£48), and singles at €55.65 (£39).

MUST SEE

Any trip to Granada should include a visit to the Alhambra, a fortress dating from the time of the Nasrids, the last Islamic dynasty to rule Spain. Enclosed within the Alhambra's walls are a series of gardens and palaces, one in Islamic style and a later addition in Renaissance style, as well as the Alcazaba, built as a defence for the city in the ninth century. Entrance to the Alhambra is on Calle Real (00 34 958 227 525, www.alhambra-patronato.es), and the complex is open 8.30am-6pm daily, and 8pm-9.30pm Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost €7 (£5) and should be booked in advance at busy times (from BBVA, 00 34 91 537 9178, www.alhambratickets.com). The Generalife Gardens, at the side of the Alhambra, were built in Arabic style as part of the summer palace. Granada's cathedral, an imposing building just off the Gran Via (00 34 958 222 959), is worth a visit, but far more impressive is the small Capilla Real (00 34 958 227 848; open 10.30am-1pm and 3.30-6.30pm Monday to Saturday, from 11am on Sunday; entrance costs €2.50, £1.50), at the side of the cathedral with its entrance on Calle Oficios. It was built for Ferdinand and Isabella, who finally drove the Moors out of Spain in 1492 and united the country; they are buried in the chapel in adjacent tombs. The district once occupied by the Muslims is Albaicin, an interesting area across the river from the Alhambra, where the minarets are a reminder of its Islamic history. On Carrera del Darro are the remains of an 11th-century bath house (00 34 958 229 738; open 10am-2pm Tuesday to Saturday).

MUST BUY

Most of the best shopping is in the new town, on or around the main Calle de los Reyes Catolicos, and in the streets to the west of it, including Calle Zacatin; there are some excellent shoe shops here, as well as a collection of designer fashion labels. At the bottom of the street is the Alcaiceria, a collection of small shops housed in the old silk market. The main city market is on Calle San Agustin.

MUST EAT

Look out for any of the Andalusian specialities: gazpacho soup, hams, hearty stews and fish dishes, as well as plenty of tapas. The restaurant at the Parador San Francisco (00 34 958 22 14 20) has an impressive selection of local dishes on its menu. A long-standing - though expensive - local favourite is Cunini on Plaza de la Pescaderia (00 34 958 25 07 77), renowned for its fish and seafood. For light meals, head for Plaza Bib-Rambla, the liveliest and most attractive square in the city. There are cafés and restaurants all around the square, and plenty to watch as you eat and drink: Gran Café Bib-Rambla is a good lunch spot.

INTO THE NIGHT

Drinking, accompanied by tapas, begins in the early evening, and many people manage to eat so many small portions that they never get as far as ordering a conventional meal. There are plenty of tapas bars in the streets west of the Plaza Nueva: the further west you go towards the university, the livelier the bars. If you need an address to head for, try Calle Pedro Antonio de Alarcon. Flamenco is popular all over Andalusia, although the most heavily-promoted shows tend to be a tourist attraction rather than an authentic musical experience. Many of the performances are held in caves in the Sacromonte district: Cuevas los Tarantos, at Camino del Sacromonte 9 (00 34 958 224 525; www.cuevaslostarantos.com) is usually reliable, particularly if you go to the latest show, typically around midnight, when most tourists have given up and gone to bed. There are several other flamenco caves on the same road.

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