However beautiful the beaches, stunning the scenery and fascinating the attractions, a holiday isn’t complete without sampling some delicious local culinary delights from local markets and stores. The Andalusian city of Granada is an amazing destination for history buffs and lovers of natural beauty, and it’s also noted for its unique and spicy Arabo-Andalusian cuisine and its wide selection of retail opportunities.
The city’s hundreds of years of Moorish occupation changed its ancient cityscape to a wonderland of Arabic architecture, exemplified by the magnificence of the Alhambra, the world-famous citadel cum palace close to the heart of the city and its many Granada city centre hotels. The Arab influence on the ingredients and flavourings in its cuisine created a unique style still evident today in the Arabia-themed tapas bars and restaurants scattered around the city.
Dining out is a long-held tradition here, with the flavourful locally-produced olive oils an essential base for the typically Mediterranean cuisine now recognised as a world culinary and cultural heritage by UNESCO for its health-giving properties. Favourite ingredients are fish and shellfish, including more unusual watery denizens such as sea anemones as well as the much-loved tuna, crab, cuttlefish, squid, prawns, sardines and anchovies. Fresh, locally-grown root and other vegetables such as aubergines and peppers add flavour to spicy stews and are popular offerings at Granada’s tapas bars, served free with drinks.
In the city’s restaurants, the delicious gazpacho soups are served either cold or hot, crammed with minerals and vitamins and a favourite with all diners. The spicy local Chorizo and Longazina sausages feature either on their own or in compatible recipes and North African favourites such as meat kebabs and sharwarmas are specialities of the Arabian-themed eateries. Alcohol is often not served in these places due to religious prohibitions, but the fresh lemon drinks and flavoured teas are a good substitute.
For foodies in a hurry, fast foods here also have a healthy Arab slant and are found all over the city, often including a rich yoghurt sauce as well as meat and fresh vegetables. Local restaurants entertain their evening customers with traditional flamenco dancing and music, and the locally produced ‘house wines’ resemble sherry more than the light wines visitors are used to. Fine dining in exclusive haunts, either set in luxury Granada city centre hotels or in the winding Old Quarter streets, is an unforgettable, if expensive experience.
Shopping in Granada is another of the city’s equally unforgettable experiences, with retail outlets from traditional markets through funky ethnic areas up to fashionista heaven in top designer boutiques. The Old Quarter is the place to begin, with its winding streets and historic squares lined with craft stores, jewellery and gift shops and tiny boutiques. Alcaicelia and Calle Caldereria are the streets to head for.
Close by the Alhambra Palace you’ll find the best of the beautiful inlaid wood marquetry items, a sublime, traditional Granada craft. Antique examples can be found in galleries along Gran Via De Colon , Puerta Real, Angel Ganivet, and Cuesta de Elvira thoroughfares.
For colourful ethnic and funky fashions, shopaholics will love the stores in Plaza Nueva and Calle de los Mazones while, for both upscale fashion and the Spanish equivalent of high street stores, the huge El Cortes Ingles department store is well worth a visit to one of its two locations, Calle Arabial and Carrera del Genil. Another great souvenir or gift idea is an example of the brightly-glazed and decorated traditional Fajalauza pottery, seen all over the city including in its vibrant San Augustin Market.
Lek Boonlert is an editor and content reviewer at DirectRooms and is responsible for all Granada City Centre Hotels content.