At first glance, it is difficult to appreciate the true proportions of the Granada Cathedral. Seemingly squashed between the buildings of Granada’s historic center, the building doesn’t give the impression that it is the 4th largest cathedral in the world.
This monumental architectural wonder is a masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance style, and was once considered the eighth wonder of the world in the 16th century. However, it was originally built in Gothic style over a former mosque. The order for its construction was given by the Christian Monarch Queen Isabella after the conquest of Granada. But over the course of two centuries, the cathedral underwent various modifications like Renaissance and Baroque.
The Granada Cathedral was meant to make a statement. The main entrance of the cathedral is designed in the form of a triumphal arch, marked by three high arches and marble reliefs of evangelist figures. It has a commanding presence, something that the architects probably wanted to achieve.
The Granada Cathedral’s interior provides a far clearer idea of the monstrosity of its dimensions. 20 gigantic white piers rise from the tiled floor to reach the ceiling, which is topped by a 30 meter high dome.
The main chapel is itself 22 meters in diameter. Its broad circular arrangement makes it unique from other medieval cathedrals that have an apse arrangement. This way, people could worship from any part of the building. The stunning stained glass paintings describe scenes from the life of Christ, and important sculptures depict the Apostles, Adam and Eve, as well as the Catholic Monarchs.
Admission into the Granada Cathedral costs € 5.00. Children under 12 and individuals with special needs have free entry. Opening hours are:
- Monday to Saturday: 10:00 – 18:30
- Sundays and Holidays: 15:00 – 18:00
Capilla Real de Granada
Capilla Real de Granada or the Royal Chapel of Granada is the burial place of the Christian Monarchs, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. In fact, the Isabelline and Gothic styled mausoleum was built on their command. Unique artefacts include King Ferdinand’s sword, Queen Isabella’s sceptre as well as a Flemish art collection.
Originally, the main entrance of the Royal Chapel of Granada was inside the Granada Cathedral. Today, you can enter the Royal Chapel of Granada through la Lonja.
Admission into the Capilla Real de Granada costs € 5.00. Free audio guides are available. Children under 12 and individuals with special needs have free entry. Opening hours are:
- Monday to Saturday: 10:15 – 18:30
- Sundays: 11:00 – 18:30
Palacio de la Madraza
Just across from the Granada Cathedral and Capilla Real de Granada is the Palacio de la Madraza. It was established by the Nasrid king Yusuf in 1349.
The Palacio de la Madraza conserves the mihrab (chapel) of a madrasa. A madrasa is an educational institution where students study Islamic teachings and the Quran. During the Moorish reign in Granada, madrasas were a common sight.
If you look closely, the Palacio de la Madraza’s original Mudejar framework has been rebuilt in Baroque style.
Corral del Carbon
The Corral del Carbon is widely believed to be the oldest arab monument of Muslim Granada. This 14th century monument in Granada is the only Nasrid alhondiga preserved across the entire Iberian Peninsula.
Alhondiga is a public warehouse where grain was sold, bought and stored. It served to help farmers and people in times of need.
The Corral del Carbon is completely free to enter. It is also home to the Andalusian Public Foundation. You can see many artefacts on display; sketches, books, and musical instruments.
There is also a video detailing the history of Granada, the customs and dresses of the people, and the ways of the goods trade. I quite liked the video and found it to be quite informative. Totally recommend watching it (available in English and Spanish).
The name “Alcaiceria” is derived from the Arabic word “al-Kaysariyya”, meaning the payment of duty to the Byzantine Emperor or Caesar during the trade of goods. The Alcaiceria in Granada was home to the silk trade, the prime industry during the Nasrid period.
The Alcaiceria was originally built near the Aljama Mosque, in the heart of the Islamic medina. It was comprised of a series of streets, ranging from Plaza Nueva to Plaza Bib-Rambla.
After the fire of 1843 that raged through Granada for six hours, the Alcaiceria was completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt. Today, only a small section remains, just off the Calle Reyes Catolicos and extending to the Granada Cathedral.
Today, walking down the narrow cobbled lanes of this arab handicraft bazaar, you get an idea of the cramped single storey spaces that made up the stores. The traditional souk-like atmosphere with vendors calling out to customers, offers goods such as:
- fajalauza (hand painted pottery)
- taracea (wooden inlaid trinket boxes)
- granadino farolas (stained glass lamps)
In addition, you will find jewelry, souvenirs, sandals, ethnic clothes and silks, as well as herbs, spices, and dry fruits.
In 1984, the Albaicin was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Alhambra of Granada. Also known as Albayzín, this former arab quarter maintains its narrow winding streets and traditional houses from its medieval Moorish past.
As you walk through the Albaicin quarter, there are a number of monuments from the time of the Nasrids in Granada:
City Walls: The well-preserved defence walls reinforced with brick and stone, date back to the Zirid period (9th century) as well as the Nasrid period (14th century). There are many towers and gates, including the famous Puerta de Elvira.
Iglesia de Santa Ana: Located near Plaza Nueva, this 16th century Mudejar church is built over a former mosque. The proof of this lies in the church’s bell tower, which closely imitates a minaret.
Carrera del Darro: One of the oldest streets in Granada, the Carrera del Darro runs along the picturesque Rio Darro gorge. Lined with vendors and cafes, the street provides close up views of the Alhambra.
Set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevadas, the Alhambra is one of the most striking examples of Islamic architecture in Spain. Travelers from all over the world come to Granada to visit this stunning fort and palace complex. Statistics show that more than 8,500 people visit the Alhambra everyday.
Originally a walled citadel, the Alhambra transformed into an opulent seat of power for the Emirs of the Nasrid dynasty. Today, visitors to Granada can appreciate the grandeur of this historic and architectural treasure, be it the beautifully landscaped Generalife gardens, or the stunning 14th century Palacios Nazaríes.