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Washington Irving and Granada

Washington Irving was the prototype par excellence of the romantic traveller who spent most of his life journeying around Europe and who, naturally, became seduced by the exoticism of Spain at the time, where he became US ambassador between 1842 and 1846.

Of Scottish heritage, Washington Irving travelled between Seville and Granada in 1829, fascinated by the rich Moorish heritage in Spain. The trip led to him writing the 'Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada' and, three years later, his famous 'Tales of the Alhambra' where he retells several Granada legends.

The Granada leg of the route.

The Granada Provincial Tourism Board offers on its website website a series of strolls that evoke the footsteps of Washington Irving and the favourite spots of the Romantics.

According to the usual trail of travellers of the day on the Santa Fe trail, the Royal Hospital, built on the orders of the Catholic Monarchs, is a highlight. Built in the 16th century, its houses a marvellous Renaissance cloister.

Continuing on to the centre along the Gran Vía, Granada's main road, we come across the Corral del Carbón, the former Yidida Corn Exchange built by the Nasrids in the mid- 14th century with its exquisite façade, horseshoe arch and porticoed courtyard.

The surrounding area is home to Plaza del Carmen, where the Town Hall is located, and the Puerta Real, or Royal Gateway, crossroads, as well as the winding streets and squares overflowing with local flavour and hives of activity such as: Bib-Rambla, Zacatín Street, the Alcaicería (once housing the grand bazaar), Oficios Street and Plaza del Cabildo, home to the Madrasah of Granada - the school founded by Yusuf I in 1349 and dedicated to theology, philosophy, medicine, mathematics and other branches of knowledge.

The Lonja [Exchange] and Royal Chapel are located just opposite, next to the cathedral, where the mosque once stood. The outstanding 16th-century chapel is a symbol of the Catholic Monarchs who conquered the city and were laid to rest in the pantheon. The main body of the cathedral rises next to the chapel and is a grandiose Renaissance church worked on by Diego de Siloé and finished with a Baroque façade by Alonso Cano.

The area surrounding the cathedral is home to a series of pleasant neighbourhoods with nooks brimming with Romantic highlights, such as the home of Eugenia de Montijo on Gracia Street, and many monuments including the churches of Santos Justo y Pastor, San Juan de Dios, a Baroque masterpiece, and San Jerónimo. After a stroll through the streets in the centre, Irving then heads to the Alhambra, the ‘sanctum sanctorum’ for Romantic travellers.

What to see

  • The Alhambra. This is the city, fortress and palace built by the Nasrid dynasty in the Emirate of Granada.
  • El Albaicín neighbourhood. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1984, it was the seed of the current city of Granada and still preserves the magic of its Moorish past.
  • El Sacromonte neighbourhood. This is the most distinctive area of Granada, known around the world for its cave homes and marvellous views, as well as being deemed the cradle of Flamenco.
  • El Realejo is the former Jewish quarter of Granada, or Garnata al-Yahud (Jewish Granada) as it was known during the Islamic period. It is located at the foot of the Alhambra and its Sephardic heritage can be clearly seen in the streets and nooks, as well as the statue to the Jewish scholar Yehuda Ibn Tibon, which overlooks the entrance to the neighbourhood on Pavaneras Street.
  • The Historical Centre. The monumental nature of the favourite city of the Catholic Monarchs can be appreciated in impressive buildings such as the cathedral - a symbol of Christianity in Granada - that makes for an excellent starting point to stroll around the heart of the city. The Royal Chapel is located next door and is the pantheon of the monarchs. A little further along is the Monastery of San Jerónimo - a top-flight Renaissance jewel.

Irene recommends

Irene recommends

Granada Card Tourist Pass

This pass offers entrance to the main monuments in Granada and the public transport service, as well as major discounts on other tourist services. There is also a children's GRANADA CARD for those between 3 and 11 years old, offering the same services as the adult card.

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