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15 Facts about Granada, Spain

Updated on May 18, 2016

Granada is a city and province in southeastern Spain. It is situated on the Genil River, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, 225 miles (360 km) south of Madrid, near the Mediterranean Sea. Granada was the capital of the former Moorish kingdom of Granada, sometimes called Upper Andalusia. It was the last stronghold of the Moors in Spain.

1. The city attracts many tourists, who come to see its Moorish antiquities and famous buildings. It is also a marketing center for the agricultural area of the Vega plain, which lies to the south and west. Granada's industries include food processing and the manufacture of paper, linen, and woolen goods.

2. The oldest part of Granada is the Albaicín district in the north. Its caves are still inhabited by Gypsies. The Darro River, which cuts through the city on its way to join the Genil, and the hill on which the renowned Alhambra stands divide the Albaicín from the Antequeruela section to the south. The Gothic cathedral stands at the center of the city. The old quarters around the cathedral are now slums. The administrative, commercial, and shopping district is directly south of the cathedral, off the main street, the Reyes Católicos. The modern section of Granada is located to the west.

Reyes Catolicos street
Reyes Catolicos street | Source

3. Granada's chief building is the great palace of the Alhambra. Most of the structures on the Alhambra hill were built by the Moorish rulers of Granada between 1238 and 1358, but Emperor Charles V (Charles I of Spain, reigned 1516–1556) built a palace adjoining that of the Moors.

4. The Alcazaba, the Moorish citadel, is the oldest part of the Alhambra. It was built in the 11th century, on the western part of the hill, and only its outer walls, towers, and ramparts have been preserved. The name "Alhambra" (meaning "the Red" in Arabic) derives from the red, sun-dried bricks of the citadel.

5. To the east of the Alcazaba is the Moorish palace of the Alhambra, usually entered through the Gate of Judgment; it is where the Moors held their informal court of justice. The palace consists of a series of halls, courtyards, and galleries, including the Hall of the Ambassadors, the throne room of the sultans; the Court of the Lions, with its alabaster basin and fountain; the Hall of the Abencerrajes, with its lofty dome; and the Hall of the Two Sisters, with its honeycombed vault. The Court of the Myrtles is famous for its long central pond, lined on either side by hedges of myrtle.



6. The lower slopes of the hill form a park, which is planted with roses, oranges, and myrtles. A dense wood of elms, taken there in 1812 by the Duke of Wellington, also grows in the park. The 13th century Generalife, the former summer palace of the sultans, is the most notable of the outlying buildings.

Church of Sagrario
Church of Sagrario | Source

7. To the west, below the hill on which the Alhambra stands, are the main buildings erected by the Christians after the conquest of Granada in 1492. The Gothic cathedral, begun in 1523, was not completed until 1704. The 18th century Church of Sagrario is located next to the cathedral, on the site where the chief prayer tower of the Moors once stood. Also near the cathedral is the 16th century Royal Chapel, containing the tomb of the first rulers of united Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella.

8. The Carthusian monastery of Cartuja (1516), in the northern part of Granada, has been an observatory since 1902. To the northwest is the University of Granada, which received its charter in 1531. It is located in a building that formerly housed a Jesuit college. The Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo, which is not far from the Genil River in the southern part of Granada, is a 13th century Moorish mansion with beautiful gardens.

9. Granada was originally an Iberian settlement and later a Roman town, but it did not become important until it came under the influence of the Moors. In the 8th century it was first governed by the caliphate of Damascus, and Granada later was sometimes called the "Damascus of the West." The Moors made Granada a flourishing city from the 9th to 15th centuries. For about 60 years, beginning in 1031, it was ruled by an independent local dynasty, the Zirids. The city then fell to the Almoravids, a Muslim Berber dynasty from North Africa, in 1090. Numerous palaces were constructed in Granada during the period of Almoravid domination, which lasted until 1149.

Granada Cathedral
Granada Cathedral | Source

10. By the end of the 12th century Granada was the fifth-largest city in Spain, protected by the Alcazaba citadel and an elaborate system of walls. Its population was a mixture of Arabs, Berbers, and Spaniards, with three faiths: Muslim, Jewish, and Christian. Each group lived in its own quarter. In the 13th century the city passed to the Nasrid kings, who reigned for 250 years and built the palace of the Alhambra and additional fortifications. Granada became a walled city, with 20 towers in the surrounding area to defend it from attack.

11. In the reign (1354–1391) of Mohammed V Granada reached its peak, both in architectural achievements and in political importance. But during the latter part of the 15th century it was weakened by feuds that broke out between the great Moorish families.

12. In 1492, Granada, the last city to be held by the Moors in Spain, fell to the Christian armies of Ferdinand and Isabella. It was then made a part of the kingdom of Castile. The old Moorish town was transformed, as new squares, churches, monasteries, and convents were constructed. However, Granada declined under Christian rule. It suffered particularly from the substantial loss of population brought about by the final expulsion of the Moriscos (Spanish Moors) in 1610.

13. The city did not begin to grow again until the late 19th century. A sudden demand for sugar resulted from Spain's loss of its last remaining American colonies in 1898. This need for sugar favored Granada and its surrounding agricultural district of the Vega plain, where the cultivation of sugar beets developed rapidly. The city began to prosper as a regional market center and developed successful food-processing industries.

14. Granada province has an area of 4,838 square miles (12,531 sq km). It is bounded on the south by the Mediterranean Sea and extends inland over the Sierra Nevada to include the highest summit in Spain, Mulhacén (11,420 feet, or 3,480 meters).

15. The province has strategic importance as a link between the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Spain. The Genil, which is its major river, irrigates the fertile Vega plain, with its important sugar beet crops. Granada province also has scattered mineral resources.


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    • Glenis Rix profile image


      3 years ago from UK

      Great hub! I visited the Alhambra on a day trip in 2015 whilst staying in Mijas. A day isn't long enough to absorb everything. I recommend the expert guides - a font of fascinating information

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      The Alhambra is beautiful, a magnificent building and worth a visit.


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