Meet GranadaPosted: December 27, 2011
A Siesta City
Don’t try to get anything done in Granada between 2pm and 6pm. The city’s commerce observes the Spanish tradition of the siesta, which is basically an extended lunch in the middle of the day. Everything is closed so that people can go home, eat lunch, and relax. They don’t always sleep – in fact, my Spanish roommate scolded me for my midday naps: “No debes dormir tanto.”
Between 6pm and 9pm, though, there is a particularly Spanish bustle to the streets. People line up at the pastelerias (pastry shops), trading their euro cents for baguettes and buñuelos (donuts). Every one of Granada’s ten thousand shoe shops – unofficial estimate – is open and passerby window-shop at every one of them. The high school kids hang out in front of Granada’s only Burger King; so do the best of the city’s street performers.
Home, for Centuries
About 280,000 people live in Granada; in terms of cities, it’s pretty small. Because Granada is longer east-to-west than north-to-south it is portrayed sideways on many maps, with the Alhambra near the top and Calle Ronda as the bottom border. Top to bottom, the walk will take you under thirty minutes. Going the other direction will take closer to an hour, since it’s uphill – up the same hill that helped protect the Alhambra from Catholic soldiers for hundreds years.
The cathedral is in the center of the city, but there isn’t really a main plaza in front of it. Instead, there are dozens of small, intimate plazas scattered around the center of Granada. Unassuming plazas guard true treasures, like Plaza Mariana Pineda. On its south side is Cafe Fútbol, which has the best churros con chocolate in Granada. Choco-holic fun fact: the hot chocolate is basically fondue for the churros. And Cafe Fútbol gives you a mountain of churros.
Falling in Love, on Foot
The easiest way to get around downtown Granada is walking. Everything is fairly close, and most of the fun bars and shops are found on predominantly pedestrian streets. The sidewalks aren’t perfect: many of them are paved with polished marble stones that are beautiful in summer and straight treacherous in the rain, and dog crap is everywhere. But the sidewalks are regularly hosed down and swept by Granada’s small army of street cleaners, and whatever you stepped in today will probably be gone by tomorrow.
The charm of the city is in the warm movement of the post-siesta bustle. The main streets are especially crowded Thursday through Saturday nights. People do their shopping (window or otherwise) then filter off to the cafes, bars, and restaurants to meet friends for coffee, tapas, and dinner. As the stars come out over the city, the plazas hum with laughter and rapid Spanish chatter.