the skinny on staying fat & happy in:
WE RECOMMEND ONLY WHAT WE HAVE EXPERIENCED PERSONALLY; THUS THIS LIST IS NOT EXHAUSTIVE, BUT RATHER REPRESENTS THE EXTENT TO WHICH WE WERE ABLE TO EXPLORE GIVEN THE TIME FRAME OF OUR VISIT.
THAT SAID, WE STRIVE TO SAMPLE AS MUCH OF THE CULTURE AS POSSIBLE EVERYWHERE WE GO, SO THE FOLLOWING MAY BE READ AS A CURSORY SELECTION BEST CHARACTERIZING THE RESPECTIVE PLACE.
BECAUSE WE LIMIT OUR ADVICE TO WHAT WE HAVE EXPERIENCED FIRSTHAND, WE ARE HAPPY TO OFFER MORE DETAILED INFORMATION UPON REQUEST.
With a menu as international as the clientele, Poë may not be a typical Spanish tapas bar, but it is one of the best. Though the fare ranges in ethnicity from Portuguese to Thai, only about ten different items are on offer. Poë abides by the rule of thumb that it's best to have limited options and to make all of them very well. Some are even spicy, an all-too-rare quality in European cuisine.
Spicy chicken liver with cilantro (hígado de pollo picante con cilantro)
Brazilian black bean stew (feijoada brasileira)
Poë is a small, cosy space with a cult following. Consequently it fills up early. Mind you early is relative; in Spain that means arrive shortly after 8pm. The food here is fantastic and drinks are cheap, so we suggest ordering as many rounds as necessary to try every dish, or bringing friends who like to share. A wonderful place to eat, drink and meet english speaking friends, don't fall in love too quickly and neglect to try other, more traditionally Andalusian establishments. Open every evening except Mondays.
Small glass of beer or wine accompanied by a tapa: €2.00
At the other end of the spectrum from Poë, Ávila is a greasy spoon packed with locals ordering authentic Spanish tapas. Fried seafood features prominently on the menu.
Ratatouille with squid (ratatouille con calamar)
Pig trotters in saffron sauce (manitas de cerdo)
Chilled tomato soup (gazpacho)
Marinated and fired dogfish (cazón en adobo)
Tapas culture lends itself to excessive drinking. Ávila is a great option for the morning after as they open at 9 am, early by Spanish standards, and rather than alcohol you can order a healthful glass of chilled tomato and olive oil soup, gazpacho, and still receive a tapa.
Chilled tomato soup accompanied by a tapa: €2.75
A radically tacky tapas bar serving finger sandwiches and decorated with faux suits of armor, medieval weapons and gaudy chandeliers. The atmosphere is complemented by American music videos of the 1990's on big screen tv's.
Tapas are a gift of the house, and therefore determined by the house
Not exactly a gourmet destination, Antigualla earned our recommendation by virtue of their outstanding generosity. This is probably the only place in Granada where you can eat a fairly filling meal for the price of only one cheap beer. If you're really trying to stretch your dime and are traveling with friends, come in one by one and order individually. Regardless you'll be served one sandwich each, but by ordering separately you'll each get a serving of the side dishes rather than split a communal plate. This tactic is applicable for any bar where the choice of tapa is made by the house.
Small glass of beer, fried pork sandwich, french fries and olives: €2.00
Al Sur De Granada
A small organic cafe that doubles as an grocer and wine store. They serve breakfast in the morning and tapas later in the day.
Breakfast special (desayuno especial)
Many places in Granada offer a breakfast special consisting of coffee, juice and toast, ranging in price from €2.00 - €5.00, and ranging similarly in quality. Al Sur de Granada's offer is priced in the middle, and outshines the competition in the quality of the ingredients and ambiance of the establishment. There's a running joke that says the starkest dichotomy of Spanish cuisine is succulent jamón served atop utterly flavorless, sawdust dry white bread. At large, Spanish bread is indeed rather lackluster. The moist, chewy, grainy toast here is a welcome exception. It even has nuts and raisins.
Café con leche, orange juice, toast with olive oil and tomato: €3.50
Commencing at the Arabic Gate of Elvira which gave way to ancient kings entering and exiting the city, Calle Elvira is now a bohemian avenue packed full of tapas bars and souvenier shops. A favorite haunt of Granada's many Erasmus (European study abroad) students. Tapas run the gamut from worldy to finger sandwiches to traditionally Spanish.
Bella y Bestia
Calle Elvira is a gem on account of it's latenight liveliness and the density of places to eat and drink. If you're looking for an evening on the town we suggest grabbing one beverage and tapa at whichever bar looks eniticing, then making your way to the next bar and so on and so forth until you're either stuffed or falling over. Approach with caution if you're very hungry, for establishments on this run get very crowded and attentive service is not as high a priority in Spain as elsewhere. It may well be a long half hour between rounds of tapas. If you're more interested in a meal than entertainment, midday is a safer bet. Late night visits may reward you with free flamenco though, as musicians also frequent this street. Keep an eye out for apparently seedy joints with lots of Spanish speakers, and of course guitars.
Small glass of beer or wine accompanied by a tapa: €2.50
Free walking tours
There are actually free walking tours offered in most every major city, which are a great way to get a quick grasp of the history and geography of a place. The Granada tours are made particularly entertaining by the enthusiasm of the guides. Best to plan this towards the beginning of your stay and get oriented. You'll likely be introduced to things you'll want to return to.
It would be all-too-easy to pass by the humble entrance to this impressively preserved Arabic bathhouse. It would also be a shame. Not a large structure, the visit takes no more than twenty minutes, but the miraculous quality of light of the interior makes it twenty minutes well spent. Unlike most of the city's monuments entry is free, the doorman will simply ask your nationality, we suspect to inform tourism marketing campaigns.
the albaicín & sacromonte
These two picturesque neighborhoods scaling the western banks of the Darro valley certainly deserve a visit. The Albaicín is the old Moorish quarter, now a World Heritage Site, composed of small whitewashed houses shaping cavernous streets. This combination makes for a pleasantly brisk stroll even in summer. Near the top of the hill are a few plazas and passsages lined with tapas bars, as well as the famous Mirador of San Nicolás offering an unsurpassed view of the Alhambra. Sacromonte is sparser but no less interesting as the site of Romani gypsy cave houses. You can attend flamenco shows in these caves, but tickets will cost between €10.00 - €20.00.
The sizeable Erasmus (European exchange student) population affords the city a respectable nightlife. Two of the most notable clubs include local favorite Mae West, a high-class discoteca with two massive dancefloors, and El Camborio, partially set in a Sacromonte cave with a series of terraces and a barside view of the Alhambra- that is if you stay through sunrise. We mention Pato Palo not because it's necessarily better than the others but because is it has no cover, whereas Mae West and El Camborio run about €10.00 per entry. Admittedly, that fee usually includes one drink. Still Pato Palo's crowd is no less energetic, the space has a grimy sort of charm, the DJ plays primarly reggae plus it's an easy stumble from Calle Elvira and so a convenient choice for topping off a tapas tour. Be warned, the Spanish do everything late, and if you arrive before 3 AM you may think you've wandered into a lethargic fisherman's watering hole by mistake. El Camborio offers discounted covers if you enter before midnight, but that leaves around 3 hours of waiting for the big show. If you do choose to stop by Pato Palo early, they at least have a foosball table to keep you occupied.
Granada is small enough to walk most anywhere, given you stay somewhat near the center.
An epicenter of affordable tapas and student oriented bars, the not-yet-gentrified neighborhood surrounding Calle Elvira offers cheap lodging and a colorful populace. Set between the Albaicín to the north and Central Granada to the south, these blocks make perfect base camps for exploring any part of the city on foot.
Granada's most attractive quarter, with a history dating back to the Moors. The area was designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1984, but is by no means a museum. Hundreds of people still carry out their lives in the characteristically Andalusian houses and narrow cobblestone streets, meaning there are plenty of scattered markets and tapas bars. About a twenty minute walk from Central Granada, but quick access to the attractions of Calle Elvira.
Staying here may put you between half to a full hours walk from downtown, but Sacromonte might be appealing enough to justify that sacrifice. Out reputed by the Albaicín, some lodging maintains the affordability of its gypsy past. There are many more humble restaurants than tapas bars, but you may have the opportunity too sleep in a homey cave, and will almost definitely hear some impromptu flamenco straight from the heart of la zambra.
MUCH OF THE INFORMATION EMBEDDED IN OUR NARRATIVES WAS SOURCED FROM THESE READINGS:
tales of the alhambra by washington irving, 1832
It is no doubt cliché to read this book while in Granada, but for good reason. Irving, famous for such timeless myths as Columbus' belief that the world was flat, served for a time as an American ambassador to Spain and was fortunate enough to reside inside the Alhambra itself. His Tales weave together autobiography, psuedo-history and oral legends that make it clear the greatest asset of Moorish legacy in the city is no single structure, but rather an enduring atmosphere of supernatural mystery.