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You'll see Granada's finest medieval Moorish mansions, or cármenes, in this attractive hillside district. The spacious whitewashed buildings all have one special feature: a central, walled courtyard filled with fountains and flowers. There are great views from Mirador de San Nicolás over to the Alhambra complex on the opposite hill and the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance. This district was populated by an influx of Moors from the town of Baeza in 1227 and historians maintain that Christians, Jews and Muslims lived in relative harmony here for many years.
This is where the saint San Juan de Dios died in 1550. He was a guest of the aristocratic García de Pisa family. The mansion is now headquarters to the charitable order he founded, La Orden de los Hermanos Hospitalarios, as well as a museum and art gallery. The art gallery has an important collection of Flemish paintings, including works by Van Cleve and Gosart. The museum contains relics of the saint himself. You'll find the building behind the Real Chancillería (High Court), just before entering Carrera del Darro. It has a Gothic-style façade with the orders coat-of-arms carved in stone. Inside, stairs from the Moorish-style courtyard lead to an attractive first-floor patio and chapel supported by columns from below. Admission: free
Enter Calle Elvira from Plaza Nueva for the lively atmosphere. On the left, you've got some of Granada's busiest and best tapas bars where people have to stand in the street with their drinks because there is no space inside. On the right, there is a small Arabic quarter full of Middle Eastern and North African restaurants, take-away shops, tea shops and craft shops. Most of the bars around here still offer free tapas with drinks. The shops and restaurants in the Arabic quarter offer good value for money as well. Walk straight along the street from here and you'll pass a variety of antique shops, ceramics shops and small furniture workshops until you come to Elvira Gate.
Historians, researchers and architecture buffs will appreciate this old Moorish mansion, Museo Casa de Los Tiros de Granada along the busy Calle Pavaneras. Stand on the other side of the narrow street to look up and get a good view of the facade. You'll see some carvings of Greek heroes along with the representation of Boabdil's sword and muskets (tiros) pointing out of the upper windows. The interior courtyard and lower floor are often used for art exhibitions. The museum on the upper floor houses Granada's historical archives. Researchers can pore over the fascinating collection of old newspapers, books and photographs. Call ahead to know more.
This 11th-century public bathhouse is one of the best preserved buildings of the period. It's been carefully restored and still gives you a feel of what it must have been like nearly 1000 years ago. During the Moorish occupation of the city, there were many bathhouses around town. It has a social as well as a religious function. The Romans were probably here first, using the water from the adjacent River Darro. You might want to leave the owner a tip as entry is free.
The setting could hardly be more lovely: a beautiful Renaissance mansion with an impressive plateresque façade - the Casa de Castril. Inside, you'll see artifacts from around the province belonging to people who have settled here from the Paleolithic period through to the Moorish occupation. Rooms one and two describe the Paleolithic and Neolithic era. Rooms three and four concentrate on Iberian and pre-Roman settlements. Room five is the Roman section. Room six has Visigoth remains and room seven shows how advanced the Moorish culture was here in Spain.
Come here directly after visiting the Nasrid Palaces on your tour of the Alhambra. It'll help you to bring the place to life. You'll find an interesting collection of furniture, pottery, money, clothing, scientific instruments and other objects that were used as part of daily life in the palaces during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. The fabulous blue and gold ceramic Jarre las Gacelas, or Alhambra Vase, is the showpiece item. You'll find it on the ground floor of Palacio de Carlos V (Carlos V's Palace).
Palacio de Carlos V has two museums worth visiting either before or after the rest of the Alhambra complex. The ground floor Alhambra Museum displays a wonderful collection of furniture, paintings, ceramics and coins from the Nasrid period. The Fine Art Museum upstairs contains excellent religious paintings and sculptures from the 16th and 17th Centuries along with some of David Roberts' 19th-century watercolors. The palace itself dates from a later period than the neighboring Moorish palaces. It was built by Pedro Machuca, for Emperor Carlos V in 1527. Check website for varying dates.
This district is a maze of little streets, famous for its gypsy cave-houses with their whitewashed façades, decorated with colorful flowers. There are many bars here that offer both authentic and "touristy" flamenco shows. If you are lucky, you might get to see La Zambra, a gypsy cave party where the performers dance all night in a style believed to date from the time of the Moorish occupation. Carry on up Camino del Sacromonte, off Cuesta del Chapiz, and you'll come to the 17th-century Abadía del Sacromonte, an abbey and museum, founded by Archbishop Pedro de Castro.
This mountain chain offers great skiing in winter and abundant wildlife in spring and summer. Spain's largest ski resort is here, just 35km (40min) from the city. It has all the facilities you need for a week's holiday or a simple day trip. There's skiing from December to April and lots of sunny weather, too. In fact, Granada is bidding for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Natural Park status means the wildlife is protected. Come up in late spring and summer and you'll see a rich variety of wild flowers and butterflies along with bird life and wild mountain goats. There's a high-altitude fitness-training centre here with fantastic facilities. In summer, you can trek up to the highest peak in mainland Spain, Mulhacén (3479m).
Even though it's located on the Alhambra hill, you don't have to be visiting the Alhambra complex to come in here. What you see is a great display of paintings and sculpture with Christian religious themes created by local artists like Alonso Cano, Diego de Siloé, and Pedro de Mena, during the 16th and 17th Centuries. The last rooms show some minor paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum's library has a specialist collection of books on Renaissance and Baroque art. You'll find it on the second floor of Palacio de Carlos V (Carlos V's Palace).