Exactly one year ago, I arrived back in the United States after spending four months studying in the enchanting city of Granada, Spain. The small city located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains became my home after just a few weeks living with my host family. Although I did hit all the tourist hotspots, such as the Alhambra (a famous Moorish palace and symbol of the Andalusian Islamic legacy), I focused on downshifting from my New York pace and immersing myself in the Spanish culture -- Americans should definitely consider adopting the siesta! Besides taking classes at the university, I tasted new food, learned about the history of bullfighting and spoke Spanish all day long. After 16 weeks of navigating a city where hardly anyone spoke English (Granada is not like Madrid or Barcelona), the idea of becoming a citizen of the world started to feel like a reality.
I have compiled a list of my 10 favorite cultural activities in Granada. As you pack your suitcases and start to fret about missing an entire semester on campus, I hope that this list will help you realize that your experience abroad will surpass any experience you could have in the classroom. Happy travels!
1. Watch a Flamenco show at Tablao Albayzín. Enjoy a cozy atmosphere in a cave perched near the Mirador de San Cristóbal. Although a €28 entrance fee is expensive, it includes a walking tour of the Albaicín and one drink. Shows are held every night and the dancers are incredibly talented.
2. Set up an "intercambio" through your university or study abroad program. Meet weekly with a native speaker and have a conversation over tapas. Help them learn English while they help you learn Spanish.
3. Take a hike. Trek up past the Alhambra from Plaza Nueva and choose a path to walk or bike. Enjoy the gorgeous view of the city from the top.
4. Dance the night away. Check out the discotecas such as El Camborio (located inside a cave on Camino de Sacromonte, plays popular American songs), Mae West (located on Centro Comercial Neptuno, proper attire required, cover charge) and Granada 10 (casual, American music, full of American students). Remember, the discotecas don't get crowded until 2:00 a.m. and close around 6:00 or 7:00 a.m.!
5. Go to a "tetería." The city is filled with Arab teahouses, such as Ábaco Té (located in the Albaicín neighborhood), where you can relax and chat with friends over hot tea. Most places also offer hookah; a popular flavor is "manzana y menta" (apple and mint).
6. Eat "churros con chocolate." Go to breakfast at Café Fútbol in Plaza Mariana Pineda after a late night at the discoteca. Drink freshly squeezed orange juice and dip churros (fried dough pastries) in melted chocolate.
7. Tour a winery. Visit the wine cellar in El Valle de Lecrin and take a tour of the vineyard. Learn the lingo so you can act sophisticated when you swirl and twirl your wine glass at a dinner party. If you're lucky, you might even get a bottle of wine on the house.
8. Hang out at "el botellón." This is a popular social activity among Spaniards age 14-28 who gather in an outdoor plaza between 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. before going to a discoteca. Here you can meet new people and pick up some slang words that are unique to the youth in Granada.
9. Eat shawarma. As you walk through the city, your mouth will water when you smell shawarma cooking on a spit. Chow down on a pita wrap filled with shaved lamb, chicken or beef and top it with vegetables (e.g. corn, tomato and cucumber) and tahini or hummus.
10. Soak up the sun. Travel along the coast to Salobreña, a beautiful old town with white houses nestled in the hills. Curl your toes in the sand as you look out onto the Mediterranean Sea.