Lisa O’Brien is a student at the University of California, Los Angeles and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain.
Filled with rich history and culture, Spain has no shortage of sight-seeing or activities. Every street resembles a postcard and every experience has potential for a new remarkable memory. Even just starting to check off that bucket list will make you want to set up shop and stay here forever. At least it has for me, and this is only the beginning of my list.
1. La Alhambra
From El Mirador San Nicolas, a lookout in the Albayzin area of Granada, you will have a perfect view of La Alhambra, an ancient medieval castle and one of the few in the world still in its quality of condition. This is a perfect place for a sunset picnic as you can see the snowy Sierra Nevadas just beyond, and the whole city lit up just to the right.
2. The Albayzin
The Albayzin is the Moorish style neighborhood of Granada. Here you can find tea and hookah restaurants, as well as markets selling clothing, tapestries, lights, food, and trinkets. The remains of an Arab bath complex and a Moorish Mosque are still located here.
3. Las Alpujarras in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
The Sierra Nevada Mountains are just an hour bus ride away from Granada. Tucked away in the hillsides are Las Alpujarras, an area full of small mountain villages that are connected by hiking trails and complete with panoramic views of the mountain range. In the beginning of December, the Sierra Nevada ski resort opens for the season too.
4. Hiking in La Alpujarra
Hiking through the Sierra Nevadas you will likely come across natural streams of orange sulfur water. Would you believe it’s actually safe to drink? It flows through outdoor water spigots set up along the trail, as well as natural steams and small aqueducts, and it tastes just like sparkling water.
5. Relaxing at the Beaches in Nerja
The coasts of Spain on the Mediterranean sides have beaches naturally lined with smooth colorful pebbles instead of sand, although sand has been imported to better accommodate visitors. Even through October in the South of Spain, you can swim, paddle board, hang-glide, boat, and even cliff jump in beach towns like Nerja, Cadiz, and Tarifa. Plus the “Costa del Sol” is known for its seafood.
6. The Sacromonte
In Granada, the Sacromonte is the traditional Gitano neighborhood, where homes are actually built into caves in the mountains. Walking up to the top you’ll find the Abadía de Sacromonte, a church on the highest hilltop with a view of the entire city and La Alhambra.
7. Making Friends at the Botellon
A must-do for anyone studying in Granada is to go to the Botellon, an outdoor social event held every night where hundreds of college students gather to drink wine, eat snacks, and talk. It’s a perfect place to meet locals and practice your language skills, plus it’s a phenomenon unique to Granada’s nightlife.
8. Exploring Toledo
Still surrounded by an ancient moat, Toledo is home to medieval castles and churches, the most famous being the Santa Iglesia Catedral. It is considered by some to be the most prominent Gothic style churches in Spain. Toledo is most famous though for its metal work, as all the original swords from Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones have been made here.
9. Gaudi’s Famous Architecture
Buildings designed by Gaudi have a distinct architectural style that reminds me of the imaginary worlds created by Dr. Seuss. He modeled his designs after naturally occurring shapes, like the curve of waves and snake skeletons, and tops buildings with distinct colorful, twirled columns. La Pedrera, an apartment complex and museum, La Sagrada Familia, the most famous church in Spain, and Parque Güell, with its fake-giant gingerbread houses, are all must-see Gaudi buildings.
10. Cheering on a Futbol Game
One thing you cannot leave Spain without doing is attending a futbol game. The biggest rivalry is between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. The games between these two teams each year, referred to as “El Clásico,” paralyzes the whole country and is considered one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Although FCB has become increasingly political, as to many in Cataluña it symbolizes Catalan nationalism, it is still considered a world-famous team with fans extending even beyond Spain, myself included.
Want to read more about Granada? Check out “Why Granada is ‘Tapa’ the Food Chain”
Good choices, Granda is a beautiful city to study!
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Toledo is wonderful, Lisa