By Shafer Higgins
Granada is a city located at the base of the famed Sierra Nevada mountain range in southern Spain’s Andalusia region. Founded in the 8th century by the Moors, Granada’s history and culture were shaped by both Muslim and Christian influences which are still palpable today. It contains a dizzying array of medieval architecture and monuments, none more famous than the Alhambra, the behemoth palace of the emirs for centuries and perhaps the best surviving example of Moorish architecture. Walking through many of its neighborhoods can feel like stepping back in time. Very much a student city, in addition to its Old World charm Granada boasts a bustling nightlife and animated culinary culture centered on tapas and the Spanish penchant for staying out until the sun comes up. The saying goes that there are more bars than people in Spain, and choosing the right tapas place or discoteca that line Granada’s meandering cobblestone streets can seem a daunting task. The following, at least, shouldn’t be missed.
- ‘El Camborio’
Situated in the steep hills of Granada’s fabled Sacromonte district, nightclub El Camborio’s terrace offers an unbelievable view of the Alhambra. Inconspicuous during the daytime, El Camborio’s facade comes to life around midnight, along with most of Granada’s denizens. Offering reasonably priced drinks and no shortage of Reggaeton music, this nightclub offers an intimate yet lively atmosphere that is a favorite among locals and the myriad international students alike. Word to the wise: walking there can be a treacherous hike from even the nearby Plaza Nueva, built as it is into the steep foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. No cause for concern however; cabs in Granada are cheap, and on certain nights presenting your taxi receipt can gain you free entry. This kills two birds with one stone, and you’ll feel like Studio 54 royalty as you waltz past that winding line out front and up those whitewashed stairs (which should also be treated cautiously; they’ve claimed many casualties coming down).
- ‘La Chupiteria’
Referred to affectionately as “Chupi” by its loyal patrons, ‘La Chupiteria’ offers a wide and varied selection of, well, shots. Shots, shots and more shots. Which makes sense, seeing as “chupiteria” translates roughly to “place where shots are sold in nearly unfathomable quantities”. It would be hard to find a more aptly named location, or a more economical one; shots at ‘La Chupiteria’ cost a mere 1 euro, and each comes with “chupi” point which can be collected and redeemed for anything from a shot glass to the much-coveted sweatshirt. It’s gamified drinking, reasonable prices, vibrant atmosphere and seemingly tireless staff have made it a veritable establishment of the Granada nightlife, especially among broke college students (of which Granada has no shortage). But here’s a life hack: should you wish to visit ‘La Chupiteria’, be sure to start your night there, rather than end it there. You may find the reasonable prices too enticing…
The word “tapas” may be one of the most difficult Spanish words to translate into English, given its variety of meanings. Sure, the concept is simple enough: a small free snack served alongside every beverage, with the word “free” being used very liberally depending on the location. Expect less and less generosity every kilometer you get away from Granada. It is one of the few cities in Spain to still include the price of the tapa with the drink. Whether or not it’s included, the size and quality will vary. It can be anything from an elaborately cooked paella to a handful of broken potato chips served on a plate. At Babel, you find no such problem. Located on storied Calle Elvira, Babel serves an incredible variety of internationally inspired tapas alongside a decent selection of local microbrews (a rare enough thing to find in Granada). Two drinks will get you the equivalent of a full meal, artfully presented and all. Three may leave you feeling stuffed, but quite satisfied all the same. But be forewarned: it’s typically packed on any given night and you may need to take a few laps before you can get a spot inside. Don’t be put off by having to stand, it’s well worth it.
- ‘Sala Vogue’
For those needing a break from the Reggaeton beats (or beat, singular, seemingly identical as all the songs seem after a while), they’d do well to find their respite at Sala Vogue, a subterranean nightclub located in the center of old town. Its set lists cater to those whose tastes tend more towards the indie rock, with a few retro tracks peppered in. Its disco ball, strobe lights and wooden-paneled interiors lend it a casually kitschy vibe well appreciated after a few drink tickets are redeemed and few Franz Ferdinand tracks are played. But it’s not for the early-to-bed, early-to-rise types: it doesn’t open until 1 AM and won’t typically get hopping until around 3. So take your time getting ready and maybe sip a double espresso while you’re at it.
- ‘Cafe 4 Gatos’
Speaking of espresso, one thing Granada lacks is a strong coffee culture. Sure, café con leche is pretty ubiquitous (one assumes because of the largely nocturnal hours kept there), but the cult of the coffeehouse so prevalent elsewhere does not appear to be observed in this part of the world. A notable and pleasant exception to this is ‘Café 4 Gatos’. Located in the Albayzin, Granada’s oldest neighborhood which dates back to its Moorish origins, it is well situated among the winding stone alleys. Like much in Granada, getting there is a bit of a climb (a trip to Granada can give new meaning to the phrase “uphill both ways”). But once you’ve taken that first sip of sweet espresso, you’ll have forgotten all about it. The salmon and caper tostada also comes highly recommended. “Cuatro Gatos”, which literally translates to “four cats”, is also a Spanish idiom referring to a small quantity of people. Indeed, the interior contains precious little square footage, but no one will complain about being seated on the terrace, containing as it does a nearly improbable view of the Alhambra palace.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. For a mid-sized city it boasts a seemingly endless supply of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and everything in between. Use of the word “enchanting” would not be overdramatic when describing Granada and the best way to experience these and other hidden gems is to stumble upon them wandering aimlessly through the cities maze-like streets