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Greetings From Granada

by Jasper Groen in Travel and weekendtrips , 02 april 2011

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

I admit, Granada is not the most obvious city to choose for your long saved-up for gay holiday. It’s, in Southern Andalusia, a typical example of a provincial town. That sounds a lot less swinging than Madrid and Barcelona, or party island Ibiza. But, like Maastricht in Holland is a great location for a few days’ visit, Grenada is too. And the gay facilities are decent.

The city profiles itself rather prominently as gay friendly and there are plenty of bars and clubs to go to somewhere different every night.

Moorish Kingdom

Still, even the most hardened party animal will first be amazed by the beauty of the city. Granada’s history goes back to 800 BC but there are buildings from when the Moorish kingdom in the thirteenth century landed on a hilltop nearby. This hill was over time slowly covered with palaces, which grew out to the Alhambra complex. Together with the adjoining palace gardens, it’s an absolute must-see for every visitor.

One should be warned, says Pablo, a 20-year old student of medicine during our walk: “Access to the palace is restricted to 300 people every half hour. The spaces are too small for more visitors. Whoever comes later than marked on your ticket will not be allowed in anymore.” They will miss out on the ancient rooms with mosaics, and Quran texts carved in stone and other patterns on the walls and pillars.

On the hill opposite the Alhambra is Albaícin, an old Moorish neighborhood with paved streets and squares and traditional white houses. Pablo says that especially in summer the shady streets are great to walk through. “They’re the coolest in temperature in town.”

In Albaícin you can find antique stores and workshops for locally made artifacts. There are also some excellent restaurants with breathtaking views of the Alhambra. Not just for dinner, these restaurants are often also busy during lunchtime.


At the bottom of downtown, where the hills of the Alhambra and Albaícin meet, is the position of the most beautiful bathhouse in town (see below). Opposite’s an ancient mosque, nowadays in use as a Catholic church, the Iglesia de Santa Ana. If you’d rather go shopping, this historic center is where you want to go.

It’s full with churches, mostly Renaissance, the imposing cathedral of Granada is a handy landmark.

Around this 115 meter long church are a lot of trendy shops. A little south of the center you’ll also find an El Corte Inglès, the Spanish version of the Bijenkorf.

If you like to eat well you’ll enjoy the culture here, and not just in restaurants. According to good Spanish habit the barmaids serve a tapas with every drink.

There’s quite a difference in quality and quantity of these tapas so it’s very worthwhile to walk around a bit. It’s also nice to go to one of the teahouses. They serve Pakistani of Turkish tea with sweet pastry or a water pipe. These teahouses stem from Moorish times, you spot them opposite from souvenir shops with teapots and Arabic tiles.


Student Pablo emphasizes Grenada is not just an old town with beautiful monuments and heroic past. There’s a university with 60,000 students and that keeps the town vibrant. “There’s a lot to do at night, also for gays. A lot of gays from villages nearby come to the tolerant city.”

This is confirmed by Antonio, connected with the local gay interest organization NOS, and also singer in a Spanish rock band: “This city is very open, the locals don’t make a fuss when you walk hand in hand with your boyfriend. That’s completely safe.”

But the image that the municipality is pro-gay he’d like to correct: “The government often blocks our plans. When we organize a Gay Pride they wait till the last minute with the licenses.” So how come Grenada portraits itself as gay friendly? Antonio: “Because the residents and the tourist industry are gay friendly, because gays have more to spend than other tourists.”

Tips for Granada


Lagayedra (historic center): Restaurant with drag shows, in the middle of the gay scene. Excellent food, also for vegetarians. No gay tourist trap.
La Pajuana (center): Über trendy and gay friendly tapas bar. Forget about the slices jamón ibérico. Here they create big modern, and very creative tapas.
Jardines de Alberto (entrance Alhambra). Great selection of local appetizers. Ask for piononos of Santa Fe as a desert, a sweet Andalusian treat.
Mirador de Morayama (Albaícin). Majestic view on the Alhambra and excellent food. Popular with the locals.


Six Colours: Near Lagayedra and with the same owner. Nicest place in town for young and old, more men then women. Mirrors on the ceiling and beautiful boys before and behind the bar.

La Sal: Has been there for fifteen years and is the oldest gay bar in town. Around the corner from Six Colours, mainly lesbian. Men are welcome to. Party!

Fondo Reservado: Here it’s all about drag queens, later in the evening. Stretched out bar with an enthusiastic crowd.

TicTac: No youngsters to be seen here. With drag shows. Typical cruising spot.
XXL Ambient: Spacious bar with possible the smallest darkroom in Europe: six square meters! Same audience as TicTac.
El Zoo: The only real gay nightclub with tiger prints on the wall and a large animal cage on stage. Two bars, one dance floor. A bit of an underground atmosphere, especially when you have to go to the bathroom.


Flights: Do you want to see the Alhambra from the sky? Rent a small plane and ask the pilot if he’ll let you steer for a bit, it’s all possible, from 80 euro per person (With a minimum of two and maximum six people)
Alpujarra: Arrange a car and navigate the hairpin turns and abysses to the Southern “white villages of Grenada” stuck like little bits of chewing gum on steep green slopes in the mountains. In Pampaneira there’s an information center about this special region, that has a lot of it’s own peculiar dishes.
La Costa Tropical: It’s only seventy kilometers to the most Southern tip of Europe at the Mediterranean coast. Get a tan en catch the breeze on the beach, or drink a cocktail under a palm tree.

Sauna, hamam or spa?

The most prominent gay sauna of Granada is called Boabdil. The place is named after the last king of the Moorish kingdom of Nasrid, of whom is said he “wept like a woman” when he died.
For nine euro you get a towel, thongs, a tiny locker and access to – let’s formulate it nicely – the rather average facilities. Sitting in the jacuzzi “to fit four” stuck between two slightly oversized men my thoughts wander too quickly to Legionella and other bacteria. The relax rooms and the video room look a little too grimy to enjoy freely.

Whoever is more into atmosphere than the cruising action should really try the hamam of Granada, at the base of the Alhambra and opposite the ancient mosque. All five senses are stimulated with candles, scents, tea and three baths with different temperatures. A small army of masseurs is ready to finish off the job. The atmosphere at Baños Árabes is simply magical, due to geometric mosaics, hand-carved rosters and carefully lit arches. Prices vary between 21 (just bath) to 47 euro (massage and Andalusia ritual included.)

There are also several spas in the area. One that describes itself as gay friendly and sponsors a regional gay event is Balneario de Lanjarón, at a half hour drive from Granada. Don’t think this is a covert cruising zone though; there are way too many doctors, assistants, dieticians and especially elderly women with their husbands around for that. You can immerse yourself in several wholesome baths however. From 15 euro for an hour to 98 euro for a full day. Extra services are charged separately.

Federico García Lorca (5 June 1898 – 19 August 1936)

Everywhere in Granada there are references to Federico García Lorca. This was an openly gay poet and playwright, and the most famous personality of the region. Nationalists who weren’t impressed by his left-wing views and writings killed him during the Spanish civil war. Besides, Franco had labeled homosexuality to be a crime.

During his study in Madrid García Lorca hung out with movie maker Luis Buñuel and painter Salvador Dalí, with whom they say he was in love. During his stay in New York Lorca wrote his most explicitly gay work El Público (The Audience). But his poetry and plays are predominantly about the suffocating country life of Andalusia, and about the traditions and culture of that region. Some call it a tribute to it; others think it’s too critical of it.

Andalusia itself, and Granada especially, have completely embraced García Lorca. The house he was born in, just outside the city, has been turned into a genuine museum. Visitors peer at clothes, furniture and manuscripts. In Granada there’s a museum with artifacts from his time. It’s not far from the park named after him, with a statue of him in it. This is where the nationalists shot him.

Aside from the park the city dedicated another spot to the poet: travelers by plane arrive at the Aeropuerto Federico García Lorca, the regional airport. His name is written with huge letters on the facade of the building as a prominent welcome to all visitors.



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