Michelle Obama and the girls, Tom Cruise, and Jen and Brad (way back when) have all headed to this history-steeped Spanish city for a holiday filled with delicious food, stunning architecture and nightlife worth heading out into. Read on for why you too need to put Granada on the top of your travel-to list.
Tipples and tapas
Everything in Granada revolves around food and drink, and it's one of the few cities left in Spain with a traditional tapas culture, meaning that with every drink you order you'll be given a dish to nibble on. You'll only need to be in the city for a matter of minutes before you stumble upon a tapas bar, and after a few hours of bar trial-and-error you'll scope out the spots that give you the best food with your drinks. Order yourself a caña of beer, or the locals' drink of choice, Tinto de Verano (it's a mix of lemonade and red wine) and you'll be instantly immersed in the city's vibrant social scene.
If you're lost for somewhere to go, just look out for a group of students - Granada is a university city and the population almost doubles during term time - following these tipple connoisseurs is sure to lead you to one of the best bars in the city. But, to give you a head start, we say start off in the Bodega la Antigualla on Calle Elvira or La Flauta on the corner of Azacayas and Santa Paula. The impressively sized tapas in these two central bars will leave you feeling as satisfied as you would after a hearty meal. Another popular spot is La Bella y La Bestia on Calle Carcel Baja, this small bar with big tapas serves up amazing food and, thanks to its spot next door to Granada 10, one of the most popular clubs in town, it's always lively.
Granada is a city that comes alive at night, so when you're finished on the tapas trail, get dolled up and ready for a night on the tiles, and we wouldn't recommend heading out much before midnight, as Spanish clubs are at their best in the wee hours, often staying open until 6am. What we do recommend is paying Granada 10 a visit. This converted theatre has a Dubai-style ladies night every Wednesday, so girls can dance the night away as they enjoy their fill of Tinto de Verano. Another club that's simply unmissable is the Albayzín's El Camborio, once a cave now a club, it has an amazing terrace with totally uninterrupted views of the famous Alhambra Palace - and we don't think there's a club with a better view in the world.
The Emirate of Granada
Granada is a city steeped in history, and its original Moorish name was, fittingly, the Emirate of Granada. Everywhere you look there's a stunning building to admire or a monument to read up on - even the city's main park is built around the house of the celebrated Spanish author, Federico García Lorca. But the jewel in the city's crown is the Alhambra, a breathtaking Moorish palace built in the 14th century that's now a Unesco World Heritage Site. Meander up the Carrera del Darro, stopping off for some tapas along the way, and you'll be blown away as soon as the Alhambra comes into sight. The beautiful palace (and its equally impressive gardens) are definitely the highlight of a trip to Granada. Brad and Jen visited back in 1999 and since then, a host of celebrities have made a bee line there, including How I Met Your Mother's Josh Radnor, British Prime Minister, David Cameron and his wife Samantha, and Hips Don't Lie singer, Shakira.
Also, make sure to spend an afternoon wandering around the Moorish quarter of the city, the Albayzín, which is where you'll catch the city's best flamenco shows. Get gloriously lost in the twists and turns of the area and make your way up past little shops and cafes to the Mirador de San Nicolas, which boasts the city's most impressive views of the Alhambra.
Sand to snow
If you can tear yourself away from the charm of Granada, you might want to hop in a rental car and explore the local area. The city sits peacefully at the bottom of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and if you're in town from October to May you won't be able to miss the amazing view of snow-capped mountains that frames the city. We'd recommend a quick 30-minute drive up into the mountains to check it out - and whether you're a snow bunny who can't resist renting a pair of skis for the day, or you'd prefer a day sipping on hot chocolate up in the alpine town of Pradollano, it's well worth the trip. The ski season usually lasts from early December until early May, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the 100km of ski runs.
If a day of skiing takes its chilly toll, then you can follow it up with a day spent relaxing in the sun at the beach. As the most southern ski resort in Europe, it's a mere 40-minute drive to the coast, which means you could be on piste in the morning and then relaxing in a coastal town like Motril and Almuñécar by afternoon, or at Nerja in the Costa de Sol, one of the most popular holiday towns in Spain.
While Tom Cruise filmed Knight and Day in Seville, he visited Granada for a few days and was spotted in tapas bars across the city, it’s even reported that he had lunch with Spain’s King Juan Carlos.
After a wild night out, there's nothing better than stopping off for churros on the way home. The freshly cooked doughnuts dunked in a thick hot chocolate are delish, and you'll find a churreria in most squares.
Cabo de Gata
This Almeria beach is about three hours drive away, but as a protected natural park, it has some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Spain, so it's worth making the trip. Why not spend a night or two in the area?
Granada comes alive during Semana Santa, the week of Easter. With parades and shows that take months of preparation, you'll experience Easter in a totally different, and decidedly Spanish, way.
Budget: Hotel Casa Del Capitel Nazari
Staying at this charming hotel is a little like checking into a different era, as the stunning Renaissance palace dates back to 1503 and is housed within the sprawling streets of the ancient Albayzín district. Located in the Paseo de los Tristes, just minutes away from the Mirador de San Nicolas, which is the spot with the best views of the Alhambra in the city, this is a steal of a hotel for culture vultures looking for history by day and a vibrant nightlife after dark (as this is a very lively part of town). Rooms from Dh300-a-night
Mid-Range: Hotel Hospes Palacio De Los Patos
This urban haven in the very centre of town is the perfect place for chic city girls. The striking 19th-century building is architecturally breathtaking, and from the moment you step over the threshold you'll be swept away by the stylish and sleek marble and crystal interiors. Make sure you keep one evening free to dine at the hotel's Sezone restaurant, which is renowned for serving up some of the most delicious local produce, and if you're totally exhausted by city stalking, head to the Bodyna Spa to unwind. Rooms from Dh800-a-night.
Luxury: Parador de Granada
If you're heading to Granada to enjoy the stunning views and incredible architecture, there's no better place to stay than the Parador de Granada. Just a 10-minute walk from the centre of town, this converted 15th-century convent set within the walls of the Alhambra Palace, strikes the perfect balance between the traditional - the old features are all intact - and the modern, boasting all the luxuries we can't live without. Could there be anywhere more impressive to stay than within the walls of an iconic World Heritage Site? Rooms from Dh1600-a-night.
Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Death In Granada, Die Another Day, Star Wars: Episode II, Knight And Day, Lawrence Of Arabia, Conan The Barbarian, Cleopatra, Patton, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Doctor Zhivago.
Fly with Emirates to Madrid, then fly Air Iberia to Granada from Dh4,400 return. Visit emirates.com for more details.