The Plaza Nueva
The Darro River cuts a swath between the two hills of the Alhambra and Albaicín before it disappears beneath the city at the Plaza Nueva. This nexus of patio restaurants and gawking tourists was borne out of the city’s need for greater space following the completion of the sprawling Royal Chancellery, a 16th-century Renaissance palace commissioned by the Catholic monarchs. The resulting plaza was built (after many unsuccessful attempts) atop the dwindling river and soon became a great converging point of the Granadinos and a popular spot for bullfights. In illustrating Washington Irving’s book, Tales of the Alhambra, Joseph Pennell would spend many of his days drawing the plaza, particularly its crowning structure, the Chancery Palace.
The Plaza de Santa Ana was later added on to the Plaza Nueva and has since become an integral part of the whole. This narrow stretch runs between the Alhambra and Albaicín along Calle Sacromonte, past the Arabic Baths dating to the 11th century and the ruins of El Cadi bridge leading to the Mudéjar Church of Santa Ana and its portico and tower of glazed tiles inspired by Arab minarets. Restaurants and storefronts to the south and sun-drenched patios to the north line the road beneath the looming Torre de la Vela (Tower of the Alcazaba). The Church of Santa Ana represents the best in Granadino architecture and houses works of art by Diego de Aranda, Jose Risueno and Jose de Mora.
The food is pricier in Plaza Nueva than the rest of the Granada but the atmosphere is well worth it. Once the sun has set and the restaurants have closed, Plaza Nueva (and more particularly the areas surrounding it) is transformed into a lively dig of bars and taverns with people overflowing into the streets and plaza. Plaza Nueva is the gateway to the Alhambra, the Albaicín and the Sacromonte. A busy taxi line and Mini Bus pickup make travel to and from the Plaza a breeze. Most likely, you won’t want to leave.
Construction on the Catedral of Granada was commissioned in 1502 shortly after the town was reclaimed from the Moors. Designed by the architect San Juan Evangelista, the Cathedral is a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles. The Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, were entombed in its royal chapel in 1521 and haven’t moved since.
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