Alhambra // The Jewel of Granada

The Alhambra, a 13th/14th century Muslim palace citadel and one of the most visited places in Spain, I was very excited to go back after remembering my first visit there as a child.  Alhambra is named after its red walls (in Arabic) and it was conveniently built on top of the hill al-Sabika with a view over the whole old city of Granada.  The Alhambra’s influence of Nasrid architecture brings together the Spanish (andalusian) and Islamic (moorish) style, creating uniquely romanticised spaces.  Inside, the walls of the Nasrid palaces are full of calligraphic decoration, with many writings and poems in arabic language.  You can read in much more depth about the history of the Alhambra here.  With so many details to admire in all directions, my only disappointment of the visit is that you do not have longer than your 30 minute time slot within the palaces- definitely make the most of your limited time.  You can however, freely wander around the rest of the grounds for as long as you like.  Generalife gardens is also not to be missed, look out for the diversity of its flowers, plants and fountains.  The grounds can get extremely busy, so you’re best visiting super early in the morning or later into the early evening to avoid the crowds!

(Tip: Make sure you book your ticket in advance or you could miss out as limited tickets are sold per day- you can book up to 3 months prior to your visit and pre-order here)

Granada itself is a beautiful city… I should point out that the whole area is quite hilly so prepare to build up your leg muscles during your trip!  The Albayzín is a popular neighbourhood to experience the city’s ancient centre, where you can get lost down narrow streets and taste the flavours of Morocco!  So if you still haven’t visited Morocco- now’s your cheating chance.  Drink mint tea poured from a fancy silver teapot, enjoy a vegetable tagine with couscous and practice bartering for some good souvenirs.

Here’s some of my photos from this weekend!  I hope you like them!

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Granada views from above
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Looking out the windows in Generalife
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Nasrid details
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With my best travel buddy
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Grand entrances
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Moroccan shopping in Granada
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It’s Spring!
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Oranges
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The Sierra Nevada landscape
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Peeking out
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Generalife gardens
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Moroccan food
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Door details
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Palace views
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Henna
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Tiles
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Architectural elements
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Ceiling details
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Perfect morning view
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Arches and columns
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Granada’s souks
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Old town

Have you been to Granada?  Tell me about your experience!

Roma // Making the most of the Eternal City

From living in Rome for 6 months, I definitely learned a few useful things to know about the Eternal City!  Here I’ve put together my Top 10 Tips to see the city from a local’s perspective and some things to add to your list other than the obvious! (Although the must-sees are still definitely a must-see!)

1.  Check out the Jewish Ghetto!  There are loads of good restaurants in this area, with a mix between jewish and italian cuisine.  In this area particularly, the acclaimed dish of carciofi (artichokes) is a must try!  Aside from all the charming restaurants, the main attraction here to see is Teatro Marcello, the ancient open air theatre built in 13AD (before the Colosseum incase you did not know this.. I didn’t!)  It is impressive to walk by, especially at night when lights from windows above are lit up! (Yep- people actually live above it!)

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Jewish Ghetto
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Teatro Marcello at night!
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Food heaven

2. For city views, the best spots are Terrazza del Gianicolo, Giardini degli Aranci and Villa Borghese (Passeggiata del Pincio) where in all three locations you can watch the stunning sunsets over the cityscape- don’t forget to pack some wine with you!

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View a top of Piazza del Popolo
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View of Vatican from Terrazza del Gianicolo

3. Explore the residential areas Quartiere Salario and Quartiere Trieste to see some of Rome’s most stunning streets and architecture.  Walk down Via Savoia and Via Civitavecchia, two of my favourite streets in the city.  Take in the surroundings of beautiful yellow and orange tone buildings lined with shiny vespas outside.  Look out for Villa Albani tucked away behind a side street and walk down the busy tree lined Viale Regina Margherita.  In the same area, walk to Quartiere Coppedè which has a feel of an italian fairytale, with quaint arched doorways and Roman fountains you can sit on whilst waiting for your Romeo…  Haha but architecture fans will definitely go crazy!

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Quartiere Coppedè
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Piazza Mincio
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Quartiere Coppedè
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Via Dora

4.  You can’t go to Rome and not go inside some of the churches and basilicas.  They are a must-see and really will take your breath away!  Spend a few minutes going in to see and feel what they’re all about.  A couple of my favourites are Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere and Basilica di Sant’Agnese on Via Nomentana.

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Basilica Di Santa Maria, Trastevere

5.  If you have more than 3/4 days, or you’ve been to Rome before and feel like exploring elsewhere, I would suggest visiting the surrounding areas (option of beach or countryside!).  You can very easily take the metro to Eur Magliana and change to take a train to Lido di Ostia to explore the local beaches and try out the coastal pizza!  If you feel like some exercise, aside from all the parks in the city you can experience the Roman countryside- go for a run along the path around Tor di Quinto which runs for a few miles.  It’s a relaxing way to escape some of the craziness of the city!

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Countryside at Due Ponti 
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Lido Di Ostia beach

6.  Good deals to bear in mind… every last Sunday of the month, most museums have free entrance!  Definitely head down early to the Vatican museums which are a must see.  If you feel like practicing some italian, every first Wednesday of the month, some cinemas cost only €2 to watch the latest movies! (Now you know when to time your visit!)  As for attractions and museums, us lucky architecture students get free entrance into most places (MAXXI, MACRO, Castel St’Angelo,etc).

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Staircase at Vatican Museums
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Stunning ceiling at Vatican Museums

7.  If you feel like experiencing a non-italian vibe, or honestly, you’re just fed up of eating pizza for every single meal of each day… You can explore behind Termini for the Asian experience… all the indian and chinese restaurants and supermarkets, immerse yourself with more culture and cheap meals!

8.  But when it really comes to food, you can eat pretty well at both a cheap price and expensive price.  For budget meals, try the concept of aperitivo/apericena, where you pay between €8-11 for a drink (alcoholic) and a small buffet, which you can easily fill up on.  (Make the most of it people, stack your plate high and go back for more a few times!!)  My two favourites are Fluid (behind Piazza Navona) and Momart (near Piazza Bologna).  As for quaint little restaurants, avoid anything near Via del Corso (even Trastevere in my opinion can be a bit overrated).  I would suggest eating around Campo de Fiori or even around Barberini you can find some good places.  For dolce, my bakery of choice would be the famous Marinari, where you can find all the best homemade italian pastries and cakes.

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Huge cocktails at Fluid!
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Marinari (pasticceria)

9.  Most importantly, when it comes to the main attractions, save them for the evening and you will have a much better experience.  It’s hard to appreciate Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican City, Spanish Steps… when people are poking their selfie sticks in your face.  This can definitely ruin your expectations.  So to avoid disappointment, I suggest to walk around the center starting after 9pm (the later the better) and you will be surprised how quiet it is.  (If you’re after nightlife and atmosphere head to Trastevere!)

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Peaceful Pantheon

10.  The deal with transport.  This is a warning- avoid the metro if you can.  After taking it every day, I can honestly tell you every day was a horrible experience.  You should be fine outside of rush hours…  but otherwise you’re going to experience the life of a sardine- stuck between hundreds of others and super stinky…  (And this was my experience in winter months, imagine how much worse it gets in summer!)  Other than the metro, buses and trams are a great way to get around the city, just don’t expect the times to be reliable!  And if you’re driving- great!!  You can be a true italian and not follow any of the rules and park wherever the hell you like.  In Rome, anything goes.

If you’re visiting (or moving!) to Rome, feel free to send me a message and I can tell you a bit more about my experience.  Buon viaggio! 🙂