Travel to Granada, Spain '08
by Mark & Margaret Edwards © 2008
This visit turned out to be more of a challenge than we thought it would be –
the city offers a broad cross-section of problems for the disabled traveller –
very steep streets, streets with steps, cobbled streets, high kerbs, uneven
pavements, old buildings of architectural merit with plenty of steps and a
shortage of lifts. To be frank, there is a lot of work to be done here by the
authorities to improve access: indeed, with many of the buildings would be
difficult but it has been achieved in other cities with similar challenges. But
don’t let this put you off – you can see a great deal but you need to be patient
and have a strong pusher – and Granada is such a beautiful and friendly city
with so many wonderful things to see.
There wasn’t all that much information about disabled access available on the internet and elsewhere and some of it was misleading eg “you can’t get up to the Mirador S Nicholas with a wheelchair” – you can, we’ve done it, it wasn’t easy but it is possible. Where there are major problems is getting around the Albayzin quarter – it is very attractive and interesting but most of the “streets” are stepped and/or extremely steep. My husband tried an assault on it from one direction and was persuaded to give up after pulling me up a long street of steps. There are routes around, but they are difficult to find.
I got the impression that the city is pretty safe – there always seemed to be people around and we had no difficulties – not even with the shoeshine men who hover around the cafes and passed some critical professional comments on the state of my husband’s shoes which didn’t help in making a sale. We had no concerns in following the avenue down from a late night visit to the Alhambra.
I use a standard folding manual wheelchair with solid tyres (saves dragging a puncture repair kit and pump around) and also rugged spokes (we’ve managed to break lighter spokes in the past). I can also walk a little and have with me a folding stick which doesn’t get in the way when not in use. My husband does all the basic research as to what might be accessible, plans out routes and schedules and provides the push.
GETTING THERE AND BACK
We flew with Iberia from Heathrow and changed to an internal flight in Madrid. Fine at the Heathrow end and we were met at the arrivals gate at Madrid with my wheelchair. We’ve had a previous interesting experience at Madrid with Iberia and they kept up their standards this time – we were placed in the usual waiting area for disabled passengers (Iberia give the strong impression that they don’t like their disabled clients gadding about at the airport and spending money in shops and consuming coffee – they also take your boarding pass off you so you can’t make your own way to the flight or do shopping where the pass is needed). As the time came round for our flight, there was no sign of the pusher. Why? The flight was delayed for over an hour but you don’t find this out unless you look at the departure screens – and there isn’t one where we were waiting, there are no announcements and no staff could be bothered to tell you. If you are on your own, you have a problem. Other people did have problems and were getting rightly upset about it. Iberia extended their disability awareness to the seat bookings – we were booked in a centre and aisle seat – when the occupier of the window seat turned up, I had to ease myself out of the way so they could get by. Not so unfortunate as the paraplegic gentlemen across the aisle from us who had to be physically levered by the stewards to be out of the way of the passenger who had the window seat. There is a strong impression that Iberia don’t understand the needs of disabled passengers or just don’t care. And while I’m on the subject, Iberia’s move to charging for refreshments in flight is something to be aware of: take your own supplies by buying your sandwiches airside – they will be cheaper and better.
Granada Airport is small and does not have airbridges so either you walk down the mobile steps from the plane or are lifted down on a frame. I elected to walk. The airport is otherwise on the level with disabled toilets in the main area and in the departure lounges. To get a cab, turn right out of the arrivals hall to get outside the building and then turn left round to the front of the building which is where the cab stand is. It will cost between €25-30 to the city centre.
We’ve taken to strapping my wheelchair up with one of those elastic luggage straps with hooks either end – that and a notice politely asking staff not to try to unfold it is designed to prevent the problem we had in Amsterdam last year when someone tried to unfold this chair’s predecessor and broke the frame.
We also travelled just with cabin baggage to speed up the process – two well packed shoulder bags because trying to push a wheelchair and manage one of those cases on wheels jobs is not easy.
We stayed at the Room Mates Migueletes which is just off Plaza Santa Ana. It is not accessible by taxi and we were dropped off at the bottom of the sloping Calle Piso. It is only a couple of minutes to the hotel from the drop off point. The hotel was a pleasure – friendly, welcoming staff, attractive rooms set around an open courtyard with galleries, quiet and a general aura of comfort. It’s also a very good location with excellent restaurants within a short distance.
It is not officially wheelchair accessible – there is a sloping flight of nine steps upto the courtyard where the lift is and it is possible to be pulled up these. Walking up them is a bigger problem as there is no handrail.
Breakfast is provided in a basement room – very pleasant and a good feed including fruit, cold meats, cheeses, cereals – enough to set you well up for the day. But it is only accessed by steps and again there aren’t handrails. You may want to consider sending your companion off to the breakfast room to bring your food to you in the courtyard.
If you have some mobility this is a good choice for a hotel and we would certainly stay there again.
Apart from the cafes on the Plaza Santa Ana which are good for a light lunch and drinks as well as watching the passing parade, we tried:
Paseo del Padre Manjon 1 – an attractive restaurant at the town end of the Paseo de Los Tristes with a fine view from the window tables of the Alhambra above. Fusion of Spanish and Moorish cuisine – reasonably priced, very well prepared and with a pleasant atmosphere. Accessible by wheelchair – WCs a bit of a squeeze but no steps.
Calle Oficios 12 – an old fashioned establishment near the Cathedral with a menu which claims to have had some of the same dishes for 40 years. The dessert with whiskey jelly is worth leaving some space for. Accessible but again a bit of a squeeze with the wheelchair. Also their house red at €12 a bottle is well worth exploring.
On the left hand side going down Plaza Nuevo – the name escapes me but you can’t miss a shop on a corner with dozens of hams hanging from the ceiling inside and a restaurant area to one side. Get there by 12.45 to settle into a table – they don’t start cooking until 13.00 but it soon fills up – and you run the risk of being overlooked by the waiters. So order some nibbles just to ensure their attention. If you are a vegetarian, go somewhere else. This is pork at its finest with an incredible range of carefully reared porcine products – my husband didn’t believe that his steak was pork – a wonderful texture and so much flavour. Worth a visit even just for a plate of sausage slices and bread.
We used the guide book “Granada Seville Cordoba” (Cadogan) and also a map downloaded from http://www.turgranada.es/pdf/espanyol/callejero.pdf which we printed out some copies in colour on A3 sized paper. We saw a lot of people carrying various versions of this map and it’s a good one – plenty of detail, legible and references the main sights from a key by number.
We only paid at a couple of locations outside the Alhambra – whether free access elsewhere was because we were EU nationals or as the result of a disability concession (formal or otherwise) wasn’t clear. You are likely to have tickets pressed on you even if you haven’t paid – presumably for administrative purposes.
The must see site for Granada. It offers a range of challenges but there is a great deal which can be seen.
Firstly, book in advance. We booked about three months in advance to ensure that we got the time slot for entry that we wanted. Currently, disabled visitors get in free and the companion for €13. Use the website at www.alhambradegranada.org/guias/alhambraEntradas_en.asp
There is an English option on this page. If you don’t book in advance, you
will join a long queue for an hour plus...plus…plus. Use the credit card that
you will have to collect the tickets with because that is how the system will
identify you. Note that you can also book night-time visits on this site as
If you have booked for the Nasrid Palace, note the time you have chosen. You have to be at the entrance of that sector at that time because of restrictions on numbers. You can spend as long as you like in the palace, but you must enter at the authorised time.
Secondly, be aware that you collect your tickets away from the main entrance into the Alhambra complex – the ticket section is at the eastern end of the site – where it says “Taquillas Alhambra” on the map . At the ticket area, you need to pass by the ticket sales building on your left with quite probably a long queue outside it and go under an open sided structure beyond which is the glass fronted building where the pre-booked ticket collection machines are. The process is quite simple: touch the screen to set the process off, choose your language, take the option of printing the ticket and follow the instructions to insert your credit card.
It is about ten-fifteen minutes to the entrance from this point so build in enough time to collect the ticket - my husband queued for about 5-10 minutes to collect our tickets while I talked with one of the many cats which live on the site – all handsome fine figures of animals.
Getting to the Alhambra:
1. On foot – this will take more than 30 mins from the city centre depending on how many times you stop because it is very steep. The most feasible route is to take the Cta de Gomerez off Plaza Santa Ana and basically keep on going. The pavement is uneven so you are best using the roadway (the street is currently closed to through traffic so there isn’t too much to worry about other than the odd motorcycle and delivery van). You pass through the Puerta de las Granadas where there is a steel ramp through an arch at the left hand side (the structure is under repair at the moment which is why the street is closed off) and then continue ever upwards along a tree lined avenue, again using the roadway because the pavements aren’t suitable. You may be tempted to use the path which goes off at a slight angle to the roadway immediately after you pass through the archway – this looks as if it involves steps and a poor surface so you’ve been warned.
Assuming that you survive the first section after the Puerta de la Granadas, you will come to a point where a road crosses the avenue: you have a choice at this point
a. continue onwards and you will come to the bottom of a flight of steps which will take you to the road leading to the ticket area
b. turn left and follow the road up several bends to the entrance to the Alhambra. This is longer but avoids the steps and gives you the option of being deposited inside the Alhambra complex while your pusher goes off to get the tickets (allow 20 -30 mins for this round trip if pre-purchased). You need to be careful on this route as there is road traffic – the bus goes back down to the city this way.
2. By cab – it will be around €7 from the stand in Plaza Santa Ana but remember to go via the ticket area first – the driver will understand this.
3. By bus routes 30 and 32 - €1 each from Plaza Santa Ana assuming that the ramp at the back of the bus is working – get off at the ticket area and make your own way to the complex from there or wait for the next bus after you’ve collected your tickets. It will drop you just outside the entry to the complex. I have the suspicion that on busy days, you may have to wait some time for space on a bus.
We tried both 1 and 2 – the latter was far more civilised especially in conjunction with a night visit after dinner. Option 1 needs more than a touch of iron in the soul and I’d guess would be murderous on a hot day – we did on a cold day in rain and it was “interesting” enough under those conditions. My husband pushed me up from the station to El Escorial last year – this seems an easier climb from the number of times he stopped.
On arrival in the complex however you get there, you will be outside the Palaccio de Carlos V. From here, you want to proceed towards some cannons which point out over the walls – this means that you will be following a route without steps – try to go immediately along the frontage of the Palaccio and there are steps at one end. Past the cannons, you will see a small building with glass doors immediately in front of you – this contains – amongst other things – the disabled WCs just the other side of the vending machines in the hallway.
Now pass along the façade of the Palaccio which has the entrance into it – you will see people going in and out. At this point, turn sharp left and at the end of the pathway across the garden, you should see a disabled sign. Follow it to your right and it will bring you to a view over Granada upto Sacromonte. Continue along the wall and you will firstly find a series of ramps taking you down to a lower level – having navigated these ramps, you need to cross over to the right where there is a major ramp taking you down to the entry to the Palace – this is a steep ramp so watch out – particularly in wet weather. At the bottom, other visitors enter via a door to your left – you should be spotted by security staff at this point and they will open another door at right angles to the usual entry which has a ramp upto it. They may also ask you or your companion to sign a form. We never did manage to bottom out what this was about but just did so.
Once inside the Palace, access is pretty good with only a limited number of single steps on this level and none of the steps is steep. If you want to work back to the “others” entrance to see the areas that you will have missed, it is worth it but there are a number of steps.
At the moment, the famous Lion Fountain is under repair with the courtyard containing a lot of scaffolding and the bowl of the fountain under a temporary structure. The statues can be seen inside the museum – more of which later.
You have options over the lower level:
1. Make your way down two flights of stairs and then via other steps to the garden – you have to work your way up several flights of steps to get out through the garden
2. Retrace your steps to the outside, go all the way around the Palaccio de
Carlos V, making your way down the side of the building opposite to the entry
and there is a gate giving access into the upper levels of the gardens. There
are steps in the gardens.
3. Don’t go – you will miss some attractive gardens but it is physically demanding.
On the opposite side of the valley from the Nasrid Palace is the Generalife – our visit was on a cold, wet day and we decided that warmth was needed by this point, so we didn’t get as far as that area.
Back to the Palaccio de Carlos V: the outside is interesting and accessible – note the lions and eagles holding rings in their mouths – the inside is also interesting but less accessible. A couple of steps take you into the entrance foyer – on the right, the Museum – which is all on the level and you must come out the way you went in to avoid a load of steps at the end. The Museum currently contains the lions from the famous fountain in the Nasridd Palace which are under restoration – if you want to photograph them, the only way to do it is from the courtyard of the Palaccio where there is a large window overlooking the display.
The Museo de Bellas Artes is located on the first floor and do not be put off by reports of it being closed for maintenance. It re-opened in January 2008 and is certainly open for business. However, it is up a short flight of steps into the courtyard – which allows you to photograph the lions - and then a much longer flight upto the first floor. It is an extremely attractive layout and contains an interesting collection ranging from early Renaissance carvings through Alonso Cano, Diego de Siloe and Pedro de Mena during the 16th and 17th centuries to some rather curious late C19th productions – including the depiction of a crowd of rather dubious looking types as “Friends” José María López Mezquita,and the remarkable “Drama in the Sierra Nevada” by Antonio Muñoz Degrain – my husband was much intrigued by the latter which combines snowy mountains, a wrecked sleigh, wolves (dead and alive), a lady in evening dress with an axe and her companion levering a baby up a tree. This may give the suggestion that the more recent productions in the gallery lack some of merits of the earlier exhibits.
We also had a night visit to the complex – much fewer people around but I suspect it gets busier in the summer – and it gave a completely different view of the Nasrid Palace with floodlighting, lamps gleaming from behind latticed windows and the bats flickering in and out of the shadows after insects. Well worth the effort again.
EL CORRAL DEL CARBÓN
The former merchant’s hotel converted into a theatre from the C16th – a space open to the sky surrounded by galleries. Entered on the flat through a magnificent Moorish gateway it is worth a visit for the detail in the entry itself.
A pleasant two storey building displaying artefacts from prehistoric times through the Moorish period. WCs (not specifically disabled access) on the ground floor next to the ticket office. Both floors only accessible by stairs. Again, an attractive building set around a courtyard with galleries.
And having got to this point, you will have gone along one of the most attractive streets in Granada with the stream running in a valley along one side – lots of cats enjoying the sun as well. Not one of the easiest streets to get along as it is a bus route – alright, the buses are small but the street is narrow. It widens out when it becomes the Paseo de Los Tristes with its views upto the Alhambra – but until then, the pavements are a little hazardous.
It is possible to access the Cathedral from the West Front by a ramp but only during services when clearly tourists are quite properly discouraged. The only official way in outside service hours is from Grand Via Colon and involves a number of steps. Note: there are WCs on the way in on your left hand side.
The books have differing opinions on the Cathedral – it does have splendid dimensions and some quite awe inspiring areas – the double organs for example. The cathedral also displays some illuminated music manuscripts in addition to the slightly mixed collection in the official museum in one corner – the post-execution head of John the Baptist would have been a fitting prop for “Salome”.
Again note, if you leave by the shop, there are steps.
Let’s agree that this is a must see: however, there are steps into the entrance area and a further flight down into the main body of the chapel. There is a small lift alongside these stairs – my wheelchair was too long but if you have one where the foot plates come off, you might be able to get it to fit. Failing that, it’s down the steps.
The chapel was built to hold the remains of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and also holds their grandson, Prince Michael, their daughter Juana the Mad and her husband Phillip the Handsome. Marvellous metal screen with figures and animals together with a spectacular altar. In the museum to one side is Isabella’s art collection including a Botticelli and several Van der Weydens. Again, there are steps on the way out.
And if you are wandering around this area, the maze of alleys between the Cathedral and Reyes Catolicos forming the Alcaiceria – the old silk bazaar before it burnt down in the 1840s and was replaced – are worth a look, The shops have been converted to souvenir shops which if nothing else are a riot of colour.
A splendid building at the top of the Fuente del Triunfo gardens with an exterior which is well worth a look in you are in the area. Oddly enough designed as one of the first purpose built lunatic asylums in Europe. The two courts inside the building are attractive and are wheelchair accessible – there are also WCs to the left once you are inside. The building is guarded by security staff and has metal detectors – my husband merely showed his camera and they let him with no questions asked.
MONASTERIO DE LA CARTUJA
This monastery is some way out of the city – it’s about a 45 minute push from the cathedral and (as usual) is uphill. Access is very difficult – there being a series of low steps (passing WCs on the right which are two steps down) upto the bottom of the main flight of steps leading into the building but the effort is worthwhile – tremendously so. The church is in the finest Churrigueresque style, being a riot of elaborate sculptural ornamentation and colour – flamboyant isn’t the word! There is hardly a square inch of the building which hasn’t been decorated in coloured stucco or gold. Look up into the dome where there is a dove hovering – all you can see of it is its underside and little feet. Then there is the peace of the cloister with the church on one side and other rooms including the refectory with its paintings of the martyrdoms of various members of the Order. You are not allowed to take photographs inside the buildings which is a great pity because the postcards don’t do it justice.
MONASTERY SAN JERONIMO
Another monastery but this time in the heart of the city. Although nominally on Gran Capitan at the end of San Juan de Dios, the best access is from Rector Lopez Argueta which runs at right angles to the main street and then along a vehicle entry which avoids some of the steps. Unfortunately, there are others to get you into the cloister – the guardian did manage to get an ancient door open for us, nearly putting paid to some ecclesiastical statues in the process. A charming cloister with orange and lemon trees and a church which is another tremendous spectacle – which on this occaison, you can photograph. The whole building is just one mass of flamboyant decoration and colour and if you can get in, do so.
MIRADOR S NICHOLAS
This is worth a quantity of effort because it gives you the classic view of the Alhambra with the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada behind. The only problem is getting there as the location is in the heart of the Albayzin which is extremely steep and has either stepped or cobbled streets.
Cunningly, my husband decided that the answer was to follow a bus route – it was still very steep, but the road surface was fairly smooth and easier to push over. Take the Cuesta del Chapiz from the far end of the Paseo de Los Tristes and climb the hill until you encounter the Church of El Salvador on your left. At this point turn left and drop down a slight hill for about 150m to Carril de Los Tomases on the right hand side. Follow this road until you encounter the bus stop for S Nicholas. At that point turn right and go up a slope running back on yourself – the Mirador is immediately above you at this point – you will spot it because there are usually people sitting on the wall above you with their legs hanging over the edge – take the second turning on the left after the end of the wall of the Mirador (the first turning has steps) and turn left again.
My husband insisted that I saw the view and I can assure you that it is splendid with the snowy mountains against the blue sky forming a backdrop to the Alhambra.
The alternative is to take the bus up – quicker but not so much fun. Getting down again – cross the area in front of the church and pass the school which is on your left. Follow the road down hill until you reach a tower (Puerto Nuova) through which there is a ramp. We turned under the tower at this point and then left down the long and rough surfaced Cuerta de Alhacaba which will bring you down past the city walls on your left to the Elvira Gate. I must warn you that this route is very uneven and is one of the vehicle routes into this area so watch out.
Closed for the foreseeable future due to “technical reasons”.
IGLESIA DE SAN PEDRO Y SAN PABLO
Almost directly opposite the Archaeological Museum, this church has a fine façade which faces towards the city but has little inside to recommend it – it is currently undergoing restoration and is either accessible via low steps through the main entrance or by a side door onto the street which avoids the steps.
CHURCH OF S JUAN DE DIOS
Appears to be closed at the moment – the doors onto the street seem to have been shut for some time and I noticed that the bells in the tower were tied to one side.
CHURCH OF S JUSTO & PASTOR
An attractive building inside and easy to access but odd opening hours – we arrived at 11.45 and were just inside the door when the guardian closed the place up and we had to leave. It wasn’t open at all on passing it by subsequently.
There was so much more to see that we did not manage to – but this was a holiday and a couple of hour’s opportunity to rest after lunch (when most of the sights are closed in any case) is very civilised and gives the impetuous for more activity in the later afternoon and evening when it’s cooler.
We were there for four full days and this was just right for a leisurely tour of the city.
Don't miss Mark & Margaret Edward's other journeys to these destinations:
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