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The summer crowds in this jewel of Andalucia, making October an ideal month to visit Granada. Other Spanish cities exude class, but only Granada has so dramatic a setting in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, topped by the gracious Alhambra.
Granada's airport opened in , but was virtually ignored by airlines from Britain until this year. Monarch 40 50 40; www. From other UK airports, Malaga is the obvious alternative; the bus journey from the Costa del Sol's main airport to Granada takes about two hours. For most visitors the handiest stop is near the cathedral on the Gran Via, the main east-west road. However good your sense of direction, the tangle of streets and alleys in the older parts of Granada make getting lost fairly certain.
The city's social hub is the Plaza Nueva , at the heart of the Old Town. The main tourist office 00 34 ; www. North of here is the up-and-coming district of Albaicin, where Granada is rediscovering its North African heritage - there is even a newly opened Islamic Centre. Facing Albaicin across the Rio Darro is the Alhambra: a forbidding fortress concealing palaces and gardens.
You can, if you choose, stay within the Alhambra. The Parador de San Francisco has the best location in Granada, in the midst of the fortress 00 34 ; www. The public rooms in this 15th-century former monastery are as lavish as the location. The Palacio de Santa Paula is even more stylish, with sublime lighting, clever angles and sombre tones at the street entrance, giving way to the impeccably preserved cloister of a former convent. The only drawback is the location at Gran Via 31 00 34 ; www.
A third former ecclesiastical choice is the new Palacio de los Navas at Calle Navas 1 00 34 21 57 60; www. Granada has plenty of budget options. The Hotel Molinos , at Calle Molinos 12 00 34 boasts of being in the Guinness Book of Records as the narrowest hotel in the world, yet it manages to be comfortably well-appointed.