Why Granada

Granada here we come!

The Alhambra Palace with the Sierra Nevada Mountains as a backdrop
The Alhambra Palace with the Sierra Nevada Mountains as a backdrop

It has been decided… we are going to live in Granada, Andalucía for one year. Despite never having set foot in this city, Granada has consistently come out on top of the “preferred places to live in Spain” list when tested against our criteria (see criteria below).  The decision was also based on an assumption that Spaniards in the south of Spain were friendly and relaxed and would therefore be more open to welcoming interlopers from the antipodes who would leave again after 12 months. Additionally, we were attracted to the climate and surrounding nature consisting of mountains and beaches.

Although coastal Spain would have been the most suitable climate befitting ‘soft’ Australians, we couldn’t see ourselves amongst the sun-seekers and retirees who flock to coastal Spain so we settled on Granada, attracted to a small city that punches above its weight in terms of history, culture, diversity, natural beauty and education.

“Everyone returns to Granada” …a story about the magic of Granada

Our criteria for choosing a place to live:

  • A small/ medium city with a significant local Spanish population i.e. not dominated by expats.
  • A mild climate (important for soft Australians unaccustomed to European winters)
  • Castellano as the official language – not Catalan, Basque or other dialects or regional languages.
  • Accessible to other places for weekend explorations
  • An international airport not too far away so we can explore Europe
  • A significant or noteworthy attraction in the city
  • An acclaimed university and good schools


Skiing in the Sierra Nevada
Skiing in the Sierra Nevada less than an hour from Granada

What Granada offers:

  • It has approx. 350,000 – 450,000 inhabitants and has all the amenities of a city without the hassles of a metropolis.
  • It has nature all around it that is easily accessible as it is located at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, half an hour from the ski fields and one hour drive to the coast and beaches.
  • Malaga International Airport is only a 1.5hr drive away making it accessible to travel
  • It has a prestigious university, a good hospital, many schools and sites of historical significance – the Alhambra Palace and the Generalife Gardens to name the most noteworthy.
  • Granada seems to have a lively music arts and cultural scene so we won’t get bored
  • It has an elaborate Moorish, Roman and Jewish history with traditional flamenco dancing and tapas specialities still prevalent today.
  • It is home to mostly Spanish inhabitants (less than 5% of the population are expats) unlike many towns and cities on the Mediterranean Coast which are home to large populations of expats from northern Europe.
  • It has a mild climate given its location in southern Spain lying at a latitude of 37.1742°North and at an elevation of 738 metres. It’s a bit colder than Sydney but not bone chilling.
  • It is one of the most affordable places to live in Spain. I have found some beautiful homes to rent for around €1000 per month
Huertor Sierra, just outside Granada city

So far when I have met Spaniards here in Australia and told them about our plans to live in Granada for a year, I have been met with resounding support for our choice of city.

Most friends who have visited Granada also agree it is a good place for us. This is exactly what I need to hear considering I have never been to Granada and we are choosing it purely from a theoretical decision making process (not my preferred process).

The only hesitation so far has been from my friend from Barcelona who was concerned about the strange, clipped Spanish accent in the south as well as the “provincial” culture compared to the more “progressive” culture in Barcelona and Madrid.

When I mentioned that we were looking for an experience that was very different from our lives in Sydney, she seemed to understand that Granada would be less like a Spanish version of our Australian life.

Breakfast in Granada
Breakfast in Spain

Some other interesting facts about Granada:

  • Granada means pomegranate
  • Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, at the confluence of three rivers, the Beiro, the Darro and the Genil.
  • Many Caliphs, Arabic sultans and dynasties originally ruled Granada.
  • Granada was one of the last strongholds when Christian groups joined together to drive the Muslims and Jews out of Spain in 1492. Muslims and Jews were forced to either leave Spain or convert to Christianity.
  • Federico Garcia Lorca was from Granada and was one of the most celebrated Spanish playwrights and authors. He was shot by firing squad near Granada during bloody Spanish civil war in 1936-39.


9 thoughts on “Why Granada

  1. Great article!

    I have a question about safety. Now during covid19 Spain faces an increasing problem with squatters. Is it also an issue in Granada?
    And why on mosts windows there are bars? Is there a homebreaking problem?
    I plan to move there for some time with husband and a half year old son. Is the healthcare and hospital on a high level?
    Thanks for your answers, you might help me a lot. I was also considering moving somewhere to the Malaga – Alicante coastal part of Spain, but I am afraid of the crime level there 😦

    I hope you will find some time and reply me 🙂


    1. Dear Ewelina,

      Thanks for reaching out. Granada is one of the safest cities in Spain but I consulted with Christine, who is based there to check the actual reality. She assured me that there are no more issues now with squatters than five years ago. Andalusia is a very family orientated society where people usually turn to their family in times of hardship.

      What you might have heard about is the story of people who can’t face their mortgage repayment and are evicted by the banks. They are called squatters when they stay in their home, the time to defend their case. Their number has certainly grown during the pandemic.

      The bars you see at the windows, in cities or villages, are an old tradition, dating from the 15th century when they were made of wood to provide means of keeping things and animals in (or out) before the use of glass became widespread. Then they became decorative and made of metal. They are now a traditional element of Spanish architecture.

      I hope it helps !

    2. Ewelina – I don’t know about Granada, but elsewhere in Spain there is a very real problem with squatters (called “occupados”) who seek out empty flats and houses (largely by word of mouth within the gypsy or Moroccan community – this is what I was told, I’m merely repeating it) and then “occupy” the said empty flat or house.
      The law is on their side, and it is very difficult to evict them.
      I was in Gandia in November 2022 (an hour’s train ride south of Valencia) and experienced an attempted break-in on an upper floor of the building I was staying in at 3 in the morning. The police came and it was quite dramatic.
      People going to Spain should know about this big, and very real, problem.

  2. Thank you very much for your comment which brings some hope. I am (almost) in the same situation as you were, trying to sort out a relocation plan after 30 years+ living in Hong Kong. Due to the Covid situation, I could not leave Hong Kong for exploration, and to date my search was only virtual… I had a couple of cities on my short list and Granada is on top with Valencia – the scale, charm and surroundings of Granada are particularly appealing to me. In what neighborhood did you decide to live?

    1. Hi Francois,
      We lived in the charming Arabic barrio of Granada called the Albaicin. It is mostly pedestrian only which makes it quiet and community focused. Through there a many tourists in the high season. I also recommend the Realejo area which is centrally located too. I hope you make it to beautiful Granada.

  3. I am planning a 2 month stay in Granada after I had a 2 day stop on a tour last fall and found it so historic and charming. I’m from the US with limited Spanish skills and would like to know if that there may be a chance that the 5% expats might have a community to help me to advise me when I arrive in June. Thoughts?

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