“Go to the theatre, to museums, and to concerts as often as possible. It gives you a healthy glow.”
This quote is from a brilliant book my dear college roommate passed along to me, titled, How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are. However, I think it offers good advice for being a consumer of culture in whatever city you reside.
And Granada, while small, is no exception. This city has inspired centuries of groundbreaking art, music, literature and cultural innovation. In 2014, it was declared a UNESCO City of Literature in homage to its long line of famed writers, from Arab poet, Ibn Zamrak, to American traveller, Washington Irving, to its hometown prodigy, Federico Garcia Lorca. And its romantic lure still attracts all types of artists and innovators to this day.
So to help you get inspired, here’s a small sampling of some of the places where I like to get my get my “glow” on in Granada.
This semester, I’m taking a class at the IES Abroad Center called Spanish Contemporary Theatre. Over the course of the semester, we attend seven productions in various venues throughout the city. The first production we saw was Courbes (Curves), presented by a French theatre company in La Expositiva, one of Granada’s leading coworking and creative spaces. The play follows the silent struggle of a man who finds himself pregnant, and later, a single father to a balloon-baby. There was no dialogue, and while the concept was abstract to say the least, I found the actor’s performance earnest and thoroughly enjoyable. The intimacy of the venue also added to the experience. In addition to theatrical performances, La Expositiva hosts concerts, workshops, yoga classes, and film festivals throughout the year.
This past weekend, we had a very different experience at the Microteatro (Micro-theatre) of Granada. Every Friday and Saturday night, across from the quirky and fun, Bar Fede, there are two small garages that show plays of 10-15 minutes on a continual loop from 9pm until 1am. The plays are brief, but intense. In, Ahora que vas a morir (Now you are going to die), we found ourselves among the last survivors of a Zombie apocalypse and we worked alongside the main actor to discover a cure for the epidemic. In Chicle (Gum), we had an active, but very different role as audience members. The main actress accused us, as representatives of society at large, for overlooking the horrors she suffers in an abusive relationship. Both works played to opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, but were equally impactful. For me, the experience of Microteatro achieves everything good theatre should do. It provokes strong emotions and transcends the audience to a different world, even if just for 10 minutes. I will definitely be attending again!
If theatre’s not your thing, there are countless places to enjoy dance and music throughout the city. One of the best shows I attended last semester was a thrilling flamenco performance by Manuel Liñán and company in Centro Federico Garcia Lorca. The production followed the renowned dancer through the discovery of his sexuality, with cross dressing and an elaborate number involving jump ropes. It was an entirely original narrative blended seamlessly with top-notch, classical flamenco.
For all you literary types out there, one of my favorite places to go is La Qarmita, a self-declared feminist cafe right in the center of town. The atmosphere is super laid back and they host a variety of poetry recitals, lectures, and creative writing workshops. I’ve performed a few of my own poems at their monthly open mics. They also organize book clubs and feminist roundtables from time to time.
Another great place to hear some spoken word is El Higo. Hidden away in a corner of the Albaicin neighborhood, this bar hosts a mix of poetry slams, concerts, documentary screenings, and much more. It’s also one of the best bars for vegetarian tapas in Granada which you can enjoy on their beautiful outdoor terrace.
For visual art, there are lots of small museums throughout the cities, but one of my favorites is Casa de los Tiros in the Realejo neighborhood. In an elegant 16th-century palace, the museum holds old furniture, paintings, and maps of Granada and gives you a sense of how the city has evolved over the centuries. Across from the Cathedral is Centro Jose Guerrero, a contemporary art museum that displays a permanent collection of Guerrero's expressionist paintings, as well as visiting exhibits. For even more accessible art, head back to the Realejo and discover one of the many murals of famed street artist, 'El Nino.'
If you’re looking to stretch your artistic skills, check out Casa de Porras. This cultural center in a beautiful medieval Arab house in the Albaicin offers eight-week classes in creative writing, acting, dance, art, and anything else you can think of. Espacio Joven (close to La Qarmita) also hosts a variety of free dance & wellness classes. My friends and I are regulars at their Thursday night class, Latin Rhythms. The class starts with an hour of individual technique followed by a half hour of partner work and it is fun for all levels (even those with two left feet - trust me!)
What’s the best way to keep yourself informed about what’s happening throughout town? Start by reading the cultural agenda that the IES Abroad Center sends out each week. It has detailed information about concerts, plays, lectures, exhibits, language clubs and much more. Another easy way to to stay up to date is to follow your favorite places on Facebook so you’ll be the first to hear about their events.
And while I hope this post has inspired to you to spend most of your weekends in Granada, here are some tips if you do choose to venture to one of Europe’s larger cultural capitals. Always bring your student ID! You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many museums are free or cost close to nothing for university students. Another tip is to limit your international travels to cities where you already know a friend or two. Nothing beats the perspective of a local, or that of an informed exchange student, when it comes to uncovering cool and unique experiences.
As I prefaced at the beginning of the post, this list is a brief overview of what the city has to offer. So find out what you like, and I guarantee there’s a place where you can do it in Granada. Now go get that glow.
Berest, Anne. How to be Parisian Wherever You Are. New York: Doubleday, 2014
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<p>Hola caracolas! My name is Emily and I'm studying abroad in Granada, Spain for the 2017-2018 academic year. I'm a Spanish and International Studies major who is always looking for new ways to connect with my beautiful host city. I love to sing, play guitar, act, and have embarked on the journey of writing a historical fiction novel about Granada! In my free time, I love to run and hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains, get lost in the Albaicin, and explore new cafes and tapas bars with my friends. This semester I hope to try my hand at Flamenco guitar, take more siestas, and make even deeper connections with the city and its people.</p>