This city has a special reputation for having wonderful front doors. These residential entrances are often the only thing attractive on the streetside, but homes inside can be very nice, with inner courtyards and tropical hardwoods.
Founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, Granada is the oldest city in Central America and has retained its charming colonial character. It's a delightful window into the past and a fascinating step back to the 18th century. The city abounds with colonial architecture. Many of Granada's colonial houses, churches and public buildings have been restored to their former glory, making it an interesting tourist destination with significant old world charm still existent. Behind thick wooden doors and wrought iron gates are found many colonial homes. The living areas of he homes are tipically built around a garden courtyard complete with a fountain.
Granda is quite a small city and a great way to explore it is by walking. Start your exploration from a tree-lined Parque Central, the heart and soul of the city, which is surrounded by elegant brightly painted mansions and lofty arches, most in the Spanish colonial revival style of the 1920s and 1930. The Casa de la Gran Francia was rebuilt in 1997 from adobe and hardwood, the same material as it was used in the original. It's the only building in the city that retains the initial Spanish colonial style, which was typical in the city before Walker's devastation. Others are in more complex and elaborate Spanish colonial revival style.
East from the Parque Central starts a pedestrian La Calzada, a colourful street that has been recently renovated. It runs all the way to the lake. Brightly painted colonial houses adorn the street, many of them now serve as bars, restaurants, hostels and tour operator's offices. Worth strolling around are also Calle La Libertad, Calle El Arsenal, Calle El Camito, Calle Cervantes, Calle Real Xalteva, among others.
The colourful Spanish colonial mansions, churses and houses offer plenty of photo opportunities so make sure you plan at least a few days for this charming city.
more pics in the travelogue
Granada is easy to walk but the heat and humidity could sometimes make it tiresome. Alternatively, you can explore the city's narrow streets by a horse drawn carriage. It will take you back in time for more than 500 years. The carriages can be found along western, shady side of the Parque Central. Giving a tour has been a tradition since 1868 when the carriages were first introduced in Granada.
The classic tour starts at Parque Central and they take you through the narrow streets, passing churches, restored colonial houses, cemetery and the malecón (waterfront). Tours are sold by the carriage. The carriages are small in size and can accommodate up to five people. Prices might vary but an hour-long ride usually costs about 15 US $.
Please choose only those drivers who seem to be taking good care for their horses. I was very sad to see so many horses suffering from malnutrition and mistreatment. Seeing these poor animals made me wonder if they eat at all in an entire day.
Go to any of the local barber shops for the great experience of a cut and shave. Both typically cost the same, about 30 to 40 cordobas (under 2 USD) and with a tip at the end, the total you spend should be 100 cordobas, thus under 5 dollars. It is TRULY worth it obviously. It is deep rooted in Nica culture, the barbershop.
If you go to Granada and don't go to Parque Central and get some Vigoron, you didn't go to Granada then. Go to 1 of the 3 kiosks located at the corners of Parque Central and order Vigoron with ensalada. It is Yuca on a banana leaf with deep friend pork skin and salad in vinager. It is excellent and cheap.
Check your bill before tipping. Some restaurants add a 10% tip (propina) automatically to the bill. I really doubt the server gets the tip in such cases. This is actually against the law and no one is required to pay any sort of tip. In fact most Nicaraguans do not pay tips and are incensed if they see the tip added to their bill. My recommendation is if you see the 10% automatically added to you bill, is to inform the server to remove the 10% tip and present a new bill. Then tip the person directly, but descretely. This keeps everyone honest and the one who served receives the tip rather then his/her boss.
The Finnish lady I met in Granada asked if I would like to join her when she went to children's home to play with the girls and of course I said 'yes' because it was something I would not have experienced otherwise. The children's home is maintained by nuns, who are so busy and there are too few of them that they simply don't have time to play with the girls and show love to them. I bought a bunch of bananas and off we went. I don't know what I expected but not the warm welcome we got. Each of these homeless or abused girls wanted to sit on my lap and kiss and cuddle me. It was so wonderful and so sad at the same time. How privileged our children here are having so much love and attention. We played all kind of games, danced and sang and they all wanted to be with me because I was new. It was such a great experience and gave me a lot to think about . It is something I will never forget and I wish that every Western person would spend some time in a third world country, not just as a tourist but by being part of their life. It would be very eye-opening thing for them.
A common sight was to see many people on one bike. The most I saw was a husband riding, wife sitting on the bar holding a baby and a daughter on the back. I don't know how they manage to ahndle the bicycle in sometimes very busy traffic, but I didn't see any accidents.
This dance was part of the Independence Day celebrations and was done by local girls, which made it more attractive to me. I was watching the girls as they were waiting for their turn and they were so nervous and so shy and obviously wanted to escape, but they gathered their courage and did the dance. It was lovely, danced to slow and melanconic melody. Girls were barefooted and wore colourful dresses and hats decorated with feathers. Most enjoyable show!
I happened to be in Granada when Nicaragua celebrated its independence, 15 September. It had been raining that day and I was resting in my room. I decided to leave and take a little walk before I'd retire for the day. As I was approaching the Cathedral and Central Square I heard some lovely national music and walked towards to it. Good decision! In the Plaza de la Independencia local people were performing. School children recited poems, gave speeches and danced folk dances. Really interesting though I cannot say that I would have understood much of what was said. The square was full of people and it was interesting to look at them too. Here in Finland Independence Day is a very serious day when we remember all those men and women who gave their lives to gain us our independence, so I really enjoyed seeing people who were happy and gay. Of course it is easier for them because they can celebrate outdoors, which is not possible here having our Independence Day in winter, early December.
In the morning you see people pushing these wheelbarrows loaded with fruit and vegetables. They knocked at the doors and the lady of the house bought fresh vegetables and fruit from them.
Another common sight in Granada were horse and carriage, which were used to transport just anything you can think of. People, wood, food, fruit, animals...anything you can think of.