There are few places with more charm and beauty than Granada to enjoy a special getaway. Its fascinating history, its magnificent art, its delicious tapas and the joy of its people are reasons enough to discover the city with the most beautiful sunset on the planet.
The Alhambra in Granada is its most popular emblem, but in the capital of the ancient Nasrid kingdom there are many other dream places to see. Here are some of them!
1. Visit the Alhambra in Granada
When we think of Granada, the first thing that comes to mind is its emblematic Alhambra. It is a cultural reference of Hispano-Muslim art in the West and one of the most beautiful monuments in Spain. There is no doubt that it is the first monument that you have to see when you arrive in Granada.
All the adjectives with which I describe it fall short! The Alhambra is a jaw-dropping jewel of universal art. No wonder that many poets and artists have found inspiration in its beauty. Did you know that even the New7Wonders Foundation chose it as the eighth wonder of the world?
It is logical that such praise arouses the interest of millions of travellers who head to Andalusia to admire the charms and the beautiful views of this ancient Andalusian palatine city. It is one of those monuments that you must visit at least once in your life!
How to visit the Alhambra in Granada?
Given its immense size and the large number of spaces that make up this unique medieval palatine city, my advice is to take a guided tour of the Alhambra to visit the entire monumental complex without missing a detail, learning about its history and deciphering its rich decoration. In my opinion, many of the secrets of the Alhambra in Granada would go unnoticed without the help of a guide, as there is so much to see in this unique monument.
How to book your tickets?
I recommend getting tickets for the Alhambra in Granada at least a month or two in advance of your travel date, as it is a very popular monument with limited places that tend to sell out quickly.
Getting the most out of the Alhambra
To see the Alhambra, Spain's most visited monument, it is advisable to find out everything you need to know before you go. Take a look at these posts where I give you the best tips to get to know the Alhambra:
- Ticket prices of the Alhambra
- Night visits to the Alhambra
- Timetable of the Alhambra in Granada
- Duration of the Alhambra Tour
- Visit the Alhambra in Granada with children
- Where to eat near the Alhambra
- How to get to the Alhambra
- How to get free or discounted tickets to the Alhambra
- Tickets to visit the Generalife in Granada
- Tickets to visit the Nasrid Palaces of Granada
2. Be amazed by the views from the Mirador de San Nicolás
Another of the essential things to do in Granada during a city break is to watch the sunset from the San Nicolás viewpoint, in the Albaicín neighbourhood. "The most beautiful in the world" according to Bill Clinton, President of the United States, during a fleeting visit to the Andalusian city in 1997.
He wasn't wrong! From here you will have the best panoramic view of the Alhambra in Granada with the imposing Sierra Nevada in the background. You will also enjoy unbeatable views of the Nasrid palaces, the Alcazaba or the Generalife.
In fact, the views are wonderful at any time of the day but the sensation of watching the sun slowly set behind the Alhambra while it colours its walls, towers and palaces in reddish tones is simply magical.
How to get to the San Nicolás viewpoint?
This viewpoint is located in the highest part of the Albaicín neighbourhood in Granada. You can get there by walking up the Paseo de los Tristes or by bus on lines C1 or C2. Another option is to cross the Plaza Larga and take the Alhacaba slope.
3. Explore the picturesque neighbourhoods of Albaicín and Sacromonte
Any traveller who has visited Granada will agree with me that the Albaicín and Sacromonte neighbourhoods are two of the most fascinating and ancient places to explore during your trip to the capital of the Nasrid kingdom.
In fact, if you haven't walked through them many people say that you can't say you've been to Granada because this is the soul of the city.
If you are one of those travellers who love to get to know a city by getting lost in its streets to discover its most authentic and real side, one of the things to do in Granada that I highly recommend is a tour of the Albaicín and Sacromonte.
Why take a tour of the Albaicín and Sacromonte?
With this tour of the Albaicín and Sacromonte neighbourhoods in Granada you will get to know two genuine places with a very interesting history and spectacular views.
Located on the hill overlooking Granada, in its labyrinth of medieval streets are hidden some of the jewels that have made the capital of the Nasrid kingdom world famous.
If something struck me about Granada during my trip is that its essence changes from morning to night. Every moment of the day shows the different facets of Granada, small details in a unique city that never ceases to amaze you.
To get to know this part of the city there are day and night tours. If you want to know more about them, in my article Visit the Albaicín and Sacromonte in Granada I explain in detail what these activities are like and what you will see in these neighbourhoods full of legends whose views you will fall in love with.
4. Visit the Cathedral of Granada
It is true that the Alhambra is the queen of all eyes, but during my trip to Granada, one of the biggest surprises I had was to contemplate the majesty of the cathedral, the second largest cathedral in Spain and a must-see in the city.
At the end of the Reconquest, the Catholic Monarchs chose the site of the city's main mosque to build this temple as a symbol of the triumph of Christianity over Islam and over the last Muslim kingdom in Spain.
The project began in 1492, shortly after the capture of Granada, but the works were not completed until the beginning of the 18th century, almost two centuries later, as the undertaking was fraught with all kinds of complications due to its great complexity.
Why visit Granada Cathedral?
There are many churches in the city, but this cathedral is an icon, as it is one of the masterpieces of the Spanish Renaissance. It is also a temple that impresses with its sheer size and the sight of it towering over the centre of Granada is an unforgettable sight for the traveller.
Dedicated to Santa María de la Encarnación, the cathedral is impressive on the outside because of its towers and its great baroque façade, although, in my opinion, it is the interior decoration that takes your breath away.
Everything about it is spellbinding. From the contrast between the whiteness of the enormous classical columns and the vaults with the golden tones of the main chapel to the beautiful stained glass windows that chromatically transform the light that penetrates the temple.
The result is a spectacular work of art at the service of God and human spirituality that transmits a great serenity and peace to those who visit it.
5. Enter the Royal Chapel of Granada
Attached to the cathedral is the Royal Chapel, another of the most important monuments to see in Granada and a place for history lovers. Here you will find the Gothic-style tomb where the remains of the Catholic Monarchs, their daughter Queen Joanna I of Castile and her husband Philip the Handsome, as well as their grandson the infant Michael of Portugal, rest.
The history of the city has been closely linked to the figure of the Catholic Monarchs since they both arrived in Granada in 1482 to complete the Reconquest of Spain. After the victory, the couple decided to dedicate their lives forever to Granada and build their tomb chapel here.
What can you see in the Royal Chapel?
For those of us who are passionate about history, entering the Royal Chapel of Granada gives us a feeling of emotion and respect as we are in front of the mausoleum of several personalities who played a leading role in some of the most epic feats in the history of Spain.
The Mausoleum and the crypt of the royal family
On one side are the tombs of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, on the other those of their daughter Joanna I of Castile and her husband Philip the Handsome. The funerary monument is carved in marble and decorated with figures of saints, angels, medallions and figures representing the kings.
To see their coffins you can visit a small crypt located under the pantheon, which can be accessed by a flight of stairs. I remember being very surprised by the contrast between the sumptuousness of the tomb and the austerity of the crypt, just as Queen Elizabeth said she wanted it to be in her will.
The crypt also houses some personal objects of the Catholic Monarchs, such as their crowns, military ensigns and the royal sceptre they used.
The Museum-Sacristy of the Royal Chapel
The construction of the Sacristy-Museum of the Royal Chapel is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. To contemplate the whole ensemble is awe-inspiring.
The wonderful 16th-century Plateresque grille and the gilded Gothic altarpiece, the Carrara marble tombs and the royal symbols on the chapel walls (the Spanish coat of arms with the eagle of Saint John, the yoke and arrows).
You will also find several paintings that formed part of Queen Isabella's collection, the monarchs' ceremonial robes, and books and gold and silverware used in their daily lives.
6. Take an excursion to the Alpujarras
A magical place to see in Granada during your trip is the Alpujarras. A unique territory between Granada and Almeria which, at an altitude of more than 1,200 metres, looks down from the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada to the Mediterranean Sea.
It is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the beauty of this unique natural landscape, full of springs and dotted with a multitude of picturesque white villages hidden in deep valleys.
Why visit the Alpujarras?
I think it is a wonderful opportunity not only to delve into the history of the last Moorish populations that inhabited Spain, but also to enjoy a day outdoors doing something different, such as exploring the Sierra Nevada Natural Park, home to the highest mountain range in southern Europe and the imposing Mulhacen peak, the highest in the Iberian Peninsula!
How is the excursion to the Alpujarras?
When it comes to excursions outside of the city centre, we are always wondering how to get to the destination, what transport to take, what to see and do... Don't worry! With the Alpujarras day trip, everything is organised so that you can relax and enjoy this trip to nature to the full.
At 8:30 AM you will travel by private transport with a guide to the south of the province of Granada. The adventure takes you through postcard-perfect landscapes, where nature is on display in all its splendour.
As the tour progresses you will see some of the most beautiful villages of the Alpujarras such as Bubión, Capileira and Pampaneira (declared historical-artistic sites), Pórtugos and Lanjarón (famous for their springs) or Trevélez (the best producer of Serrano ham in the Alpujarras), among many others.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to get to know the culture of a place is to taste its typical gastronomy. Another reason why I chose this excursion to the Alpujarras and why I recommend it is that you will have the opportunity to attend a wine and ham tasting to get to know the flavours and textures of this Andalusian region.
At the end of the tour of the Alpujarras we returned to Granada. It was an intense day full of emotions and one of the best excursions I did in the south of Spain.
Other places to visit on your trip to Granada
There are many villages near Granada that you should not miss, apart from Las Alpujarras. Whether you prefer the sea or the mountains, the area around the city has a lot to offer.
If you have several days to travel, it might be the perfect opportunity to get to know other Andalusian cities. For this reason, here are some suggestions and I will explain how to get to charming places such as Nerja or Cordoba.
7. Go out for tapas in Granada
Tapas in Spain is an art form, but in Granada it's something out of this world. And if you ask me about the essential things to do in Granada, you can never miss going out for tapas in the city centre.
For those who don't know, the tapas thing in Granada works like this: you go to a bar, order a drink and with it you get a free tapa. It's as easy as that! In Granada's bars, ordering a drink is the same as ordering tapas. It's cool, isn't it? In fact, you can eat tapas for lunch and dinner for less money than in a restaurant.
But the trick to tapas in Granada is to know where to go so that the quality of the tapas is strong. There are bars where the tapas are simple and bars where they go all out.
For example, there are places where you can choose your tapas with your drink, places where you will be assigned the tapas you want and bars where, as you order drinks, the quality of the tapas you are served will increase until you reach a point where you can get anything from paella, to fried fish or a hamburger.
Where to go out for tapas in Granada?
My recommendations are: Taberna Gamboa (Calle Lepanto, 11), Los Diamantes (Calle Navas, 28), Bella Kurva (Calle San Jerónimo, 19), Bodegas Castañeda (Calle Almireceros 1-3), La Bella y la Bestia (Calle Cárcel Baja, 14) and La Sitarilla (Calle San Miguel Alta, 7).
At the end of your tapas route, how about taking a stroll around the flamenco clubs? If you are one of those who like to experience the city at sunset, Granada has a lot to offer at night and one of the best plans is undoubtedly to enjoy one of the best flamenco shows.
8. Have a cup of tea in the street of the Teterías
After tapas in the centre of Granada, there's nothing better than going to Calle Calderería Nueva in the Albaicín district to enjoy an authentic Moorish tea and the best Arab pastries in the city - the perfect finishing touch to any banquet!
Also known as the Street of Tea Shops, this place is full of shops with some of the goods on display outside, reminiscent of the souks of the Middle East but without leaving Granada.
As well as having tea in its Andalusian-style premises, you can also take the opportunity to buy some souvenirs of your stay in the ancient capital of the Nasrid kingdom. There is a little bit of everything! From postcards, shishas and lamps to sarongs, bags and costume jewellery. You're sure to find what you're looking for.
9. Take a hot air balloon ride in the sky over Granada
If you are looking for thrills during your trip and you don't have vertigo, one of the best things to do in Granada is, without a doubt, to take a hot air balloon ride.
Can you imagine flying over the city at dawn while you have a bird's eye view of the Alhambra, the Albaicín district, the Sacromonte caves and Sierra Nevada? Aboard the balloon you will see the city from a privileged and unusual perspective, one that very few people get to know, and you will get some beautiful photographs to remember.
No one who has not ridden in a balloon before can describe that feeling of floating gently in the air, letting yourself be carried through the wonderful blue sky of Granada as the city begins to wake up and the sun radiates an incandescent glow over the mountains.
This experience must be lived at least once in a lifetime! Don't be afraid of heights because the balloon pilots are experienced people who handle the balloon with great care and know how to create a calm atmosphere during the adventure, conveying a lot of security. I highly recommend it, you won't regret it!
10. Fall in love at the Paseo de los Tristes
Granada is a unique city in itself, but one of the places that contribute to give it that magical air that characterises it is the Paseo de los Tristes, one of the most beautiful and historic corners of the Nasrid city.
It is a beautiful avenue that follows the course of the Darro River between the Chirimías and Aljibillo bridges and has privileged views of the Alhambra at its foot.
The fame of the Paseo de los Tristes is well deserved as it is one of the most beautiful and bohemian places to see in Granada for a romantic stroll, especially in the moonlight and among the surrounding vegetation, which impregnates the atmosphere with the delicate scent of flowers along the way.
Despite its melancholic name, this street has a very festive atmosphere and is one of my favourite places to stroll, to take photos, to enjoy the views and some wine on the beautiful terraces of the Paseo de los Tristes.
Did you know that...?
Its official name is Paseo del Padre Manjón but it is nicknamed this way because it used to be the way to the city cemetery and the scene of sad funeral processions. Curious, isn't it?
11. Soak up culture in the museums of Granada
Although Granada is a small city, it is home to an unrivalled architectural and artistic heritage. It is not surprising that the cultural and museum offer of the city is so varied and wide, there are spaces for all tastes!
If you enjoy cultural visits, one of the essential places to see in Granada are its museums. Here are some of my favourites:
- The Museum of Fine Arts: this is the most important art gallery in the city with pieces dating from the 15th to the 20th century. It is located on the first floor of the Palace of Charles V, in the palace complex of the Alhambra in Granada, a space that is in itself a work of architectural art.
- Museum of the Alhambra: here you can see Hispano-Muslim art objects recovered from the Alhambra and the Generalife. It is on the ground floor of the Palace of Charles V, in the Alhambra.
- Archaeological Museum: it houses the archaeological finds of different peoples (Iberians, Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs) who left their mark on Granada after their passage through the city. In Carrera del Darro, 41-43.
- Casa de los Tiros: it is a museum that traces the history and traditions of Granada through images, engravings, paintings, bibliographic collections, plans and pieces of local craftsmanship. I was very surprised by the hall of the Cuadra Dorada, whose wooden ceiling is decorated with figures of Spanish kings and heroes and inscriptions about their deeds. In Calle Pavaneras, 19.
- Manuel de Falla House-Museum: this is the place where the composer Manuel de Falla, one of the most important figures of Spanish music in the 20th century, lived. Here you can see his personal objects, original furniture, his piano and some of the gifts he received from artists such as Pablo Picasso and Miguel de Unamuno. In Paseo de los Mártires, 11.
- Lorca House-Museum: this was the summer residence that the poet Federico García Lorca had on the outskirts of the city. It is located in the Huerta de San Vicente. Here he wrote great works such as "Romancero Gitano" or "La casa de Bernarda Alba". You can also see his manuscripts, his personal objects and even his original furniture. In Calle Iglesia, 20 (Valderrubio).
- Parque de las Ciencias de Granada: the first interactive science museum in Andalusia. One of the most fun places to see in Granada and a highly recommended plan to do with the family. Here children can let their imagination run wild while they explore and learn in the butterfly garden, the biodome or the raptor workshop. You will need a morning to see it! In Avenida de la Ciencia, s/n. Put it on your list of things to see and do in Granada with children.
12. Pamper your body with a traditional hammam ritual
If after so much sightseeing around the city you feel tired and need a break to recharge your batteries, I suggest you visit the Arab baths of Granada to enjoy the ancient Andalusian hammam ritual and all its health properties.
It's amazing! If you have never been to the hammam before, this trip to the ancient Nasrid kingdom can be a good opportunity to have fun with an original and different plan to do in Granada.
What are the Arab baths in Granada?
It is not a typical spa, but the Arab baths are characterised by bringing to the present the philosophy of the traditional hammam that was practised in Al-Andalus during the Middle Ages.
Moreover, its Andalusian-style decoration with Islamic arches, tiles with geometric motifs and beautiful ceilings with starry skylights that allow the access of natural light is designed to evoke the experience of traditional Arab baths, creating a very pleasant and intimate atmosphere.
Why do I recommend this activity?
If there is one thing that fascinated me about the hammam ritual, it was the relaxed atmosphere of the rooms, where time seems to stand still and silence reigns, only interrupted by the murmur of the water in the thermal pools.
In the dim light of candles and immersed in this atmosphere of calm, your senses will be awakened by the perfumed air and the Andalusian music playing lightly in the background. You will feel for a moment that you have travelled back to the splendour of the ancient Al-Andalus!
If you want to know more about the Arab baths of Granada and about this pleasant experience, I advise you to take a look at my article The best Hammam in Granada where I tell you what the hammam is, what are its health properties and how to book your tickets in the best of the city.
13. How to discover Granada?
There are many ways to get to know Granada but taking a tour of its main tourist attractions is one of the best. Especially if you are accompanied by a specialised guide.
In my experience, you will enjoythe visit much more and learn a lot about history, art, legends and curiosities!
However, the sheer number of tours on offer can be overwhelming. To make it easier for you to choose, in my article The best excursions and guided tours in Granada I show you what I consider to be the best ones to get to know the city, its monuments and its surroundings.
Choose the right date for your trip
Getting to know this beautiful Andalusian city will be magical whenever you go but if you organise your trip with the best possible plans according to the time of the year, I assure you an unforgettable trip. Read on to find out what the best activities are:
- 10 things to do in Granada in summer
- 10 things to do in Granada in autumn
- 10 things to do in Granada in winter
- Or, if you are thinking about going at Christmas, here is this post: 10 things to see and do in Granada at Christmas time.
Maybe you prefer to know which are the best months to visit Granada: