Most people visit Granada to see the Alhambra: the best-preserved Muslim palatial city in the world.
But fear not, there are plenty of other things to do!
Here are five things you should do in Granada (plus a bonus tip!):
1. Visit the Alhambra Palace
I have to say; the Alhambra is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen.
The fortress itself was built in the 13th-century when Granada was under Muslim rule. Later, after Granada’s surrender to the “Catholic Kings” in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. It was here that Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition.
But one of its best-kept secrets is the hidden network of tunnels. These are closed to the public, but it’s interesting to think that the residents lived secret lives.
P.S. You’ll need to get your Alhambra tickets in advance to avoid any disappointment. Lame, I know.
On a pretty cool note though, you can book accommodation on the Alhambra grounds! More on that at the end of this post.
2. Explore Albayzín
The Albaicin (or Albayzín) is the oldest barrio in Granada – and one of the most enchanting barrios in Spain. Set on the other side of the Darro River, Albayzín overlooks The Alhambra and contains countless maze-like passageways.
Grab some paella at La Porrona, lose yourself in the winding passageways, or spend some time on Paseo De Los Tristes – a bustling promenade full of market squares, fairy-tale bridges, Moorish-style houses and street performers.
I would also recommend a quick visit to Casa de Zafra – a 14th-century Spanish-Moorish house and one of the best-preserved treasures in Albayzín.
3. Wander around the mosque
Granada is famous for its palaces and churches, but did you know that there’s a mosque hidden up in the Albayzín hills? Me neither, until I stumbled upon it by accident! Classic Amber.
As I stood on the corner with the Calle Espaldas de San Nicolás, I noticed a white tower. I wandered down the winding passageways and found a beautiful garden overlooking the Alhambra. This is “The Grand Mosque of Granada”, as it calls itself, but its claimed historical presence seems to say less about religion and more about rivalry; after all, the lower town’s al-Taqua mosque has been functioning in Granada since the 1980s.
Albeit the controversy, it’s a lovely place to take in views of the city. And I’m an atheist.
4. Watch the sunset from San Nicolas
Mirador San Nicolas is a popular gathering-point perched on top of Albayzín. The point is named after San Nicolas because it backs onto the church of the same name, but its popularity has nothing to do with the church. It’s all about the view.
Despite having seen many incredible landscapes during my travels, this is one of my all-time favourites. There’s nothing like seeing the Alhambra Palace turn gold at sunset, glowing brightly against the Sierra Nevada mountains.
In another classic Amber moment, I recently read about the “magic fountain of youth” behind the San Nicolas church. Guess who thought this water fountain was a regular old water fountain? Well, now we know why I still get ID’d in Tesco.
Legend has it that an olive tree produced huge amounts of water, and those who drank the water became younger. Seems legit. Keep an eye out for the fountain called “Fuente del Aceituno”.
Hidden gem: There’s a restaurant called La Porrona just below the San Nicolas viewpoint, and the views there are INCREDIBLE. I’m planning on returning just for their vegetarian paella.
5. Enjoy the night
Granada is one of the few remaining cities in Spain still serving tapas on the house. Best of all, tapas increase in quality and quantity the more drinks are ordered.
For this reason, Granada is less about “where should we eat?”, and more about where the night takes you.
Whether that’s Moroccan food in Albayzín, or tapas and wine in El Centro, you won’t be short for choice. Just remember that the locals eat after 9.30pm!
If you like to plan ahead, Lauren Aloise shared a great foodie guide over at Spanishsabores.com
6. BONUS TIP! Discover the lesser-known monuments
As well as Casa de Zafra, there are a few other hidden gems in the city.
Corral del Carbon is the oldest Arab monument in Spain. Located in the centre, this place boasts a colourful courtyard and a colourful history – visiting merchants laid their heads here when they came to sell in the local markets.
Palacio de la Madraza is also worth seeing if you’re into architecture. Once the Madrasah (mosque school) of Granada, it was founded in 1349 by the Nasrid monarch Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. It’s now part of the University of Granada, so you can take a peek inside.
How to get to Granada
Unless you’re hiring a car, there are two popular ways to get to Granada: by bus or by plane.
By plane: The airport is thirty minutes outside of the city. There are regular buses (3€), or a taxi costs around €15.
By bus/taxi: The bus station is located in La Chana in the west side of the city. A taxi is the easiest way to get into town at just €8, or you can get the N4 bus from the bus station.
Once you’re in the centre, everything is in walking distance!
Where to stay in Granada
I’ve got you covered, regardless of your budget. Here are my picks:
Parador de Granada: A luxury hotel set within a 15th-century convent on the Alhambra grounds. You can’t get closer than this!
8.7/10 on Booking.com
Alhambra Palace: Another luxury hotel set just outside the palace walls. The Moorish-inspired rooms and tilework look like they’ve come straight out of the Nasrid Palace! Pay extra for the city views, and spend some time at the terrace bar.
8.8/10 on Booking.com
Hospes Palacio de los Patos: A 19th-century palace that gets rave reviews from its guests. The hotel spa includes a sauna, Turkish bath and indoor pool. Massage and various beauty treatments are also available.
9.1/10 on Booking.com
Eurostars Washington Irvine: This contemporary five-star hotel is located just 400 meters from the Alhambra Palace. Plus, it has a pool and a sun terrace. What more do you need?
9.1/10 on Booking.com
Hotel Casa 1800 Granada: I think I’ll be staying here on my next visit. This 16th-century building is set up in Albayzin, but I won’t spoil the rest. Click on the link below to take a look for yourself – but only if you don’t mind some uphill walking!
9.2/10 on Booking.com
Room Mate Leo: Although this is a three-star hotel, guests say otherwise. Expect beautiful views of the Alhambra and a rooftop terrace. They even lend you a MiFi device so that you can get free Wi-Fi around the city!
9.1/10 on Booking.com
Hotel Molinos: Located in the Realejo area of Granada, Hotel Molidos holds the Guinness World Record for the narrowest hotel in the world. It also has a rooftop terrace with views over the city. Realejo is the best neighbourhood to stay in if you’re looking for nightlife and lively restaurants.
8.3/10 on Booking.com
The Best Things to Do in Granada
I would recommend that anyone spend at least a day or two in Granada. In fact, I’ll be heading back next year to delve deeper into its hidden gems and mysteries.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you need any tips for your trip 🙂 Enjoy Granada!