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Best things to do in Granada

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

Sep 20, 2021 • 16 min read

Best things to do in Granada

©Kevin Mcmahon

There are few places with more charm and more beautiful than Granada to enjoy a special getaway. Its fascinating history, its magnificent art, its rich tapas and the joy of its people are reasons enough to discover the city with the most beautiful sunset on the planet.

The Alhambra of 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

Patio de los Leones | ©Jorge Gobbi
Patio de los Leones | ©Jorge Gobbi

When we think of Granada, the first thing that comes to mind is its emblematic Alhambra. 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 you have to see when you arrive in Granada.

All the adjectives with which I describe it fall short! **The Alhambra is a jewel of universal art that leaves you speechless. It is not surprising that many poets and artists have found in its beauty their source of inspiration. Did you know that even the New7Wonders Foundation chose it as the eighth wonder of the world?

It is only logical that such accolades arouse the interest of millions of travelers who head to Andalusia to admire the charms and beautiful views of this ancient Andalusian palatine city, one of those monuments that are a must-see at least once in a lifetime!

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 in the world, my advice is to make a guided tour of the Alhambra: to tour the entire monumental complex without losing 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.

How to book your tickets?

I recommend that you get your 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 seating that tends to sell out quickly.

2. Be amazed by the views from the Mirador de San Nicolas.

Enjoy the beautiful views of the Alhambra from the viewpoint of San Nicolas © ©Arkangel
Enjoy the beautiful views of the Alhambra from the viewpoint of San Nicolas © ©Arkangel
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Another of the indispensable plans to do in Granada during a getaway is to contemplate the sunset from the viewpoint of San Nicolas, in the Albaicin neighborhood. "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 was not wrong! From here you will have the best panoramic view of the Alhambra in Granada with the imposing Sierra Nevada in the background. In addition, you will enjoy unbeatable views of the Nasrid Palaces, the Alcazaba or the Generalife.

In fact, the views are wonderful at any time of day but the feeling of watching the sun slowly set behind the Alhambra while coloring its walls, towers and palaces in reddish tones is simply magical.

How to get to the viewpoint of San Nicolas?

This viewpoint is located in the highest part of the Albaicín neighborhood in Granada. You can get there by walking up the Paseo de los Tristes or by bus taking lines C1 or C2. Another option is to cross the Plaza Larga and take the Alhacaba slope.

3. Explore the picturesque neighborhoods of Albaicín and Sacromonte.

Walk through the picturesque streets of the Albaicín | ©L'odyssée Belle
Walk through the picturesque streets of the Albaicín | ©L'odyssée Belle
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Any traveler who has visited Granada will agree with me that the Albaicín and Sacromonte neighborhoods are two of the most fascinating and ancient sites you can 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 here is the soul of the city.

If you are one of those travelers who love to know a city getting lost in its streets to discover its most authentic and real side, one of the things to do in Granada that I recommend is a tour through the Albaicin and Sacromonte.

Why take a tour of the Albaicin and Sacromonte?

With this tour of the Albaicin and Sacromonte neighborhoods in Granada you will 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 anything 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 how these activities are and what you will see in these neighborhoods full of legends whose views you will fall in love with.

4. Tour the Cathedral of Granada

Interior of the dome of the Cathedral of Granada | ©Bobo Boom
Interior of the dome of the Cathedral of Granada | ©Bobo Boom

It is true that the Alhambra is the queen of all eyes but during my getaway to Granada, one of the biggest surprises I got was to contemplate the majesty of the cathedral, the second largest cathedral in Spain.

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 finished until the beginning of the 18th century, almost two centuries later, due to the fact that the enterprise was full of all kinds of complications because of its great complexity.

Why visit the cathedral of Granada?

In the city there are many churches but this cathedral is an icon because we are in front of one of the masterpieces of the Spanish Renaissance. It is also a temple that impresses with its large size and to see it towering over the center of Granada is an unforgettable sight for the traveler.

Dedicated to Santa María de la Encarnación, the cathedral is impressive on the outside because of its towers and its great baroque facade, 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 huge 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

Detail of the tomb of the Catholic Monarchs | ©Wenjie, Zhang | A Certain Slant of Light
Detail of the tomb of the Catholic Monarchs | ©Wenjie, Zhang | A Certain Slant of Light

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 is 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 devote their lives forever to Granada and build their tomb chapel here.

What can be seen in the Royal Chapel?

For those of us who are passionate about history, entering the royal chapel of Granada gives us a sense of emotion and respect because we are in front of the mausoleum of several personalities who starred in some of the most epic feats in the history of Spain.

The Mausoleum and the crypt of the royal family

On one side we find 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 observe their coffins you can visit a small crypt located under the pantheon, which can be accessed by stairs. I remember that I was very surprised by the contrast between the sumptuousness of the tomb and the austerity of the crypt, 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 insignia and the royal scepter they used.

The Museum-Sacristy of the Royal Chapel

The construction of the Sacristy Museum of the Royal Chapel is dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. 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 walls of the chapel (the coat of arms of Spain with the eagle of St. John, the yoke and arrows).

You will also find several paintings that were part of Queen Isabella's collection, the ceremonial costumes of the monarchs, and books and silverware used in their daily lives.

6. Take an excursion to the Alpujarras

Dream landscapes of the Alpujarras
Dream landscapes of the Alpujarras
image|url=https://res.cloudinary.com/hello-tickets/image/upload/v1618480560/post_images/granada-212/ver-hacer-granada/2542280134_944d7bb7f8_o_Cropped.jpg|caption=Dream landscapes of the Alpujarras ©Carlos Alejo:::

**A magical place to see in Granada during your trip is the Alpujarras. A unique territory between Granada and Almeria that, at more than 1,200 meters of altitude, looks from the southern slope of 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 among deep valleys.

Why visit the Alpujarras?

I think it is a great 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 like exploring the natural park of Sierra Nevada, where the highest mountain range in southern Europe is located and the imposing Mulhacen peak, the highest in the Iberian Peninsula!

How is the excursion to the Alpujarras?

When it comes to excursions outside the urban centers, we wonder how to get to the destination, what transportation to take, what to see and do... Don't worry! With this day trip to the Alpujarras, everything is organized for you to relax and enjoy the most of this trip to nature.

At 8:30 AM you will travel by private transport with a guide to the south of the province of Granada. The adventure takes place among postcard landscapes, where nature is shown in all its splendor.

As the excursion 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 its 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 flavors and textures of this Andalusian region.

At the end of the route through the Alpujarras we returned to Granada. It was an intense day full of emotions and one of the best excursions I did in southern Spain.

7. Going out for tapas in Granada

Enjoy the delicious tapas in Granada
Enjoy the delicious tapas in Granada
image|url=https://res.cloudinary.com/hello-tickets/image/upload/v1618480847/post_images/granada-212/ver-hacer-granada/7057191337_1db640fbde_o_Cropped.jpg|caption=Enjoy the delicious tapas in Granada ©Andrew Nash::::

**Tapas in Spain is an art form, but in Granada it's something out of this world. And if you ask me for those essential things to do in Granada, you can never miss going for tapas in the city center.

For those who don't know, tapas in Granada works like this: you go to a bar, order a drink and with it they bring you a free tapa. It's that easy! In Granada's bars, ordering a drink is the same as ordering tapas. Cool, right? In fact, you can have lunch and dinner with tapas and spend 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 powerful. There are bars where the tapas are simple and bars where they go all out.

For example, there are places where you can choose the 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 will be 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).

8. Have a tea in the street of the Teterías (Tea Shops)

Taste the traditional Moorish tea © ©alexis.stroemer
Taste the traditional Moorish tea © ©alexis.stroemer

After tapas in the center of Granada, nothing better than going to Calderería Nueva street in the Albaicín neighborhood to enjoy an authentic Moorish tea and the best Arab pastries of the city. The finishing touch that every banquet deserves!

Also known as the street of the Tea Shops, this place is full of stores with some of the goods displayed on the outside that reminds a lot to the souks of the Middle East but without leaving Granada.

Besides having tea in its Andalusian-style shops, 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 jewelry. You're sure to find what you're looking for.

9. Take a hot air balloon ride over the sky of Granada

Surf the skies of Granada in a hot air balloon | ©star5112
Surf the skies of Granada in a hot air balloon | ©star5112

If you are looking for strong emotions 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 balloon ride.

Can you imagine flying over the city at dawn while you have a bird's eye view of the Alhambra, the Albaicín neighborhood, the Sacromonte caves and the 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 as a souvenir.

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 awaken and the sun radiates an incandescent glow over the mountains.

This is an experience you have to live at least once in your life! 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, transmitting a lot of security. I highly recommend it, you won't regret it!

10. Fall in love at Paseo de los Tristes

Paseo de los Tristes | ©Sara Amaro
Paseo de los Tristes | ©Sara Amaro

Granada is a unique city by itself but one of the places that contribute to give it that magical air that characterizes it is the Paseo de los Tristes, one of the most beautiful and most historic corners of the Nasrid city.

It is a beautiful avenue that follows the course of the Darro River between the bridges of the Chirimías and Aljibillo and has privileged views of the Alhambra at its feet.

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 walk, especially in the moonlight and among the surrounding vegetation, which permeates 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 favorite places to stroll, to take pictures, to enjoy the views and some wine in 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 cemetery of the city and the scene of sad funeral processions. Curious, isn't it?

11. Soak up culture in the museums of Granada

Parque de las Ciencias | ©euphro
Parque de las Ciencias | ©euphro

Although Granada is a small city, it is home to an unparalleled 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 favorites:

  • The Museum of Fine Arts: it is the most important art gallery in the city that has pieces dating from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. It is located on the second floor of the Palace of Charles V, in the palace complex of the Alhambra in Granada, a space that is already a work of art architecture.

  • Museum of the Alhambra**: here you can see the Hispano-Muslim art objects recovered from the Alhambra and the Generalife. It is on the first floor of the Palace of Charles V, in the Alhambra.

  • Archaeological Museum**: houses the archaeological findings of different peoples (Iberians, Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs) who left their mark on Granada after their passage through the city. In the 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 Pavaneras Street, 19.

  • House-Museum Manuel de Falla**: is the place where the composer Manuel de Falla, one of the most important figures of Spanish music in the twentieth century, lived. Here you can see his personal objects, the original furniture, his piano and some gifts he received from artists such as Pablo Picasso or Miguel de Unamuno. At Paseo de los Mártires, 11.

  • Lorca House-Museum**: it 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". In addition, you can see his manuscripts, his personal objects and even his original furniture. In Iglesia Street, 20 (Valderrubio).

  • Science Park of Granada**: it is 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 fly while exploring and learning in the butterfly garden, the biodome or in the raptor workshop. You will need a morning to see it! On Science Avenue, s/n

Pamper your body with a traditional hammam ritual.

Relax with the hammam ritual | ©Haley Phelps
Relax with the hammam ritual | ©Haley Phelps

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 the typical spa but the Arab baths are characterized by bringing to the present the traditional hammam philosophy that was practiced in Al-Andalus during the Middle Ages.

In addition, 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 intimate atmosphere.

Why do I recommend this activity?

If anything fascinated me about the hammam ritual, it was the relaxed atmosphere that can be perceived in its rooms, where time seems to stand still and silence reigns, only interrupted by the murmur of the water of 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 traveled back to the splendor 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 is the hammam, what are its health properties and how to book your tickets in the best of the city.

How to discover Granada?

View of the Alhambra and Granada from Sacromonte at sunset | ©Victoriano Izquierdo
View of the Alhambra and Granada from Sacromonte at sunset | ©Victoriano Izquierdo

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 we are accompanied by a specialized guide.

In my experience, you will enjoy the visit much more and you will learn a lot about history, art, legends and curiosities!

However, the wide range of tours on offer can be overwhelming. To make it easier for you to choose, in my article The best guided tours and excursions in Granada I show you what I consider the best ones to get to know the city, its monuments and its surroundings.

Things to do in Granada