Without a doubt, Granada’s biggest attraction has to be the Alhambra palace and gardens. Built by Granada’s Nasrid rulers in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Alhambra is one of the most visited sights in Spain, attracting 6,000 visitors per day.
Because of the need to see what is undoubtedly the finest example of Islamic architecture in Europe, the city of Granada is often overlooked, with tour operators used to shuttling visitors to the Alhambra and nothing else. Even spending only one extra day (36 hours total) in Granada will increase the value of your trip.
Visitors miss the chance to explore a compelling city where horseshoe-shaped arches and the tea houses of the old Arab quarter mix effortlessly with tapas bars, student dives, and flamenco clubs.
Thanks in part to a large student population, Granada’s streets have an energy about them that you will not find in any other Spanish city except for Salamanca.
A visit to Granada will also give you the opportunity to sample the region’s distinct food, which, while on the face of it may appear to be typically Spanish, has its roots in North Africa.
Wander Granada’s Albaicín neighborhood
Similar to a Middle Eastern souk or a Medina in Morocco, the Albaicín in Granada is a magical place of winding streets high above the Daro River. Full of white-washed houses, bars, restaurants, and shops selling brightly colored lanterns, the walk to the Church of San Nicolas at the top of the hill is worth it for the view alone. Even at 10:00 or 11 pm in the evening, you will meet groups of happy folk on tours and couples meandering their way up to the top to the San Nicolas square, which is a most pleasant experience.
A view you will never forget
Set against the dark Sierra Nevada Mountains, the stunning view of the Alhambra is particularly special at sunset and the best place in Granada to capture that picture-perfect photo of the red palace.
Tip – Check the time the sun is setting so that you don’t have to wait too long for your photo, and then wait for the Alhambra to be lit up for another memorable photograph.
Visit the birthplace of the Flamenco
First settled by Gypsies after the conquest of the city by Christian armies in 1492, the Sacromonte district of the city is considered to be the birthplace of flamenco. When the Roma or Gitanos, as they are referred to in Spain, arrived in Granada in the 15th century, they lived in caves above the river. These caves today are now bars and clubs where you can witness authentic, passionate flamenco in its truest form.
Tip – Don’t buy a ticket for a flamenco show from your hotel or a ticket outlet. All the flamenco bars are located on Sacromonte’s main street, so go in the evening and scope the place out for yourself. Throughout the summer, you may even catch a small flavor of flamenco out in the open as talented artists perform to passing crowds.
The Alhambra in Granada
We could not visit Granada without seeing the Alhambra and have to admit it certainly was the highlight of our weekend. Decorated in such a unique style of Islamic geometric design and lettering the Alhambra is a world wonder that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
The Alhambra itself collectively includes five main parts, three of these are open all day of your visit, yet the Nasrid palaces, the real gems of your trip, are only available to be seen during the time marked on your entrance ticket. The Alhambra is a maze of real wonders to be discovered. As you encounter a different courtyard with every turn, you can almost imagine conversations that took place centuries ago on the very spot you are standing. The attractive and serene gardens enhance the magnificent palaces in every way imaginable. The ambiance created by the fountains trickling water creates a wonderful feeling of intrigue yet tranquility.
Tip – Pay for the audio tour! Not only does it explain all the features of the complex, but it also tells you what life was like during the periods of its construction.
Be sure and book your ticket as far in advance as possible as just turning up and hoping to get in is not an option. You can also save time by booking a skip the line tour.
Where to stay in Granada
Tip – You are going to do a lot of walking so make sure your shoes are comfortable and up for the job.
Food & Drink
The local beer in Granada is of course called Alhambra and comes with a tasty tapa. In most bars, it is usually a nice surprise as to what tapa you will get, but the waiters try and remember what you already had so that you don’t get the same food twice.
You can, of course, pay for additional tapas or larger portions and eat cheaply while enjoying a few beers or a glass of wine. However, unlike tapas on the coast of Southern Spain, tapas in Granada can be huge.
Tip – For the best tapas in town hit the bars along Calle Navas and choose a place you like the look of.
Granada Airport (GRX) is mainly used for domestic flights but does now have regular flights on Easyjet from Gatwick and Manchester.
Tip – To get to Granada from other airports in the UK you can fly to Malaga Airport on Spain’s sunny Costa del Sol.
From Malaga, you can catch a bus to Granada from the airport with the Alsa bus company.