Top 8 Things to Do in Granada, Spain

Updated on February 16, 2019
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Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences, and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

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Granada is certainly one of the most visited destinations in southern Spain and for good reason. Its stunning setting at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains combined with its unique Moorish architecture, and of course, the amazing Alhambra, give visitors plenty to see and do. Our recent visit highlights eight of the must-see sites along with my personal take on this fascinating community.

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1. Visit the Alhambra

First and foremost on your visit to Granada should be a visit to the amazing Alhambra. Perched prominently on a hill above the city, it stands as one of the world’s most iconic structures. The complex is quite large and filled with an abundance of historical and architectural sites that will have you in awe of the Moorish craftsmanship and attention to detail. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, the Alhambra was started as a small fortress in AD 889 and then rebuilt and enlarged during the 13-century by Nasrid Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar. After the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the Alhambra became the Royal Court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

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With its royal palaces, stately courts, refreshing reflecting pools, and finely manicured gardens there is plenty to keep visitors focused for at least half a day, so plan accordingly. Be sure to get your tickets well in advance as they are limited and go quickly. Also, consider utilizing the services of a guide to help you tour the Alhambra. There is so much history here and a guide can certainly assist in explaining all of the historical aspects of what you are seeing.

The Alhambra is Spain’s most visited attraction with approximately 3 million visitors yearly.

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2. Visit the Gardens of the Generalife

The Generalife is the area that contains the gardens of the Alhambra as well as the summer palace. The beautiful gardens together with a number of unique fountains and pools make this an especially colorful and vibrant area to stroll. As you wander the gardens you’ll be presented with stunning views of the Alhambra complex, as well as the Albayzin area of Granada and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountain range.

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Most visitors tour the Generalife after visiting the main Alhambra complex. To avoid Alhambra overload consider a short break in between visits to the two sites. There are a few restaurants located just outside the Alhambra entrance or bring a few snacks for an impromptu picnic.

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3. Wander the Albayzin Neighborhood

The Albayzin is the old Muslim neighborhood where the Moorish population lived after the Christian conquest ended all Islamic rule in 1492. From Plaza Nueva simply head up the hill opposite the Alhambra. The area is known for its narrow cobblestone alleys, white buildings, and unique architecture. Once home to a number of Mosques, many of them were converted to churches or simply razed. This is a wonderful area to wander, and eventually, you’ll come across one of those amazing views of the Alhambra across the valley. Equally scenic is the view from the Alhambra of this old Arab quarter.

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View of the Albaycin from the Alhambra
View of the Albaycin from the Alhambra | Source

4. Sunset at the Mirador San Nicolas

Located within the Albayzin area of Granada is the Church of San Nicolas with its vast terrace that offers an unobstructed view of the Alhambra. Crowds gather here nightly to watch the sunset and the lighting of the Alhambra complex. There is probably no finer view of the Alhambra, positioned across the valley with the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in the background. While the climb to get here can be taxing the area has a number of cafes, bars, and restaurants to help soothe your tired legs. The local bus also stops here and can be picked up in the center of Granada at Plaza Nueva should you wish to avoid the climb.

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5. Visit the Cathedral of Granada

Located in the center of Granada off the Gran Via de Colon, the Cathedral of Granada was the first Renaissance church to be built in Spain after the Christian Reconquista. Construction started in 1523 and was on-going for over 180 years until its completion in 1704. As grand as the cathedral is today, it would be even more impressive had its two towers been completed as originally designed. Today, only one stands and even that had to be lowered due to foundation issues. Never-the-less, the cathedral is very impressive and stands as Spain’s second-largest cathedral behind the Cathedral of Seville. The fee to enter the cathedral is a modest 5 euro and the site of its massive pillars, five naves, and the impressive main chapel makes it worth visiting.

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6. Visit the Royal Chapel of Granada

Situated adjacent to the cathedral, the Royal Chapel was originally part of the cathedral, but today has a separate entrance. It is notable as the final resting place of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand. Constructed between 1505 and 1517, Queen Isabella dictated that the chapel be built to house their bodies upon their death. Both Isabella and Ferdinand died before the chapel was completed, and their bodies were temporarily interred in the convent of San Francisco in the Alhambra until completion of the Royal Chapel. The chapel contains the tombs of other notable Spanish royalty as well as a number of works of art. The 5 euro admission fee includes a free audio guide, which we found very helpful. Photos are not allowed inside the Royal Chapel, however, they are allowed in the cathedral.

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7. Take a Tapas Tour

The first thing we did upon arriving in Granada was to take a fun and entertaining Tapas Tour. We found this a great way to get our bearings in the city and a wonderful way to have some fun by meeting other travelers. We utilized Granada Tapas Tours, which is owned and operated by Gayle Mackie, a longtime resident of Granada. Our ace guide, Irene, was excellent and took us to some amazing bars and cafes where we sampled a number of local wines and delicious tapas. I highly recommend this as a great introduction to Granada and a wonderful way to learn your way around the city.

Our guide Irene, front left
Our guide Irene, front left | Source

8. Shop in the Alcaiceria Market

As you stroll the narrows alleys of the Albayzin you could easily imagine that you were strolling the Grand Bizarre of Marrakesh or Casablanca. Although just a fraction of what it was in its heyday, the Alcaiceria provides an interesting look at the Moorish traditions that dominated Granada in the 15th century. Today it makes for a fun and entertaining shopping experience and offers some traditional Arabic souvenirs including hand-painted ceramics, stained-glass lamps, spices and herbs, and ethnic silk clothing. If you are looking to bring home a few unique souvenirs this is the place to shop. I might add that we managed to get three beautiful stained-glass lamps home without breaking them. Kudos to my wife for her excellent packing skills.

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I hope you enjoyed this quick tour of some of the highlights of Granada. While The Alhambra certainly commands most of the attention of visitors there are plenty of other interesting things to see and do. Plan on at least 2 to 3 days to see everything that Granada has to offer. The city is extremely walkable and its Moorish history, architecture, and rich culture make Granada a must stop on any visit to southern Spain.

Questions & Answers

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      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        3 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you Linda. We have been very fortunate to be able to visit some amazing places. Have a wonderful day.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        3 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        You visit and write about some wonderful places, Bill. I always enjoy your travel articles and love looking at the photos that you take.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        3 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you Flourish. It’s a beautiful area, we really enjoyed our time there. I was going to include a picture of the lamps in the hub, maybe I’ll add one. From all of our trips she has managed to get some pretty fragile souvenirs home, might be a good,topic for a future hub?

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        3 weeks ago from USA

        You have a way of making every place you profile become a “must visit” destination the way you detail the architecture, history and other things to see and do. And those photos are postcard gorgeous. I’m jealous of the shopping you were able to do. I bet those lamps are beautiful. Your wife will have to share tips on how she packed such fragile objects so they would survive the flight.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you Pam. The architecture was very unique and the gardens were beautiful. Granada really was an incredible place to see. Thanks for visiting, have a wonderful day.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

        I love the architecture and the gardens. I would love to take the tour you described and showed us fantastic pictures. You are very good at describing tours in Spain and I am sure in other countries.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you Peggy. Granada was a fascinating place, loaded with history. We really enjoyed our visit. This was our first visit to Spain, I suspect we will be back. That’s my dream retirement job!

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Thanks for sharing your experiences of visiting Granada with us. If we ever make it back to Spain, we will put this on our wish list. In the meantime, we will simply enjoy your photos and what you write about your travels. With your love of travel, you would undoubtedly make an excellent tour guide!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you, Heidi. We really enjoyed Spain. It’s a beautiful country with some incredible, historical sites. Thanks for stopping by, have a great day.

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        4 weeks ago from Chicago Area

        Your photo tours of Spain have been amazing! Since I don't know if I'll ever get there, at least I know all the beautiful things I'd miss. :) Thanks so much for sharing your travels and talents!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you Lorna. We loved Granada, just a beautiful place with so much history. Have a great day.

      • profile image

        Lorna Lamon 

        4 weeks ago

        Hi Bill, I love Granada and thoroughly enjoyed reading your article about its wonderful attractions.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Liz. Yes, it definitely merits more than a day. We spent one day just seeing the Alhambra and gardens. It certainly is a beautiful site when they illuminate it at night, priceless.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        4 weeks ago from UK

        Granada has long been on our list of must-see places. Your interesting article confirms its place there. We have long resisted the temptation to tie it in with another trip and go for a day as we feel it merits a stay there. I have heard the Alhambra at night is spectacular.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Bill. Only 3000 miles from here, lol. But, still a long way to go. This was a place we had wanted to visit for awhile so it was nice to finally get there. I must say it was very impressive. Have a wonderful weekend, Bill!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        Here's the problem with Granada, Spain, as I see it: it's 6000 miles away from me. lol Still, your articles are always a good read, so I thank you. Have a great weekend, Bill!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you Louise. Granada is a beautiful place and the cathedral is very impressive. Hopefully you’ll get there someday to see it. Have a great weekend.

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        4 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

        I've been to Spain, but never visited Granada. It looks so beautiful. I'd love to visit the cathedral. It looks stunning.

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