A favourite of the Spanish cities we’ve visited so far, Granada is located in the Andalusia region, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Best known for it’s amazing Moorish architecture dating back to the Moorish occupation, especially the famous Alhambra Palace, Granada is a must-visit.
We’d recommend a stay of 2-3 days minimum if you’re planning a visit to Granada as there is just so much to do.
Take a look below at our list of things to do in Granada plus some suggestions of places to stay…
Visit the Alhambra
We have to start with Alhambra as you simply can’t visit Granada and not go to the most popular sight-seeing location.
The Alhambra palace and fortress sits high up on the hilltop, overlooking the city and the River Darro, so you literally can’t miss it. Building started in 1238 and was further developed in the centuries that followed by both the Moors and the Christians.
With stunning frescoes, decorated arches and columns, and ornamented walls, there is so much to see that you need to allow yourself at least half a day to get around.
The Alhambra is a walled citadel made up of several palaces, as well as gardens, mosques, baths, pavillions, forts, and barracks, all surrounded by an impressive wall.
As well as the amazing architecture and beautiful gardens, you have amazing views across the city and mountains that are well worth checking out.
You can either book a guided tour or just walk around by yourself. Make sure you buy the tickets online in advance, and book a ticket that covers all areas of the Alhambra. You can walk up to the Alhambra from the city centre but it is very steep so you may prefer to catch a bus from the Plaza Nueva.
Walk around the Carmen de los Martires gardens
Carmen de los Martires (Carmen of the martyrs) is a beautiful palace and gardens located in the surroundings of the Alhambra. If you have time before or after your visit to Alhambra, these gardens are definitely worth a visit.
Originally built as a Catholic church and convent in the 19th century, it was later turned into a palace with extensive gardens before being given to the city of Granada. Here you will find a French Baroque garden with large pond and statue of Neptune; an English-style garden with three-tier fountain, hedges and palm trees; a Lake with a stone jetty with fake medieval ruins; the Nasrid Patio which imitates the typical elements of Nasrid gardens; and the wood-maze that joins up the gardens.
The gardens are free to enter and open from April – October.
Explore the Albaicín
The Albaicín is Granada’s oldest Arab neighbourhood, and is situated on the hill directly across from the Alhambra. The district is a maze of narrow, cobbled streets, with whitewashed buildings and busy plazas. The mosques in Albaicín were torn down and replaced by churches in the 15th century but there is still a very Moorish feel with lots of Arab tearooms as well as Arab baths.
When visiting Albaicín you must stop at the Mirador de San Nicolas (viewpoint) where you’ll have fantastic views of the Alambra directly in front of you, as well as the city and Sierra Nevada.
You can walk up to Albaicín from the city centre by walking up any of the narrow streets that run alongside the River Darro.
Experience gypsy life at the Sacromonte Caves
The cave houses of Sacromonte are where the gypsies of Granada lived in the 18th century, and are grouped around ravines that form the streets.
Many of the caves have been turned into bars and restaurants, as well as some homes that allow tourists in to see what life in a gypsy cave house is like. You can even watch a traditional flamenco show with dinner in one of the cave restaurants.
As with most places in Granada city you will also have spectacular views of both the Alhambra and the mountains from here.
You can walk from the city along the River Darro to Sacromonte, but we’d recommend jumping on a bus from the Plaza Nueva.
Eat tapas and watch the world go by
Granada is one of the best places to eat tapas, mainly because they’re free! For every drink you order you’ll be brought a portion of tapas, so take advantage of trying lots of different Spanish dishes.
There are so many bars to choose from, and your best bet is to head to one of the bustling Plazas and find a busy bar – if it’s popular with the Spanish then it’s bound to be good.
Visit the Granada Cathedral
You can’t miss the imposing building of the gothic Granada cathedral as you walk around the city, and it’s somewhere you should definitely add to your sight-seeing list.
The dome is decorated with stained glass, sculptures, and paintings, and there is an exhibition of cathedral treasure on display.
Shop at the Arab market
The mercado artesania is an arabic-style bazaar with shops selling bags and purses, jewellery, arabic lanterns, clothing, souvenirs and more. It can be found right next to the cathedral in the middle of the city, so if you’re visiting the cathedral then the arab market is a great place for a wander and to pick up some souvenirs.
Go hiking in the Sierra Nevada
From the Granada bus station you can take a bus up to the ski village of the Sierra Nevada. From here you can explore the surrounding area, join a hiking tour, marvel at the views, or in winter months enjoy the snow!
There are plenty of hotels and lodges up there so if you fancy a change of scenery it’s a great place to spend the night. For more details you can check out this post which includes details of our visit.
Where to stay in Granada
This is where we stayed – it’s slightly out of the city center but easy to jump onto a bus opposite the hotel, or alternatively it’s 10 minutes’ walk from Granada’s old town and 5 minutes from the train station. The hotel has free WiFi, gym, roof terrace, buffet breakfast, and an a la carte restaurant.
The place we would love to stay is at the Parador de Granada which is located within the grounds of the Alhambra Palace within a 15th-century convent. There is a terrace overlooking the Alhambra as well as a beautiful covered terrace.
This 2 bedroom apartment has some fantastic views and is located in the Albacin district just 400m from Granada Cathedral, 300m from San Juan de Dios Museum, less than 1km from Paseo de los Tristes, and a 8-minute walk from San Nicolas Viewpoint.
A modern 2 bedrooms apartment in the centre of Granada, 300m from Granada Cathedral and 600m from the Basilica de San Juan de Dios. These apartments offer free WiFi, private parking, and a fully equipped kitchen.
We hope this list of the best things to do in Granada has given you some ideas of what to do on your visit and where to stay, and that we’ve inspired you to visit this beautiful city!
Visit Get Your Guide to book tickets, tours, and experiences in Granada.
If you have been to Granada before, what was your favourite thing to do?
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2 thoughts on “The best things to do in Granada”
Fabulous area!! I love the views through the arches in Alhambra, and hiking in the Sierra Nevada sounds right up my street! I mean, as long as I have waterproof socks and microspikes to help with the snow. 🙂
Wow this sounds like so much fun! I would love to visit the Arab market. Also, I love Spanish tapas and I think any trip to Spain is worth it just for them. Thanks for sharing!