With its fascinating history and rich culture, Granada is one of the most unmissable destinations in Spain. Crammed with historic attractions, ancient monuments, and charming old neighborhoods, it's a history buff's dream. Factor in the lively tapas bars, jubilant fiestas, and vibrant atmosphere, and it's easy to see what draws so many tourists to the city every year. If you're planning a visit of your own, check out our guide to the 20 best things to do in Granada, Spain.
20. Unwind at Carmen de los Martires Gardens
As much as Granada is all about architectural beauty, it's also got its share of botanical wonders. One of the best places to enjoy the city's floral displays is at Carmen de los Martires Gardens, a gorgeously tranquil spot that's perfect for a peaceful stroll. Located just a short distance from the Alhambra, it's an oasis of leafy walkways, glistening ponds, and colorful flowerbeds. In the middle, you'll find a small, fairytale tower, at the top of which lie some of the most romantic views in the city.
19. Take a tapas-stop at a neighborhood bar
Strolling the city streets can be thirsty work, especially on a hot summer's day. You'll find plenty of bars around, but if you want to enjoy some of the best hospitality in town, take the advice of The Culture Trip and head for Bar La Fragua. The music is bewildering, veering from Ediaf Piaf one moment to Nirvana the next, the owner is always two sheets to the wind, and the entrance is usually teeming with hippies and bums with dogs... which is all part of the charm. The wine is as cheap as chips (expect to part with around €1.60 per glass), the food is on the house, and you'll not find a better place in the city to soak up some local culture.
18. Join in the festivities at Feria
If you're lucky enough to be in Granada in June, be sure to check out its annual Feria, a week-long, booze-fuelled event that's like a smaller, funner, more inclusive version of the iconic Feria de Abril in Seville. There's drinking, dancing, beautiful flamenco outfits, more drinking, music, bullfights, some of Spain’s top matadors, and yet more drinking. If you like rebujito (a moreish combination of Manzanilla sherry and lemonade) and are in the mood to party like a true Granada native, you won't want to miss it.
17. Explore the historic center
The Alhambra might be the biggest historical tourist attraction in Granada, but it's not the only place you'll find some architectural wonders. The historical center might be small, but it's bristling with attractions, with a vast variety of cultural centers, palaces, churches, and ancient homes and schools. The best way to discover the delights of places like the Cathedral and Royal Chapel, Basilica de San Juan de Dios, and the Saint Jerome Monastery is by foot - guided tours are available, although due to its compact nature, you should manage well enough alone with nothing more than a guide book, a pair of comfortable shoes and a bottle of water for company.
16. People watch at Plaza Nueva
Despite its name (which translates to New Square), you'll actually find Plaza Nueva in the oldest part of the city, surrounded by some of Granada's most historic and significant landmarks. Back in years gone by, the square was a center for bullfights, games, and tournaments. These days, it's the ideal place to grab a refreshment from a local cafe, take a seat on one of the outdoor terraces, and watch the street performers and tourists go by.
15. Check out the exhibits at Parque de las Ciencias
If you've already soaked up Granada's history and culture, apply yourself to a new learning experience at Parque de las Ciencias, an interactive science museum just a few minutes walk from the city's historic center. Since opening its doors in 1995, it's become the most visited museum in Andalusia, and for very good reason. With a planetarium, a huge range of displays, and tons of interactive exhibits, it's a hugely enjoyable experience for the whole family.
14. Take a tour of Casa Federico García Lorca
Federico García Lorca is widely considered one of the best Spanish poets of the twentieth century. To find out more about him, a visit to the Casa Federico García Lorca comes highly recommended. The property served as the summer house of the García Lorca family from 1926 to 1936, the year in which Federico was shot and the remainder of his family were forced into exile. Today, it serves as a museum dedicated to his life and works, wonderfully preserved as it would have been while he lived there with the same furniture, drawings, and paintings, along with an intriguing collection of documents, sketches, and photographs.
13. Admire the murals in Realejo
Realejo, Granada’s old Jewish quarter, is a charming place of meandering streets and beautiful old churches and houses. While you're there, be sure to take the advice of thebrokebackpacker.com and keep your eyes peeled for the signature work of local spray-paint artist Raul Ruiz (or El Niño, as he's better known), whose flawless murals help make the neighborhood's ambiance what it is.
12. Explore Sierra Nevada National Park
If you want to escape the city for a few hours, the nearby Sierra Nevada National Park won't disappoint. As Spain's largest national park, it's a nature lover's dream, boasting numerous glistening lakes, winding rivers, vast forests, and towering peaks. If you visit in winter, the Sierra Nevada Ski Resort is a great place to try some skiing, boasting over 62 miles of slopes and dozens of chairlifts and gondolas. In summer, you can take a lift up Veleta, one of the park's highest peaks, to discover the numerous scenic trails and breathtaking views at the summit. If you're a keen hiker, the 6-mile trail along the Los Cahorros gorge is well worth exploring.
11. Take in the view at Plaza de San Nicolas
If views are what you want, views are what you'll get at the Plaza de San Nicolas. Located around a mile north of Paseo de los Tristes in the Albaicín neighborhood, the plaza occupies a prime position facing the Alhambra and the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range on the distance, with terracotta-colored rooftops and verdant hills spread in between the two. Even without the views, the plaza's lively atmosphere, pretty decorative cobblestones, and charming whitewashed church would make it worth the climb up the hill.
10. Visit the cathedral
Located at the very center of Granada's historic district is the cathedral, an imposing, architecturally intriguing building set on the site of a former mosque. Its construction started in 1518, but it took over 180 years to finish.. or at least, come close to finishing - the original architectural plans included two 262-foot towers, but only one made it to completion. As visitgranada.net notes, while the initial designs were of Gothic style, the cathedral was mainly constructed during the Spanish Renaissance period. The towering facade, meanwhile, was largely taken care of by Alonso Cano, who introduced a mixture of Baroque and classic styles into the plans when he took over the design in 1652.
9. Take a tour of the Basilica de San Juan de Dios
Spain has a number of Baroque temples, but of all of them, the Basilica de San Juan de Dios is considered one of the most significant. Considering it's home to the urn that contains Saint John of the Gods, it's easy to see why. But even leaving that aside, it's a spectacular place to visit, boasting Granada Baroque architecture, an incredibly intricate multi-tiered altar embellished with historical and religious figures, and an interior patio made almost entirely from gold. As inspirock.com notes, as you explore, you'll find elaborately decorated domes and chapels, gilded furnishings, a museum-like collection of 62 frames and mirrors, a gallery, and the gold adornments of the Camarín reliquary. Masses are held each Sunday for those interested.
8. Admire the art at the Museum of Fine Arts
For art lovers, the Museum of Fine Arts should be considered essential viewing. Home to over 2000 pieces, including several enormously significant religious paintings and sculptures from as early as the 1500s, it's the ideal place to get a culture fix while learning more about the history of Granada's transition from a Moorish territory into a catholic city after the Reconquest of Spain. While you're there, be sure to check out the display of works from Alonzo Cano, who played a major role in designing the facade of the city's cathedral.
7. Pick up some bargains at the Alcaiceria market
Don't be put off by the cheesy displays of flamenco costumes and touristy souvenirs at the entrance to the Alcaiceria market. Once you make your way into the market's depths, what initially seemed like the biggest tourist trap in the city will quickly transform into a fascinating bazaar crammed to the rafters with treasures. Expect to find leather goods of all varieties, tea sets, intricate tapestries, stained glass lamps and ornaments, ornate wooden goods, and traditionally painted ceramics. The prices are already reasonable, but bargaining is expected. Regardless of whether you want a stylish leather bag or some traditional fajalauza to take home as gifts, this is the place to go.
6. Explore Albayzín
Like the Alhambra and Generalife, the Albayzín District is one of Granada’s treasured World Heritage Sites, and one that definitely warrants a few hours of your time. The narrow, winding streets are lined with charming whitewashed houses and old churches, with plenty of tapas joints and local bars to stop for a recharge. With a distinct Moorish influence and a unique ambiance that sets it apart from the other districts in the city, it's the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon strolling the streets and soaking up the atmosphere. While you're there, take the advice of touristsecrets.com and look out for the Carrera del Darro, a small pathway with picturesque stone arc bridges and colorful floral displays that looks like it's been transported from the pages of a medieval fairy tale.
5. Experience a flamenco show in Sacromonte
Granada is considered the birthplace of flamenco, and today, the Sacromonte district on the northern tip of the Albaicín is the best place to enjoy this unmissable cultural experience. The shows take place in a series of caves that are used specifically for flamenco performances. Most of them can be found along the main thoroughfare of Camino del Sacromonte, where you'll also find plenty of restaurants and bars for a pre-show dinner. Prices vary depending on the venue, but you can expect to pay around 20 to 30 euros for a seat.
4. Discover the Arab bathhouses
Before the Christians took over after the Reconquest of Spain, Granada's Arab baths formed an integral part of the city's life and culture. Like most of the other Arab establishments, the baths were torn down over the years and converted into other facilities, but it's still possible to get a glimpse into the former gathering places at El Bañuelo, an 11th-century bathhouse that is one of the very last intact Arab bathhouses in Spain. The baths themselves are long since gone, but it's worth taking a tour for the rich history and gorgeous architecture. If it puts you in the mood to take a dip, head for Hammam Al Andalus, which has a large bath along with a range of spa treatments, or Aljibe de San Miguel Arab Baths, which boasts several pools of different temperatures for an authentic bathhouse experience.
3. Enjoy a stroll at Generalife Gardens
During your visit to Alhambra, be sure to allow some time for Generalife Gardens. Set on the hill next to the palace, the gardens are a regal, botanical delight of glistening reflective pools, bubbling fountains, flower gardens, and ancient trees. It can get busy during the day, but an early morning or late afternoon visit should guarantee a peaceful stroll.
2. Stroll the old neighborhood of Albaicín
Granada's oldest neighborhood is the former Arabic quarter of Albaicín, a compact labyrinth of cobbled streets begging to be explored. Whitewashed houses line the winding streets, each one seemingly in competition for the most magnificent flower display. Quaint stores compete for attraction with charming plazas, with the scent of jasmine hanging heavy in the air. As the neighborhood is perched on the hillside, getting all the way to the top can be a challenge, especially in the height of summer. But persevere - the views from the top, and particularly from the Mirador San Nicolás, are worth the sweat. If you've got a few hours to spare on a Saturday morning, it's worth checking out the fun flea market at Plaza Larga.
1. Explore the Alhambra
Described by US News and Travel as the crown jewel of Granada, Alhambra is a must-visit for anyone visiting the city. Perched on a hill in the very center of the city, its rich heritage, beautiful gardens and jaw-dropping architecture draw over 2 million visitors every year. Largely constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries by the Moorish Nasrid Dynasty, the palace has been restored and rebuilt on multiple occasions by multiple occupants over the years, with each household introducing new elements reflective of both themselves and the times. The complex is massive, so allow plenty of time to explore it fully. If you're on a tight timeframe, the most important parts not to miss include Charles V's palace, Nasrid Palaces, and the Alcazaba.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn