Lying in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Granada was the last stronghold of the Moors in Spain. Today, Arabic architecture, Christian influences and Moroccan culture, fuse to create Spain’s most important historical city. Here are the best things to do in Granada.
For the Moors, (Arab and Berber Muslims in Spain) life was something glorious. In their practice of Islam, learning was cherished, magnificent architecture was celebrated, and science and philosophy were valued pursuits.
Most importantly, life was to be enriched with pleasure.
The Moors ruled parts of southern Spain for almost 800 years, but steadily their lands were captured by the Catholic Monarchs until Granada became their final stronghold. In 1492 Granada also fell, but not before a remarkable legacy had been left behind.
Today a mix of romantic Islamic architecture with a Christian coating sits alongside bohemian cafes and flamenco cave clubs. Vast shrines to conquistadors rise above a maze of lanes decked with stalls of spice and Moroccan tea shops.
Granada’s most defining landmark, however, is the Alhambra. A stunning palace and fortress from where the Moors last ruled. It is one of the most remarkable buildings in the world.
Fortunately, despite centuries of upheaval, one important cultural element has survived: the concept of free tapas.
Here is our guide to the best things to do in Granada.
Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.
1 – THE ALHAMBRA
After the fall of Córdoba (see our guide – things to do in Córdoba) in 1236 CE, the centre of Moorish power was transferred to Granada and the Alhambra palace was built.
Today, the complex is one of the best-preserved monuments of Islamic architecture in the world and an unmissable attraction in Granada. The Alhambra occupies a strategic position overlooking the city, containing exquisite formal gardens, intricate Nasrid designs, palaces, towers, and fortified walls.
The complex was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
HIGHLIGHTS AT THE ALHAMBRA
The Alcazaba // Dating back to the 9th century, the Alcazaba is the oldest part of the Alhambra. The current complex was constructed as a defensive fortress with ramparts, a keep, and a watch tower. Its strategic position provides stunning views over the city.
Generalife // Generalife is a garden complex built in the 13th century as a place for the kings of Granada to relax. The highlight is the Patio of the Irrigation Ditch – a 50-metre-long water feature surrounded by flowers and fountains.
Palace of Charles V // Once the Catholic Monarchs took over, Charles V commissioned his new palace to be built beside the Alhambra. The resulting square palace with the central circular patio is the most important Renaissance building in Spain.
Nasrid Palaces // The most breathtaking architecture in the Alhambra, the Nasrid Palaces comprises three separate areas, each intricately decorated with different Islamic designs. Don’t miss the Palace of Comares, Lion’s Palace or the Mirador de Daraxa. A timed entry ticket is required – see below
HOW TO GET TO THE ALHAMBRA
By Bus — Bus C30 or C32 depart from the Plaza de Isabel la Católica (100 metres from Plaza Nueva) every 8-12 minutes. Get off at the Alhambra – Generalife 2 stop.
By Foot — From Plaza Nueva, walk up Cuesta de Gómerez through the Puerta de las Granadas. Either follow the main road which will take you to the Main Gate for access to Generalife or the path on the left for access to the Gate of Justice (closer to the Nasrid Palaces). Allow about 20 minutes.
By Taxi — Official taxis are permitted to drive through the Alhambra complex so you can also collect a taxi from the centre of Granada.
HOW TO BUY ALHAMBRA TICKETS
There are hundreds of private suppliers selling tickets online to the Alhambra who provide additional services over and above the standard ticket price.
Entry-only tickets can only be purchased from the official website which is – alhambra-patronato.es
ALHAMBRA | TICKET PRICES
If you would like to do a guided tour, this one on getyourguide is reasonably priced and very well-reviewed. It includes the Nasrid Palaces, fast-track entry and a professional guide.
IMPORTANT TIPS FOR VISITING ALHAMBRA
- Tickets can book out months in advance. Make sure you check availability before booking flights and hotels.
- Access to the Nasrid Palaces is timed and you must be standing at the entrance to the palaces at your specified time. We suggest you enter the Alhambra complex at least 30 minutes beforehand.
- You must provide your passport to gain entry, even with valid tickets.
- Tickets as QR codes on mobile devices are accepted.
2 – ALBAICÍN NEIGHBOURHOOD
Albaicín is the Moorish quarter of Granada, located on the hill facing the Alhambra.
The area has been occupied for millennia but came to prominence when a Moorish citadel was built on top of the hill. It was connected to two smaller fortresses one of which is where the Alhambra now stands.
Today it retains several historic monuments and most of the medieval street plans dating back to this period. The medieval lanes that wind up the Albaicín, zigzag past historic monuments as they climb towards Granada’s best view of the Alhambra.
On the way you’ll find Islamic houses and gardens, fortified walls, tiny churches, and a lot of energy, but keep an eye out for the following –
The Church of San Salvador was built on the site of the main Albaicín mosque, and at one time it was considered one of the most beautiful in the world.
The Palacio de los Córdova is a Renaissance Palace with a magnificent doorway. It is free to enter and has lovely views of the Alhambra from the Meduja interior.
Carmen de la Victoria is one of the best-known Carmen’s (a rustic home with an orchard and fountain) in Granada.
3 – MIRADOR DE SAN NICOLÁS
Located near the summit of the Albaicín, the Church of San Nicolás, was built on the site of a former mosque. It was badly damaged in the Civil War and, with ongoing structural issues, remains closed for renovations.
But the simple gothic church is best known for the commanding views from its mirador.
Mirador de San Nicolás has the most majestic views of the Alhambra with the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains in the background. Watching sunset from this point is one of the best things to do in Granada.
How to get to Mirador de San Nicolás — The C31, C32 and C34 minibuses run from the centre of Granada to Plaza Isabel Católica which is a short walk to Mirador de San Nicolás. Alternatively, the walk along Carrera del Darro (see below) via Paseo de los Tristes, Cuesta del Chapiz and the Church of El Salvador is a lovely way to get there and takes about 15 minutes climbing steadily uphill.
4 – CARRERA DEL DARRO
Running along the left bank of the River Darro, Carrera Del Darro is the oldest street in Albaicín.
The cobbled-stone street hanging over the river is one of the most picturesque strolls in Granada. Historic Arab houses and convents line the street which also contains the last of Granada’s 13 arched bridges.
Performers, street vendors and cafes bring the street to life in the late afternoon.
At dusk, with churches illuminating the cobbled lane and the Alhambra shining on the opposite hill, it’s one of the most charming things to do in Granada.
5 – EL BAÑUELO
El Bañuelo, sometimes referred to as Baño del Nogal, is a well-preserved hammam in the Albaicín quarter of Granada. Set in a private house on Carrera del Darro, the baths were saved from destruction by the Catholic Monarchs who mistook them for brothels.
Declared a National Monument in 1918, El Bañuelo are the oldest and best-preserved Muslim baths in Spain.
Little remains from the glories of their past, but the Moorish architecture including ornate porticos and skylights in the shape of stars is enough to invoke your imagination.
DETAILS | EL BAÑUELO
hours – 10 am to 5 pm (15 September to 30 April); 9:30 am to 14:30 pm and 5 pm to 8:30 pm (1 May – 14 September) | cost – €7.42 | tickets – purchase tickets on the official Alhambra site.
6 – CALLE CALDERÍA NUEVA
Linking the upper and lower sections of Albaicín, Calle Caldería Nueva is a narrow laneway bursting with historic Moorish vibes. Known as the little Marrakech of Granada, shisha smoke and the scent of tagine waft past shops selling silks, jewellery, and pottery.
It’s one of the most atmospheric locations in Granada and the place to come for traditional Moroccan tea. Popularly referred to as Calle de las Teterías, the street is lined with Moorish tea houses.
There are plenty of cafes offering tea and Andalusian pastries and desserts. Our favourite for its Moroccan atmosphere and street-side location was Tetería Al Waha.
7 – GRANADA CATHEDRAL
Like the imposing Cathedral of Málaga (see our guide – things to do in Málaga), the Cathedral of Granada was built on the site of a mosque. Construction started in 1523 and took 181 years to complete.
The cavernous interior rises from a black and white tiled floor to an intricately carved Gothic ceiling. Appearing taller than it is long, the proportions and geometry of the building align with the feeling of spaciousness in Renaissance design.
The cupola is the standout feature of the cathedral. It features both traditional and flying buttresses to allow more light into the space.
DETAILS | GRANADA CATHEDRAL
hours – 10am to 6:30pm (Monday to Saturday); 3 pm to 6 pm (Sunday and bank holidays) | cost – free
8 – ROYAL CHAPEL OF GRANADA
The Royal Chapel of Granada (Capilla Real) is one of the unmissable things to do in Granada. Containing the tombs of the Catholic Monarchs, including Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, the chapel is magnificently decorated and contains several important art pieces.
The main altarpiece is an elaborate gold artwork that represents the 3 core values of the Catholic Monarchs: religious unity, political unity, and territorial unity. At the end of the nave, the main grille depicts the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
Ferdinand and Elizabeth’s tombs are the centrepieces of the chapel with complex iconography in Italian marble. Other members of the royal family are buried in the crypt beneath the chapel.
DETAILS | ROYAL CHAPEL OF GRANADA
hours – 10 am to 6:30 pm (Monday – Saturday); 11 am to 6:30 pm (Sunday) | cost – €5
9 – LA ALCAICERÍA
La Alcaicería is the home of the Grand Bazaar of Granada and what remains of the original Moorish silk market.
The name means Caesars Place in Arabic; a nod to Emperor Justinian who granted the Arabs exclusive rights to produce and sell silk.
After a devastating fire in 1843, the market was destroyed and a replica – less than half the size of the original – was rebuilt.
Today, La Alcaicería is aimed at tourists with souvenir stalls selling Arabic crafts including painted ceramics, wooden inlay items, and stained-glass lamps.
10 – CORRAL DEL CARBÓN
Corral del Carbón is a corn exchange from the 14th century, where merchants and their products would be hosted in preparation for auction.
Dating back to 1336, it’s the oldest Arab monument in Granada. The current name comes from the Christian period when it was used to house coal merchants.
The most interesting aspect of the building is the impressive façade which has a large horseshoe arch decorated with plant motifs. Through the entrance pavilion, the inner courtyard is surrounded by a 3-level gallery.
Today it’s essentially a ruin with a bookstore and a ceramics workshop inside. The venue is regularly used for open-air performances.
It’s an interesting (and quick) thing to do in Granada.
DETAILS | CORRAL DEL CARBÓN
hours – 10:30 am – 1:30 pm and 5 pm – 8 pm (Monday to Friday); 10:30 am – 2 pm (Saturday); Closed Sunday | cost – free.
11 – CHURROS IN BIB RAMBLA SQUARE
Bib Rambla is the main square in Granada, occupying a prime spot near the Cathedral. Throughout its Moorish history it has seen medieval jousts, bullfighting, public executions, and political rallies.
Following the Christian conquest, the square was renovated and destroyed over the years by fires. The result is a large square lined with an interesting collection of remnants from various points in its history.
The square is filled with cafes and regularly hosts seasonal markets, making it the social hub of Granada.
You’ll quickly notice strolling the cafes and the porticos, that Bib Rambla has positioned itself as the go-to destination for churros in Granada. There are plenty to choose from but the most famous is Gran Cafe.
12 – BASILICA SAN JUAN DE DIOS
The Basilica San Juan de Dios is a baroque masterpiece and an unmissable thing to do in Granada.
The exterior is largely unremarkable except for a green and white domed roof, but the interior is an ostentatious display of gold, bursting with ornate statues, paintings, historical treasures, and a magnificent altar. It’s one of the most interesting churches we have visited.
Dominating the interior is the main altarpiece – a mass of gaudy gold and beautiful artwork. From behind it, a small flight of stairs leads to the most interesting feature of the church.
Here, the Dressing Room, completely adorned in gold contains the remains of St John of God, including his teeth, skull, and bones. The room is decorated with mirrors, statues, paintings, and personal relics of St John including the crucifix he was holding when he died.
From the Dressing Room, you can look out over the nave from high up behind the altarpiece.
DETAILS | BASILICA SAN JUAN DE DIOS
hours – 10 am – 7 pm (Monday to Saturday); 1:30 pm – 7 pm (Sunday) | cost – €7 adults including an audio guide
13 – SAN JERÓNIMO MONASTERY
San Jerónimo Monastery was originally established in the nearby town of Santa Fé but was relocated to Granada following the Christian conquest.
The design features two cloisters each built around a central garden filled with orange trees. The main courtyard contains 36 semi-circular arches decorated with the emblems of the founding kings.
The interior is richly decorated featuring iconographic highlights of the military success.
DETAILS | SAN JERÓNIMO MONASTERY
hours – 10 am – 1 pm; 3 pm – 6 pm (Monday to Sunday) | cost – €5 adults, including an audio guide through an app
14 – TAPAS CRAWL IN GRANADA
While Seville (see our guide – things to do in Seville) is famous for top-quality tapas, in Granada it means one thing: a free plate of food.
As one of the last remaining bastions of the noble tradition of supplying customers with free food in exchange for buying an alcoholic drink, a tapas crawl in Granada is a great way to experience the culture.
TAPAS IN GRANADA | HOW DOES IT WORK?
When you order a drink, your waiter will pick a tapas dish for you. Each time you order a drink you’ll get a new tapas dish delivered with it. In some places, you may be given a selection to choose from.
Raciones are larger sharing plates that you need to pay for.
Bodegas Castañeda // This bohemian eatery is traditional and crowded, and a great place to experience the true Granada. They’re known for their wines, particularly the vermut.
Bar Los Diamantes // While it’s not the most traditional ambiance, the quality of the seafood here is second to none. It’s fast-paced, so if there’s no table, the wait is generally not too long.
Los Manueles // Los Manueles straddles the divide between traditional bodega and modern eatery and the food is excellent. Make sure you specify that you’re looking for a drink and some tapas as they also have a restaurant next door.
15 – FLAMENCO AT SACROMONTE ABBEY
When the Moors were expelled from Granada, many settled in Sacromonte – the hillsides just outside the city. As gypsies were also forbidden from living inside the city walls, the two lived together, carving out caves in the hillside as their homes.
Zambra – the most traditional form of flamenco – was created in Sacromonte taking influences from both the Moorish and gypsy communities.
Attending a Zambra performance in a cave where it was forged is an unforgettable thing to do in Granada.
One of the most famous venues is Cuevas Los Tarantos, an authentic gypsy home. The ticket includes entry and 1 drink, but dinner is extra.
If you don’t want to make your way to Sacromonte you can also enjoy a Flamenco show in the centre of Granada.
HOW MANY DAYS IN GRANADA?
Granada is the perfect weekend break and in 2 days you’ll be able to visit all the main highlights and have some time to explore the Moorish backstreets and hidden attractions.
If you have 3 days, you’ll also have time to take a day trip to other parts of Andalucía – recommendations below.
BEST TIME TO VISIT GRANADA
The best time to visit Granada is April and May when the temperatures average a very pleasant 19°C to 24°C and the city is not yet busy with mid-summer travellers.
The busiest period is between June and August when the city will be buzzing with tourists and the warm evening temperatures are ideal for a night exploring the old town. However, over this time, daytime temperatures can rise to the mid-30s.
September and October are also excellent times to visit. Between mid and low season, the temperatures are back to being more pleasant and the crowds are starting to thin out.
MAP | THINGS TO DO IN GRANADA
Granada is located in the southern region of Spain, at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s approximately 135 kilometers northeast of Malaga Airport and 128 kilometers southwest of Almeria Airport.
DAY TRIPS & THINGS TO DO NEAR GRANADA
Granada is perfectly located to enjoy some of the great attractions located in Andalucía. Here are some of our favourite things to do near Granada.
Granada is set under the hills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, a popular destination for skiing in winter. In summer, it’s a great place for hiking with lovely mountain scenery and tiny villages to explore.
One of the best ways to see Sierra Nevada is on an e-bike tour which heads down from the peaks of the mountains to the Granada Valley.
The White Villages of Andalucía are a great way to experience the rural Spanish culture not far from Granada. Zuheros and Castril are two beautiful white villages just 90 minutes’ drive away.
If you don’t have a car, join a day trip into the Alpajurra region stopping at scenic viewpoints on the way to the villages of Lanjarón and Pampaneira.
Slightly further afield, Ronda is a beautiful town surrounded by several other white villages. You can read more in our Pueblos Blancos guide.
Córdoba was the capital of the only caliphate in Western Europe and today it’s a fascinating city to visit. The Mezquita-Catedral with a mix of Muslim and Christian influences is one of the most important buildings in the world.
It’s only 1 hour and 40 minutes away by train, making it the perfect day trip from Granada. Read more about this fascinating destination in our guide to visiting Córdoba.
Recently reinvented with fresh urban spaces, Málaga has emerged from its reputation as a mere jumping-off point for some of Spain’s best beaches, to become a cultural destination in its own right.
Málaga is 1 hour and 45 minutes from Granada by bus. Read more in our guide to visiting Málaga.
CAMINITO DEL REY
The Caminito del Rey is a 7-kilometre hike through a stunning gorge suspended on an aerial path 100 metres above the ground. One of the most stunning walks in the world, the mostly flat trail can be completed by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.
It’s a 2-hour drive from Granada and all the details are on our guide to the Caminito del Rey walk.
THANKS FOR VISITING // WHERE NEXT?
A BIG THANK YOU
We’ve been providing free travel content on Anywhere We Roam since 2017. If you appreciate what we do, here are some ways you can support us
Thanks for your support, Paul & Mark.
USE OUR RESOURCES PAGE