Granada in Spain is a huge cosmopolitan city with a ton of things to keep even the most ardent traveller occupied for weeks and no travel itinerary would be complete without at least a short stop here, so here are the top ten best things to see and do to help you maximise your time in this amazing, must see city.
Granada is one of the single most under the radar and underestimated European cities I have had the pleasure of visiting for a long time, and it has even managed to charm its way onto my notoriously hard to please and venerated favourites list! From it’s grand, picturesque architecture and famously social culture to its rich historical heritage and surprisingly cosmopolitan feel there is so much to see and do. Even the rowdy impromptu flamenco bars with free tapas and the balmy easy going evenings where the entire city seems to come out to mingle makes sure that the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down.
There is so much to see, do and enjoy in Granada that I have picked out ten of my favourite picks just for you, so you can make the most of your visit to this great city.
Catch a Flamenco show.
Head up to the Sacromonte district for a raw, passionate taste of Granada’s flamenco roots in any number of bars that line the area. If you are really fortunate you may just be able to catch a Zambra performance, a traditional Roma Gypsy version of the Flamenco. You can always book tickets to various shows in advance, but it is easy to just wander round and discover venues for yourself.
Find your own tapas trail.
Cut your own gastronomic swathe through Granada with a tailor made tapas tour. Almost every bar in Granada gives out fee tapas with every drink so just wander around, find a bar or three you like the look of and sample the delicious wares! This is more than just a great way to get a free lunch however, it is also the perfect way to catch a glimpse of the famous social tapas culture and the hospitality of Andalucia.
I love Cathedrals, for the history and the architecture more than any religious purpose but still, and I think Cathedrals in any city are always worth a visit. Granada’s contribution to Catholic history is no exception. This 13th Century Spanish Renaissance architecture hides just a few hints of earlier Gothic styles, showing how relatively young this cathedral is but more importantly gives it a unique and beautiful look that is worth seeing. There is far more to this Cathedral than the aesthetics however, this is also the final resting place of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand V of Aragon among others, so history buffs will get a kick out of seeing one of the most stunning royal chapels in all of Spain.
Get your museum on.
Whatever your particcular interest, art, history, random quirky weirdness, there will be a museum to hold your interest in Granada with at least a couple of dozen by my own count (possibly a lot more). The best thing is, many are completely free!
Explore Granada’s religious past.
After the Cathedral you can continue your religious or architectural pilgramage by exploring any of the myriad of churches that are scattered throughout the city. Some, such as the Santa Ana church in Plaza Nueva are converted mosques, giving a glimpse into Andalucia’s Islamic past, and are absolutely stunning.
Visit the Sierra Nevada National Park.
Okay this technically isn’t Granada, but it is so close to it that if you have the time it is totally worth heading out here to discover some of Spain’s most glorious countryside, not to mention the world class hiking in Monachil, with stunning gorges, waterfalls and natural pools just begging for a bit of canyoning or an afternoon swim. There are even some amazing skiing peaks at Pradollano! Yes, you heard that right, skiing in Spain!
Plaza de San Nicolas.
If you want that picture perfect postcard view of Granada’s most famous tourist attraction, the Alhambra, then this is the place to get it. Although be prepared to battle your way through hordes of other tourists. Especially at sunset!
No visit to Granada would be complete without a visit to this must see historical site, and it is so vast and so interesting that it actually takes up three separate spots on this list! The Alhambra general is a huge, sprawling complex with both Spanish and Islamic influenced architecture that you really can spend a good day exploring. The ticket process can be seriously cumbersome though and apparently they don’t always accept cards, so take cash with you on the day, just in case.
The Generalife is a series of elaborate manicured gardens and parks adjacent to the Alhambra that once belonged to the Sultans of Granada. They are a perfect place to wander and sit for an hour or two, and are a perfect hideaway from the intensity of the afternoon sun.
Located inside the Alhambra itself, this is one of the grandest examples of Islamic architecture in Granada. The ticketing is a nightmare and the queuing up is horrendous (you have to stick to the exact time on your ticket and most of the very long queue is left stood outside in the searing sun with no shade!) Not to mention the fact that god damn organised tour groups clog up the place like an infestation, but it is an absolute must see.
Each room is stunningly decorated with moulded stucco walls, carved tiles and intricately decorated wooden ceilings. The elaborate symbolic decoration on some of the vaulting has to be seen to be believed. Those in charge have not made this the easiest place to visit, and attempts to limit the visitor numbers have failed in the face of mass tour groups, but the sheer intricate aesthetically beauty of the place makes it worthwhile.
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