Travel Guide to Granada, Spain

By Rachael Funk


Not to be confused with the Caribbean island of a similar name, Granada, Spain is located in the Andalusia region. This beautiful city is steeped in Islamic architecture, magnificent churches, tapas bars galore, and a refreshing counterculture evident from the graffiti art you may find around the city. Laid out at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, this place is steeped in history, culture, and youthful exuberance.


What to know

Granada is now predominantly Catholic but has retained much of the Arabic culture it hosted for centuries. With a growing reputation for a bohemian sensibility, the city is sure to delight with its hip nightlife, free tapas, and its slight underdog atmosphere.


When to Go

Spring and fall find the nicest weather in the city. Summer peaks in July and August, so if you are willing to brave the occasionally oppressive heat this may also be an acceptable option for travel. Granada is much less humid than Barcelona, and generally sees very little rainfall.


How to Get Around

A very walkable Spanish city, Granada is pleasant to see on foot. Walking tours are plentiful and you can visit the tourist office for suggested routes. Bicycling is also an excellent option, which allows you freedom from the schedule of public transit. If you prefer to be shuttled, there are taxis, buses, and hop-on/hop-off trains that also run through the city center. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can even find Segway tours!


Where to Eat

You’ll find food tours aplenty in Granada, which are a great way to sample the city one flavor at a time. The mouthwatering mix of Spanish and Moorish cuisine is evident all over Granada, making this city one of the most enthralling places to eat in Spain. Tapas come with every drink, and many restaurants offer views that only enhance your dining experience. You’ll be spoiled for choice in Granada, but if you’re having trouble choosing, here are a few places that are not to be missed.


What to See

Alhambra Fortress

One of Granada’s top attractions, the Alhambra is an imposing UNESCO World Heritage Site which dominates the city’s skyline. One of the most-visited attractions in Spain, the Alhambra showcases its rich history, grandiose architecture, sprawling gardens, and unbeatable views.

Sierra Nevada National Park

This is Spain’s largest national park. The area spans 320 square miles, stretching from Granada to the edge of Almeria. The parks holds one of Europe’s tallest mountains, lakes, rivers, and forests to explore.

Cappilla Real

This historic building is the where Catholic monarchs Isabel I de Castilla and Fernando Il de Aragon, who commissioned the mausoleum where they would eventually be laid to rest. The monument features an intricate Isabelline-Gothic style and marble tombs protected behind a wrought-iron screen.

Basilica San Juan de Dios

Built in the 1700s, this building is a monument to the grandeur of human design. With an interior covered in gold and silver, nearly every inch is ornately decorated. The main chapel holds the gold altarpiece which is known as the highlight of the basilica.


Tips and Tricks

  • Buy tickets for Alhambra ahead of time, they sell out fast! The entry time on your ticket is to enter the Nasrid Palaces, not the general Alhambra complex, so don’t wait to come in or you may miss your chance to see the palaces!

  • Some research into Granada’s history will help you appreciate its storied history, Moorish heritage, and transformation into an artistic and cultural hub.

  • Thanks to Raul Ruiz (also known as El Niño), many of the city’s walls have been transformed into artistic masterpieces. You can hunt them down yourself, or check out El Niño’s website for a map of where to find each current piece.

Looking for an authentic flamenco show in Granada? Check out these places for some of the best flamenco shows in the city:


Day Trips

Seville

The capital of the Andalusia region, you can escape to Seville for flamenco dancing, baroque churches, and history at every turn. If you are in a festive mood, Seville knows how to celebrate! Offering a tightly packed schedule of festivals, mind-blowing tapas, and all the nightlife you can handle, Seville is ideal for a night out on the town.

Monachil

Slather on the sunscreen, grab your sturdiest hiking boots, and prepare to hike, crawl, wade, and skim your way through Los Cahorros. Accessible through the town on Monachil, these trails run through the woods along the Rio Monachil. You’ll be thrilled to find hanging bridges, craggy gorges, rivers, and more.

Guadix

A delightful change of pace from the towering architecture and crowded landscapes of Spain’s more popular cities, Guadix is a memorable day trip. While the city center is chock full of sights like a cathedral, central plaza, and even a fortress, it is on the outskirts of the town where you will find the truly special experiences you may be looking for. Five minutes from the city, you will find an entire village made of cave houses, populated with people and plenty of dogs. Some have compared the village to the fictional planet of Tatooine from “Star Wars,” which makes this place a must-see in our book!

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