The Moors’ last stand in Spain and in the Iberian Peninsula, Granada is the city of many Moorish secrets.
Besides the Alhambra overlooking the city, Granada has so much more to offer. A day will hardly be enough time to do and see it all.
This guide offers tips and suggestions for visiting this Spanish city, including samples itineraries, the main sights, and the best time to go.
The Best Time to Visit Granada
Although Granada can be visited all year, spring and autumn are the best times. July and August can be very hot, so mid-March through June and mid-September through October offer milder temperatures and the best conditions for sightseeing.
Where to Stay
There are a several hotels in Granada, but book in advance if you’re visiting during the summer months. Outside the peak season, crowds are smaller and hotels prices tend to be lower.
Parador de Granada is one of the best options, and your chance to spend the night in a former 15th-century convent located inside the Alhambra complex.
Hotel Casa 1800 Granada is a less expensive option with charm and character for an overnight in the heart of Granada.
The best way to take in Granada is on foot, but Alhambra’s four minibuses are also useful to get around the city.
Minibus C32 is the most convenient route to get from Plaza Isabel la Católica to the Alhambra complex and then into Albayzín quarter.
A single tickets costs €1.40 (free for children under 6). There is also the Credibus card which comes in three options: €5 (5 trips), €10 (11 trips) or €20 (24 trips) credit plus a refundable deposit of €2. You can buy a ticket or card from the driver on the bus or ticket machines.
Granada Sample Itineraries
With only one full day in Granada, you can fit the top sights as follows: in the morning, take a walk in the old town, visiting the cathedral, the Alcaicería, and the area of Puerta Real where you can grab a quick lunch. Then, take minibus C32 to the Alhambra (reservations essential). Once you’re done, take minibus C32 to the Albaicín quarter and catch the sunset at San Nicolás viewpoint.
With two days, you can have a more relaxed itinerary, spending the first day exploring the old town and the quarters of Albaicín and Sacromonte, and then a full day visiting the Alhambra palaces and Generalife gardens.
What to See
Cathedral: You can’t miss it in the old town between Calle GranVía de Colón and Calle Reyes Católicos. Built in the 16th century over the former mosque of Granada, the grand building is Spain’s second largest cathedral. One of the highlights is its beautiful luminous interior of Renaissance style.
Alcaicería: South of the Cathedral, the winding narrow streets make up what is known as the Alcaicería, a silk market at the time of the Moorish occupation. After the Reconquista in 1492, the original market was closed down by Filipe II. Later in 1850, a fire destroyed most of what was left. The current Alcaicería was rebuilt in the late 19th century. Today, a structure of Moorish influence houses a nice souvenir shopping area with a Moroccan feel.
Puerta Real: In Granada’s main shopping area, there are pedestrian streets, lots of shops, including a large El Corte Inglés, as well as places to eat.
Alhambra Palace Complex: The main reason to visit Granada is of course the Alhambra complex. Overlooking the town, the mighty fortress, palaces and gardens are remnants of the Moorish presence in the Iberian Peninsula.
Built between the 8th and 14th centuries, the current palace and walls were renovated and rebuilt by Yusuf I (1333-1353) and Mohammed V (1353-1391). After the Christian Reconquest in 1492, the Catholic Monarchs altered the palaces in the Renaissance style.
The Alhambra complex includes the fortress (the Alcabaza), the royal residence (Nasrid Palaces) consisting of three main parts – Mexuar, Serallo, and the Harem -, and the luxurious Generalife gardens.
Built later, the Renaissance palace of Charles is also part of the Alhambra complex. Not so spectacular as the Nasrid Palaces, it is worth a visit if you have the time. There you can visit the Museum of the Alhambra and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Albaicín: Granada’s oldest Moorish quarter is also a place to enjoy the Alhambra. Located on a hill opposite the complex, its narrow cobblestone lanes offer stunning glimpses of the city and the Alhambra palaces. Albaicín together with the Alhambra fortress, palaces and the Generalife Gardens are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
In Albaicín, highlights include San José Church, San Nicolás viewpoint, the mosque of Granada, built in 2003, a link between the old and modern Granada, and Plaza Larga with small shops and restaurants, where a local market is held every Saturday morning.
For those who would like to try a hammam, the Arab baths in Albaicín are one of the last remnants of the Moorish presence in Granada. Hammams de Al-Ándalus offers a relaxing experience in a beautiful and calming atmosphere.
Paseo de los Tristes: Beneath the area of Albaicín, Carrera del Darro is a narrow cobblestone street that offers a nice stroll along the Darro River. There are historic buildings, bridges and restaurants from Plaza Nueva all the way to Paseo de los Tristes, a square with a nice view of the Alhambra palace.
Sacromonte: East of the Albaicín area, Sacromonte is traditionally the neighbourhood of the Granadian gypsies who settled in town after the Reconquista of 1492.
Besides stunning views of the Alhambra, the whitewashed cave houses make up an extremely picturesque area in Granada. Here you can see the authentic flamenco in a cave. Zambra Maria La Canastera (Camino del Sacromonte 89) is one of most famous places, – the place deserved Anthony Bourdain’s visit. Send an email to make a reservation – they will pick you up at a central place. The whole experience, including the ride and a glass of sangria, costs about €29.
Realejo: El Realejo was an important Jewish quarter during the Moorish period, before Jews were expelled by the Christian Kings. Realejo is now a residential area with the famous Granada “cármenes”, typical houses separed from the street by high whitewashed walls which hide secluded gardens of with grape vines and fruit trees.