Granada is probably one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. It is of course very well known because of the Alhambra, which attracts a lot of tourists every year. However, Granada has a lot more to offer and it is definitely worth exploring. You can get some delicious tapas, go to a traditional flamenco show, or explore some of the beautiful neighbourhoods it has to offer like Albaicín. This guide aims to offer some great ideas of things to do, things to see, and where to eat other than going to see the Alhambra. The sad thing is that many guides that are written offer extensive tips and information about visiting the Alhambra, but you should definitely explore the many other things the city has to offer.
Go to the San Nicolas viewpoint and enjoy the amazing view
I would recommend visiting this viewpoint both at night when it’s dark and during the morning or day. It is one of my favourite places in Granada, as it is located right opposite the Alhambra, offering by far the best view of it in the entire city. It is extremely picturesque with the Sierra Nevada in the background, which usually has snow on it in the winter. This viewpoint is probably the most visited place in Granada, after the Alhambra.
Go to La Casa del Chapiz
The Moorish house, located in the Albaicín neighbourhood, is the host of the School of Arab Studies in Granada and offers some of the most beautiful views in the city, including its breathtaking gardens. It is not very well known among tourists, and is, therefore, a great place to visit without all the business of most of the other popular tourist attractions. It is really worth spending a morning here, exploring the house, its gardens and observing the beautiful views of the Alhambra it has to offer.
Explore the Albaicín neighbourhood
More than a neighbourhood, Albaicín is like a little small white village within Granada. It is a delight to walk through it and its narrow streets, during which the Alhambra intermittently slips in between some of them, offering beautiful postcards-like-views that make this walk one of the most beautiful in the city. A nice walk to explore it is by starting from La Plaza Nueva, walking down the Paseo de los Tristes, along the river, and from there picking any of the narrow alleys that go up and getting lost in this little part of Granada.
Going for tea in the tea shop street – la Calle Calderería Nueva
One of the most distinguishing things of Granada is the Moorish influence that you can find all over the city, and this is one of them. In the city centre, you can find a whole street with tea shops on both sides where you can go in to relax, enjoy a pot of real Moorish tea (or the other dozens of teas you can choose from), try some of the delicious Arab pastries, or even have a middle-eastern meal here. I would recommend going here in the afternoon for a pick-me-up or right after dinner. The street is also full of little souvenir shops where you will be sure to find a great little souvenir to commemorate your lovely time in the city.
Go around the different tapas bars
In all of Andalucía, including Granada, it is a tradition to get a free tapa with your beer. Whichever bar you go to and order a caña or other type of drink or refreshment, you will get a little plate or bite (sometimes they can even be quite large portions!) of something with it. So going for a round of tapas around the city is definitely something that cannot be missing from your itinerary when you visit Granada. However, you do have to know where to go, as the quality you get at some places is much better than at others. There are bars where you can choose your tapa, bars where you just get the tapa that is being given out at that moment, and bars where the more you order, the better the tapas get. My recommendations are: Bar de los Diamantes, Restaurante los Manueles, Bar Casa Julio 1947 (great for seafood), and Bodegas Castañedas.
Go all the way up to El Sacromonte
El Sacromonte is another famous neighbourhood in Granada that is worth a visit. It is probably one of the most charming neighbourhoods in the city and famous for its cave-houses. This is where the gipsies, who accompanied the troops of the Catholic Kings when they conquered the city, settled. Later on, bohemians and flamenco artists joined in and cast a spell on everyone with their characteristic shows: the zambras. As happens to most places that attract a lot of tourists, this neighbourhood has lost a little of its authenticity. Back in the day, you would have been able to observe great improvised dancing acts of the streets, whilst now you will have to get a ticket to one of the tablaos de flamenco, but that doesn’t make it any less worth it. If you need some tips for where to go, this one, for example, is great.
Walk around the historic city centre
A walk through the old town is essential to get to know Granada. In the historic city centre, you can find the majestic Cathedral of Granada and the Royal Chapel where the tombs of the Catholic Monarchs are kept, you can haggle for some souvenirs the Alcaicería souk, you can try tapas in lots of authentic bars (you can even go on a tapas tour), explore its little alleys and squares such as the Plaza Nueva and the Rib-Rambla, or walk along the Carrera del Darro, one of the city’s most beautiful streets. And if you have time, stop by the Patio de los Perfumes, on this same street, where you can learn more about the art of perfume, in an impressive Renaissance palace on the same street. Find out more about it here.
Tip: an excellent way to get to know this area of Granada is to take this free tour. It is free although it is always good to leave a generous tip!
Visit the Arab baths
The Arab Baths are another place to visit with its key historic and architectural aspects of Granada. They are a symbol of the city’s religious turmoil all those centuries ago and the Moorish influence that has remained as a consequence. The baths were built by the Muslims because for them water was a symbol of purity, and so used it to clean their bodies. However, the Christians, on the other hand, believed it to be sinful, and therefore had the majority of the baths destroyed, hence only a few remain in the city. Like for the Romans, baths were incredibly important in Moorish life: they were a key activity in their social life, second only to the mosque. They give us a glimpse into the day-to-day life of the Arab times of Granada. Get your tickets here in advance.
Visit the Realejo neighbourhood
Not all tourists come to visit the Realejo neighbourhood and that is a big mistake. I think that it’s one of the most authentic areas of the city, situated right at the foot of the Alhambra, it has more of a suburb atmosphere, far from the tourist centre. This also makes it perfect if you have spent the previous day visiting all the typical tourist landmarks and are looking for a more relaxing morning or afternoon. There are many landmarks you can visit here as well among which the Campo del Príncipe, the church of the Virgen de las Angustias, Bibataubin Palace, the church of Santo Domingo, the Casa de los Tiros museum, and the church of San Cecilio (the patron saint of Granada). Or if you don’t feel like looking all of these up yourself, you can take this free tour of the area.
Go on an excursion in the surrounding area
The area around Granada is also beautiful to explore if you are in the city for a bit longer. Many people visit the area not just to visit the city itself, but also to explore the surrounding nature or to go skiing on the Sierra Nevada. You should definitely do this if you’re into skiing! Other options include touring the Alpujarra, home to many of the most beautiful towns of Andalucía, or the coast of Granada. The best way to do this is by car, so either use your own if you’ve come to Granada by car or rent one for a couple of days. You could also go to another beautiful city in the Granada province; Cordoba.
Hopefully this post gave you plenty of ideas and inspiration of what to do when you go to Granada, how to have a great weekend and make sure that you don’t miss out on any of the amazing experiences the city has to offer!