Granada is my favorite city in Spain. With its close connection to nature, historical significance, and a more laid-back atmosphere compared to Seville and Madrid, this place made my journey south truly worthwhile.
Situated at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Granada is home to the iconic Alhambra Palace, one of the most famous architectural treasures of Andalusian Islamic history. While Granada attracts many tourists, fear not – I spent five days there, and I can assure you that with the right plan, you can easily escape the crowds. Without further ado, here are the top 8 things to do in Granada and all the information you need for a fantastic trip.
1. Explore the Alhambra Palace
One of the highlights of Granada is exploring the Alhambra Palace, one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions. Legend has it that the Alhambra Palace was intentionally constructed to appear as an unremarkable fortress from the outside while hiding the most beautiful gardens and colorful plants under the noses of its enemies.
Given the excessive hype surrounding this place, they limit the daily entry, and if you haven’t booked tickets online in advance or secured them the day before, entering the fortress is nearly impossible. Due to the over-tourism challenge faced by many European cities, Granada decided to restrict daily entry. Booking your time slot a few days in advance is crucial to ensure your visit.
I opted for getting the only available ticket from the ticket machine in front of the fortress the day before, and it was considerably more expensive than the online reservation. Thus, I wouldn’t recommend this approach.
The fortress is vast and grand, featuring several large palaces, enclosed courtyards, and gardens that will take you over 3 hours to explore thoroughly. So, make sure to allocate enough time for your visit. The interiors showcase incredible craftsmanship, truly worth the visit.
The Alhambra is open daily from 8:30 am to 8 pm, with ticket prices ranging from 15 to 35 euros, depending on the areas you wish to visit.
2. Join a Walking Tour
If you want to delve into Granada’s rich history, visit hidden cave communities behind the city, and experience breathtaking viewpoints all in one trip, I highly recommend joining the Sunset and Caves Walking Tour.
The guide will lead you through the old town, exploring winding streets and visiting ancient neighborhoods while narrating the history of each place. I would have missed many cool spots if it weren’t for this walking tour.
During the tour, you’ll be taken to Sacromonte, one of the city’s best viewpoints, offering panoramic views of Granada and the surrounding mountains. Time will be spent there watching the sunset.
After Sacromonte, you’ll be led to the other side of the mountain, descending to the backside, where all the cave dwellings are located. These caves were carved out a long time ago, and people still live in them today.
It’s an excellent way to appreciate Granada, so be sure to book the walking tour at least a day in advance, as it tends to fill up quickly. The tour usually starts about an hour before sunset, so make sure to leave some time for the tour.
3. Admire the Beauty of the Alhambra from Mirador de San Nicolás
While the Alhambra Palace is indeed beautiful from the inside, to truly appreciate the scale of the fortress, you must step back and see it from Mirador de San Nicolás.
Mirador de San Nicolás is a small but bustling town square situated atop a high hill in one of Granada’s old neighborhoods. It offers a beautiful and unobstructed view of the entire Alhambra Palace, something you won’t see elsewhere in the city.
If you plan to join the walking tour, you’ll also visit this spot on the way to Sacromonte. However, the time you spend at the viewpoint during the tour won’t be very long. Therefore, I recommend visiting it separately. The best time is before sunset when the lighting is optimal.
4. Catch the Sunset at Mirador de San Miguel
For the most beautiful sunset views in Granada, I have to hand it to Mirador de San Miguel. It’s an incredible vantage point situated atop Sacromonte hill, providing a prime view of the city and the surrounding mountains.
From this viewpoint, you can also see the Alhambra Palace and other tourist attractions in the city, making it an excellent photography spot, especially during the golden and blue hours. I strongly recommend coming here before sunset, grabbing a few beers, and witnessing the magical moment when Granada transforms.
If you plan to join the walking tour, you’ll also be taken to this spot during sunset, so there’s no need to climb up here on your own. That being said, I enjoyed this place so much that I decided to go twice, loving every moment.
5. Experience Flamenco Dancing at La Alboreá
If you’ve been to Spain but haven’t seen a Flamenco dance performance, then you haven’t truly experienced Spain. It’s intense, passionate, and utterly mesmerizing, and watching it at La Alboreá is the best.
To get into this venue and watch its meticulously choreographed Flamenco show, you can purchase tickets here. Additionally, you’ll get snacks and a glass of wine, along with reserved seating for the Flamenco performance.
You might also chance upon street Flamenco performances, allowing you to watch for free while exploring the old neighborhoods, so be on the lookout.
6. Dine and Drink at La Riviera Tapas Bar
One of the best restaurants and bars I frequented in Granada is La Riviera Tapas Bar, a medieval-style bar where you can try delicious tapas and a drink of your choice for only 2 euros!
For 2 euros, you’ll get a beer and a free tapa of your choice, and all options are fantastic, especially the fried octopus legs. After three tapas and three beers, you’ll have had a full meal for just 6 euros. Quite cheap by Spanish standards!
In fact, this place was recommended to us by a staff member at our hotel, and I loved it so much that I went every night for three days. The bar is open daily from 12:30 pm to midnight. I can’t recommend this place enough!
7. Hike the Waterfall Trail (Los Cahorros de Monachil)
If you want to get away from all the tourists in the city, I strongly suggest spending a day hiking the Los Cahorros de Monachil trail. You can take a bus to Monachil and walk along the river to reach the starting point of the trail. You can find the bus number and schedule to Monachil on Google Maps.
When hiking the trail, you can choose to walk or take the #8 bus to the Plaza del Ángel bus stop. From there, catch the #0183 bus to Plaza Miraflores, which takes about an hour. From there, it’s a fairly straightforward hike along the river, crossing suspension bridges, and you’ll encounter several waterfalls in the Monachil Gorge.
This trail can be quite rugged at times, so wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water, especially if hiking in the summer when it can get quite hot along the way.
This trail doesn’t have a specific endpoint, so you’ll need to rely on your judgment to decide when to turn back. I returned when I found a small waterfall and a refreshing pool to rest by, away from other hikers.
As the bus runs only once per hour between Monachil and Granada, make sure to plan your return carefully. If you miss the bus back to Granada, you’ll have to wait for an hour for the next one. The last bus is around 7 pm, so be sure to plan accordingly.
8. Summit Sierra Nevada Mountain
I haven’t personally done this, but I met a New Zealander in Granada who climbed Sierra Nevada Mountain, describing it as one of the coolest things you can do there if you enjoy hiking and want to spend a day exploring the incredible mountains around Granada, away from the tourists.
Sierra Nevada Mountain is the highest mountain in Spain, standing at an elevation of 3,478 meters. Typically known for its ski resorts during the snowy season, in midsummer, the summit is snow-free and accessible for hikers.
Outside the ski season, only two buses run. The first bus from Granada departs at 9 am, and the last bus back leaves at 5 pm. The time you spend at the summit won’t exceed 3 hours. My friend departed at 9 am and completed the summit by 1 pm, but he had to wait until 5 pm for the bus to pick him up. Keep this in mind if you’re considering this hike.
Granada is a city with a rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. By exploring the Alhambra, joining walking tours, enjoying breathtaking viewpoints, savoring Flamenco performances, and indulging in local cuisine, you’ll immerse yourself in the charm and magic of this Spanish gem. Whether you’re wandering through the old neighborhoods, hiking waterfalls, or conquering mountain peaks, Granada has something extraordinary to offer every traveler. So, plan your trip wisely, and let the enchantment of Granada unfold before you.