Andalucía is an iconic city and these 15 incredible things to do in Granada, Spain are just a few you can’t miss. Everything from the Alhambra to the cathedrals, local coffee shops to bodegas, each is special. Here is a look at the best things to do in Granada, Spain.
After spending a few nights visiting around the city, I quickly fell in love. The winding, historic streets bring you to one vista after another. Along the way, bustling cafes and restaurants are full of energy.
One local shared a sentiment that stuck with me for the rest of the trip. I had asked why Granada was so different from the rest of Spain. His response? “La vida es fácil.” This translates to “life is easy.” The three days exploring Granada, Spain felt exactly like that. The city puts you at ease and invites you to experience its rich culture.
Granada is rooted in history — you can see it and experience it everywhere. Its most noticeable difference from the rest of Spain perhaps is found mostly in the architecture. The former Arabic rule in Spain left its mark in Moorish architecture as it was the last stronghold of the Spanish Moors. Today, curved arches, internal courtyards, vast gardens, and mosaics are everywhere. The most impressive? The Alhambra. The Alhambra is one of the most visited sights in all of Europe, so you can just imagine how popular this place is to visit.
It is one of eight provinces in Andalucía and is the fourth most populated. The reputation has often been easy-going and a friendly place for ex-pats to reside. I loved how you could feel a mix of generational energy here, it was what I loved most on my visit.
So on a visit to Andalucía’s gem of a city, these are the things you’ll want to make time for. Don’t miss these incredible things to do in Granada, Spain.
*Updated January 2021
15 Incredible Things to Do in Granada, Spain
How to Get to Granada, Spain
There are two ways to get to Granada depending on where you are coming from. Both train and bus take you to just a few minutes outside of the city center. From major cities, it is best to take the train, but if coming for instance from Malaga, the bus is the fastest way. For the bus, you can book directly with Alsa.
Getting down to the region is quite easy. I’d recommend flying into Malaga or Seville depending on where you start your itinerary. Flights are available from major cities within Spain, with multiple daily options from Madrid and Barcelona. There are inter-Europe flights available as well. For low-cost flights, Vueling and EasyJet have good options.
Renting a car is optional in this area if you plan only to stay in the major towns and not explore elsewhere. I spent a full week exploring and had no problem getting around with public transport. It was one of the pleasant surprises of this region was how easy it was to get around.
Helpful post: How to travel through Andalucía without a car
How Much Time in Granada
I spent two nights in Granada and felt like it wasn’t enough. The full three days were wonderful and I took my time exploring. It’s a wonderful city and from sights to food, you can really get a wide range of experiences.
I’d recommend a minimum of three full days especially if you plan on a half-day visit to the Alhambra and the nearby sights. Three nights and four days would be the most ideal time if you plan to just explore Granada. The major sights often take around a half-day to do, so keep this in my mind as you plan your itinerary.
For my full city guide on the best hotel and restaurant recommendations, head to The First-Timer’s Guide to Granada. I highly recommend booking your hotel stay at Hotel Casa 1800 Granada where you can be based right in the center of town for your trip. The hotel is a luxury boutique option in Granada and has historic architecture and design.
Top Things to Do in Granada, Spain
1. Visit the Alhambra
It’s one of the main reasons visitors flock to Granada. Many come just for the day to visit the incredible rooms and gardens of Alhambra and Nasrid Palace (world heritage site). It was built during the 1200s for the Nasrids and has stunning Moorish architecture that is representative of that time period.
One morning, I made the climb up the hill (you can also take a bus) and was able to snag a ticket as an individual for an early time slot. I had previously booked a group tour as a back up for the time as well.
You could spend 3-4 hours exploring the Alhambra palace and Nasrid Palaces so I’d highly recommend either following Rick Steves or picking up an audio guide as part of your ticket (wear good walking shoes!).
Getting tickets to the Alhambra is one of the more challenging things for the visit. The website makes it difficult to book direct so your best bet is to pre-book a guided tour or one without a guide on a site like Viator. Tickets sell out months in advance (even for November there was little availability). See here for some tour options and Alhambra tickets:
2. Explore the Gardens of Generalife
If you can’t get a ticket to the Alhambra, you usually can snag one for Generalife gardens (be sure to book a ticket with both if you can). It’s adjacent and looks out over the city. It’s one of the most expansive and beautiful gardens I’ve personally ever seen.
The gardens are vibrant with seasonal flowers and sit above the entire city of Granada. One of the more impressionable buildings is the Generalife Palace which was designed as a summer getaway for the royals.
I may have spent more time here exploring the gardens and even though it was the fall season, they were still stunning. It is a must-see in Granada.
3. Catch the Sunset at Mirador de San Nicolás
One of the highlights of the entire trip was this night at the mirador. Making the steep climb up the steps to the side of the hill (there are a lot!), I ascended up the mountain in the neighborhood of Albayzín.
Making my way to the small square called Plaza de San Nicolás, it perched out with views of the Sierra Nevadas and the Alhambra. I was shocked by how many people were here, this was certainly the spot to watch the sunset or even sunrise.
The sunset was magical, lighting up the city. And just as the sun peeled down, the lights of the Alhambra flickered on. In the background, the mountain peaks turned bright colors of purple and golden hues as the sunset was in full force. It’s worth it to stick around just for this. Even ex-US president Bill Clinton said during his visit that this was “the most beautiful sunset in the world.”
Be sure to arrive early as well to snag a spot on the wall as it fills up fast. You could even bring a snack or drink to enjoy while up here. Afterward, be sure to take care as you walk down the cobblestone hills, they can be slippery.
4. Try Artisanal Coffee at a Local’s Favorite
You’ll find amidst all of the walkings around the city you’ll want to sit down for a minute — at least I did. My favorite coffee shop that a local showed me was Noat. Incredibly quaint and charming, the coffee was excellent here.
I ended up coming back a few times for coffee as it was conveniently located in the city. The space is small but very cozy. You can also order a few snacks here as well if you’re hungry.
If you’re looking for more coffee shops in Granada, there are several others. A couple that I tried that I loved was La Finca and Dulcimena Coffee & Go. I often found myself popping out of the hotel in the morning to go grab a quick coffee before embarking on my day.
5. Explore the Charming Quarter, Albayzín
Not too far from the main city center, you can walk up the hills and steps of the Albayzín. It’s truly one of the most picturesque neighborhoods I’ve ever seen. It will give you a taste of local life, with plants and gardens spilling out over courtyards and walls.
The views from here are also incredible as you get closer to the Sacromonte. The Albayzín is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it incredibly special to the city of Granada.
If you love photography, you’ll love this neighborhood for snapping photos. Every turn is more picturesque than the next. Be sure to be respectful of locals who live here as it is their home.
6. Tour Carmen de Los Martires
I popped into this home that sits not too far from the Alhambra. Pitched over the hillside with views of the mountains, this is a good gem to explore when in the area. The romantic gardens and home are enclosed behind a wall and you may even spot a peacock or two.
From the home, you’ll find panoramic views and an entirely peaceful place often with no crowds. I would highly recommend checking open hours in advance as it is limited for when it is open. The entrance is free for guests.
7. Catch a Flamenco Show.
One of the cultural traditions of the region is flamenco. I had already seen one in Seville the previous year but I’d highly recommend seeing one at least once while visiting. You’ll find many flamenco shows throughout the city advertised. You can also book one here:
8. Embark on a Self-Guided Walking Tour
Using Rick Steve’s Granada walking tour, you can go for an hour or two exploring on your own. It starts up the Carrerra del Doro, winding your way through spots like Corral del Carbon, Royal Chapel, and Paseo de Los Tristes (beautiful part here).
The walking tour is about exploring on your own which is a great way to see the city. I’d plan to wear comfortable walking shoes if you do the full walking tour throughout Granada. As well as be prepared for steep inclines throughout the city.
You can grab a copy of his Granada book here.
9. Go Inside the Granada Cathedral.
One sight I popped into on a whim was the Granada Cathedral. I wasn’t originally planning on going in but my friend who lived there suggested I did. It’s incredible and well worth the entry price.
The Granada Cathedral took over 180 years to build and is regarded as one of the most beautiful in all of Southern Spain. It began construction in 1523 and the architect, Enrique Egas oversaw the first portion. The style inside of the cathedral is a beautiful expression of the Renaissance era.
Grand in size and incredible architectural sight, it’s well worth spending 20-30 minutes here. Just next to it is the Royal Chapel as well, so be sure to see both. Another religious site worth visiting is also the Basilica of San Juan de Dios which is not too far away.
10. Soak in the Ancient Baths.
Ancient Baths or Arab baths or very popular in this region. You’ll find them all over but the ones in Granada are quite special as they’re over the ruins of ancient baths. You can book yourself in a treatment like a massage (be sure to do so days in advance) or just get a pass to their thermal pools at Hammam al Andalus.
It’s an amazing way to relax after a few days of walking and is close to Plaza Nueva. Plus if it’s raining, it is a good option for something indoors.
Book a ticket here:
11. Shop the Stalls at La Alcaicería Market.
What was the original Moorish Market of Granada is now home to a market selling tapestries and other goods. It may be quite touristy but a walkthrough here is worth just having a peak to look at. You can find silk goods here still today.
It is free to visit and is one of the biggest bazaars in Spain. The hours are typically from 10:00 to 21:00. It is good to note to beware that it is a busy and narrow street, be mindful of pickpocketers.
12. Shop Woven Goods at Cordeleria Esperteria San Jose.
One of the most beautiful storefronts I saw in Granada, this store is home to many woven goods. From hats to bags, to things for the home, I’d pop in here to find a few souvenirs to bring back. The shop may be one of the most beautiful exteriors in all of Spain.
13. Take a Day Trip to the Sierra Nevadas.
You won’t miss the Sierra Nevadas as they tower over the city. They seem to always be there and in the fall and winter months, are covered in snow. They’re quite scenic and are an ideal day trip for travelers passing through the region.
If you’ve rented a car, it came highly recommended to pop out to the Sierra Nevada mountains for a hike and to explore. They’re not too far from the city. If you haven’t rented a car, you can always book a day trip with a tour group to get outside.
I had no luck with the weather so I am very bummed to have missed this. On my next return, I would love to spend some time hiking in the mountains and enjoying the scenery.
I was looking at this tour to book for a day trip:
14. Grab Tapas at a Local Bodega.
There is some incredible food to be found in Granada from the old-world to the new world. You’ll find tapas bars everywhere and is well worth a visit to the institutions in Granada.
One thing that is unique to the tapas bars in Granada is that whenever you order a drink like beer or soda, you receive a free portion of tapas. There are several bars and restaurants across Granada, so it depends on your liking and what you prefer.
Some of my favorite tapas in Granada was at Tocateja, Casa Julio, and Bodegas Castañeda.
15. Take a Day Trip to Neighboring Cities like Córdoba.
If you don’t have time to spend a few days in other cities, you could consider just going for the day using local transport or a booked tour. Either bus or train will get you to Córdoba so you can really self-explore the city and tour the famed Mezquita.
I have a full Cordoba travel guide as well if you decide to go on your own. For a guided tour, I’d recommend booking here:
Other Highlights of Southern Spain
Southern Spain is home to so much and how many days you want to explore is entirely up to you. My top recommendation is to spend at least a week touring through the region of Andalucía. You will not be disappointed by going from one city to the next. The beauty of the region is that each area is quite diverse and has its own character.
If you start in Seville, you’ll have a wonderful idea of what a more modernized historic city is like. You have a beautiful combination of the old and new here. You could spend a weekend here and not see it all, there is a lot to do in Seville.
In the area of Málaga, you’ll be enchanted by the proximity to the ocean and incredible golf courses. During the summer months, this is the spot to be for a more resort-style experience. You have great access to the beaches and it is home to grand hotels along the coastline.
And finally, do not forget about Córdoba. It is home to the great Mezquita, a sight that cannot be missed in southern Spain. The trendy streets have modern tapas bars and you’ll be smitten with the beautiful surprises that await here.
However you experience southern Spain, it is truly one of the most wonderful places to explore in Europe.