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Updated February 2024

In the south of Spain, Andalusia is one of the best regions to visit. Surrounded by the towering Sierra Nevadas is Granada, quite possibly one of the most charming cities to visit.

The First-Timer's Guide to Granada, Spain

Granada, Spain is quintessential on a visit to this part of Spain. Not only beautiful to the eye, but the city is also a treasure chest of surprises. Certainly most known for the Alhambra, the palace and fortress that sits in the center of the city, it’s a destination for travelers wanting to dive into history.

The First-Timer's Guide to Granada, Spain

Amidst the Islamic architecture, you find winding streets that span up and down the hillsides of Granada. Within them, old-world bars serving typical tapas of the region and strong sweet wine, something you can’t miss while there. And of course, plenty of local shops selling goods that hail from the east.

The First-Timer's Guide to Granada, Spain

It was my first time to this city and I’ll say it exceeded my expectations. I had no idea what to expect, as I found most travelers shared this sentiment with me. We all came for the Alhambra but found ourselves falling for an idealistic city. A city that has enough grit to keep it interesting and an untamed beauty in design.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels and Things to Do in Granada:

Hotels

  1. Hotel Casa 1800 Granada, for the best overall hotel
  2. Parador de Granada, for the best luxury hotel

Things to Do

  1. Visit the Alhambra and Generalife
  2. Tour Granada Cathedral
  3. Catch the Sunset at Mirador San Nicolás

For more on how to make the most of your time in Grananda, don’t miss my post on the top things to do in Granada, Spain!

The First-Timer’s Guide to Granada, Spain


What to Know Before Traveling to Granada, Spain

The First-Timer's Guide to Granada, Spain

Getting to Granada, Spain

If you’re coming from a major city, you’ll most likely opt to take a train. I found that the bus systems in the south of Spain were more effective, so I took a bus from Malagá to get here. It was much cheaper and around the same amount of time using Alsa to book the ticket. For more on this, see my guide to getting around Andalucía without a car.

Transportation Once in Granada

Booking a hotel in the heart of the city will mean you won’t have to get in a car once. You can walk to everything. There are taxis available as well. If you do decide to get a car to explore the surrounding areas, I recommend booking with Discover Cars for the best rental car deals.

Money

Credit cards are accepted mostly everywhere though carrying Euros is recommended.

Language

Spanish is the main language, and English is spoken as well.

Best Time of Year to Visit Granada

I’d recommend avoiding summer, the crowds are notoriously intense. The late fall was wonderful when I was there and the city was still busy (even the Alhambra was sold out weeks in advance).

Amount of Time

I booked in two nights and three full days and still didn’t do it all. I loved this city and would have stayed another night if I could have.


Where to Stay in Granada, Spain

Hotel Casa 1800 Granada

Hotel Casa 1800 Granada was one of the most memorable stays I’ve had in a long time. Set in a 16th-century historic home, this luxury boutique hotel is incredibly intimate and charming. No room is alike; each is unique with its decorations and style. The inner courtyard is home to breakfast and afternoon tea each day. Its location is perfect — footsteps from everything in the city yet set back off the street so it is quiet at night. I’d highly recommend booking this hotel in advance as there are only 25 rooms. I’d also recommend booking a Deluxe Room or a Junior Suite. Book the best rates here.


Where to Eat in Granada, Spain

Bar Los Diamantes

Known as the everything fried seafood restaurant, this is a classic for Granada. I came here twice, once for the small fried fish and peppers and another for the chipirones (small squid).

Bodegas Castañeda

One of the oldest bodegas in town, come here for classic dishes in the region.

Betula Nana

A newer restaurant to open in town, this charming spot was a favorite for me for a late lunch. Be sure to order the seasonal soup and the ceviche!

Al Sur de Granada

A quaint wine bar in town with small plates as well.

Tocateja

A local’s spot for small bites and drinks, I’d recommend getting a few local kinds of cheese and meats here.

Faralá

For a more upscale dinner or lunch, this menu does a modern prix fixe menu of regional food, using local ingredients and beautiful plating.

Noat Coffee

Though it’s a coffee shop, they serve a wonderful breakfast and sandwiches for lunch.

Where to Get Coffee in Granada


What to Do in Granada, Spain

Visit the Alhambra and Generalife

Most people come to Granada to visit the incredible Alhambra and Generalife castle and gardens that sit above the city. I cannot stress enough to book your tickets very far in advance. It sells out weeks to months in advance, depending on the season; even I had a hard time getting a ticket for a Wednesday in late November. Plan to spend 2-3+ hours here. I’d recommend booking a guided tour if you can’t get a ticket or skip-the-line ticket on Viator. You can try booking a ticket directly through their portal as well. Check this resource for buying your tickets if none of the above works. Or book your tour here.

Walk the Historical Center and the Albaicín

Both of these neighborhoods are beautiful for just a stroll. It was one of the highlights for me to just walk around and get lost in the winding streets. It’s also a photographer’s dream city for photos of quaint streets. The Albaicín is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for the whitewashed buildings and streets.

Go Inside the Granada Cathedral

This is worth the fee to enter in, the interior is grand and stunning. This guided tour is also a great option if you’re looking for a deeper dive into the Cathedral’s history.

Catch the Sunset at Mirador de San Nicolás

You won’t be the only one here for sunset, so I’d arrive early and settle in. It’s stunning. The view from Mirador de San Nicolás over Granada and the Alhambra is incredible. Be sure to stay past sunset when the lights of the Alhambra turn on.

Other Sites to Visit

The First-Timer's Guide to Granada, Spain

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PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

I use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

I use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

I use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Rental Car

Self-driving is the best way to explore most destinations. I use Discover Cars for our rental cars, select full coverage insurance, and opt for a reputable company like Alamo, Hertz, or Sixt.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

I use Priority Pass to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


Xx,
Jessica

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