What to see in Granada? Different cultures have left their historical mark on the Andalusian city, and the best experiences in Granada are to be found in a colourful patchwork of architecture, art and local life.
Granada is a veritable paradise for culture and history lovers. Most people know Granada because it is home to the world-famous Alhambra Palace. Many people only visit the Moorish palace and rush on, and that’s a shame. For there’s a bombardment of other colourful and interesting cultural experiences waiting in Granada.
Gypsies, Arabs, Jews, Christians, intellectuals and Bohemians have all left their mark on Granada throughout history, and their traces are clear as Granada points to the future.
Wander winding cobbled streets and modern boulevards, discovering everything from Moorish palaces and mansions, Christian churches and monasteries to modern street art. And enjoy an evening with a flamenco show. Along the way, you’ll enjoy plenty of great vantage points from which to admire the city and the Alhambra.
1. The world-famous Moorish Palace
The Alhambra towers over Granada from its hilltop as a symbol of the Moors’ heyday in Granada. The gigantic palace consists of several palaces and gardens as well as fortifications. Built between the 8th and 13th centuries, it was the residence and fortress of the sultans of the Nasrid dynasty until the Christian conquest of Granada in 1492.
The impressive complex is Spain’s finest example of Moorish architecture and architecture and the most visited attraction in Granada.
It takes at least half a day to get through the entire palace. If you’re short on time, make sure you visit the main sites: the Nasrid Palaces, where the sultans and their harem lived, as well as the sultans’ summer palace, the Generalife, and the surrounding beautiful gardens.
Alhambra Calle Real de la Alhambra
2. Watch the sunset over Granada
The most beautiful view of Granada is from the top of the San Miguel hill, where the locals also celebrate the patron saint St Michael every September.
The road is steep, but there’s a bus from the centre and you’re rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the city, with the Arab quarter and old city walls below and the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada in the background. Come at sunset, where few locals gather (and fewer tourists than at other viewpoints in town).
Mirador de San Miguel Alto C / Patio de la Alberca 36
3. Take a stroll down Granada’s most picturesque street
Carrera de Darro runs along the Darro River and dates back to the 17th century. It is also one of the most beautiful streets in the city. The name comes from Latin and means “the golden road”.
Walk along the river with beautiful bridges on one side crossing over to the Churra district and the city’s Arab quarter on the other.
Carrera del Darro is filled with fine architectural gems from the 16th and 17th century as well as remains of Arab buildings. From the street you can also begin the ascent to the Arab quarter, Albayzin.
Carrera del Darro
4. Visit the Arab baths
On your walk through Carrera del Darro, pop into number 31, where you’ll find Spain’s most well-preserved 11th-century Arab baths in the street’s oldest Arab building.
The Arab baths only escaped destruction by the Christian monarchs because they are located in a privately owned house renovated by Christians. In 1918 the baths were restored and declared a national monument. The beautiful starry ceiling makes the light and experience in the Arabian baths very special.
El Bañuelo, Carrera del Darro 31
5. The Moorish Palace in the Arab Quarter
In Albayzin, a stone’s throw from the Arab Baths, you’ll find the Moorish mansion, Casa de Zafra. It was built for an aristocratic family in the 14th century and is a fine example of how Andalusian aristocrats built their homes in the Nasrid period. Top floor is added in the 15th century, and from here there are beautiful views of the Alhambra.
The house has only been preserved after the Christian reconquest because it was associated with the monastery of Santa Catalina de Zafra for a period. Casa de Zafra also has an information room where you can learn about the history of Albaicin and Granada.
Casa de Zafra Calle Portería Concepción 8
6. Arabic house with wonderful backyard
Further down Albayzin’s winding, narrow streets is another Arab house, Casa de Horno del Oro, built in two stages in the 15th and 16th century and combines Moorish and Spanish architecture.
The house was probably occupied by a nobleman. The pool in the courtyard, which is also in Casa de Zafra, is a symbol of wealth, and the otherwise spartan exterior of the house is only created to hide the inner wealth.
Casa de Horno del Oro is similar to Casa de Zafra. The reason it’s on the list of top sights in Granada is that there’s a beautiful garden behind the house where you won’t see many tourists. In return, you get a breathtaking view of the Alhambra. And it’s worth a visit.
Casa Morisca de Horno del Oro Calle Horno del Oro 14
7. Get lost in the Arab quarter
Once you’ve visited the main sights in Albayzin, you should also set aside time for the more impulsive adventures in Granada. Set aside a couple of hours or more just to wander the quaint, steep streets of the neighbourhood, where you’ll find a lovely mix of Moorish and Andalusian architecture, fragrant flowers in pots on balconies and along the walls of houses.
Take a break at one of Albayzin’s many small teahouses and bars and enjoy a cup of tea or a beer and a tapa. Several of the sites have beautiful views of the Alhambra.
8. Granada’s most famous viewpoint
End your tour of the Arab quarter in the beautiful San Nícolas church, with Granada’s most visited viewpoint outside the church door.
Here you’ll get views of the Alhambra from the most photographed and direct angle and one of the most touristy experiences in Granada.
The place is often crowded with street musicians and vendors among all the tourists, but despite this it is charming. Luckily, you can turn your back on the crowds and just enjoy the view.
Mirador de San Nicolas Calle Mirador de San Nicolás
9. Shop exotic souvenirs
In the Albayzin district, Caldereria Street and the surrounding streets have been transformed into a veritable Arab market in the many small shops. Step into an exotic world with the scent of incense, freshly brewed tea and spices in your nostrils, and go hunting for things for your suitcase.
Here you can find great gifts like lamps and rugs in all kinds of colours and patterns, leather bags, ceramics, clothes, shoes, hookahs, spices, teas in all flavours and incense.
If you don’t have much of a shopping gene, just stroll through the streets and enjoy this alternative and exotic attraction in Granada.
Calle Caldereria Vieja
10. Granada’s oldest Moorish monument
Corral del Carbón is located on the pedestrian street, Reyes Católicos and is the oldest Moorish monument in Granada. It was built in the 14th century by Yusuf I in the Nadrid era and consists of an arched gate entrance with gorgeous carvings and, contrasting it, a single courtyard with balconies with apartments.
The place was used to store goods that were sold on the spot, as well as for home buyers who came to town. In the 16th century, Christians used it for theater performances.
Today, concerts and performances are held in the courtyard during the summer.
Corral del Carbon, Calle Mariana Pineda
11. See how the Roma lived
On the edge of Albayzin lies Granada’s old Roma quarter, Sacromonte.
Zigzag up the steep, narrow streets, filled with caves built into the mountain, and up to the Cuevas del Sacromonte Roma Museum.
The Romans lived in mountain caves from the 16th century to the 1960s and the museum, one of the most popular and colourful experiences in Granada, features caves identical to those the Romans built and lived in.
Here you can look into kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms, and see how the Roma worked with crafts in the workshops and stables. You can also learn about the history of flamenco, as well as a nice selection of local plants.
Today, many of Granada’s Roma still live in the neighbourhood, but Sacramento’s charm and alternative housing also attracts plenty of hippies, bohemians and hipsters. Today, however, they both live with modern kitchens and bathrooms, WiFi and flat-screen TVs.
Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte, access via Calle Verea de Enmedio
12. Flamenco in the Roma Quarter
The Sacromonte district is relatively deserted and quiet during the day, but at night it turns into a huge flamenco party when the doors open to the many caves where flamenco concerts are held.
The quality is not the same everywhere, and despite most places advertising “real” romaflamenco, you are not always guaranteed an authentic experience. Many places deliver mediocre tourist flamenco. If you want a good experience with nerve and passion, spend a few hours with a flamenco concert in Cueva de la Rocio. Buy tickets in advance.
Cueva de la RocioCamino del Sacromonte 70
13. Explore Granada’s street art
Little remains to show that the city’s Jews have lived in the Realejo quarter for almost 800 years. On the other hand, the Old Jewish Quarter gives you the opportunity to have some modern experiences in Granada. Today, the charming neighbourhood has become the centre of the city’s street artists, who use both new and old house walls as their canvases.
Discover local street art, influenced in particular by artist Raúl Ruiz, who works under the pseudonym El Niño de las Pinturas (The Painter’s Child). Ruiz’s works are mainly concentrated on the street Calle Molinis, where he himself lived at number 44. His childhood home is of course adorned by his works, and in number 12 you will find his famous work The Thinker, which is an interpretation of Rodin.
You’ll also find plenty of street art by other artists at the Enseñanza Santo Domingo school, at the junction of Vistillas de los Ángeles and Molino streets.
Raúl Ruiz’s home, Calle de Molinos 44
14. The old Koranic school
The Madraza Palace is located in an eye-catching building, facing the Royal Chapel and is worth exploring. The palace was built in the 14th century by Yusuf I and served as the headquarters of the Koranic School. All that remains of the original palace is the beautiful horseshoe-shaped mihram, created in the Alhambra style with stunning decorations.
After the Christian Reconstruction, the palace was rebuilt in its current Baroque style, and today the building houses parts of the University of Granada.
Palacio de la Madraza, Calle Oficios 14
15. The Cathedral and the Royal Chapel
The cathedral is, in my opinion, one of those experiences in Granada that you can easily skip. It dates from the 16th century and is a quirky mix of Renaissance and Gothic. It’s located in the centre, surrounded by pleasant streets with plenty of bars and restaurants. So you can just take a stroll down the streets, see the cathedral from the outside and pop inside for a quick look.
On the other hand, the Royal Chapel, located behind the church (entrance to the Madraza Palace), is definitely worth a visit. Here rest the important monarchs Isabella I and Ferdinand II, as well as several other members of the royal family.
The chapel also houses several interesting works of art by Spanish and Italian artists. Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Bartolomé Bermejo and Pedro Berruguete.
16. Enjoy the public life in the beautiful square
Granada has many lovely squares where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or a drink while studying the local life. My favourite place is Trinidad. Here you get one of the more popular and local experiences in Granada around the central fountain, surrounded by fragrant orange trees.
I especially love the little wooden stalls in the square where locals meet to chat and buy freshly baked bread.
Later in the day, they meet on the beautifully carved iron benches or at one of the café tables for a coffee or beer.
Although the square is in the heart of the bustling city centre, surrounded by large shopping streets, it’s a lovely oasis when you need a break.
Plaza de la Trinidad
17. Go to a monastery
The Monastery of San Jerónimo was the first to be built in Granada after the Christians reconquered the city. The work was initiated by the monarchs Fernando and Isabel in 1492 and was completed in 1547. The monastery is an icon of Granada’s Renaissance style and well worth a visit.
The monastery consists of two monasteries, but only one can be visited, as the other is used by nuns.
In the church, note the beautiful vaulted ceilings and the altarpiece, a fine example of Andalusian sculpture created by Pablo de Rojas. Captain Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba and Enríquez de Aguilar (known as Gran Capitán) are buried here.
Monasterio de San Jerónimo, Calle Rector López Argueta 9
The journey to Granada
Granada has an airport, but there are no direct flights from Denmark, so you’ll have to stop over on the way.
The quickest and most comfortable way to get to Granada is by plane to Málaga, from where you can rent a car or take a bus. It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to drive from Málaga to Granada.
Hotels in Granada. I stayed at the Hotel Occidental, which is very centrally located. The hotel is modern with large, bright rooms and a good breakfast buffet. Read more about Hotel Occidental, see photos and check availability.
Save money on admission to Granada attractions
If you want to experience many of Granada’s attractions, it pays to buy a Granada Card. The card gives access to many of the most interesting sights in the city, including the Alhambra and Generalife, as well as free transport by bus. I enjoyed the card very much when I was in Granada. There are both Granada Cards for adults and children and you buy the card online