Do you want to get to know the pearl of Andalusia? Once you know it, you will never forget! A Spanish idiom says: “If you haven´t seen Granada, you haven´t seen anything.” This authentic city has the most important monuments of Moorish era which will fascinate you at the first sight. Alhambra is only of them.
Granada was the last Moorish state remaining on the Iberian Peninsula during the Christian reconquest of Spain. 800 years of Muslim rule left a significant mark on the city. From Arab quarter to the gipsy neighborhood, this city has everything to offer. It is absolutely worth seeing and will definitely be unforgettable!
This ultimate Granada travel guide includes the following parts:
What to Expect in Granada
History: Granada was a Muslim Kingdom for almost 800 years. This city was the last Muslim state in Iberia which fell to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492.
Language: The official language is Spanish. They can hardly speak English as in the other cities of Spain. At some parts, you will meet people who speak Arabic. Especially, at restaurants or souvenir stores.
Food: Granada is the only city in Spain where you get free tapas with your beverage, wine, beer or soda.
Currency: The Euro
Credit Cards and Banks: The majority of stores and restaurants accept debit card and credit cards as payment.
Climate and Best Time to Travel: Hot and dry summers, cool and wet winters, mild or warm springs and autumns. Most of the rainfall is from November through to January. That´s why, the best time for a city trip to Granada is during the months of April, May, September and October.
Granada is a big city, with a lot of hills and with a lot of things to see. But you can manage to see everything on foot. It is the best way to explore this city because it is full of hidden gems that will surprise you at every corner.
Don´t you want to climb up? Then take the busses which are frequently travelling around the city to the suburbs. There is also a tourist train which costs 8€ for one day and 12€ for two days.
Where to Stay
You do not need to worry about accommodation in Granada. There are many options for every budget and every taste. When choosing your place, the most important thing is to be in the city center and not far from the old town of Albaicin.
This allows you to reach all sights and restaurants on foot. Here are my selections:
Best place to meet solo travelers. Its rooftop terrace and patio are the best places to meet new people. You can feel like a family. The location is phenomenal. It is on a pedestrian street at the Arab quarter, Albayzín. When you step out from the building, you will find yourself in the Moroccan market. Alhambra or highest view-point of the city is only 20 minutes walking.
There’s also lots of good food options close by, and the opportunity to go to walking tours, take part in tapas tours and dinner nights.
Makuto is a very unique small hostel with many common areas: Hammocks, patio, kitchen, terrace with a bar and a treehouse where you can enjoy the sun and meet other travellers. They also serve budget-friendly home-cooked dinners. Do not forget to join for the sunset free walking tour through the Albaicin and Sacromonte neighborhoods and other activities: Arab Baths, Diving, Paragliding, Flamenco, Trekking, Cycling, Horse riding.
This hostel is also located in the most magical neighborhood of Granada, the Albaicin. Therefore, everything worth seeing is walking distance.
There are many hotel options for every budget in the city center.
High Budget Hotels: Alhambra Palace, Casa Palacete 1822, Shine Alcaiceria, Palacio Cabrera – Lillo.
Medium Budget Hotels: Apartamentos Caballerizas 6, Pension Boutique Gomerez Gallegos, Alhambra Slowhomes.
Low Budget Hotels:Antonio’s House, Hostal Rodri, Apartamentos Real Suites Realejo.
What to Do
Since Granada is home to some of the prettiest, most charming neighborhoods with historical attractions in Andalusia, there are so many interesting places to visit and to see in this magical city.
Alhambra: The Alhambra (Red Castle) is the most interesting place to visit in Granada. It is also considered to be one of the 10 wonders of the world by some archeologists. Built in the 13. and 14. century, Alhambra is the legacy of the Arab sultans who ruled the Iberian Peninsula. It consists of three components: The Alcazaba fortress -the military part of the complex-, The Nasrid Palaces, and the Generalife with impressive gardens.
It is almost impossible to buy a ticket on the same day that you visit the place. That´s why, buy your tickets two or three weeks before in advance from the official website. Be aware that you still need to wait in line to get in, so plan your arrival accordingly!
Albaicín: The old Arab quarter, Albaicin is the oldest district of Granada and a part of Granada´s UNESCO site. It dates back to Moorish times and is one of the most colorful and vibrant area of the city. The Arabic population was ethnically cleansed just over 500 years ago. Wandering its labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets with white washed houses, you will see the big influence of Arab culture on the architecture.
Sunset over the Alhambra: The Albayzín is located on the hillside opposite to Alhambra. That´s why, it offers great views of the Alhambra and the mountains of Sierra Nevada. The most impressive view of the Alhambra and the whole city is from the Mirador de San Nicolás. Like Mirador de San Nicolás, Mirador de San Cristobal has also beautiful panoramic views of Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Both Miradores can be seen on the same day. They are 10 minutes far away from each other. You can see also many of the city’s important buildings. Enjoy a drink at one of these charming plazas!
Sacromonte: If you are interested in Roman or Gipsy culture, you must continue the way from Albaicin up to the Sacromente. The gypsies arrived here about 600 years ago. They lived in dwellings built into whitewashed caves as a way to preserve their culture, but the caves became restaurants and bars.
Sacremonte is the best neighbourhood to watch a flamenco show in whole Spain since it has been an important place in the development of flamenco through the years. So, don´t forget to enjoy an authentic Flamenco show which take place in the cave dwellings. From Sacromonte you can also have great views of the Alhambra and the Darro River below.
Granada Cathedral: The Cathedral of Granada looks sooo amazing! It is the world´s fourth biggest gothic cathedral but it has also Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassic elements. It was built in the 14. century on the foundations of a mosque.
The Royal Chapel is a grave chapel next to this cathedral because Spain’s Catholic Monarchs, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon were buried there.
Alcaicería: The Alcaicería is Granada’s Grand Bazaar where you will feel as if you are in Morocco. It was once a big bazaar for buying silk and spices but after a fire it burned down and only one part of the original still remains. So, nowadays it is a small narrow touristic street. That´s why, I recommend not to shop there, but enjoy its historical atmosphere. If you are interested in ceramics, it is also the place to find them.
The Arab Street: Caldereria Nueva: When I stepped out from my hostel Oasis, I found myself in this beautiful Arab street. In the beginning I was confused of being in Spain because you can see here only Moroccan people. Instead of coffee and tapas you can order here a Moroccan tea or delicious Moroccan food.
The whole street is full of Arabic restaurants and souvenir shops. I also got a henna tattoo here. People are so friendly and prices are cheap. I highly recommend you to feel the unique atmosphere of this colorful street.
Puerta Elvira and Calle Elvira: The Puerta Elvira (The Arch of Elvira) is an 11. century gateway into the Arab quarter, Albayzin. It witnessed many important historical events. Muhammad Al-Ahmar I marched through this arch in the 11. century and established the Nasrid Dynasty. The Catholic Monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella also used here to enter the city. Napoleon’s troops invaded the city through this gate. Entering the gate, follow the beautiful Street Elvira. It is a lively street with delicious tapas bars, souvenir shops, tea houses and Moroccan restaurants.
Sierra Nevada National Park: Dear hiking lovers, don’t miss this place because you will climb up to the most beautiful national park of Andalusia. You can enjoy the magical river valleys, pine forests with spectacular views over the countryside and Granada. When the clouds let you, you can even see the Mediterranean to Morocco.
Where to Eat
Bar Los Diamantes: One of the best and cheapest places to enjoy the fresh sea food! This tapas bar always full of locals and tourists but the staff works in a lightning speed, so you never wait. Order your beer for 1€ and get the variety of tapas for free!
Babel: Babel is a veggie friendly tapas bar where you can eat delicious Moroccan food. As usual in Granada, you order a drink and get the tapas for free. What is also great at this bar is that you can choose which tapas you want to get free. They have a great variety of dishes, from humus to kebab.
Casa Julio: This is a very small authentic local bar. It is not easy to find but worth to search for next to Plaza Nueva. Fish lovers has to visit here definitely. The dogfish is highly recommended!
THANKS FOR READING!
P.S: All photos were taken by me with Sony Alpha 6000.