Granada Travel Guide Andalucia Spain
Granada is located in the mid-eastern region of Andalucia it is one of the most historic and varied cities you will find in Spain.
The city is overlooked by the Sierra Nevada Range, featuring the highest mountain on mainland Spain at 3.480 meters in height. An awe-inspiring view of the Sierra Nevada with its wintry snow-capped peaks can be clearly seen throughout the city.
This historic city offers visitors the chance to discover an authentic and rich blend of Spanish culture topped it's famed Arab legacy, the inspiring Alhambra Palace.
Visiting the city is a must and where you can feast yourself on all things historic or enjoy the cities renowned tapas bars, lively pubs, and open-air cafés.
Top 10 Things You Have To Do In Granada
- Spend at least one whole day exploring the sublime Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens.
- Visit the Sacromonte district.
- Watch a flamenco show.
- Go on a Tapa bra crawl.
- Spend a morning in Granada Cathedral.
- Take a riverside walk along the Carrera del Darro.
- Explore the San Jeronimo Monastery.
- Enjoy an authentic Arab bath at the Hammam Al Andalus.
- Take a stroll along Calle Navas and Calle Elviria.
- Spend a day the impressive Science Museum.
The entire city has been declared a national monument, in most part due to the homage of the wonderful Alhambra Palace, a unique Moorish fortress dating back to the 10th century.
The Palace and its beautiful gardens is the most visited historic monument in the country, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world every year – it’s easy to see why!
Take the time to explore the whole complex; from the stunning Generalife Palace with its amazing gardens and fountains to the Palace of Charles V, the Alcazaba, the court of the Myrtles, the bath of Comares, the Hall of Kings and so much more – this is a voyage back in time like no other.
You can even stay within the Alhambra Palace grounds in one of the famous Parador Hotels located within the Generalife Gardens.
Granada is one of Spain's top university cities, housing a thriving international and Spanish student community which has sprouted a youthful scene with plenty of bars and clubs making it a perfect place to party.
There is a well-established road leading up to the Sierra Nevada ski resort, a small largely self-contained village teeming with accommodation, ski schools, eateries, first class ski slopes and magnificent scenic views – a perfect winter sports mountain retreat not to be missed.
5 Interesting facts about Granada
- There is a pomegranate on the city’s flag as the literal translation of Granada means pomegranate in Spanish.
- There are no less than 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Granada; the Alhambra, Albayzin and Generalife.
- The Sierra Nevada mountains which form a big part of the Granada landscape is home to the highest mountain in mainland Spain, the 3478m high Mulhacén.
- Agustin Lara, the man who composed the world-famous lung buster “Granada” was a Mexican with a fear of all modes of transport and thus never set foot in Europe never mind Granada. Why he picked on this city to write is anyone’s guess, it's a pretty cool tune anyway.
- The Alhambra is Granada's most visited attractions with over 3.5 million visitors each year.
Alhambra Palace – An historic marvel of immense beauty
A visit to Granada would not be complete without visiting the captivating Alhambra Palace, first mentioned in 899 as a small fortress, the Alhambra was rebuilt in the mid-eleventh century by the Moorish Emir Mohammed bin Al-Ahmar, and became a royal palace during the reign of Sultan Yusuf I of Granada.
The name “Alhambra” has Arabic origins, meaning ‘’The Red Castle’’ – due to the colour shade of the towers and it's defensive walls. Some historians say that red comes from the light of the torches which were visible from all around the city during it's construction.
Transformed from a fortress into a palace, the Alhambra Palace became a small “medina”, with the addition of more and more buildings. The most glorious period of the castle began in in the 13th century, when the walls were strengthened with a further two towers: Torre de la Vela and Torre del Homenaje, ordered by the sultans Mohamed the 2nd and 3rd, during that period the Mosque was built, which later was converted to the Church of Saint Mary.
Most of the buildings you see today were built during the reign of the two Sultans Yusuf I and Mohammed V including the wonderful lion's patio ( Patio de los Leones ) the Moorish Hammam baths and the Puerta de la Justicia is also known as the Puerta de la Explanada.
The Islamic rule of Granada came to an end during the military campaigns between 1482 and 1492 by the Catholic Kings ( Reyes Catolicos ) Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Later Emperor Charles V demolished some of the buildings to build the palace that bears his name.
If you plan to visit the Alhambra Palace it is advised to purchase tickets well in advance as the visitor's numbers are limited to protect the monuments and works of art. You should allow at least 4 hours for your visit.
Visit the official website for further information and entrance tickets:
Most popular visitor attractions at the Alhambra Palace
- The Alcazaba, the oldest part of the Alhambra;
- Palacio de Carlos Quinto – the Royal Manor of the Alhambra;
- The Mexuar – the public reception hall of the Alhambra, where the Sultan received requests from ordinary people;
- The Gates of the Alhambra – Puerta de las Granadas, Puerta de la Justicia and the Puerta del Vin;
- Patio de Los Leones – so-called because of its elegant fortress. The palace is the best illustration of ”Mudéjar” style, combining the filigree and Islamic inlay with the three dimensional and Gothic style;
- The Moorish bath, or Hammam – a hot and cold room.
- The Hall of the Ambassadors – the most spacious room of the palace, where there was the Throne Room and were held numerous receptions;
- Monastery of San Francisco, now Parador de San Francisco is one of the greatest buildings of Granada;
- Hill of the Martyrs - where many Christians prisoners were tortured in the Moorish prisons;
Eating out in Granada
Why not combine a good walk around the warren of charming back streets and alleyways located in the heart of the old city, before stopping off to enjoy the best of the local gastronomy and hospitality.
In Granada, dining out on a tapas-crawl is certainly the most traditional and enjoyable experience as you get to try many locale dishes in different bars.
It is such a popular custom now that many bars now offer a free tapa with your drink; if that wasn’t enough, the tapas sizes are among the most generous anywhere.
A good place to start your dining experience in Granada are the streets between Plaza Nueva and Gran Via, or the area around Plaza del Carmen (near the town hall, or Ayuntamiento) and along with Calle Navas.
The picturesque plaza at Campo del Principe near the Alhambra hill boasts a line of open-air restaurant terraces – a very popular location during the long summer nights.
Recommended eateries for authentic dining experiences
» Restaurante Tablao Jardines de Zoroya - Calle Panaderos, 32, Granada - jardinesdezoraya.com
» Restaurante Ruta de Azafran - Paseo del Padre Monjon, 1, Granada - rutadelazafran.com
» Restaurante Alameda de Granada - Calle Almireceros, 1 to 3, Granada - alameda.com.es
» Restaurante El Mercader - Calle Imprenta. 2 - Granada - Facebook Page
» Restaurante Meson el Cordobes de Jose Peregrina - Calle Artesano Molero 5, Granada.958 20 08 08
Festivals & Flamenco
There are some excellent fiestas and festivals in Granada and great ways to take part in traditional dance and music workshops. The top Granada festivals include:
» The Three Kings processions and gift-giving - January 5th and 6th
» Fiesta de la Toma - Festival of the Capture - 2nd January
» Semana Santa - Holey week - March/April
» Festival del Albaicín - Albaicín Festival) - 29th June
» Festival de San Cecilio - Festival of San Cecilio - 2nd February
» Festival de Nuestra Señora de las Angustias - Festival of Our Lady - Last Sunday in September.
Granada has its own gypsy quarter located in the famous Sacramonte district where gypsies have inhabited cave homes, and many still do today.
This area has spawned some of the best flamenco guitarists and dancers in Spain and is currently home to some of the best flamenco clubs. Well worth visiting to watch the intricate guitar-playing style and dancing skills.
Top flamenco clubs include:
» Pena La Plateria - laplateria.org.es/
» Cuevas Los Tarantos - Facebook Page
» Venta El Gallo - ventaelgallo.es/
» Zambra La Maria Castanera - marialacanastera.com/
For more information on the top Flamenco Clubs see the Love Granada website:
Tours & Excursions - Book in Advance
Recommended Accommodation in Granada
The Hotel Parador de Granada is the place to stay in Granada if you are looking for unique luxury accommodation. Set within the gardens of the Alhambra Palace the Granada Parador enjoys a privileged position close to the Palace of Charles V and the Generalife, the Madrasah of Granada and Royal Chapel are within a 20-minute walk away. Reviewer Rating: 9.0
Popular accommodation in the mid range bracket is the highly rated La Posada de Quijada, This upmarket guest house is located in the heart of the city close to all the tops attractions, historic sites and plenty of authentic eateries. Reviewer Rating: 9.9
For very good quality budget accommodation try the Apartamentos Turisticos Centro located in the heart of the old quarter just a few minutes walk from all the top historic sites such as the Palacio de Exposiciones y Congresos, The Madrasah of Granada, Carrera del Darro and Granada Cathedral. Each apartment is well appointed with a kitchenette, flat screen TV, free wifi, coffee maker and private bathroom. Reviewer Rating: 9.9