So, you’re thinking about travelling to Granada, Spain?! Excellent choice! I travelled around Andalucia for 10 days (including Seville and Cordoba), and I have to admit that Granada was my favourite city in the region. Could it be something to do with the free tapas? That amazing first view of the Alhambra Palace? Or maybe even the gorgeous gold Baroque interior of the Basilica of San Juan de Dios? It’s fair to say that this combination of tapas culture and phenomenal architecture will draw you in and have you hooked! In today’s blog I am excited to share with you 7 amazing things to do in Granada, Spain that you totally cannot miss!
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How to get to Granada
But, before we delve into the best things to do in Granada, first things first….how to get there? Most people fly into Seville and travel from Seville to Granada by train. I flew into Faro (Portugal), travelled to Seville by Flixbus and then by train from Seville to Granada. The trains in Spain are comfortable and easy to use. There are ticket machines with options for the English language. When you arrive at Granada station, the city centre is a bit too far to walk with all of your luggage, so I would advice ordering an Uber or Bolt (download these apps ahead of your journey).
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When to visit Granada
A word of warning….Granada can get hot, hot, HOT in the summer! I travelled to Granada in April and felt that it was already getting too hot at times whilst I was walking around the Alhambra palace. I remember thinking at the time – how does anyone do Granada as a summer holiday in August (when temperatures can be in excess of 34°C). Tourists even pass out from dehydration trying to see the Alhambra Palace in August! Do yourself a big favour and visit when it is safe and comfortable to do so.
I would recommend that you visit Granada in the shoulder seasons on Spring and Autumn – in March and April you can expect temperatures to be between 17-19°C which is perfectly comfortable for exploring the Alhambra and the other main sights. Again towards the end of October temperatures start to drop again to around 20°C.
Another thing to consider is local festivals and customs. There are certain events that you might want to attend, or decide to avoid! For example, in Holy Week, the Spaniards celebrate ‘Semana Santa’ with numerous street processions of floats and statues of Christ. If you are big into religious parades then you might want to see it, but if not, you may find it busy, stressy and overwhelming.
How long to Spend in Granada
Some people do try to see Granada in just one day. However, this is likely to only give you enough time to see the Alhambra Palace – to fully enjoy the Alhambra you should expect to spend 4-6 hours exploring it. It’s definitely worth spending at least 3 days in Granada to enjoy the other amazing things to do there. Granada deserves time to appreciate the beautiful Churches, tapas bars and the medieval heart of Albaicin.
7 Amazing things to do in Granada, Spain
As I’ve mentioned, Granada is one of my favourite destinations in Spain, and the Alhambra palace is right up there with the most impressive buildings I have seen in the whole world. But, you will also be pleased to know that there are many amazing things to do in Granada other than the Alhambra Palace. Don’t leave without also seeing Granada Cathedral, Monasterio de San Jerónimo and the Basilica of San Juan de Dios. Here are my top 7 things to do in Granada…
- Viewpoint Mirador de San Nicolas
- Albaicin – for the old historical houses decorated with flowers
- Alhambra Palace – the highlight of any visit to Granada
- Evening Tapas tour
- Cathedral de Granada
- Basilica of San Juan de Dios
- Monasterio de San Jerónimo, Granada
#1 Viewpoint Mirador de San Nicolas
Please, do me a favour and DON’T head straight to the Alhambra palace on your very first day in Granada. Your first view of the Alhambra should not be up close at the palace itself, it should be from Mirador de San Nicolas. This stunning view of the Alhambra surrounded by the green lush vegetation and with the Sierra Nevada mountain backdrop will blow your mind. It is honestly one of the most amazing views I have ever seen in my life!
It’s free to go to Viewpoint Mirador de San Nicolas and while you are there there is a small Church that you can go into for free to have a look, and a few surrounding shops and restaurants. There are several bars where you can stop off and have a beer or glass of wine with an Alhambra view!
Cost: Free, but you may want to take €10 for a snack and a beer!
Following the stunning view from Viewpoint Mirador de San Nicolas, I would recommend that you follow this with a walking tour around Albaicin. This medieval heart of Granada is a UNESCO World Heritage site, where you will see beautiful white washed houses decorated with colourful flowers.
Cost: Free, but again, you may want to take €10 for a snack and a beer!
#3 Alhambra Palace
The Alhambra Palace is the highlight of anyone’s trip to Granada. Plan to spend at least 4 hours here, possibly more. It is a lot of walking because it’s not just one palace, but a complex of several palace and castle buildings. It’s important to know that you have to book your ticket in advance with a time slot. That time slot that you are allocated is NOT for entrance to the palace complex itself, but it is to enter the most famous part of the complex – the Nasrid Palace. So, you want to arrive at the palace at least an hour before the time on your ticket.
Also, expect to do a fair bit of walking to get up to the palace, but there is a bus if that will be too much for you – as there will be a lot of walking around the palace once you get inside, I recommend that you take the bus or a taxi up the entrance. Preserve your energy as you are going to be on your feet for several hours!
Travel Tip – Book your ticket to see the Alhambra Palace in advance to avoid disappointment. in peak times it can even sell out, and you would be distraught to go to Granada and miss this!
When you are walking round the Alhambra Palace, make sure that you don’t miss the ‘Generalife’ which is often overlooked and missed by visitors – many don’t realise that it’s there and how beautiful it is. The main parts of the Alhambra to explore (in order of priority) are…
- Nasrid Palaces – The most beautiful part of the Alhambra which is a series of connected palaces, courtyards, pools and gardens (go 15-30 minutes before your allocated time).
- Generalife – this was a place of leisure for the Kings who needed a break from Palace Admin and affairs.
- Palace of Charles V – Renaissance building that was another royal residence.
- Alcabaza – the Alhabra fortress – one of the oldest part of the Alhambra.
The Alhambra Palace is a once in a lifetime travel experience – one not to be missed!
Cost: €19,09, €2.73 for minors (12-15) and under 12: Free admission
#4 Evening Tapas tour
Granada is one of the best places in Spain to enjoy Tapas. In most bars, you will be offered a free tapas with your drinks – and the more drinks that you order, the more the tapas will keep on coming! It’s a bit of a tradition in Spain but there are few places where the free tapas culture is still so alive and abundant as in Granada. Quite often, you don’t get a choice on which tapas you get with your drink, but actually, in Granada we found a few places where we could choose! We were generally offered one free tapas with every drink such as a glass of wine or beer and between 3-6 tapas for ordering a bottle of wine.
Cost: At least €10-20 to spend on drinks and the tapas will follow for free! If you want to choose your tapas and want more than a small portion you can go ahead and order a la carte.
#5 Cathedral de Granada
Granada Cathedral is well worth a visit as it is a spectacular building and houses art from the Spanish renaissance. Work on Granada Cathedral commenced in 1523 (ordered by Charles V). It was designed as the Royal Pantheon of the Spanish monarchy, where the King and Queen would eventually be buried. The Cathedral was built next to the Royal Chapel, which contains the tombs of Catholic Kings. The third building is the Church of El Sagrario (the latest large addition to the Cathedral).
The main door shows a scene of the incarnation of Christ (how the Cathedral got its name), and to the left is the gate of forgiveness.
When you enter the Cathedral, walk into the Nave and look on both sides, where you will see two spectacular organs. One is from the 18th Century by the artist Leonardo Fernández Dávila. Also you can admire the extensiveness of the naves, adorned by pillars in the shape of a cross, supporting ribbed vaults. These elements went on to influence several other Andalusian Cathedrals such as Jaen and Gaudix.
The Capilla Mayor (the main chapel housing the altar) is framed by a main arch that separates it from the central nave, with baroque iconography. The busts of Adam and Eve are on display, as well as statues of people praying to the Catholic Kings. The twelve large pillars symbolise the twelve apostles. The central area tells the story of the ‘seven joys of Mary’ and the stained glass windows above narrate the public life of Jesus. To the right, at the base of the altar is the Bishops chair.
Other noteable sections of the Cathedral that you should not miss are:
- The Capillas de la nave de la Epistola (Triumph of the Apostle St James).
- Capillas de la nave del Evangelico (The Gospel nave).
- Capillas de la Girola (The virgin of the ancient, the Roman Martyr Virgin Saint Lucia, chapel of Animas and the Chapels of Saint Theresa, Saint Blaise, Saint Cecil and Saint Ann).
- Sala de Exposicion de Arte Sacro – Display of sacred art including tapestries, embroideries, sculptures and clothing. It includes a famous piece – the Virgin of Bethlehem by Alonso Cano.
- Main Sacristry – a collection of paintings in the antechamber and also a collection of old clocks. The sacristry itself holds a collection of sacred items used to celebrate the Eucharist, including clothes used by the ministers (categorised into beautiful drawers). A beautiful sculpture of the crucifix overlooks the sacristry.
Cost: €5 (€3,50 students and discounts)
#6 Basilica of San Juan de Dios
The Basilica of San Juan de Dios is a spectacular example of Andalucian Baroque that many people miss, due to their focus on the Alhambra Palace. But the Basilica of San Juan de Dios is one of the best things to do in Granada.
This grand basilica is named after St. John of God, a 16th-century Portuguese Saint who dedicated his life to serving the poor and the sick. With its stunning marble facade, ornate interior, and an impressive collection of religious artwork and artifacts, the Basílica de San Juan de Dios is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history, art, and culture. The ornate gold Baroque detail will blow your mind!
As well as exploring the sacristry, nave and surrounding chapels and the tomb of Saint John, you should ensure that you also make sure that you go upstairs to see the relics (some people miss these narrow steps to the right of the altar so look out for them). At the top of is the ‘camarin’, a small shrine behind the altar that displays a beautiful solid silver urn. It contains the wooden cross that St. John of God always carried with him, teeth of the Saint John, and other small parts of his body recovered for his veneration.
Cost: €7 General admission, €6 students (13-25 years old) and free admission for children under 12
#7 Monasterio de San Jerónimo
The Monastery of San Jerónimo is an ancient monastery in Granada, not too far from the Basilica of San Juan de Dios. So, you can combine the visit of these two sites into one morning or afternoon.
The Monastery of San Jerónimo de Granada is known for its impressive Renaissance architecture and its historical connection with the city. It was founded in the 16th century by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Its construction began in 1496 and was completed in 1512. The monastery is dedicated to Saint Jerome, a Christian scholar who translated the Bible into Latin.
One of the highlights of the Monastery of Saint Jerome is its old church, which features a magnificent Renaissance façade and a stunning interior. The main altarpiece of the church is a masterpiece carved by Diego de Siloé and Felipe Bigarny (it’s worth the entrance fee just for this!)
The monastery also has a cloister that combines Gothic and Renaissance elements. Over the centuries, the monastery has undergone several renovations and restorations, hence the interesting combination of decorative styles.
Cost: €5 per adult, €3,50 for students (under 25)
Further Reading on Travel in Spain
If you enjoyed this article on things to do in Granada, you might also like to read…
- 7 Magnificent Islamic sites in Spain
- 10 beautiful Churches in Seville
- Visiting the Alhambra tips – Spain’s most famous monument
- How to spend one day in Cordoba
- Cordoba Patio festival