Granada is a city rich in history with a Moorish heritage that dates back over 700 years. I loved this city for its history, culture, and architecture–even though I was there for six months, it wasn’t enough! Between the food and the impressive monuments there, Granada is a city that keeps on giving long after you have explored its main sights. However, if you only have a few days available, then you might need a list to help you navigate the main things to do. Here are my recommendation for making the most of your time there.
The Alhambra is is Granada’s top attraction and has served multiple functions during its history, including a castle, palace, enclosed town, and summer retreat. The Alhambra was constructed for the Nasrids who ruled the Emirate of Granada in the final centuries of Muslim control in Andalucia during the 1200s and 1300s. The palace was later turned into a royal court of the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I after the Reconquista (reconquest). Take time to wander around the royal chambers, lovely courtyards, and majestic Renaissance and Moorish palaces. Tip: make sure you book your tickets in advance so you don’t end up waiting in line for hours.
Albayzín is the Arab quarter in Granada and it considered UNESCO World Heritage site–reason enough to visit! This is where the Moorish population settled in Granada after the reconquest. Surrounded by stunning architecture, this spot is a photographer’s dream. After the Muslims were later expelled, the mosques in the neighborhood were turned to churches. Explore the tight alleys filled with tall townhouses–all painted the same shade of white. Also, look for the hand-painted Moorish tiles used for designing the walls of both homes and religious structures.
Carmen de Los Martires Gardens
Right next to the Alhambra is the Carmen de Los Martires Gardens. This majestic garden is made up of flowerbeds, leafy paths, and small ponds worth exploring–and you also don’t have crowds of tourists hogging the area. The best time head here is during the spring and summer, which is when you can really enjoy the shaded walkways that serve as a sanctuary from the hot sun. Best of all, you also have mind-blowing views of the city itself. Don’t forget to check out the fairytale tower located in the middle of the garden. Make the climb up for those spectacular views!
The Granada Cathedral
The Granada Cathedral was built over the original mosque that once stood here. It is the second-largest cathedral in Spain, and building started at the beginning of the 16th century by Charles V, Spain’s most controversial monarch. The building was constructed during a transition style: the exterior and the main structure are Gothic, while the interior is mostly Neoclassical. This makes for an interesting-looking structure and a bit of a shock when you get inside. Start at the main chapel where you will find stained-glass windows, paintings, and sculptures. After that, head to some of the smaller chapels for relics from the church and make sure to stop by the Royal Chapel of Granada nearby to see the tombs of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand.
Corral del Carbón
This is the oldest remaining monument in Granada that built during the Nasrid dynasty. Once a warehouse and shelter for merchants when it was constructed in the 1200s, you can enter this building for free. Take time to stop and peer at the double-arched gate, which will take you to a central courtyard surrounded by lodgings that were once also used as offices by the Spanish. If you are lucky to visit Granada during the summer, the courtyard host occasional plays and flamenco shows worth checking out.
The Science Park
This great place to go if you are looking for a change of pace from the many historic buildings and architecture in Granada. You have two main buildings that you can explore with a diverse range of exhibits which include “Journey into the Human Body” and an installation which recounts the achievements of Al-Andalus’ Islamic scientists. Once you are done there, head over to the Foucault’s Pendulum Building where you will find exhibits related to chemistry, physics, and mechanics. The Science Park also features a planetarium that displays shows throughout the day.
Plaza de San Nicolás
This square is located in the front of the San Nicolas church at the top of the Albayzín district. Offering stunning views of the Alhambra and the enormous peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, this is the best spot to get your perfect snapshot of Granada. Keep in mind that it is a bit of a strenuous hike to the top of the hill, but you’ll be rewarded with fun restaurants, shops, and the chance to make your friends envious of your trip to Spain.
Another famous neighborhood in Granada, the Sacromonte area is known for its cave dwellings and the Romani culture that made their home there. Located directly across from the Alhambra, this is the perfect spot to visit for a unique brand of Flamenco, a taste of gypsy music, and the history of Granada sometime violent past. During the summer, you’ll often see weddings and parties going on as locals strike up the guitar and begin dancing in the hot sun.
What are your favorite things to do in Granada, Spain?
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