Granada is a city with a million and one things to do. This fabulous Andalusian city with a wealth of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim history is home to incredible architecture, food, and views. I mean views for days, guys.
I worked in Granada for a few weeks in April, 2017, and while my experience wasn’t long, it made me fall in love with the city and all that it stands for. Granada is Spanish music floating out of open windows, it’s the smell of paella cooking, it’s the feeling of enjoying a glass of Sangria on a hot day, and it’s the hustle and bustle of centuries-old bazaars. So whether you’re a history buff, love the great outdoors, or just want to stuff your face with tapas, here are my picks for the best things to do in Granada.
15 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Granada, Spain
Get Lost in the Albayzin
During my few weeks in Granada, I set up camp in the Albayzin district. The old Arab quarter, the cobblestone streets are narrow, hilly, and maze-like. Getting lost in this district is super easy to do, and even after a few weeks here I had to guess how to get to my hostel.
That said, you’ll love just wandering around, just saying hello to the local stray cats and admiring colorful baskets of flowers hanging out of windows while you get a serious butt-busting workout.
Have Coffee/Tea in the Sacromonte Caves
The first night I was in Granada, I was taken up to the Sacromonte Caves to have a special coffee/tea concoction made by one of the cave residents, Galai, who was originally from Senegal. Not only did our host give us a tour of his cave (which was complete with a television and beer fridge), he pulled out chairs for us to watch the sun go down over Granada while we drank.
The drink was somewhat bitter, but bellywarming and rich.
Take a Self-Guided Street Art Tour in the Realejo
While my personal Realejo self-guided tour was a result of my trying to find Plaza Joe Strummer, it was an incredible discovery. This traditionally Jewish barrio is absolutely covered in murals and artwork, many with political messages, and many just for the beauty.
Plus, wandering around this neighborhood will give you unreal views of the Sierra Nevada.
Check out Placeta Joe Strummer
Did you know that Joe Strummer was a huge fan of Granada? I mean, if you’re a Clash fan and have listened to the song “Spanish Bombs”, you probably figured out there was some sort of connection.
Well, the people of Granada surely took note of this and dedicated a plaza to him adjacent to the Realejo. If you decide to venture here, note that the plaza isn’t much more than a plaque and a once-artful wall of Joe’s face. But if you’e a true Clash fan, it’s a must.
Visit the Mirador de San Nicholas
I had been in Granada for maybe 5 minutes before I was taken up to the Mirador de San Nicholas by two lovely people who owned a hostel in the Albayzin. In a word, this viewpoint is stunning. If you go up here at sunset, not only will you be surrounded by beautiful music and merchants, you’ll get an unreal golden view of the Alhambra.
Visit the Alhambra
The crown jewel of Andalusia, the Alhambra is a palace and fortress that was originally constructed on top of Roman fortifications in 889 AD. From here the structure was left until the 13th century when the area was under Moorish rule and Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar built the current iteration of the palace.
The Alhambra is easily one of the most beautiful structures in the world, and is a must-see on your visit to Granada. Just remember to buy your tickets well in advance (I’m talking months), as this site is a hotspot and tickets tend to sell out.
Wander the Generalife Gardens
Surrounding the Alhambra are the beautiful gardens and pathways of the Generalife. The Generalife is comprised of many gardens, and the architecture surrounding are an excellent mixture of classic Arab and Christian styles.
Relax in a Hammam
A tradition carried through since Muslim rule, Granada is home two two Hammam’s, or Arab bath houses. These houses provide massages, aromatherapy treatments, and many rooms with different temperatured pools.
Be sure to book your Hammam visit ahead of time, as depending on time of year can get quite busy.
Have a Tea/Hookah Break
Something you’ll find plenty of in the Albayzin especially, a visit to a traditional Moroccan tea house is a great way to relax for a few hours. Of course, the tea houses are usually hookah houses as well, and while the hookah’s use tobacco shisha, are an authentic Granada experience.
Personally, I paired a classic mint tea with a watermelon-flavored shisha and it blew my mind. They also provided cake.
Plan a Fun Night Out
Spaniards like to party, oh do they ever. However, if you’re heading to Granada from a Western Country, it’ll take minute to get used to the party schedule. Generally, my group hung around the hostel drinking Sangria until around midnight, and then we would head to a happening bar – either Spanish or Arabic. Then, when 2 am rolled around, we would head to the club. And by ‘club’ I mean funky dance bar called Booga that played hits through the decades.
I would usually call it a night around 5 am, although the more strong-willed would continue on until 7 or 8.
Shop on the Alcaiceria
The Alcaiceria is home to the Great Bazaar of Granada, and is the perfect place to go to find souvenirs, hand-made items, tiles (fajalauza), Arabic silks, and spices. The Bazaar was originally constructed during Moorish rule, and was one of the few customs to survive the Christian takeover.
Explore the Tapas Scene
One of the best reasons to come to Granada, in my opinion, is to experience the extraordinary tapas scene firsthand. Tons of bars in Granada offer tapas and to get one, all you have to do is order a drink. In my experience however, menus tend to be sparse so be sure to ask the server or go up to the bar to hear the tapas options.
Take a Riverside Walk
For the perfect way to spend a relaxing hour or two, head down to the River Darro and take a walk. When I did this in the spring, locals were spreading out on the banks to suntan and play card games, meanwhile the flowers were in full bloom.
Visit the Cathedral and Royal Chapel
Although it’s becoming an increasingly secular state, Christianity is a big deal to Andalusian customs. The Cathedral in Granada took over 180 years to build, with the foundations being laid between 1523 and 1529, and is a truly magnificent structure.
Likewise with the Royal Chapel – this gorgeous structure constructed in the early 1500’s is a must-see while you’re in Granada. Not only is it a visual wonder, it’s also the burial place of prominent Spanish monarchs, including Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand.
Having traveled to around 15 different countries in Europe, I have to say that although I’m not religious, Cathedrals have been some of my favorite visits. While some of the architecture tends to blend together after a while (don’t hate me for saying that), going in a Cathedral to read or write or meditate for a while is one of the best things to do between sight-seeing stops.
See Some Flamenco
Because were you really in Granada if you didn’t see some Flamenco? The popular dance and music art form actually originated in Andalusia and can be found pretty much everywhere in the city. You can either book yourself a table at a popular Flamenco bar, or you can do what I did and hang out in front of the Cathedral for a while. The Flamenco eventually just showed up.
Have you been to Granada? What are some of your fave things to do? Let me know in the comments!