7 Must-Do Activities In Granada, Spain, For A First Visit

7 Must-Do Activities In Granada Spain For A First Visit 19

Granada is a stunning, tranquil, and diverse Spanish city that’s ideal for a long weekend getaway or a two- to three-day pit stop on a longer road trip through Southern Spain. Here are the top 7 activities you should do while visiting Granada.
The Alhambra palace and castle complex, Granada’s centerpiece, dominates the skyline from a cliff overlooking the city below. However, don’t think for a second that Granada is a one-trick pony. For all different types of travelers, the city has much more to offer.
The magnificent cathedral in Granada is home to the Royal Chapel, where Isabella I and Ferdinand II, the monarchs who drove the Moors from Iberia, are interred.
The Sierra Nevada mountains nearby provide fantastic hiking and mountain biking opportunities in the summer and skiing opportunities in the winter. If you go in the summer, be sure to hike the fantastic Los

Cahorros route.
The Costa Tropical is only a 1-hour drive from Granada, making it ideal for a few days in the city followed by a few days relaxing on the beach. If you have the time, include Granada in a larger tour to Andalusia that also includes Ronda and Cordoba.
To explore and learn about Granada’s best-kept secrets, we advise allocating at least three complete days. Four days would reduce the amount of action and make it more leisurely.

A Synopsis Of Granada’s Past

The last Muslim dynasty to rule in Iberia was the Nasrids, who were based in Granada, Andalusia.
Around 250 BC, the Romans took control of Granada, just like they did the other significant cities of Andalusia. They overcame the Carthaginian inhabitants, who had given the town the name Elibyrge. It was given the new name Iliberis by the Romans, and this lasted for seven centuries, until the fall of the Roman Empire.
The Visigoths, who had colonized much of what is now Spain and France, took the chance to establish a fortress in Granada. Despite the fact that their dominion only lasted 200 years, at this period the city started to prosper.

In 711 AD, Tariq ibn Ziyad began the Umayyad conquest of Hispania. The Visigothic army were ultimately defeated in Toledo.
As a result, Cordoba was chosen as the Umayyad Caliphate’s administrative center in Al-Andalus. Under Moorish rule, everyone in Granada prospered, even the Jewish population.
Zawi ben Ziri, a North African Berber commander, capitalized on the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate in the early 11th century AD to found the Taifa of Granada, an autonomous kingdom.
He was simply in charge as a helpless figurehead, though. The so-called “golden age” of Jewish civilization in Spain ended with a massacre in 1066 AD, when the Taifa effectively became a Jewish state.
Before Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn Nasr, better known as Ibn al-Ahmar, founded the Nasrid dynasty in 1228 AD, various Berber dynasties ruled over Granada.
The Nasrids were Iberia’s final and longest-lasting Muslim dynasty. In the middle of the 13th century, ibn Nasr gave the order to build the Alhambra atop the remains of a previous fortress. It was transformed into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, the Sultan of Granada at the time.

By the time Cordoba fell in 1236 AD, Christian soldiers had completely retaken the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim authority.

The Nasrid rulers that came after ibn Nasr paid tribute to Castile for the next 250 years in the form of gold mined in West Africa after he allied Granada with Castile in 1246 and established a Taifa under the rule of Castile and Ferdinand III.
The Catholic Reconquista, however, was finished by 1492 AD. Following the total surrender of Emir Muhammad XII, the 22nd and final Nasrid ruler of Granada and the last Muslim monarch in Spain, Isabella I and Ferdinand II had retaken the Emirate of Granada.
All Jewish residents were required to convert to Catholicism or risk being forced to leave, according to the Alhambra Decree treaty. Muslims living there were subjected to forced baptisms, and churches started to take over mosques. The Jewish Quarter was among the many districts that were destroyed to make room for Catholic and Castilian influences.

When the fighting was over, Spain started a new adventure. After the Reconquista was finished, Isabella and Ferdinand established their royal court in the Alhambra. Later, inside the Alhambra, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus received royal approval to travel to the West.
Spain will later colonize the Americas and grow to be one of the most powerful empires in history.

How to Get to Granada
Although Granada has its own airport, few cities travel there directly, necessitating a connection through Madrid or Barcelona. Instead, fly into Malaga, where many low-cost carriers provide inexpensive flights from all around Europe.
Before going to Granada, if you intend to spend a few quiet days in Malaga, read this city guide to Malaga, Spain.
Look for less expensive flights via Madrid or Barcelona if you’re traveling overseas and arriving at Malaga Airport.
Due to construction on the high-speed tracks, the biggest issue with flying into Malaga or Madrid is that there is no direct train connection to Granada (as of the time of writing, May 2019).
In order to get to Granada by bus, you must first take the train through Antequera Santa Ana (see above image). On this bus, the additional travel time to Granada was roughly 1 hour 30 minutes. It is possible to travel from Seville, but plan on a lengthier journey.
The breathtaking vistas of the Sierra Nevada mountains are the greatest part of the journey to Granada.

the Malaga Airport
Road Distance from Malaga to Granada: 135 kilometers
If you’d prefer to rent a car, take the A-7 up to the AP-46, then turn left onto the A-92 to get to Granada. Around 1 hour 30 minutes should pass. To avoid any traffic congestion, constantly check current traffic updates before leaving.

Train (and bus) travel from Malaga to Granada covers 122 kilometres (via Antequera Santa Ana).
Depending on the departure time, the distance between Malaga and Granada can be reached in 3 hours and 30 minutes or in 5 hours and 45 minutes with 1 stop (Antequera).
The first and last trains leave Malaga at 09:45 and 18:20, respectively. There are typically 5 trains per day running between Malaga and Granada.
From the Malaga Maria Zambrano station, trains leave. You must take a bus or taxi into the city to the train station if you land at Malaga’s airport.
From €22.20 to €28.15, prices range.
There are numerous additional routes that run daily from Malaga to Antequera Santa Ana, but only five of those are coordinated with bus transfers to Granada. Although there isn’t much to do in Antequera, you could always wait there.
For more information, visit trainline and/or renfe.
Bus from Malaga to Granada, 135 kilometres, is the best option.
You’ll need to look for ALSA, which is a bus business. Typically, there are 13 services every day, with the earliest one departing at 8:00 and the latest one departing at 20:45. Buses travel about 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Depending on whatever service you use, the cost is either €11.57 or €13.86 for one trip.
Visit this page for further details.

Madrid, Spain
Road Distance From Madrid to Granada: 420 kilometers
Take the E-5 and E-902 for 4h 15m to Granada if you feel like taking a road trip from the capital. To avoid any traffic congestion, constantly check current traffic updates before leaving.
Train Travel from Madrid to Granada: 296km
If you take the Antequera Santa Ana route and switch to a bus, the current travel time from Madrid to Granada is 4 hours and 00 minutes. The other option is a sluggish, straight train that takes 5 hours and 15 minutes.
Atocha station in Madrid is where trains leave.
For more information, visit trainline and/or renfe.
Bus from Madrid to Granada, best option, 420 kilometers
You’ll need to look for ALSA, which is a bus business. There are roughly 13 services every day, the earliest one departing from the Estacion Sur at 01:30 and the latest one departing at 20:30. Buses travel time is from 4:30 to 5:00.
Depending on the service you choose, the cost is either €19.27 for regular service or €37.79/€47.63 for premium service.
Visit this page for further details.
Remark: The train is probably going to be the most practical means to reach the city once the rail construction around Granada is finished.
The Top 7 Activities in Granada, Spain

  1. La Alhambra

Most likely the reason you came to Granada! One of the main factors making Granada one of the top Spanish tourist destinations and a must-see on any traveler’s itinerary.
The Alhambra palace, one of the world’s most beautiful Islamic masterpieces, will astound you. Granada’s Moorish monarch ibn Nasr constructed the palace in the middle of the thirteenth century, and happily it has outlasted all of his successors.
It is embellished with tile mosaics, carved stucco with Arabic calligraphy, and patterned timber ceilings. Because of the fountains’ constant sound of running water, the courtyards are serene.
You can almost envision how calm it would have been during the Nasrid era if you can look over the throng of tourists.
The Alhambra’s three principal sections are:
Generalife, Alcazaba, and Nasrid Palaces

The Alcazaba is the historic fortification that guards the city. For breathtaking views of the city and the Sierra Nevada backdrop, climb one of the towers.
Three distinct regions, each as stunning as the next, make up the Nasrid Palaces. The crowds will be busiest and most tightly packed here. You must abide by the ticket times.
It will take some time to explore the beautiful Generalife gardens. See second item underneath.
Our Best Advice for Visiting the Alhambra
The Alhambra staff keeps things in check. You will be given a certain time slot if you decide to visit the palace. You must arrive on time or you won’t be let inside.
The complex as a whole operates under a rigorous one-way system. If you leave a place with the thought that you’ll return to view it later, it’s wrong; reconsider. Once you have completed one section, you are done. That lesson was hard earned for us.

Additionally, each time you enter a new location, you must display your ticket. To avoid the large crowds, try to arrive early. By the time we left at 2:00 p.m., things had gotten out of hand.
Give at least three hours. Bring a few liters of water with you if it’s summer!

From April 1 to October 14 – daily from 8:00 to 20:00
From October 15th through March 31st, every day from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Alhambra Tickets
On this website, you can purchase regular tickets, or you can use Get Your Guide to purchase skip-the-line tickets.
Children under the age of 12 are admitted free, however this must be shown at the door. Standard adult tickets cost €14.
The Alhambra is Spain’s most popular tourist destination. Booking your tickets in advance is highly advised because they tend to sell out rapidly. It’s much more crucial to make reservations in advance if you’re travelling between May and September to avoid disappointment.

  1. Garden generalizations

Since the Generalife officially belongs to the Alhambra complex, one ticket covers both. However, it merits a place on the list of the best activities to do on your own.

Beautiful water features and well-kept flower gardens can be seen here. The patios offer beautiful views and are very romantic. It’s simple to get lost in here because there is so much to see!
The Palacio de Generalife was initially intended as a summer retreat for the Sultans of Granada. The Alhambra and the gardens were both constructed in the 13th century, although the majority of what is visible now dates from the 1930s.
Spend at least an hour exploring the gardens; bring plenty of water and sun protection! The Alhambra’s admission costs and hours are identical as those listed above.

  1. Albaicin District

Exploring the white-washed, serpentine alleyways in the Albaicin area is another must-do activity in Granada.
It stands in complete contrast to the lavish Alhambra of the Nasrid emperors. Both the area and its affluent counterpart have been designated as World Heritage Sites.

The city’s historic Albaicin neighborhood has barely changed since the Moorish era and is rife with medieval relics.
The area is renowned for its Arab-style bathhouses, such El Banuelo, and the Moorish ambience it radiates.

Are you a fan of beautiful sights in general, or especially sunsets in particular? For spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Alhambra, ascend to the Mirador de San Nicolas in Albaicin. It is truly a picturesque location.

The location won’t remain silent, though, for the secret has been revealed! Join the masses and bring a bottle of wine for a sunset you won’t soon forget. Arrive early if you want a seat to see the sunset from the wall!
Pro-Tip: If you have the time, stroll for 20 minutes uphill to the Mirador de Dan Miguel Alto in Albaicin’s higher terrain. If you don’t like crowds, it’s a lot more sedate option than Mirador de San Nicolas.

  1. Sacromonte

From Albaicin, ascend a hill to the north-east, and you’ll finally come to Sacromonte, a neighborhood of Granada’s Roma people.
The locals still stay in cave homes and perform flamenco shows at night. This flamenco performance is being held in Cuevas Los Tarantos.
After all, Granada is regarded as the flamenco’s birthplace!
The most interesting Sacramonte attractions are the catacombs, monastery, and museum.
After five minutes of strolling past the structures, a trail up a hill to your left will soon be visible.
You can reach Abadia del Sacramonte, a historic monastery with breathtaking views of the Alhambra and city, by climbing a short distance. To enjoy the views in a little peace and quiet, make your way to the end of the parking lot and sit on the wall.

We advise visiting the abbey by foot in the early evening, followed by dinner and a flamenco show at Sacramonte on the way back to the city. The flamenco performances are touristy, but they’re nonetheless enjoyable.

Would you like to learn more about the cities of Albaicin and Sacromonte?
Learn about the past of Granada’s oldest neighborhoods by scheduling either a daytime guided walking tour or a well-liked twilight guided walking tour of Albaicin and Sacromonte.

  1. Cathedral of Granada

On the location of the major mosque, Queen Isabella I had Granada Cathedral constructed after conquering the city. Around the time the Spanish Renaissance architecture began to replace the Gothic style, the first foundations were erected in 1518.
What better way to announce who was in charge after the Nasrid dynasty than by placing a mausoleum for Isabella I and Ferdinand II next to the cathedral in the form of the Royal Chapel?

  1. Darro’s Carrera

A lovely, curvy, small road called Carrera del Darro runs beside the banks of the Darro, directly below the Alhambra. It’s been around since the seventh century.

The route is congested during the day, especially with Segway tour groups, and is somewhat narrow. Everyone has to hug the walls when cars and small local buses pass, but things get better once it becomes quiet once more.
After you pass the congested area, it is ideal for a quiet stroll with a loved one. Early in the evening, it offers a pleasant laid-back ambiance and is dotted with stores, pubs, and restaurants. What a view when enjoying a glass of wine, right? The West end of the road is where many of the walking and segway trips start.

Pro-Tip: There is a shortcut that will get you to the Alhambra. Take a right after crossing the bridge if you are walking east along Carrera del Darro and continue uphill. It is a little steep, though. Never claim that we didn’t warn you!

  1. Sierra Nevada: Monachil

You’re in luck if you can’t resist the pull of the mountains peeking out behind the city’s backdrop or if you just want to leave the city to enjoy some fresh air and space to move around. You are close to the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Are you present during the summer? The Los Cahorros Trail, which follows a river and occasionally gets rather challenging, is accessible by foot.
There are metal hand rails carved into the stone that you may grab onto as you lean out over the river and dangling suspension bridges. But do your best to avoid falling in! After walking the trail ourselves, we would tend to disagree that it is “child friendly”
Are you visiting Granada during the winter? The majority of your skiing time will be spent in Monachil and the neighboring areas.

Take bus number 183, which runs Monday through Saturday, or number 181, which runs on weekends and holidays. At Paseo de los Basilios, close to Puente Blanco, you can take a bus.
Even though the wait for the bus home can be lengthy, you can always get a beer. In June 2018, one-way tickets cost €1.50.
Oh, Monachil, what a journey you had!
Consider taking a 6.5-hour top-rated 4×4 trip of the Sierra Nevada mountains if you want to see the best of Granada’s Sierra Nevada mountains but don’t want to climb or fuss with riding the bus.

Interactive Map of Granada

When to Go to Granada?
It was already sweltering hot when we went at the beginning of June. You may anticipate daytime highs of about 35C/95F in July and August, occasionally even hotter.
It’s challenging to go through the day without stopping by a pub for a refreshing pint of beer!
In general, April through May and September through October are calmer, colder, and less expensive. In other words, it depends on how hot, pricey, and busy you like it.

The day of San Cecilio honors Granada’s patron saint. On the first Sunday in February, it is customary to tour Sacramonte’s catacombs and monastery.
During the first few days of May each year, huge crosses made of flowers are raised in a number of Granada squares as part of the Cruces de Mayo celebration.

We had the good fortune to attend Corpus Cristi, the main event in Granada, in 2018. The celebration lasts for a full week and includes flamenco dancing, bullfighting, processions, puppet shows, regional music performances, and more. Depending on the date of Easter, Corpus Christi can be in May or June.
There are two significant processions this week. Beginning on Wednesday, Tarasca features giants with paper-mache heads and a woman riding a dragon as they make their way through the streets.
The Corpus Cristi parade occurs on Thursday, and the entire city celebrates! The procession’s route is marked with banners in the streets (see above image).
Restaurants in Granada
One of the most affordable cities in Spain to eat tapas is Granada. The reason for this is because many bars provide free tapas with drink purchases.
The free tapas and drinks scene in Granada was one of our favorite aspects of the city. In most establishments in Granada, you may have a beer or a glass of wine along with some delectable tapas.

You must visit Bodegas Castaneda, which is located in front of the church. Even if it’s not the most “local” restaurant in Granada and is rather touristic, it’s still very tasty.
It offers a terrific atmosphere, a decent mix of residents and tourists, and of course, free tapas with your beverages.

Every night, a different tapa will be served, so you never know what you’ll get. The best advice is to observe what tapas other people are eating to get an idea of what will be served next.
The social hub of the city is the Plaza de Bib Rambla. In the summer, the square is crowded with restaurants and sidewalk cafes. It is near to the Alcaiceria Moorish Market and directly behind the cathedral.
The plaza is home to a large number of tourist-oriented eateries, most of which serve up a delectable menu of the day. Mark developed a keen taste for the local beer, and Kristen consumed enough churros to sink a ship.
In addition, Granada has the best fresh orange juice in the world!
Accommodations in Granada
We spent three nights at the Pension Londres on Gran Via de Colon 29 during our visit to Granada.
We love to stay in cheap hotels and travel on a low to moderate budget, always looking for the greatest deal on double rooms.
If you know your dates in advance, book early is one of our top suggestions for lodging in Spain. Since we made our reservations a week or more in advance since June is a busy month, we frequently paid more than necessary.

On Booking.com, Pension Londres has an 8.5 rating and a fantastic 9.6 location score. The view from our window is depicted in the image above. It’s only a three-minute walk to the cathedral from the center of town. We would have to concur with that score.
The room is modest, but it is on a budget. The best portion, though, is saved for last. The view from its shared rooftop terrace is depicted in the picture below. It is outstanding. Grab a few beers, unwind on the roof, and enjoy the scenery.

You can plan for your trip using our list of the top things to do in Granada, Spain, we hope!
In the comments section below, please let us know if you need any assistance organizing your trip to Spain or if you have any inquiries regarding Granada.

Travel safely,

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