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Things to do in Granada

Things to do in  Granada

Welcome to Granada

The last Moorish stronghold in the heart of Andalucia, resettled by Catholic monarchs and migrating Romani, Granada thrums to a rhythm all its own. Crowned by the magnificent Alhambra Palace complex and set against the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, this picturesque little city holds a wealth of attractions. The UNESCO World Heritage–listed Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens belong right at the top of your list. A priority-access or skip-the-line tour is the best way to experience this treasure trove of Nasrid-era art and architecture. Other historical highlights include the Cathedral, Nasrid Palace, the Palace of Charles V, and Alcazaba Fortress. Fascinating though it may be, don't let the past consume your whole visit: Stroll around to admire the work of Granada's prolific street artists (it's not all "graffiti"), visit the Arabian Baths at Hammam Al Andalus, and try to catch a local festival, where you'll see colorful costumes, traditional dances, and Andalusian horses on parade. In the evenings, Granada's living culture takes the stage: Watch a fiery Flamenco performance in the Sacromonte caves; take a walking tour of the Albaicin (Albayzin), the old Moorish quarter; and feast on tapas and sangria. A number of day-trip destinations also lie within easy reach of the city. Visit the Caves of Nerja, go wine tasting in the mountain town of Ronda, or relax on the golden beaches of Costa Tropical. Nature-lovers can hike in the Sierra Nevada National Park, home to the Iberian Peninsula's highest mountains, or tour by 4-wheel-drive.

Top 10 attractions in Granada

#1

Alhambra (Alhambra de Granada)

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The Alhambra is not only Spain’s greatest architectural treasure, but one of the world’s wonders. It might not wow you right up front like a Taj Mahal or a Great Pyramid, but soon enough that austere exterior reveals a wonderland of musical fountains, cunningly devised gardens and finely carved palaces. Its construction was begun in the 11th century on the red hill known as Assabika, which overlooks Granada. The Alcazaba fortress was the first structure to be built, followed by the royal palace and residence of members of the court.More
#2

Generalife Gardens

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The Generalife was built as a summer palace for the Muslim emirs, a place of retreat where they could kick back with their harems and take some time away from the world. Its charming gardens – undoubtedly the highlight of the Generalife - are still a prime place to do just that. Generalife Gardens are designed for tranquility, with everywhere the trickle of running water cooling the senses. Tall cypresses frame pathways, fountains play in arches over long pools, streams flow down staircases, flowers and flowering trees cast their scent, and hedges enclose serene little lawns. The sultana’s garden, with its ancient cypress trunk, was where one sultan’s wife trysted with her lover (and was caught, precipitating bloodshed – hard to believe as you stand in this artful paradise).More
#3

Palace of Charles V (Palacio de Carlos V)

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The Palace of Charles V is a carefully designed statement of triumph and prestige. By building a royal residence in the heart of a conquered Muslim citadel, Charles honored his grandparents, the Catholic Monarchs, and celebrated the victory of Christianity over Islam. The palace is in the Roman style, with a circular building set in a square. It was begun in 1526. Work on it was abandoned for 15 years during Granada's Moorish uprising, and abandoned again in 1637, leaving the palace unfinished and roofless. Finally, in 1923, a plan was designed to rescue and complete it.More
#4

Sacromonte

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Sacromonte is traditionally Granada's Gitano quarter, and these days is the epicenter of the city's flamenco-based tourist trade. Spilling down the sides of its hill (the 'sacred mountain' of the name - the district is actually named after the Sacromonte Abbey), the area has been extensively commercialized, but still has plenty of magic. At dusk, with the lights twinkling and the Alhambra views, it's hard to resist. It was in the 19th century that Sacromonte became the province of the Gitano. The local rock has enough clay to be soft, but enough rock to be stable when formed. Hence, many of the poorer people shaped caves into the sides of Sacromonte and lived in those. The community - and flamenco - thrived. During the 1960s floods rendered many of the caves uninhabitable, and many of the locals evacuated.More
#5

Albaicín

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The Albaicin (also spelled Albayzin or Albaycin) is Granada's old Muslim quarter, and its steep twisting streets still have a medieval feel. With its white buildings and deep-gardened mansions spilling down the hill, the Albaicin is beautiful in itself, but what makes it particularly stunning is its views of the Alhambra. (The views of the Albaicin from the Alhambra enhance that experience as well!) There's a viewing point by the church of St. Nicolas that offers particularly good Alhambra vistas. The Albaicin was heritage-listed in 1984. Its name may have derived from settlers fleeing the Christian invasion of the town Baeza, or it may derive from an Arabic phrase meaning 'quarter of the falconers.' Despite the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, it survived as a Muslim quarter for some decades, and you can still see the remains of Islamic bathhouses, mansions and fountains.More
#6

Mirador de San Nicolás

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The biggest draw of Granada’s UNESCO-listed Albaycin quarter is the hilltop Mirador de San Nicolás, a small raised plaza that lies in front of the San Nicolás Church. This is the city’s most renowned lookout point, from where the magnificent panoramic views span the city center, the distant Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Rio Darro canyon and, most famously, the grand Alhambra palace. The small public square is a lively place to be at all times of the day, with a handful of craftsmen setting up shop along the paving stones and a roster of street musicians and flamenco dancers on hand to entertain visitors. The most atmospheric time to arrive is at dusk, when crowds of locals and tourists turn out to watch the sunset over the palace grounds, before adjourning to the restaurants and teashops of nearby Elvira Street.More
#7

Royal Chapel of Granada (Capilla Real)

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Situated side by side, the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) together make an impressive monument to the power of Christian monarchs. The cathedral was begun in the early 16th century, and even though it didn’t achieve its full intended glory (it lacks, for instance, two immense planned towers), it’s still an impressive feat of Gothic-Renaissance magnificence. There are paintings by Ribera and El Greco and, in the main chapel, carvings of Ferdinand and Isabel kneeling in prayer. The Royal Chapel is built in the Isabelline style, a flamboyant version of Gothic, and was finished in 1517. Ferdinand and Isabel, who commissioned the chapel as their mausoleum, died before its completion, so their remains had to be housed elsewhere for a time before moving to the chapel. They rest there today beneath their marble monuments, along with several of their relatives.More
#8

Plaza Nueva

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As Granada’s oldest city square, Plaza Nueva has long been at the center of local life and its strategic location at the foot of the Alhambra palace means many tourists will pass through on their way to the city’s top attraction. Laid out in the early Christian era, the square was built over the Darro River and once served as an arena for sporting tournaments and bullfights, as well as public executions. Today, the bustling plaza is best known for its abundance of stylish bars and tapas restaurants, coming alive in the evening hours when both locals and tourists congregate on the lamp-lit terraces. There’s more to Plaza Nueva than its nightlife though and the elegant square is also home to a number of striking landmarks, including the 16th-century Royal Chancellery and Mudejar-style Church of Santa Ana, both the work of Renaissance architect Diego de Siloé, and the House of Pisa, which now houses the Juan de Dios Museum.More
#9

Paseo de los Tristes

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A walk down Granada’s Paseo de los Tristes is an essential, if not quite unmissable, part of your Granada experience. This riverside stretch of narrow road cuts between the canyon that separates the Alhambra fortress from the Albaicín neighborhood, and it also leads you to the famous cave-laced, flamenco-filled hillside area called the Sacromonte. At one time, it also served as the route for funeral processions as they made their way to the cemetery – hence the route’s name, which means “Promenade of the Sad.” But it’s not just an area for simply passing through; it’s also the perfect spot to stop and take in close-up exterior views of the Alhambra, even better enjoyed by grabbing a drink or bite to eat at one of the many outdoor restaurant terraces. Once you’ve had your fill of the wide, plaza-like walkway and its views, you can easily move on to the aforementioned destinations, including the Sacromonte and Albaicín neighborhoods.More
#10

Hammam Al Andalus Granada

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Located at the foot of the Alhambra, and just past Santa Ana Church, sits the tranquil Hammam Al Andalus Granada. This is where after a long day of padding through the Alhambra’s gardens, palace and fortress, you’ll want to rest your tired feet and relax your muscles – just as Granada’s Moors did so long ago. The Moors didn’t do so precisely in this building, though, which only dates back to the 13th or 14th century. It is believed, however, that this is in fact the site of previous Muslim baths, given its location near the former mosque (now the Santa Ana Church), as well as the water cisterns discovered below the land. What happened to those ancient baths? At the time of the Reconquista, when Granada became occupied by the Christians, it is likely that—along with many other Muslim traditions and sites—these original baths ceased to continue.More

Trip ideas

How to Choose an Alhambra Tour

How to Choose an Alhambra Tour

How to Spend 2 Days in Granada

How to Spend 2 Days in Granada

Food Lover's Guide to Granada

Food Lover's Guide to Granada

Top activities in Granada

Alpujarrras Day Trip from Granada

Alpujarrras Day Trip from Granada

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