Even if you’re pinned to just 10 days in Spain, no trip is complete without checking out the best things to do in Granada. Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the charming Andalusian city of Granada is one of the best places to visit in Spain.
Many of the top tourist attractions in Granada nestle in the historic city centre. Walk along its cobblestone streets to discover marvellous churches, age-old taverns, and blissful fountains. And, of course, no visit to Granada is complete without exploring the incomparable Alhambra, an ancient fortress that’s among the world’s most iconic sightseeing experiences.
Not sure what to see in Granada? Start planning your trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Granada, Spain.
What to do in Granada
Explore the historic Alhambra
Don’t know what to do in Granada? The first place you should visit, whether you have one day in Granada or a week, is the Alhambra. It’s the most famous spot in Granada and a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site.
The Alhambra was originally a fortress and then converted into a royal palace by the Sultan of Granada. It was later the royal court of the Spanish king and queen. In fact, it’s the site where Christopher Columbus received his royal endorsement to begin his expedition.
While it’s no longer used as a royal palace, while visiting The Alhambra you can tour the halls, view the towers, and check out the gorgeous courtyards.
Be patient: you may need to wait in line for a few hours before getting inside.
Smell the flowers at Generalife
The Alhambra is a famous palace but it’s not the only palace in Granada. If you need more ideas for things to see in Granada, you should visit Generalife.
Generalife is called the summer palace and was once connected to the Alhambra via a covered walkway. The walkway is gone; a small ravine now separates the two.
Luckily, you don’t need to wait as long to visit Generalife compared to a trip to the Alhambra. The summer palace rarely attracts as big of a crowd.
The gardens are carefully maintained while the buildings have recently undergone renovations.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell how much of what you see is part of history or recent additions.
Travel back in history with a trip through Albaicin
The old Arab quarter is one of the best places to visit in Granada. Albaicin (Albayzin) still showcases the rich Moorish history of Granada.
This Albaicin district used to be surrounded by defensive walls. While most of the walls are gone, some of them remain, as do many of the buildings.
The entire neighbourhood is situated on a hilly stretch of land, resulting in narrow, winding streets and expansive views of Granada. When you get to one end of the area, you can look down towards the other side.
While wandering around Albaicin, you’ll get to go shopping at small markets, enjoy local cuisine at quaint restaurants, and visit historic churches.
Visit the royal tombs and view historic artwork at Capilla Real
The Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) is a necessary stop for your Granada sightseeing tour. This historic cathedral was built in the early 1500s and features the late Gothic style architecture that was popular at the time.
The exterior of the chapel is covered in intricate carvings, especially along the upper floors. After you step inside the chapel, you can get a better view of the large stained-glass windows painted in the 16th century.
The chapel also houses the tomb of Ferdinand and Isabella along with sarcophagi of other Spanish nobles.
Visiting the chapel is almost like visiting a museum. After touring the tombs, you can view the impressive art collection. Famous paintings from Botticelli are among the top treasures.
Catch authentic flamenco dances in the Gypsy Quarter (Sacromonte)
The Gypsies are an important part of the history of Granada. They came to the region in 1532 and eventually settled in the caves near the present-day neighbourhood of Sacromonte.
This Sacromonte area is still home to a large gypsy community and their neighbourhood is one of the top Granada points of interest.
In some of the caves, you can find traditional flamenco dances. One cave has even been converted into a museum but the homes are the main attraction.
The gypsy homes are often uniquely decorated and stand in sharp contrast compared to the rest of Granada.
You can also enjoy great views of Granada from this district as it sits along the rising hill on the eastern part of Granada.
When you get to the top of the hill, you can look out past the colourful gypsy homes toward the Alhambra Palace and nearby Albaicin.
Study science with the family at the Parque de las Ciencias
If you want to know where to go in Granada with the kids, everyone will tell you to visit Parque de las Ciencias (Science Park).
The park is about a 15-minute walk from the centre of Granada. It’s also one of the top family-friendly destinations in Granada.
When your kids get bored of looking at historic sites, they can see their reflection multiplied infinite times at the Tunnel of Infinity. The park also has many other exhibits, including the Techno-Forum Pavilion where you can check out the latest technologies.
Toward the end of your trip to the park, visit the planetarium to view 7000 stars projected on the ceiling. The park even has a butterfly garden. It’s a great time for everyone.
Hike the Sierra Nevada
Granada is at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. If you’re in the area and enjoy hiking, one of the best things to do in Granada is to hike this mountain range. You can fill your lungs with cool air and work your leg muscles during a day-long trek.
If you don’t feel tempted to exercise, there are also off-road tours of the mountains in four-wheel-drive vehicles. While you get to rest your feet, be prepared to bounce around as you ride over the rugged terrain.
Make sure that you set aside enough time for your trip to the mountains. These trips vary between short excursions in 4WD vehicles to full-day hikes through the mountainous terrain.
End your trip with a tapas-hopping tour of Granada
Spain is known for tapas, which are small appetizers that are typically served with beer at bars.
Depending on the region that you’re focusing on during your Spain travel itinerary, you’ll find a wide variety of fried foods, cold treats, and spicy snacks.
In Granada, many of the taverns and bars serve free tapas when you order a drink.
Toward the end of your stay, spend an afternoon touring the city, hopping from tavern after tavern while tasting tapas.
You can start in Albaicin and work your way through the rest of Granada. You can also find some interesting appetizers in the Gypsy Quarter at the top of the hill.
Where to stay in Granada: The best hotels for sightseeing
Unlike other larger Spanish cities, choosing where to stay in Granada doesn’t need to be a massive chore. For travellers intent on checking out the city’s top destinations, the best areas to stay include Centro and the old Arab quarter in the Albayzin.
Here are a few of the best hotels in Granada to start your search…
- Catalonia Granada: A value-laden choice sitting in a prime location in the Granada city centre. Rooms are spotless and modern with select rooms offering a relaxing private terrace for guests.
- Hotel Santa Isabel La Real: A charming hotel situated in a historical building within Granada Old Town. Rooms offer a glimpse into typical Andalusian home design with their rich wooden finishes and tiled floors.
- Eurostars Catedral: This fantastic mid-range hotel ups the style game in Granada with its ultra-modern furnishings and wealth of guest amenities including a gym, spa & Turkish bath. Granada Cathedral is just minutes away by foot.
- Hospes Palacio de los Patos: Occupying a former 19th-century palace, this luxury hotel is among the top picks in Granada for anyone looking to add a dash of sophistication to their stay in the city. Luxurious extras here include a sauna, Turkish bath, indoor pool, and massage service.