There is an old Spanish phrase that says,
“history never says ‘farewell’.” There are few places where this is truer than Granada, where history has been saying hello since 5500 BC. Located in the south of Spain, nestled among the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, where ancient Islamic history meets the Spanish Renaissance, Granada is waiting for you, as it has been for millennia.
The city of Granada sits at the confluence of four rivers and countless cultures. Nurtured by the icy waters that flow down from the mountains, the city pops with vibrant shades of green, as lush vegetation contrasts against the stone backdrop of ancient buildings. Moorish architecture gives way to Renaissance plazas while local restaurants seamlessly blend ancient cultures into mouthwatering tapas and pintxos. If going on one of our tours of Granada sounds like a delight for all your senses, you are starting to pick up what we are putting down.
Are you ready to explore all the city has to offer during one of our tours of Spain? Here are the top things to do in Granada:
1. Marvel at the Alhambra, a jewel of Islamic architecture
Perched atop the Sabika hillside, overlooking the city of Granada, stands the indomitable fortress known as the Alhambra. Construction began in 1238, and today, the Alhambra is one of the best preserved and most recognizable examples of Islamic architecture on the planet. Imposing red stone walls, marked by four large defensive gates, enclose the royal city and hide the treasures inside. Opulent, flower dotted courtyards surround central fountains that adorn the lush landscapes. Reflecting pools lead you to elaborate palaces that once housed the emirs of the ruling Muslim dynasty. You’ll explore the Alhambra during your time in Granada on our Journey through Andalusia: Seville, Granada & Málaga tour.
Your guided tour of Alhambra includes several not-to-be-missed locations, including:
- Comares Palace: The only thing more impressive than the 111-foot-long reflecting pool might be the large domed wood ceiling that represents the seven heavens.
- Palace of the Lions: This central courtyard is home to the famous Fountain of the Lions. The surrounding portico is adorned with unique architectural columns only found at the Alhambra.
Bonus travel tip: While the number of visitors is restricted each day in order to preserve the site, when you visit the Alhambra on our Granada tours, we purchase your ticket as part of your trip. You’ll be able to skip the line, meet your guide, and head into the Alhambra when you arrive.
2. Bask in Renaissance art and Baroque architecture
In the same way Granada is a beautiful mix of cultures from around the world, Granada Cathedral is an assemblage of architectural styles. Constructed in 1518 with a Gothic design, the cathedral was finished 181 years later with a mix of Spanish Renaissance, Roman Vitruvian, and Baroque styling. Entering through the imposing stone façade, you’ll marvel at the stunning interior highlighted by ornate stained-glass windows. As you stroll around the grounds, be sure to visit the Royal Chapel, the burial place of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
Bonus travel tip: You’ll have free time to explore the cathedral on your Grand Tour of Portugal & Spain: Porto to Barcelona tour. After visiting Granada Cathedral, pop around the corner to La Finca Coffee. “Hidden on a street right next to the cathedral, you could almost miss this gem of a coffee shop,” said staffer Libby. “It has some of the best lattes to be found in the city!”
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3. Traverse cobbled walkways as you discover Mirador San Nicolas
Between Sabika hill and the Sacromonte neighborhood lies the oldest part of Granada. The Albaicín is the original Arab quarter of Granada. Winding streets and narrow corridors with unique architecture separate the Albaicín from the rest of the city. It’s the kind of neighborhood you could get lost exploring, diving into local tea houses and courtyards as you traverse the switchbacks of ancient stone walkways. Traverse the neighborhood as you traverse the country on our Grand Tour of Spain.
An afternoon in the Albaicín will undoubtedly lead you to Mirador San Nicolas, a small plaza at the apex of the neighborhood, where an unmatched view of the Alhambra awaits. The hilltop fortress stands guard over the city below while the mountains seem to wrap around the landscape in a protective embrace as far as the eyes can see. As the afternoon sun begins to sink over the horizon, it’s time to settle in for the real show, and we know just the place...
Bonus travel tip: Three minutes down the street from Mirador San Nicolas is Restaurante Las Tomasas, a local restaurant that has been serving up local cuisine and sunset splendor since 1989. “You must get a table on the terrace so you can enjoy unobstructed views of the breathtaking Alhambra,” said staffer Claudia. “My tip is to go during sunset so you can see it during the day and then lit up at night. It was such an unforgettable experience with my family.”
4. Revive yourself with the ancient ritual of an Arab bath
The Arab inhabitants of Granada, the Moors, used the baths to cleanse their physical and spiritual self. Hammam Al Ándalus is a traditional Arab bath complex inspired by the tempo of nature and is one of the best things to do in Granada. The hammam is influenced by the changing seasons and tailors their services to the time of year by using different oils and scents during your experience. After a day exploring the city on our Grand Tour of Portugal & Spain: Porto to Barcelona, disconnect from the outside world during your free time and allow yourself to become immersed in the history of your surroundings with a rejuvenating dip in the baths.
Bonus travel tip: The relaxation of the bath experience is sure to spark your appetite. A short trip down the road will take you to La Sitarilla, where delicious food and fresh cocktails are always in season. “La Sitarilla is a huge local spot that will have you coming for the wine served in handmade, pig-shaped clay pots and staying for the generous fresh tapas,” said staffer Libby.
5. Celebrate local culture formed in the caves of Sacromonte
On the Eastern side of the Alhambra, outside the walls of the city, the expressive artform of flamenco has flourished for generations. Sacromonte is the traditional home of the Granadan Romani people. Here, neighborhood residents built homes in whitewashed caves dug into the hillside on the banks of the Darro river.
After touring the Alhambra, head to the caves for the evening, where you will enjoy this uniquely Andalusian experience. The energetic mix of guitar playing, singing, dancing, and clapping will make it hard to stay in your seat. Allow the passion to surround you as you witness what UNESCO has declared one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on our Journey through Andalusia: Seville, Granada & Málaga tour.
Let us handle the arrangements and book a flamenco excursion on your getaway to Granada.
6. Stimulate your senses as you taste your way down Calle Caldería Nueva
A short walk will transport you to a traditional African souk without leaving Granada. Enjoy the explosion of colorful fabrics, enchanting spices, and delightful smells that emanate from every shop. You can indulge in Arab, Indian, North African, and Middle Eastern dishes as you peruse the multicultural marketplace. Continue along the cobbled streets as you treat yourself to a wide selection of Andalusian pastries. Taste it all during your free time in Granada on our Grand Tour of Spain.
“Just a few minutes away from the downtown you can stumble upon a street that feels like you have stepped into a little Morocco, full of tea shops with cozy interiors, vendors of spices, teas, rugs, tapestries, and more hidden treasures,” said staffer Libby. “This is a winding staircase of shops that makes you feel like you traveled farther than Southern Spain.”
Ready to say ‘bienvenido’ to Granada? Book one of our Spain tours today!