This is a guest post from Lucia Pöllä.
Granada is one of the most beautiful places in Southern Spain. It sits on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, in the heart of Andalucía, and it offers a diverse range of experiences and historic sights. Whether you visit for a day, a weekend or a little longer, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding what to do in Granada.
Not Just The Alhambra!
It is likely that you have previously heard of Granada in connection with the Alhambra, the Moorish palace complex that attracts millions of visitors each year and which has a top spot among the most popular attractions in the whole of Spain. It gets predictably crowded in the summer months, when tickets sell out weeks in advance, but also in the winter months when locals come to see this wonder of the old world.
The Alhambra often overshadows the many other beautiful places in Granada that are worth discovering. I have visited the palace many times over the last few years, but in this article I will share some of my other favourite places with you.
How To Get To Granada
I live on the coast near Malaga, but getting to Granada is super easy once you fly in to Malaga international airport. From Malaga, you can take a direct train to Granada, or a local bus: either option is very convenient. The bus takes only an hour, and the train a little longer. If you’re hiring a car, it’s easy to get to Granada via the main highway from Malaga.
You can explore on your own, or take a day trip if you just want to see the highlights.
Staying In Granada
Each time I stay in Granada, I try to stay close to the Albaicin district (old town), the best location for visiting most of the places I mention below. While it doesn’t have a lot of flashy hotel options, you can book an apartment with a view of the Alhambra, offering much better value than a traditional hotel. Staying in this area also means that you don’t have to drive anywhere, or take taxis – most places are just walking distance.
If you’re staying in Albaicin and arriving by car, you will have to inquire about the parking options. Most of the streets are too narrow for cars to pass and many of the apartments do not have parking places allocated.
What To Do In Granada: 7 Authentic Places To See
Once you’ve seen all the highlights of the city, you may find yourself asking: what else is there to do in Granada? What should I visit or experience before leaving? Below are my favourite picks, in no particular order.
1. The Arab Baths
If you’re staying in Granada, it would be a shame to miss out on one of the coolest experiences in the city. Real Andalusian Hamman baths, like the Al Andalus Hamman, are an authentic way to experience the city and to take a well deserved break from the tourist activities.
Most of the baths offer a variety of treatments and menus you can choose from, or you can just pay an entry fee to use the premises for a few hours and soak in the plunge pool. The Al Andalus Hamman bath is located in Albaicin, right next to Plaza St Ana.
2. Carmen De Los Martires
Carmen de los Martires is one of the prettiest gardens in Granada and it’s conveniently located within the Alhambra forest. So if you’re visiting the Alhambra Palace, you can just walk down the hill to find this garden, which is at the end of a long road with parking on either side.
The garden opens up with a pond and a small fountain; turn to the right and you can walk up to an old manor house with an attractive courtyard and stunning views. If you get lucky, the local resident peacocks will show you their feathers in all their glory. From here you can continue exploring the garden in its full beauty, or stroll down one of the forest roads to take a more scenic descent back to the town.
3. Basilica De San Juan De Dios
This was one of my recent discoveries on a trip to Granada. The Basilica de San Juan de Dios was under construction, so the beautiful facade was hiding behind ugly scaffolding. However the true beauty lies inside: this baroque masterpiece is a true work of art, covered from head to toe in gold.
You enter the Basilica through the Sacristy which has some stunning art pieces and religious artefacts, then walk into the main building through a side door. Here you will see the stunning golden masterpiece of an altar, which holds a chamber said to be home to the remains of St Juan de Dios. Then there is the artwork on the vaulted ceiling, another example of the Basilica’s magnificence. Not to be missed!
4. Sacromonte Abbey
Sacromonte Abbey sits on top of the Sacromonte district right next to Albaicin. You can get there using one of the tiny local buses, or take a taxi. It is also a pleasant walk from Albaicin.
The Abbey itself is a pretty simple building with religious artefacts displayed in rooms centred around a courtyard. But the real treasure hides in an underground cave, where you will find cave chapels and a secret passage out of the Abbey. It’s truly a one of a kind experience, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back there.
By the entrance to the abbey is a large courtyard. If you walk to the edge, you will be treated to a spectacular view of the valley with the Alhambra stretching across the left hand side.
5. Visit A Teteria In Albaicin
I can’t count how many times I’ve found myself sitting in one of the lovely small teterias in Albaicin. Some of them look quite touristy, but you can find a few nice gems where you feel as if you’ve been transported to a fairy tale.
The traditional teterias offer a wide range of tea options, but they don’t shy away from alcoholic drinks like wine. To complement your tea experience, you will also find a lot of cake and traditional Moroccan or Lebanese inspired meals.
6. Try A Restaurant With A View In Albaicin
While exploring Albaicin, one of the best ways to enjoy the stunning views of the Alhambra is to book lunch or dinner in one of the best restaurants.
One of my top choices is the very popular El Huerto de Juan Ranas, right next to the Mirador de St Nicolas. The prices are a bit on a steeper side, but you can also go there just for a drink instead of a meal. The views are well worth it (see photo below).
Another good option is the Restaurante Mirador de Moryama, a family run restaurant in the heart of Albaicin. This one is more suitable for lunch, and offers lush surroundings to enjoy delicious food with a view.
7. The Science Museum
You might think of museums as being a less exciting activity, but the Science Museum (Parque de las Ciencias) in Granada is certainly not boring. It features a wide range of amazing exhibits, including a section with space suits, meteorites and a giant floating moon – something any space geek will appreciate.
Other dedicated exhibits include an educational exploration of the human body; animals and wildlife; and my favourite part – a Biodome with monkeys running freely among the visitors. In the grounds of the museum you will also find an observation tower and a planetarium.
So there you have it, some pretty cool things to do in the beautiful city of Granada. Which one caught your attention the most? Let me know in the comments below.
Author bio: Lucia is a Slovak expat living in Southern Spain. On her blog Viva la Vita she shares her discoveries about beautiful locations, hidden gems, and authentic experiences from the Costa del Sol and beyond.