Wondering what to do in Granada, Spain? This post will take you through the 10 BEST things to do in Granada from ancient palaces, quaint neighborhoods, and picturesque viewpoints!
Southern Spain is one of my favorite areas of Europe. The warm and sunny weather, incredible tapas, lush gardens, and busy squares make this a must visit on any Spain trip. A few things that really draw me to Granada again and again are not only the sights, food, and culture, but that this city feels very safe, is walkable, incredibly clean and well preserved, and the perfect place to stay busy or just sit back and relax.
The mix or Moorish and Spanish culture and the long history of this city brings a long list of potential things to do in Granada, Spain. One of the most overwhelming parts of planning a trip is what to see and what to make a priority. If you need help deciding what to do in Granada, Spain I’ve got you covered. I’ve researched and visited the top sights so you can take the guess work out of how to prioritize your Granada sightseeing.You could easily fit these top 10 things to do in Granada Spain on a quick 2 day trip or a more leisurely 3 day itinerary. I personally recommend spending a minimum of 3 days in Granada so you can really take in the culture and visit as many tapas spots as possible.
WHAT TO DO IN GRANADA, SPAIN | TOP 10 SIGHTS & ATTRACTIONS
1. Walking Tour
I often book a walking tour my first day in a new city to not only learn the history but also get comfortable with the lay of the land and get my bearings. If there is a city where a walking tour is an absolute must, I would say Granada is one. There is just so much history that goes into this city and a good walking tour can really help you appreciate that in a fun setting. I also love asking for recommendations from the tour guides since they are typically locals and have great suggestions on where to eat, see flamenco, shop, etc.
The walkability of Granada makes this a perfect city for a walking tour. You’ll get to see the majority of Granada sights during a 2-3 hour tour. I did a 2 hour walking tour with Cicerone. It was bit on the expensive end at 25 euros per person. We thought it was worth it as this particular tour only allows a maximum of 12 people and it really hit all the important sights.
Note: most walking tours will take you through the Alcaicería market. If yours does not, be sure to stop by. It’s right by the Cathedral and was originally a Moorish silk market. It now feels like a touristy souk but is still worth a quick stop.
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2. Visit Alhambra and Generalife Gardens
The infamous Alhambra, the last and most beautiful Moorish palace, should be at the top of your list when planning what to do in Granada, Spain. If you have an interest in palaces, Spain, or history in general, I’m sure you've heard of this sight. It’s one of my favorite palaces and is one I will visit multiple times. The grounds are vast and the gardens are lush. The palace has been well preserved and offers a glimpse into the magnificence of Moorish architecture and design. Seeing entire walls and ceilings covered in the intricate Moorish carvings and tilework is worth a visit alone!
Purchase your tickets as far in advance as possible to visit Alhambra as they do sell out. Currently you are able to buy tickets up to three months in advance. When you purchase your Alhambra tickets you will have to pick an entrance time. Be aware that they are very strict on the entrance time as only a certain number of people are allowed in the Nasrid Palaces and main palaces, at a time. Whatever you do, make sure you are in line for the Nasrid Palaces by the time marked on your ticket. The palace employees have no sympathy for late arrivals and will not hesitate to deny you entrance.
If this does happen, you will still be able to access the rest of the palace grounds and the Generalife. It’s just the Nasrid Palaces that have the strict entry time rule.
My advice is to pick the first time slot at 8:30am and arrive by 8:15am. Tour groups will start to crowd the palace around 10:00am. Last time I toured the palace I bought an 8:30am ticket and arrived at 8:00am. I was one of the first people to arrive and the third person in line. It was quiet, I didn’t feel rushed, and often found myself completely alone while wondering the palace grounds. When I left at 11:00am it was absolutely packed and filled with busloads of tour groups...a completely different vibe than when I arrived.
There are several different types of tickets to purchase. Make sure to buy the Alhambra General ticket. This includes all the main sights of the Alhambra including the Nasrid Palaces, grounds, and Generalife for 14 euros. Guided tours and audio guides are also available if you really want to dive into the history. I followed Rick Steve’s self-guided tour and enjoyed going at my own pace.
Plan to spend at least 3 to 4 hours if this is your first time to visit Alhambra.
3. Churros con Chocolate
We all know how popular churros con chocolate are in Spain. No matter which city I’m in while visiting España, I seek out the best spots to enjoy this regional treat. Make sure to go in the morning or early afternoon as locals typically enjoy churros con chocolate for breakfast.
The best churros in Granada, and I’m talking the traditional thick ones, not the thin sugar coated sticks we know in the US, are Café Futbol, Churreria Alhambra, and Gran Café at Bib Rambla. Churreria Alhambra and Gran Café at Bib Rambla are both located at Plaza Bib Rambla. This pretty square is a nice spot to explore and walk around but can also get a bit touristy.
Café Futbol, known for its authentic churros con chocolate since 1903, is located off a pretty square called Plaza de Mariana Pineda, just 6 minutes walking distance from Plaza Bib Rambla. Try one or all three and let me know which you think has the best churros in Granada!
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4. Albaicin – the Moorish Quarter
The Albaicin, or Albayzín, area is located to the Northeast of the city center and one of the things that makes Granada unique. This medieval Moorish quarter is known by its narrow winding lanes and white stucco buildings with ceramic tile rooftops. Getting lost and wandering this picturesque neighborhood should be on everyone’s list when planning what to do in Granada, Spain.
5. Tapas and Flamenco at the Caves of Sacramonte
The Sacromonte district is compact and steep with most houses built right into the walls of a cliff. This is where Granada’s gypsy community resides. The main street, Camino del Sacromonte, is where you will find many cave restaurants that have unfortunately become quite touristy with high prices. Explore the streets above and below for a more authentic feel.
Visit the Sacromonte neighborhood in the evening if you are looking for a night of Flamenco dancing and tapas. Some of the best flamenco Granada has to offer will be found in the caves, even if it does feel a bit touristy. The most popular flamenco Sacromonte shows are at Cueva de la Rocio, Maria la Canastera, and Venta El Gallo.
Cueva de la Rocio specializes in Zambra. A specific form of Flamenco created by the Sacromonte gypsies. It’s easy to book online and choose what you want included: Flamenco, drinks, dinner, and/or transportation.
Maria la Canastera also showcases the Zambra form of Flamenco. You can choose to include dinner and/or transportation with your ticket. Use the online booking request for a reservation or have your hotel book a spot.
6. MIRADOR DE SAN NICOLAS - View Point
In all the things to do in Granada, Spain, taking in the views at Mirador de San Nicolas, aka Plaza de San Nicolas, is one of my most unforgettable moments. It’s the best view point in Granada to stare in awe at the Alhambra. Located in the picturesque Albaicin neighborhood, the walk to this view point is as charming as the view is spectacular.
Most sites will recommend visiting Mirador de San Nicolas at night. I have found the late afternoon, sunset, and evening to be incredibly crowded. I prefer to go at sunrise or first thing in the morning. Seeing the Alhambra lit in the morning sun and enjoying the view in a peaceful calm is a memory to last a lifetime.
If you have time, I do recommend visiting at night too as the atmosphere is completely different. There is a spirited and busy feel in the square as locals play guitar and sing, tourists capture the moment on camera, while others take in the views with a drink in hand.
It is a climb to get to Mirador de San Nicolas viewpoint as it’s filled with many steps and uneven pebbled streets. If you don’t feel up to the exercise, grab a cab. Otherwise, wear comfortable shoes and enjoy the walk.
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7. Tapas Crawl
You can't plan what to do in Granada, Spain without researching the best bares de tapas en granada, or tapas bars in Granada. Do as the locals do and start late, around 9:00pm. Pick a lively square or street that peeked your interest while exploring earlier and hop from bar to bar enjoying a sangria and tapas or two at each spot. Some of my favorite places to do a tapas crawl are the Realejo neighborhood, Carrera del Darro, Paseo de los Tristes, Plaza Nueva, and Elvira and Navas streets.
Some of the best tapas restaurants in Granada that are casual and well-priced are La Botilleria, Bodegas Castaneda, Bodegas Espadafor, and Los Diamantes.
* Make a point to walk down Carrera del Darro during the day too. This street winds alongside the river and offers great views of the Alhambra from below.
Here are some Granada Tapas tour options if you want to save yourself time researching options:
8. Cathedral and Capilla Real
The Granada Cathedral is considered a Renaissance church but has elements of Gothic and Baroque styles as well. The church was built over a destroyed mosque and is located right in the city center. It almost comes as a dramatic surprise as you round the corner and see the entrance as it’s almost hidden by all the surrounding buildings. The beauty and history of the Cathedral make this a must on list of what to do in Granada, Spain.
Tickets are 5 euros and include a free audio guide. If you’re here on Sunday, visit between 3:00-5:45pm for free entry.
The Royal Chapel, Capilla Real, holds the remains of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. The treasury holds historic items like Isabella’s prayer book and crown, a box that is rumored to have been given to Columbus filled with jewels to fund his journey, among other items. The grand hall houses a collection of Queen Isabella’s paintings.
9. Monasterio de la Cartuja - Granada Carthusian monastery
Visit Monasterio de la Cartuja if you're looking for a sight that isn't on every other tourist's list of things to do in Granada Spain. Because Monasterio de la Cartuja is just outside city center, many tourists miss this monastery. It's actually very quick and easy to get to. Take a nice 30 minute walk to get there or hop on a public bus or taxi.
This monastery not only offers stunning views of Granada from its hilltop location, but is famous for the dazzling Baroque interiors. Entrance is 5 euros and includes a free audioguide. The history of the Monasterio de la Cartuja gives an interesting look into the lifestyle of the Carthusian Monks.
When researching what to do in Granada, Spain I bet visiting an Arab bath house was not on your list. Hammams played a large part in the Moorish lifestyle. What better way to get a feel for this ancient culture than to take part in one of their rituals? Hamman Al Andalus is the most luxury and well known hamman in Granada. Go on a water journey through the different temperate water rooms, take a leisurely steam, and end with a blissful massage. This would be the perfect way to end your time in Granada.
Here are some additional Hammam options with tours: