Granada’s biggest attraction, and one of Andalusia’s most iconic sites, is the Alhambra Fortress. The most important surviving relic of southern Spain from the Moorish period, the Alhambra was built 800 years ago between the 8th and 15th centuries. This huge complex is perched atop the Darro Valley, with the peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the background. The original 9th century fort and walls were extensively rebuilt in the 1200s by the new ruler, Mohammed bin Al-Ahmar. Also impressive are the Nazari palaces built by the last Moorish rulers of Granada in the 13th and 14th centuries. It is here that you will find some of the most intricate interiors of the Alhambra.
Generalife was the Summer Palace of the Alhambra. Its manicured gardens provided a cool retreat for the sultans during the hot Andalusian summers. Narrow paths meander along graceful flower beds and ponds, while exquisite arches and whitewashed walls separate the palace complex, reflected in the water. The outer passage united the northern and southern parts of Generalife, offering a beautiful view of the old district of Albaicin. Albaicín itself is one of the most majestic sights of Granada, the view of which opens from the turrets and windows of the Alhambra.
Carmen de los Martires
If you find yourself at the top of the Alhambra hill, don’t go down until you admire the gardens of the Carmen de los Martires estate, as this is one of the city’s most attractive green areas. Since most tourists go straight to the Alhambra, this beautiful concentration of flower beds, small ponds and paths is not much spoiled by the attention of tourists. In spring and summer, its shaded paths provide a great escape from the scorching sun, and views of the landscape beyond Granada will delight the eye at any time of the year. The fairy-tale tower lies in the middle of this green oasis, where you can climb up a small spiral staircase and look out over the gardens and Granada from the city’s most romantic viewing platform.
No trip to Granada would be complete without a stroll through its oldest quarter, the historic Arab district of Albaicín. Here you will find a web of winding cobbled streets, perfectly whitewashed houses and jasmine-scented squares, located on the other side of the Darro River, directly opposite the Alhambra. It will take some effort to get to the top of Albaicina, especially if you climb during the hot season. But you won’t regret the energy expended: the views of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains from the most famous Mirador San Nicolas Square are considered among the best in the city. On Saturday mornings, a colorful flea market opens on Larga Square.
Bar La Fragua
Climbing Albazin, be sure to visit one of the best tapas bars. The owner treats everyone to Alhambra beer and exudes friendliness. He always personally chooses an amazing musical accompaniment, where Edith Piaf can immediately be followed by a Nirvana song. You will also be treated to the cheapest glass of wine in Granada, worth 1.60 euros, after which you can endlessly watch how the life of Albaicin seethes with its originality.
Dar al-Orra Palace
One of the main historical sights of Granada is this exquisite Moorish palace. Its name translates as “House of Honor”. It was the residence of Sultan Aisha, the last Moorish ruler of Granada in the traditional Moorish style. Its halls and rooms spread over three floors around a central courtyard and pool, which provided shade and coolness in summer. There are also ruins of what was once an extensive garden. It is known that Aisha strongly blamed her son for the loss of Granada when they had to leave the conquered city in 1492. Granada is also famous for some of the most beautiful castles in Spain, which have a separate selection on LifeGlobe.
Cathedral of Granada
In the center of the old city of Granada is a large cathedral. Work on this gothic, renaissance and baroque masterpiece began in 1518 and although it took more than 180 years of labor of several architects to complete, it is still not completely completed: two 80-meter towers were originally planned, but only the work was completed. The high façade of the cathedral is the work of the architect Granadino and the painter Alonso Cano, who designed everything in the Baroque style, designing the 1652 design. Cano’s contribution also contributed to the intricate mixture of styles for which the Granada Cathedral is so famous.
Palace of Charles V
Construction of the palace began in 1527 and stopped unfinished in 1637. This colossal building was significant for Charles V, whose grandparents Ferdinand and Isabella wrested Granada from Moorish possession in 1492. It was a kind of tribute, as well as an attempt to create a royal residence in Granada. Charles gave the order to build this palace in the Roman style, a reminder of the Catholic superiority over the remains of the once great Moorish dynasty. The most important colonnade of its beautiful circular courtyard was completed in 1619, but the roof was never added. Sitting in the center of the courtyard, you will plunge right into the deep blue of the Andalusian sky. Today, the Palace of Charles V is home to another important attraction of Granada, the Fine Arts Museum of Granada, which can be visited absolutely free of charge.
Museum of Fine Arts
The main art museum in Granada has over 2,000 classical pieces, including a series of significant religious paintings and sculptures dating back to the 16th century. Like the palace itself, this art collection serves as a reminder of the Catholic conquest of Granada and the subsequent attempts by Catholic rulers to make their mark on what was Moorish territory for hundreds of years. The museum displays the work of local artist Alonzo Cano, who designed the façade of the Granada Cathedral.
Time seems to stand still in the rustic gypsy quarter of Sacromonte, one of Granada’s most recognizable landmarks. Many locals still live in colorful white caves carved out of the rock. There are also dwellings made entirely from scrap metal, wood and fabric, in which an old bucket often acts as a shower. Sacromonte is also the birthplace of the flamenco barrio in Granada, where you will always be surrounded by this amazing art. If you feel like attending the official show, head to Venta El Gallo and sit on the fabulous rooftop terrace. Sacromonte is called one of the most beautiful places in Granada for a reason.
If you happen to be in the Sacromonte, take the time to visit the Pibe bar, whose terrace offers some of the best views of the Alhambra. Here you can spend the whole day on the charming terrace, admiring the Alhambra and listening to the crickets and birds singing in the valley. The bar is located on the main tourist street of Sacromonte, but according to the owner, it does not look like a tourist attraction in Granada. Despite the great views, drinks here are not expensive compared to other places in the city.
In the middle of authentic countryside, high above the gypsy quarter, is Sacromonte Abbey, a key historical landmark in Granada. This now forgotten 17th century monument was built by Archbishop Pedro de Castro i Quignon on the burial site of Saint Cecilius, martyr and first bishop of Granada in the 1st century AD. The abbey is located so far from the city that silence and solitude prevail here at any time of the day. For €4 you can visit some of the interior rooms, including the spooky Sacred Caves adjoining the abbey.
Realejo is the old Jewish quarter of Granada and one of Granada’s most charming sights. Of particular interest is Iglesia Santo Domingo, one of the most beautiful churches in the city. The dilapidated walls and facades of Realejo’s buildings are an open-air art gallery showcasing the work of local graffiti artist Raúl Ruiz, also known as “Elninho”. The incredible works of El Nino give Realejo a special creative atmosphere.
Restaurant Bodegas Castaneda
After exploring Realejo, head to the central Plaza Nueva for some of the best tapas bars in central Granada. The Bodega Castaneda is the oldest and most beloved among the city’s residents of all generations. Treat yourself at the bar, order some fragrant vermouth and enjoy the indescribable atmosphere of this place, which is always filled with Spaniards.
Tapas bar Casa Julio
Not far from Castaneda, in an alley from Plaza Nueva, is another tapas bar, Casa Julio, specializing in seafood dishes. Opening hours are not regulated, but if you see it open, do not miss the opportunity to visit here and enjoy a delicious fresh squid dish with a glass of cold Alhambra beer. The inside is more like a kiosk than a bar, so most patrons stand around a few tall round tables in the alleyway outside.
Bar Los Diamantes
Another of Granada’s most popular attractions is the Los Diamantes tapas bar, which is equally popular with locals and tourists alike. Unlike Granada’s more traditional establishments, the décor is modern. Bar Los Diamantes is so small that you have to shout your order from the doorway — such is the price to pay for visiting one of the most beloved local bars in Granada.
House Museum of Federico Garcia Lorca
This is an extensive collection of documents, sketches and photographs, located in a park on the southern edge of Granada, which also bears the name of the most famous resident of the city. Federico García Lorca was one of the most prominent Spanish writers of the 20th century, and the elegant house with all the artifacts is the place where the poet was born in 1898 and lived for over 10 years. Lorca was killed at the start of the brutal Spanish Civil War of 1936–39, and his exact burial site is still unknown.
Carrera del Darro street
Carrera del Darro is the most beautiful street and famous landmark of Granada. Starting from Plaza Nueva and turning towards Albainin along the Darro River, it is lined with centuries-old buildings. Rising above the banks of the river, their worn facades are covered in lush greenery and vibrant colors. As you walk, head to the ancient stone wall for a good view of the River Darro gently flowing between green banks. At this point it passes under two of the oldest surviving bridges in Granada.
Arab Baths of Granada
The Arab Baths of Granada are hidden under a private house about halfway along the Carrera del Darro. This is the oldest and best preserved Arab bath in Spain. Banuelo traces its history back to the 11th century, and the graceful Moorish arches and vaulted ceilings are perfectly preserved after a thousand years, although the baths themselves have long been lost. After the Alhambra and the Generalife, this is the most outstanding example of Moorish architecture in Granada.
Every June (usually the second week of the month), Granada hosts its annual fair, a fun week-long celebration at a huge fairground on the outskirts of the city. Even though this fair is much smaller compared to the legendary Feli de Abril in Seville, it is still worth a visit. Women dress in beautiful flamenco dresses, people drink and dance all day long. In special tents, everyone is treated to the classic rebugito drink — an amazing combination of sherry and lemonade. During the fair, bullfights are also held, in which the best matadors of Spain take part.