If you venture out to Spain for the first time, you barely think of a place like Granada.
Or should I put it this way: why on earth a strongly Muslim-influenced city is brought to this part of a European country?
Well, shortly speaking – Granada was once its own Muslim kingdom that reigned for a good 800 years before giving up to the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I in January 1492.
Fast forward to the modern days, Granada we know today is still perceived as a stronghold of the Moorish Kingdom of Spain. For that reason, it’s not hard to spot magnificent heritage buildings with a fair share between Christian influences and Moroccan culture.
In this article, I’ll be revealing all my favorite things to see (and eat) in Granada, how to get there and around, as well as the most value-for-money hotels in Granada.
How To Get To Granada?
By Alsa Bus
If you’re up for a bus adventure, ALSA is your best bet. They offer frequent routes to and from various Spanish cities. Their website is reliable and user-friendly, allowing you to purchase tickets online, check schedules, prices, and even pick your seats beforehand.
Even though the bus station in Granada is a bit outside the city center, there should be plenty of domestic buses and taxis to fetch you to your desired point in the downtown core, which should be roughly 20 minutes.
Buses from major Spanish cities such as Madrid to Granada depart hourly or even every 30 minutes depending on seasonal demand. The best way to snag your bus ticket is right at the bus station. All you need to do is get there and look for the next available bus at the ALSA window or machine.
For those who prefer the speed of air travel, both Barcelona and Madrid offer flights to Granada. The flight duration is approximately 90 minutes from Barcelona and 80 minutes from Madrid.
Granada now boasts a high-speed rail link called the AVE, which connects it with other parts of Spain. The train station is centrally located on Avenida de Andaluces, near Avenida de la Constitución. Keep in mind that train travel can be a bit pricier unless you have the Spain Rail Pass.
How To Get Around Granada?
A trip to Granada can be broken down into three main zones: the Alhambra Palace, the Albaicin District, and the downtown area.
The Albaicin District is easily walkable, allowing you to soak in the charm of the city at your own pace. Within just 20 minutes, you can hit the old winding streets and bustling atmosphere of the Albaicin District and the downtown core.
For those planning to visit St. Nicholas Church Square or the iconic Alhambra Palace, that’s when you need a bus.
The main bus station in Granada is located at Avenida de Juan Pablo II, northwest of the city center. Here you will find multiple options that are managed by the Transporters Rober bus company, all of which belong to Granada’s Urban bus network.
Here are four major bus lines that most travelers need to explore Granada:
- C-30 connects Alhambra with the city center
- C-31 between Albaicin and the city center
- C-32 connecting Alhambra with Albaicin
- C-34 between Sacromonte and the city center.
These four lines operate from 6:45 am to 11:00 pm throughout the week. They set up a timetable at each bus stop for you to navigate easier.
What Is There To Do In Granada?
Plaza Isabel la Católica
History buffs assemble! It’s time to spend a good moment of your trip soaking up the feel of this iconic moment of history.
As you navigate through the bustling Gran Via, don’t miss the captivating sight of the marble statue gracefully positioned against the shimmering façade of the Banco Santander. This statue holds significant historical meaning and sparks intrigue for most visitors walking by it for the first time.
If you’re wondering what that statue is all about – that Queen Isabella I, engraved in marble, granting her permission to Christopher Columbus for his iconic journey.
The next one, Alhambra Palace, is no doubt my favorite attraction in all of Granada. First, the view! Alhambra boasts breathtaking views of the city as well as a mesmerizing blend of elements that contribute to its overall immaculate design.
We’re talking about the meticulously manicured formal gardens, the intricate Nasrid designs adorning the palaces, the towering structures, and the formidable fortified walls.
My favorite things to look at are the ancient patterns carved into the walls. Due to its massive reputation, it’s highly recommended to book your tickets in advance. This extraordinary place draws crowds, so if you prefer a more tranquil experience, aim to arrive early in the morning.
Admission tickets to the palace are broken down into nine different types. Shocking? I know. If you’re unsure which one to pick, stick to the Alhambra General Ticket. Otherwise, the Night visit to Gardens and Generalife, Andalusian Monuments, and Alhambra and Rodriguez Acosta Foundation Combined Tour are some other top calls to curate a unique experience for those who have been back.
Going beyond its historical value, Chapel Royal beckons the attention of global visitors thanks to its astonishing architecture. This building lies the burial place of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand. On one side of the chapel, stunning artwork and other personal items of the Queen stand the test of time.
The magnificent architecture of the Isabelline-style building will truly have you impressed, with the intricate altarpieces being the biggest hook. Remember that no photos are allowed inside but the exterior itself is enough to blow your mind.
Snag Away Some Free Tapas In Granada
Oh, here we go! It’s finally time for a tasty bite. With tapas, Spain’s signature snack, you can never go wrong. It’s even better when you know that they offer free tapas in most dining holes and bars in Granada.
The name tapas doesn’t come down to any specific food, but rather a generic term referring to a small portion of finger food, with various ingredients coming into place. They dish up meat and potatoes with tortillas at some places, while you may find olives on small crunchy sandwiches somewhere else.
Friendly reminder: once you’ve landed at your seat in any of those bars in Granada, it’s better to wait until your drink arrives and then look for the food. Most of those servings may come with tapas already.
Rest Your Tired Cores At A Traditional Hammam
What do you think is the best treatment for your tired bones at the end of a long exploration?
You’re right, a soothing, endorphins-activated massage treatment!
Right here in Granada, Hammam Al Ándalus is dubbed as one of the most talked-about traditional hammams. This is a haven of relaxation nestled at the foot of the magnificent Alhambra.
Immerse yourself in the authentic atmosphere as you move freely between the hot, warm, and cold baths, following the ancient tradition of purification and rejuvenation.
The layout of Hammam Al Ándalus has been carefully crafted to ensure ease of navigation, allowing you to fully embrace the serenity that surrounds you.
Hunt Down Colorful Gems In The Bustling Albaicin District
Once you’ve explored the breathtaking Alhambra Palace, hop on the C30 or C32 bus and head back to either Plaza Isabel la Católica 4 or Plaza Nueva. From there, it’s just a short five-minute uphill walk to reach Albaicin. This historic neighborhood dates back to the 14th century and was once a thriving settlement under Muslim rule.
As you wander through its streets, you’ll immerse yourself in the rich Muslim heritage that still permeates the entire district.
Don’t miss the famous Mirador de San Nicolás, the most well-known viewpoint in Albaicin. But remember, there are plenty more hidden gems and breathtaking viewpoints to discover, away from the tourist crowds.
Its most popular square is Plaza Larga, ideal for taking a break and having a beer. Although Albaicin is full of charming little squares. In Albaicin, you’ll find enchanting Arabic-style restaurants where you can experience the Islamic ambiance and even try some shisha if you’re up for it.
2 Best Food Spots In Granada
After exploring the magnificent Alhambra Palace, I was in need of some warmth and indulgence. That’s when I stumbled upon this hidden gem. With a cozy atmosphere and friendly service, Cafetería Alhambra exceeded our expectations. I savored a portion of piping hot churros dipped in rich hot chocolate, a treat you simply can’t miss when in Granada.
Indulge in traditional tapas at Los Manueles, a fantastic place to experience the culinary wonders of Granada. Here, every drink comes with a complimentary tapa that you get to choose from meat, fish, and vegetables. The prices are fair, and the portion sizes are generous.
4 Best Places To Stay In Granada
Hotel Tent Granada
This is a well-received four-star hotel in Granada with an excellent location to the city core, Royal Monastery of St Jerome, and the Cathedral of Granada. The spacious rooms do the talking, boasting a gorgeous city view, and are close to the bus stops.
Room Mate Leo
This is a perfect choice for those seeking a middle-range option downtown. It’s close to the main happenings without costing you an arm and leg.
Hotel Posada del Toro
This is hands down my favorite option for a comfy stay. Staying at Posada del Toro means walking everywhere with a breeze. I love chilling out in the sun-kissed courtyard while sleeping in the traditionally-decorated bedroom is such a whimsical experience.
La Bella Hotel
Last but not least, we have La Bella Hotel. Neighboring Plaza de Bib-Rambla, La Bella gives you a short walk to some of the city’s oldest fountains. The interior is steeped in a sanctuary-like feel with perfect tranquility and cheerful decoration.
I hope you enjoy this heritage city as much as I did. No matter if it’s a lazy day serpentine through the tangle of tight alleys or sticking your nose against Isabella I and Ferdinand II’s beautiful tombs, I bet you will have the best of your time rocking this city in your own way.