29 Oct 10 things to see and do in Granada
Often considered the “Jewel of Andalusia“, the city of Granada is one of Spain’s most popular destinations. This is largely due to its rich history, marked by the Nasrid dynasty, a Muslim people from North Africa. Their presence between 1230 and 1492 left an unparalleled cultural and architectural heritage in the region. Their architectural legacy, like the magnificent and richly detailed fortress of the Alhambra, is a perfect reflection of the lifestyle of the highest dignitaries of Islam in 14th century Spain. Granada is also home to other wonders, with a rich historical, architectural and cultural patrimony.
1. Discover the Alhambra
The most emblematic monument to be found in Granada, the Alhambra is also one of the most beautiful architectural creations of the Mediterranean region. It is a fortified complex containing several gardens and palaces built from the 13th century onwards by the Arab Nasrid dynasty. Located on Sabika Hill, the fortress majestically dominates the landscape of Granada. Along with the Great Mosque of Cordoba, it is one of the most prestigious legacies of the Muslim presence in Spain. In 1984, the Alhambra was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Learn more about the Alhambra by discovering our article about “10 Facts and Legends about the Alhmabra”.
2. Stroll along the Paseo de los Tristes
If you want to go see the miradores (lookout points) of the Albaicín, you’ll probably find yourself walking down the Paseo de los Tristes, one of Granada’s most emblematic streets. The street gets its name (the promenade of the sad) from the funeral processions that once passed through here on the way to the San José de Granada cemetery. A melancholy name that does not reflect the beauty of the place, bordered on one side by the river Darro and on the other by magnificent buildings. Both locals and tourists come here to meet friends and enjoy some tapas.
3. Go see some Flamenco
If you’d like to see some Flamenco, then you should head for the Sacromonte and Albaicín neighbourhoods in the heights above Granada. You can see performances in the local bars and even in the street during free events. The traditional dances and songs are performed to the rhythm of “palmas“, the emblematic and energetic clapping of hands that sets the music and dance’s tempo. Flamenco in Granada was influenced by the city’s Arab heritage, with some movements reminiscent of the famous belly dance. It’s something you should definitely try and get to see while staying in Andalusia!
4. Admire the city’s religious art
Granada is home to many beautiful religious buildings, starting with the Basilica of San Juan de Dios. The building, of baroque inspiration, contains several gold and silver ornaments as well as murals and the remains of Saint John of God. At the heart of the city is Granada Cathedral, the first Renaissance-style church built in Spain. Built shortly after the reconquest of Spain by the Catholic Monarchs, the monument dominates the Plaza de las Pasiegas and stands out as one of the most impressive religious buildings in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.
5. Take the best photos from the city heights
Thanks to the many great look out points surrounding the city, it is possible to capture some beautiful shots of Granada. To get an idea, head for the Mirador San Nicolas, a vantage point with some of the best views of the Alhambra. If you’d like to get a picture of the sunrise over the Sierra Nevada mountains, get up early and head for the Mirador San Miguel Alto, the highest in the city. Sacromonte Abbey, located on the heights above the city near the neighbourhood of the same name, is also an excellent spot for some sweeping views of the city.
6. Enjoy mountain activities in Andalusia
Photo : El País
Andalusia is often associated with excessively hot temperatures and desert landscapes. But did you know that it is also possible to go skiing there? The Sierra Nevada mountains, literally the “snow-capped mountain range”, contains the highest point in continental Spain as well as the third highest peak in Europe. The slopes offer some beautiful descents and equipment rental is quite economical. This magnificent range of mountains also contains some beautiful hikes. One of the best is the hike to the summit of Mulhacén, the highest peak in the Iberian Peninsula from where, on a clear day, it is even possible to see the African coast.
7. Stroll through beautiful gardens
Granada is full of parks and gardens. “El Carmen de los Martires“, also located in the heights above the city, is a refreshing haven offering shelter from the harsh Andalusian sun. The site contains several remarkable architectural elements as well as English and French gardens and even a small picturesque lake. Not far away, nestled in the Alhambra fortress , the Generalife Gardens (from Jannat al-Arif, meaning the architect’s garden in Arabic) should be on everyone’s must-see list. These gardens embody the vision of the Muslim paradise imagined by the Arab aristocrats of the time.
8. Visit the Parque de las Ciencias (Science Park)
Opened in 1995, this museum covering 70,000 m2 promotes science through playful and interactive exhibitions. Many disciplines are represented, with pavilions dedicated to astronomy, biology, physics and even mathematics. The large planetarium allows you to travel through space and discover some 7,000 different stars. It’s an activity designed to entertain both young and old and one that will add some pleasant variety to your stay in Granada.
9. Enjoy the nightlife
The most popular Erasmus city in the country, Granada comes alive at night! In addition to the tapas bars, there are many nightclubs spread throughout the city. One of the most famous of them, “El Camborio“, directly overlooks the Alhambra. And don’t forget the many concerts and other festivals that animate the streets of the Andalusian city throughout the year. A good example is the Granada International Festival of Music and Dance that is held annually in and around the most emblematic parts the city.
10. Stroll around the Alcaicería
The Alcaicería is web of narrow streets lined with local craft shops selling artisanal goods, spices and incense and can be found in the neighbourhood surrounding the cathedral. The atmosphere is very much reminiscent of a North African souk or bazar. The name Alcaicería comes from the Arabic “Al-Kaysar-ia”, meaning “Caesar’s place”. A former silk market, the district was ravaged by a fire in the nineteenth century. The current Alcaicería is a more modest replica, abandoning in passing the original neo-Moorish style. This oriental maze remains however, a real must in any visit to the city, both for its architectural richness and atmosphere as well as the opportunity to buy genuine local craft items as a souvenir of your trip.