A charming city bursting with monumental landmarks, exotic bazaars and compassionate people, Granada is a place everyone easily falls for. Every street corner springs a surprise and every alley has a story to tell. Stepping foot into its quaint historical center, one can’t help but linger around its narrow passage ways and secret cul-de-sacs and have fun getting lost. Whether you are visiting for a month or just a short weekend, Granada is so much to offer. Two days are definitely not enough to soak up Granada’s atmosphere but if you’re short of time, here are some ideas to make the most out of your short stay in Granada.
Once here, it’s a good idea to locate your hostel/hotel in Granada and prepare for a whirlwind tour of the city. Most travelers choose to base themselves in the Albayzin barrio (neighborhood) where the city’s historical center is built around. Hostels along Gran Via, the city’s main thoroughfare or around Plaza Nueva, a major public square, would be ideal in location. Granada is relatively small and you can easily explore the city’s attractions by foot.
Granada’s historic center is concentrated around the city’s Cathedral. Like most cathedrals in Spain, this one spots a gothic exterior with sky soaring ceilings and giant organs inside the building. The Granada Cathedral might not be as grand and majestic as the one in Seville, but it makes up with a stunning interior. Be sure to check out the Cathedral from its Bib Rambla entrance, where intricate carvings of saints stand above the giant gates. Entrance is free.
Plaza Bib Rambla
Next to the Cathedral is the bustling square of Bib Rambla. Lined with atmospheric high-end restaurants competing fiercely for tourists’ attention, the square is still rather charming despite the touristy vibes. Some of the city’s best gelato stores can be found here. During local festivals and Christmas season, the square plays host to various folkloric and culture fairs, At Christmas, a big tent is set up to showcase the year’s belen display (using figurines to re-enact Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem).
The nearby Alcaiceria is a bustling Arabic bazaar that used to be a silk market. The labyrinth of shops is packed with exotic lamps, colourful fabric and leather, exuding Arabic influence in the air. Its spirited residents are friendly and always full of stories to tell. It’s easy to browse through the collection of handicrafts and potteries and end up with a bundle of souvenirs home.
Prices are surprisingly reasonable here, since one would easily expect to find tourist traps here. Don’t forget to haggle; it’s simply a way of doing business for the Arabic vendors.
AlbayzÃn, easily the most beautiful part of town, is studded with gypsy caves and hilltop carmenes (houses with gorgeous, grand gardens). Red and pink hibiscus flowers spill out of the tiny patios, onto tiny pathways where Spanish guitar players and hippy street performers linger.
During sunset, head up through the meandering pathways to the Mirador de San Nicholas, to catch street performers in action and take in an awe-inspiring view of the Alhambra. The mirador, or viewpoint, is one of the most attractive spots in the city, backdropped by the famous Alhambra and the imposing snow-peaked Sierra Nevada in the distance.
By night, fill your stomachs by hopping from one tapas bar to the next. In Granada, most bars offer free tapas along with any drinks order (be it beer or pop). Each drink usually cost around 1.70euros, expect to get your fill with 3 or 4 tapas (a total of 5 to 7 euros). Instead of the usual platter of olives or nuts, tapas here include a full plate of calamares, or jamon iberico or even salsa con carne, topped with rice. Evidently, the standard and quality of tapas vary according to bars but some tapas bars worth checking out include el Reventaero (Camino de Ronda), famous for its huge portions and selection of international beers, el Matador (Calle San Anton) that serves up spicy African sandwiches and Pan-Pan (Calle Pedro Antonio), a popular haunt for students.
There are several tapas zones in Granada: Plaza Nueva has a few classic tapas bars, as well as eclectic ones along Paseo de los Tristes, and Pedro Antonio where most locals hang out. Tapas hour starts around 8, 9pm and usually ends around 12am.
As the most visited monument in Spain, the Alhambra is naturally packed to the bream with tourists all year round. Thanks to the country’s effort to conserve the monument, only a limited amount of visitors are allowed in the palace each day. Be sure to book your tickets in advance, if not, you could try your luck by turning up at the ticket counter early in the morning (expect a queue even at 7am).The best time to see the Alhambra in its fully glory is in the morning hours, when crowds are thin and weather pleasant.
The Moorish Palace offers a unique historical perspective with its culturally and artistically intricate designs. Entering the sprawling gardens of Generalife, you are transported into the lives of ancient Arabic kings and queens. Restored patios, courtyards and fountains give you a glimpse of how they once ruled. The Alhambra also offers some of the best views of the city. Atop the tallest tower (you can climb to its rooftop), the white-washed city unfurls upon you.
Plaza Nueva/ Paseo de los Tristes
Catch the mini red Alhambra bus down to Plaza Nueva (or you could do this the other way round, catch the bus up to the Alhambra after), the city’s main public square. Helmed by a clock tower, the plaza houses the city’s legislative departments. This area is cluttered with tapas bars, restaurants and kebab shops — an ideal place to have lunch. A long narrow street, called the Paseo de los Tristes (Passage of the Sad People), weave past Plaza Nueva, runs along the river stream and leads all the way up to Sacromonte. You’ll find numerous Arabic stores and eclectic boutiques along this characteristic street.
The Sacromonte caves in Granada are some of the best places to see a flamenco show in Spain. These performances usually take place in small caves ornamented with porcelain plates and paintings of bullfights. Most of these flamenco shows cost around 15 to 20 euros per person. The show usually lasts for 2 hours, some tablaos include beers while others don’t.
For those who find these shows too expensive, an excellent place to see an authentic flamenco performance without paying an entry fee is the Museo de Flamenco, off Gran Via. You might not find a performance every night here, so ask for the schedule before coming. Flamenco shows usually start around 11pm. Other places worth checking out are Club Taurino and Carmen de los Chapiteles.