I have been living here for over two months now, but I have still not managed to explore and experience everything this incredible city has to offer.
Granada may be one of Spain’s smaller cities (it’s the nineteenth-largest, with a population of about 240,000), so while it’s no Madrid or Barcelona in terms of size, the list of things to do here is impressively long.
The following are six of my favorite things to do here in Granada, in no particular order. Yes, all six of these are quintessential touristy things, but in my opinion, no visit to Granada would be complete without them.
1) Visiting the Alhambra
Touring the Alhambra is the single-most popular tourist activity in Granada. Built in the ninth century as a stronghold and then converted to a royal residence in the thirteenth century under Nazarid rule, this complex stands today as a potent symbol of the seven hundred years of Arabic domination of the Iberian peninsula. A pinnacle of Moorish architecture, this UNESCO World Heritage site cannot be missed.
Still on my wish list: visiting the Alhambra at night
As the sun goes down, the entire Alhambra becomes illuminated in a soft, warm glow against the darkening night sky. I’ve seen it many times from different viewpoints, but never been inside the complex at this time. The night visit, as it turns out, is cheaper than the general visit (8 euro instead of 13); the only difference is that your visit is restricted to either the palaces or the gardens.
It’s a goal of mine to take one of these tours before my time in Granada comes to an end; as if the palacios nazaríes don’t amaze me enough already, I can’t imagine how beautiful they’d be lit up at night.
2) Going for tapas
Granada is renowned for its tapas culture, and for good reason. A refreshing tinto de verano (red wine with sparkling lemonade or simply sparkling water) or cerveza for 2 euro, followed by a free and positively scrumptious tapa? It’s a pretty hard bargain to turn down.
The tapas range from bite-size morsels, like albondigas (meatballs) or croquetas (deep-fried bites with chicken or meat and cheese inside), to a full plate of a tasty wrap or mini-bocadillo (sandwich), potatoes, and a small salad or pile of olives. My favorite tapa at the moment is berenjenas con miel (pictured above), deep-fried strips of eggplant with a honey sauce drizzled on top. YUM.
Going out for tapas is a quintessential granaino (Granadian) experience; not only do you get to drink and snack on foods from an impressive variety of both traditional to international cuisines for cheap, you get to socialize with friends and immerse yourself in the laid-back yet infectious atmosphere that you will find in just about any tapas joint on any night from 10pm onward.
Still on my wish list: go for tapas along Pedro Antonio and in the Plaza de Toros
For some reason, most the tapas bars I’ve frequented are on Calle Elvira, the narrow and often crowded street just off Plaza Nueva in the centro of Granada. But I have also heard from international friends and Spaniards alike that the street Pedro Antonio de Alarcón and the Plaza de Toros (the plaza outside Granada’s bullfighting ring) also boast a range of delicious tapas and both hip and happening taperías.
Will I make the effort to try out some new tapas joints sometime soon, despite my long-standing love affair with the Elvira hotspots, Babel and Sabika? Absolutely. Wouldn’t miss it.
3) Hanging out in the Plaza de San Nicolás
With this view, it’s awfully hard not to enjoy yourself relaxing in this Plaza with friends or on your own, sitting on the wall’s edge while basking in the sun, and listening to the laid-back tunes of the locals and squatters that gather together spontaneously in song. Or go for a tinto or cerveza in one of the many outside, umbrella-ed cafés just 50 meters away.
Getting a picture of yourself with the impressive Alhambra in the background is the touristy thing to do in this Plaza; recently, though, I’ve discovered that the Alhambra views from the tower of the Iglesia de San Nicolás (Church of Saint Nicolás) are even better. You get all the illustriousness of the Alhambra with the picturesque Sierra Nevada behind it, without other plaza visitors blocking your view or getting in the way of your perfect shot.
Still on my wish list: have a dinner on a restaurant terrace at sunset
I’ve seen the view of Granada and the Alhambra from the Plaza de San Nicolás at sunset many a time, but I have yet to eat in one of the many restaurants located just off or nearby this plaza. In my opinion, indulging in a meal in the company of friends, while watching the sun set over this breathtaking monument, seems idyllic. Maybe it is uber-touristy, but I for one would like to experience it.
4) Exploring the Albayzín
Meandering and letting yourself get lost amongst the whitewashed buildings and winding, narrow, and often steep cobblestone streets that make up this historic district of Granada and UNESCO World Heritage site (along with the Alhambra and Generalife) is a recent addition to my list of favorite activities here in Granada.
As a dear friend put it, even if you think you’ve seen everything and done everything there is to do in Granada, there is always another afternoon you could spend in the Albayzín, as it’d be impossible to see all of the buildings, walk down every street, and catch every unique view of the Alhambra and the rest of this city. It’s not hard to be charmed and mystified by this place, and I think it’s best explored and wandered alone. I’ve done this several times now, and each adventure is different.
I’ve been here two months and I still haven’t discovered all of the Albayzín’s hidden treasures, a fact that only inspires me to explore it further. The allure of this place has yet to be lost on me, and I can almost guarantee it wouldn’t be lost on you, either.
Still on my wish list: find and photograph as much of the elaborate Albayzín graffiti as I can
There is graffiti everywhere in Granada, but I think the Albayzín sports some of the best. Stay tuned for a compilation of my favorite graffiti images from all over Granada!
5) Seeing and visiting Granada’s historic and modern buildings
I’d marveled at the beauty and impressiveness of architecture before, but I think living in a city as architecturally brilliant and diverse as Granada has turned me into somewhat of an architecture junkie (if there even is such a term). The above image of the Monasterio de San Jerónimo is only one example of the hundreds of images I’ve taken of Granada’s various historic and modern edifices.
Travel guidebooks will list the Catedral de Granada and of course the Alhambra as the top architectural monuments here, but recent self-guided walking tours have led me to discover just how many impressive buildings Granada is home to. While the Cathedral and the Alhambra are certainly must-sees, they aren’t the only architectural monuments Granada has to offer; there are so many more worth visiting should you have the time.
Still on my wish list: find, visit, and photograph as many of Granada’s buildings as possible
Sounds to me like another great theme for a blog post! In the past week, due to the gorgeous sunny weather we’ve been having, I took it upon myself to go exploring every day, and the list of churches, monasteries, and other historic buildings I’ve managed to visit has skyrocketed. Consequently, I have been rendered speechless and found myself in complete and utter awe more times than I can count.
And you thought only the Alhambra would take your breath away? Think again, folks, think again.
6) Running or strolling along Granada’s rivers
Paseos are a thing; in Granada, virtually every person of every age and physical fitness level goes out for a walk at some point during the week, if not every day. The Río Genil (pictured above) and the Río Darro are two popular spots to go for such a paseo, and it’s not hard to imagine why.
The Genil winds to the south and it doesn’t take long to find yourself away from the noise of the city and into the quiet repose of nature. The Darro, on the other hand, runs along the western foot of the hill upon which the Alhambra looms; this cobblestoned Paseo de los Tristes is almost always bustling with tourists and locals alike and makes for a wonderful environment to find yourself in on a sunny afternoon.
Still on my wish list: meander as far as I can down the Darro and the Genil
Sure, I’ve wandered along both of these rivers many times, but the fact of the matter is, they just keep going. At some point I’d like to take an afternoon or even an entire day and run or meander as far as I can along each of these rivers; I’ve heard from friends that the trails gradually become more isolated and ensconced by nature, and I would love to see it for myself.
So there you have it, my favorite things to do here in Granada (as of yet). But, unsurprisingly, there are several other things I still have not seen or experienced yet. The top three (urgent ones) are:
1) see a flamenco show
Andalucía is the birthplace of flamenco. And yet I still have not managed to make it to a show. This WILL happen. Soon.
2) visit the caves on the Sacromonte
People still live in the caves up there, and both modern and ancient buildings built into such caves. It’s so close by, just above the Albayzín, and I still haven’t made my way up there.
3) visit the Sierra Nevada
I’ve jokingly thought to myself that the Sierra is literally my backyard, a notion which I’m reminded of every time I walk home and see the picturesque snow-capped mountains in the distance. But have I felt that snow, seen those peaks up close at the foot of the ski-hill that I found out yesterday is closing after this weekend? Nope. I’m determined to get up there though, just to say I’ve been to or stood on the Sierra Nevada, somehow, some way. We’ll see if I can make it happen.
The fact that there is still so much of Granada I still have yet to see, explore, and experience reminds me just how lucky I am to get to live here: in a city as special and as dynamic as this one, the amount of new and unique experiences you can have is seemingly limitless.
You can be sure that whether you’re on a visit, vacation, or exchange here, you will never run out of things to do.