I’ll admit the main reason we decided to visit Granada was to see the Alhambra. It had been a place on our bucket lists for awhile but we didn’t know much about the city, so we wondered if we should just do a day trip or stay longer.
After a little research, I found that there are several special things to do in Granada besides the Alhambra. I’m glad we took the time to get to know this fascinating and beautiful city.
Let me share more about other attractions in Granada so you can plan your own visit.
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- About Granada
- How Long Should You Spend in Granada?
- What Else Is There to Do in Granada?
- Things to Do in Granada Besides the Alhambra
- Is Granada worth visiting?
- Expert Tips For Seeing More of Granada
Granada is the capital city of the province of Granada which is part of the Andalusia region of Spain. The city sits at about 2,500 feet above sea level at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near the Darro, Genil, Monachil, and Beiro rivers. You have both ski resorts and beaches within an hours drive.
It’s an area rich in history with several cultural influences as it has been ruled by the Iberians, Romans, and Muslims. In fact, it was the last Muslim-ruled state on the Iberian Peninsula until it was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs (Isabella and Ferdinand) in 1492.
How Long Should You Spend in Granada?
I think you should plan to spend 2-5 days in Granada. We were there 2.5 days in Granada and I would have liked to explore more.
Remember visiting the Alhambra will take up most of one day and there are many other things to do in the city. If you stay more than three days, you could do a day trip to Malaga, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, or one of the white-washed villages of Andalusia.
You should also check out our guide to the best way to visit the Alhambra.
What Else Is There to Do in Granada?
The Alhambra is not the only attraction to see in Granada. You can also go see the Cathedral, enjoy the delicious food, see some of the unique neighborhoods, and much more.
Let me share more about the things to see and do in Granada other than the Alhambra.
#1 Take a Free Walking Tour
A walking tour with a local guide is the best way to get your bearings in Granada and learn more about its history and culture. We did a walking tour on the first day and our guide, Stella, also gave us other suggestions for the rest of our trip.
Our tour started in the city centre where we learned about the history of the city going back more than 1,000 years! Not only was it interesting but it helped me understand more about the culture and influences. The background was helpful for my visit to Alhambra the following day.
She took us to see the Cathedral and Royal Chapel (more on those below), but the tour did not include going inside. We learned more about the Catholic Monarchs and their impact on the city.
After that we left the city center and moved on to the Albaicín neighborhood where the streets are narrow and can be steep. The street plan has been largely preserved from the time of the Nasrid Dynasty and it is part of the Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada UNESCO World Heritage site.
Stella showed us Iglesia de San Gregorio Betico where you can see nuns praying around the clock and took us to a viewpoint where we could see the Alhambra. The most surprising part was when she showed us some of the traditional Carmen houses – you won’t believe how much these historic properties cost.
We made our way back down to Plaza de Santa Ana where our tour came to an end. At that point, if you had any other questions or needed recommendations Stella was happy to help.
Remember while it is called a “free walking tour,” you do need to tip your tour guide. The average amount people give is €10 – €15 but you can give whatever amount you feel comfortable with.
Get more information and reserve your spot on the walking tour here.
#2 Go Inside Granada Cathedral
Granada is home to the second largest cathedral in Spain. The construction began under the Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand on the place where there was a Great Mosque during the time of the Muslim rule.
It took more than 180 years to build although it is still not complete. It only has one of the two towers that were included in the plan and the one tower that you see is actually about half the height it was originally intended to be.
The foundation was not strong enough to support two tall towers so it will never be finished. Still, the building is quite imposing, grand, and difficult to fit into a photo.
There are aspects of gothic, renaissance, and baroque styles both inside and out. It’s definitely worthwhile to take time to go inside the Granada Cathedral as it is special in several ways.
Unlike most other churches , the walls inside are all white making it feel brighter. The main chapel is one of the most elaborate I have ever seen. The stained glass, paintings, arches, the silver lamps, the pulpits are all works of art.
While the main chapel is lovely, my favorite part of the Cathedral was the organ. They actually have two but one was being renovated. I was in awe of all the gold!
During your visit, you also want to make sure to see the exhibition of the cathedral treasure in the old chapter house and the paintings and clocks on display in the sacristy.
You do not need to book tickets in advance. When we visited, the admission charge was €5 each. This included an audio tour that you could access with your smartphone by scanning the QR code on the receipt. They also offer a combined ticket that includes the Royal Chapel for €8.
If you prefer, you can book a guided tour that also includes the Royal Chapel here.
#3 Visit the Royal Chapel
It was important for Isabella and Ferdinand to be buried in Granada as a reminder of their victory over the Nasrid Dynasty. Since the Cathedral would not be completed in time, they built a separate building to hold their tombs.
Your visit starts with an exhibition about the Catholic Monarchs. Then you can go inside and see the tombs of Isabella, Ferdinard, their daughter, Joanna of Castile and her husband, Philip I of Castile. In the crypt there is also the sarcophagus of Miguel da Paz, Prince of Portugal, son of Joanna and Philip I, who died as a child.
You do not need to book tickets in advance. The admission charge was €5 or you can pay €8 and get admission to the Cathedral too.
If you prefer, you can book a guided tour that also includes the Cathedral here.
#4 Relax at a Hammam Spa
With all the walking you will be doing in Granada, it might be a good idea to also plan some time for a little pampering. After all the stairs at the Alhambra and in the Albaicín, I was looking forward to going to the Hammam Al Ándalus.
Inside we found a mix of pools of varying temperatures where we could just relax in a beautiful setting. The decor definitely had an Arabic flair and there were plenty of candles. I could imagine Queen Isabella enjoying an experience like this.
We were instructed to start by taking a shower, then go into the warm bath. After that we would enjoy the two hotter baths before dipping into the cold one. To end we would spend a little time in the steam room. Before returning to the real world, we would have some sweet mint tea to drink and rub some of the oils and lotions on to our skin.
I was amazed by how fast our 1.5 hours flew by, as I wasn’t ready to get out. It was the perfect way to end our busy day. My legs felt refreshed and I could see a bit of a glow on my face.
While we booked appointments to enjoy the baths and steam room, you can also add on a massage if you like. Get more information here.
Note: You need to have a bathing suit to enjoy the hammam.
#5 Visit Sacromonte Cave Museum
Sacromonte is a traditional hillside neighborhood on the eastern side of Granada where some of the Romani who settled in Granada lived in caved houses. If you want to learn more about this unique area you need to visit the Sacromonte Caves Museum.
At this Spanish museum, you can go inside recreated caves and learn about the cave-dwelling lifestyle and culture. You will see what the homes would have looked like and set foot in caves set up as stables and workshops for forging, basketwork, ceramics, and weaving.
One of the caves is specifically dedicated to flamenco where you can discover how Sacromonte influenced the cultural dance. You can also watch a video of a flamenco performance.
The Sacromonte Museum is a good place to learn about the wildlife and nature in the area as well. The agriculture, plants, and climate played a big role in the way people lived and worked in these caves.
The museum offers a free audio guide through the izi.travel app and they have information boards in both English and Spanish. Additionally, make sure you check out the viewpoint where you can look out over the valley and see the Alhambra.
Admission to this museum is €5. While you don’t have to book in advance, you may be able to save a little money by booking a combination ticket for the Sacromonte Museum and Sacromonte Abbey online here.
Note: You will need to climb a fair number of steps from the road to get to the entrance of the Sacromonte Museum.
#6 See the Sacromonte Abbey
Further up from the Sacromonte Museum, you will find the Sacromonte Abbey (Adadia del Sacromonte). It was built in the 17th century and has been a place of prayer and education for centuries.
Inside the Abbey church, you can’t miss the large golden baroque-style altarpiece. There are also several notable paintings and sculptures along the outer walls.
The cloister has a simple fountain in the center, Tuscan columns. and typical Granadino stonework paving. Just off the cloister, there are a few rooms of exhibitions with important documents and artistic pieces from the Abbey’s collection.
Right by the Abbey Church, you can find the Holy Caves with several chapels. The remains of San Cecilio and the Lead Books (later determined to be fake) were found inside these caves and were the reason the Abbey was built on this site.
Admission to the abbey is €5. While you don’t have to book in advance, you may be able to save a little money by booking a combination ticket for the Sacromonte Abbey and Sacromonte Museum online here.
Note: The Abbey was undergoing restoration during our visit, so not all areas were open to the public.
#7 Enjoy Free Tapas
Granada is the only city in Spain where you get a free tapa with each drink. You don’t need a special code or anything. Just order your drink and shortly after they will bring you a small plate of food.
At most places, you don’t get to choose which tapa so you need to be open to trying different foods. During our time in Granada, some of the free tapas we got were fried sardines, fried chicken tenders, croquettas, meatballs, and small toasted sandwiches.
I figured that they would just include the price of the food in with the drink, but that didn’t seem to be the case. Most places we went to charged around €3 for a glass of Rioja, bottle of beer, or sangria.
#8 Watch a Flamenco Show
While you can see a Flamenco show in many places in Spain, in Granada you can see one in a cave. It makes for a more dramatic and atmospheric experience.
Many of the cave restaurants where you can see Flamenco are located in the district of Sacromonte up in the hills. Having said that, we decided to go with one that was located in the historic center of the city and easy to book online in advance. It was a short walk from the Five Senses Hotel where we were staying and our tickets included one drink.
We were one of the last to arrive so we didn’t get the best seats, but it’s not a big place so we were still close to the action. It was my first time to see Flamenco in person and the show was captivating.
There was a female and male dancer. I love how the lady used her skirt and arms to add more drama. The male dancer had long hair which he leveraged to increase the theatrics of the show.
All the singing was in Spanish as you might expect. With my high school Spanish, I didn’t understand much of it. Still, I could appreciate the passion and musicality of the songs. I should also mention that the guitar player was talented and watching his fingers work their magic was almost mesmerizing.
The show lasted a little more than an hour with a short intermission. During the intermission, they served snacks if you ordered before the show started. We ordered the cheeseboard which was much larger than we expected, but was so good we happily finished it.
Get more information and book here.
#9 Browse the Mercado de San Agustin
Since we enjoyed visiting the La Boqueria Market in Barcelona, I wanted to see the market in Granada. While Granada’s market used to be on the streets, in the 1970s they turned a convent into the Mercado de San Augustin.
It may not be as big as markets in some other Spanish cities but you can still find some interesting foods. It’s a fun place to come for lunch as there are a few tapas bars to choose from. Alternatively, you can pick out the raw seafood that you like and they will cook it for you there at a restaurant in the market.
Even if you don’t plan on eating, it is entertaining just to look at the fresh food. Find out more here.
#10 Catch the Sunset
It’s always nice to relax at the end of a day of busy sightseeing and watch the sunset. While you may not be able to see the sunset over the Mediterranean in Granada, there are several places where you can see the sun go down over the city with a view of the Alhambra.
We went to Mirador de San Nicolas where you have an amazing unobstructed view of the Alhambra, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the setting sun. It’s a popular spot so you will want to get there a bit early to stake out the best spot for photos.
While you are there, you can also see the San Nicolas Church. It was built on the site of a former mosque and the interior is modern. You can also pay a small fee to go up the tower for even better views.
Alternatively if you are not concerned about getting the Alhambra in your photos, the Mirador Ojo de Granada is another spot with a good view of the city including the Cathedral.
#11 Check out the Street Art
Granada is home to the “Banksy of Spain” who calls himself El Niño de las Pinturas although his real name is Raúl Ruiz. As we were wandering around Granada, we couldn’t help but notice the street art.
Especially in the morning before the shops opened, we could see the murals painted on the closed shop windows. We didn’t even make it to the Realejo area which is the part of the city best known for its street art.
I couldn’t find any specific street art tours in Granada, but you can find more information about where to see street art in Granada here.
Things to Do in Granada Besides the Alhambra
There is a lot more to see in Granada than just the Alhambra, so it would be hard to do the city justice in just a day trip. Seeing the other sites in Granada will help you get to know more about the city’s history and culture, which will help you get more out of your visit to the Alhambra.
Is Granada worth visiting?
Yes. Just the Alhambra alone makes Granada worth visiting, but the city has much more to offer.
It has the second largest Cathedral in Spain and the only place in Spain where you get free tapas with your drinks. Granada is one of the cities in Spain that you must visit!
Have you been to Granada?
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Expert Tips For Seeing More of Granada
- Plan on spending more than a day in Granada.
- You will do a lot of walking and some will be uphill (or stairs) so wear comfortable shoes.
- The city buses can be a good alternative to walking and are only €1.40 per ride per person.
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Last Updated on March 12, 2023