Mighty walls guarding the city, palaces with stunning decoration, magnificent gardens giving shade in hot days, noisy merchants selling silk and gold, people crowding in the streets… this is what Granada used to be. Today’s Granada in Spain still retains some of its former splendor that can be seen in the Alhambra and discerned in the old bridges of the city. The masterpieces of the Islamic architecture and Mudejar style are amongst the top things to do in Granada, but the Christian era added breathtaking churches which are equally beautiful and impressive.
So here is my list of places to see and things to do in Granada, Spain, quite a long list and I am sure I have not covered everything. The most important of them, according to my opinion, come on top 🙂
Read about the three days I spent in Granada: the post includes a recommended place to stay, places to eat, budget breakdown, and lots of other useful info.
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Things to do in Granada, Spain
1. The Cartuja Monastery
Yes, this is not a mistake. I think that this is the place everybody has to visit in Granada. I know the historical significance of the Alhambra, and it is beautiful, but the Cartuja Monastery is breathtaking.
From the outside, the Cartuja Monastery looks just like any other monastery would look in Spain: nothing special. The chapels you see first are quite ordinary and similar to many other chapels. It is when you enter the main cathedral your mind gets blown away. When I went inside, I was awestruck and left speechless. It is impossibly beautiful; you will be amazed by the intricate details of the decoration. I can’t even imagine how much time was spent paying attention to every centimeter of this unique building. And just think that I wanted to miss it because it was far from the center!
Things to know: the monastery is located far from the other things to do in Granada. I went there on foot, but if you think you can’t do it, better take a bus. Bus N7 runs there from the station in front of the Jardines del Triunfo, and the same bus will take you back. The ticket costs 1,40 EUR and one can buy it on board.
Price: the entrance fee is 5 EUR, students and schoolchildren (older than 13) pay 3,5 EUR. The audio guide is free.
How to save: it is possible to visit the monastery for free on Thursdays. Times vary depending on the season. You will have to book a place for a free visit here.
Alhambra, probably, the most important monument in Spain, is a majestic fortress of the Nasrid times. I have vivid memories of the Nasrid Palaces and the truly amazing gardens. I think I spent more than 1 hour in the gardens only 🙂
The Alhambra has three ticketed areas: the Alcazaba, which is a proper fortress with towers offering views over Granada; the Nasrid Palaces, the residence of sultans; and the Generalife, which is located outside the walls of Alhambra and was a summer palace.
I wrote a longer post about the Alhambra with more details and ways to buy tickets.
Things to know: it is strongly advised to buy tickets in advance. When it comes to the Nasrid Palaces, the amount of visitors is limited, so you will have to choose a time slot booking your ticket. It is better not to miss that time.
Price: the entrance to all ticketed areas of the Alhambra is 14 EUR, the price with the booking commission will be around 15 EUR. Discounts are available for some categories, and little children go in for free, but keep in mind that you will have to buy tickets for them as well. Audio guides have to be rented, don’t remember the price, around 3 EUR per piece, probably.
How to save: well, I did not find any ways to go in for free, but if you are really short of money you might consider buying tickets to parts of the fortress. For example, a ticket to Generalife and Alcazaba costs 7 EUR, a night visit to the Nasrid Palaces is 8 EUR. More info here.
3. The Cathedral of Granada
Built in the Renaissance style, the Cathedral of Granada is stunning! Tall columns of white color, intricate chapels, and a sense of infinity. There is a reason why this cathedral is the main one in Granada. I assume that it was supposed to show the might of God, but when I go in to churches like this I always admire the skill of people who built it.
Interesting fact: the cathedral is built on the former site of a mosque.
Price: entrance fee is 5 EUR, free audio guide is included. Discounts are available for some categories, and little children go in for free.
How to save: entrance is free on Sunday evenings, just reserve your place here.
4. The Cathedral of San Juan de Dios
Another stunning cathedral in Granada that leaves speechless. It has a magnificent altar piece, gilded walls, rich decorations. Basically, it is a wow! There is a door that leads to the upper level, make sure to go there.
Things to know: this cathedral is a charity, and all the money from the sold tickets goes to support the poor and a school for disabled children. They do not get any help from the local authorities, and the cathedral is not promoted by the tourism office. It might seem wrong to someone, but I think it is much better to visit this cathedral instead of the Monastery of San Jerónimo. Donations are more than welcome!
Price: the entrance fee is 4 EUR, free audio guide is included.
5. Ermita de San Miguel Alto
I think a visit to the Ermita de San Miguel Alto is one of the top things to do in Granada. This small church is on top of a hill and offers spectacular views of Granada and the Alhambra. Actually, this is the place for the best views in the city.
The top of the hill looks a prairie. Honestly, this is how I imagine prairies 🙂 There are cacti and horses there 🙂 People live on the hill, but the conditions did not seem to be suitable. At least, the view is gorgeous!
There are two ways to get to the ermita: the first is taking the Carril de San Miguel. This road goes uphill, but there are no steps. I had no idea how to get up the hill, and I chose the one that should have taken me there quicker. I went to the Cruz de la Rauda and took dozens of steps up. Not the way for the faint-hearted 🙂
What I liked about the way I chose is that the steps had motivational inscriptions, and it was a kind of fun to climb up and read them 🙂 And when on top, have a look at those comfortable chairs to sit and admire the view, but I am not sure they are for tourists 🙂
Things to know: don’t go there in the morning, as the sun will be right behind the Alhambra and all you will see in the pictures will be shadows.
6. Mirador San Nicolás
This is a panoramic deck not far from the main mosque of Granada. Naturally, a spectacular view of the Alhambra opens from here. Just like I mentioned before, come here in the afternoon to avoid shadow on the Alhambra.
The square is not very big and is always crowded: people with cameras and selfie sticks, sellers with handmade jewelry and henna tattoo painters. Well, a very lively square 🙂
7. The Royal Chapel
Frankly, I am trying to remember what was so special in terms of architecture or interior about the Royal Chapel and nothing comes to my mind. I can only assume that the cathedral overshadowed it.
Anyway, it is the burial place of the Catholic Monarchs.
Things to know: I did not see people crowding to get in, so it was a leisurely walk inside. Pictures are not allowed, the guards look very closely 🙂
Price: the general entrance fee is 5 EUR and includes a free audio guide. Discounts are available for some categories, and little children go in for free.
How to save: entrance is free on Wednesdays, just reserve your place here.
8. Gran Via de Colon
It must be the main street of Granada. There are many restaurants (some are really cheap) there, fancy buildings, shops. The Cathedral of Granada is on Gran Via de Colon 🙂
I would suggest to look for places to eat here, and not on Plaza Nueva.
9. Plaza Nueva and Carrera del Darro
I guess it would not be a mistake to call Plaza Nueva the main square of Granada. There are some fancy buildings in the square, restaurants and lots of tourists 🙂
Carrera del Darro is a street running along the Alhambra and the river Darro and, naturally, offers the views of the fortress. Here one can take pictures of old bridges, but beware of cars and buses, as the street is quite narrow. And there are crowds of tourists. Honestly, this was the most crowded street in the cities I visited in Spain! Well, except the La Rambla in Barcelona.
10. Paseo de Los Tristes
Paseo de Los Tristes along the Alhambra is a square with a small market selling crafts like handmade jewelry, and many restaurants that get full during lunch and dinner. Street musicians sing in the evenings, and the atmosphere is very lively and happy. So come here for the views of the Alhambra and fine dining.
The official name of the street is Paseo del Padre Manjon. Paseo de los Tristes (the passage of the sad ones from Spanish) was initially the street where funerary processions passed on the way to the cemetery.
11. The Palace of the Forgotten
The Palace of the Forgotten (el Palacio de los Olvidades in Spanish) houses a collection of torture instruments used by the Spanish Inquisition. The Iron Maiden, the bull, and all other stuff used to torture people: just seeing them made me sick. But I will stand on my opinion: these things have to be seen and they should not be forgotten.
A positive note: nice views of the Alhambra from the upper floor.
Price: the entrance fee is 6 EUR.
12. The Mosque of Granada
The main mosque of Granada is next to the Mirador de San Nicolas. While visitors are not allowed to enter the mosque, its gardens are open to the public. Why is it important? Because it has stunning views of the Alhambra 🙂
13. Monastery of San Jerónimo de Granada
This is the monastery promoted by the tourism office of Granada. I am not going to lie, it is a beautiful place with a striking ceiling and wonderful paintings. But I still remember my first thought when I entered the cathedral: ‘San Juan de Dios is much more beautiful’.
Price: the entrance fee is 4 EUR, little children can get in for free.
How to save: the entrance is free on Monday evenings, reservations have to be made a week before the visit.
14. Jardines Del Triunfo
One of the parks of Granada, this one is at the end of Gran Via de Colon. Just a calm and green place, and it is from here that one can take the bus N7 to the Cartuja Monastery.
The park itself is beautiful, but next to it there is an impressive building: Hospital Real. It is my understanding that it belongs to the University of Granada, and I am not sure if it is allowed to go in.
Albaicin is quite a big district of Granada with narrow streets and beautiful traditional houses with gardens in courtyards. I am not going to claim that I walked the whole area, but I think that the part of Albaicin from Mirador San Nicolas in the direction of Ermita de San Miguel Alto is the most picturesque. When I was there I did not see many tourists around, so it was a quiet walk. Strongly recommended. In addition, Albaicin is the World Heritage Site.
16. Placeta Cristo Azucenas
This is a nice square not far from the Mirador San Nicolas, and you will most likely pass it by if you go to Dar-al-Horra from the panoramic deck. A lovely green area with fountains: I simply like it 🙂
17. Sacromonte Abbey
If you ask me why you should go there, I would say to do it because of the views of Granada and the Alhambra from above and amazing surrounding landscapes. Otherwise, I was not impressed by the abbey itself, especially after seeing the cathedrals of Granada. In addition, the tours are guided and are in Spanish, and, unlike the Viana Palace in Cordoba, there are no brochures in English. I was the only one in the group who did not speak Spanish, so I just tried to catch some words to understand what the guide was talking about. You might think that this is the reason I did not like it. Maybe, it is. Anyway, I clearly remember two things: an old map of Ptolemy in the exhibition and the caves below the monastery.
Things to know: as it is far from the center of Granada and is on a hill, you will most likely take bus there. C2 departs from Plaza Nueva and Carrera del Darro. I think it runs every 20 minutes, and it is the same bus to go back. As the tours are guided, they start every 40 minutes or every hour.
Price: the entrance fee is 4 EUR.
How to save: entrance is free from Monday till Friday at 10 AM, just reserve your place here.
18. Palacio de la Madraza
The Madraza is a mosque school founded in the 14th century by a Nasrid sultan. Initially the building looked differently: the facade was decorated with poems, it had a pool and a garden. After the Catholic Monarchs took the city, the building was re-purposed and modified. Its extensive library was burnt in the Plaza of Bib-Rambla. Part of the former splendor can still be seen in the mihrab on the first floor.
Now the Madraza is a part of the University of Granada.
Price: entrance fee is 2 EUR.
19. Palacio de los Cordova
Only the gardens are open to tourists, and the entrance is free. I happened to be nearby when there was a private event, so I was not allowed to enter. Anyway, I have read only positive reviews about the gardens and patios, so if you are lucky, don’t skip this place. I still regret I left the visit to the palace to my last day in Granada.
20. El Banuelo
The Arab baths known as El Banuelo are a well-preserved bath complex in the Carrera del Darro. They are located in the lower floor of a private house, and there are not many tourists visiting them. Frankly, the arches look impressive, but it is just naked stone and nothing else, just like in the picture below.
Price: the entrance fee is 5 EUR.
How to save: I went to Dar-al-Horra before the baths, and the lady at the desk told me that I could buy a combined ticket for 5 EUR, which includes entrances to the Banuelo, Dar-al-Horra and Casa Arabe. And that’s what I did 🙂
21. Dar-al-Horra, Casa de Zafra, and Casa Arabe
These three palaces are built in the exactly same fashion. They come from the same period and are fine examples of the Nasrid art. So, the architecture is the same: one enters the palaces via a garden, then follows to an inner courtyard with a fountain. The house itself is a rectangle with the courtyard in the center. So, trust me, if you have seen one of these palaces, you have seen them all: just have a look at the pictures below. At least, the views from Dar-al-Horra are spectacular 🙂
Price: Casa de Zafra is free, the other two cost 5 EUR each.
How to save: buy a combined ticket for the Banuelo, Dar-al-Horra and Casa Arabe.
22. Alcaiceria and Plaza de Bib-Rambla
I expected so much of Alcaiceria 🙂 I imagined it to be a big market selling everything, but in reality it is several rows of stalls and small shops selling souvenirs and bags and oriental clothing, basically, the stuff you see in the Middle Eastern bazaars. Except for buying souvenirs, I do not see any other reasons for visiting the place. It is a pity, as in the Nasrid times it was the place where merchants sold silk, gold and other expensive items.
On the contrary, the Plaza de Bib-Rambla not far from Alcaiceria is a very pleasant place with many restaurants, of course 🙂
23. Cuarto Real
Mmm, I am still confused about this place, there is nothing special about it. It has a garden, and, frankly, I have seen much more beautiful gardens in Spain. When I was at the Cuarto Real, there was an exhibition of Christian clergy robes, and visitors have access to an empty room in the Mudejar style. And that’s it! I would say that this place is not worth anyone’s time, but everyone is entitled to check it by oneself 🙂
Price: the admission is free.
If you are reading this, then you made it till the end 🙂 I know that I have not covered every point of interest in Granada, and I would appreciate your ideas in the comments 🙂