Here are the bucket list things to do in Granada for the best trip to this iconic Andalusian city! Sitting at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada is one of the most scenic cities in Spain.
With narrow streets filled with rich history, art, and the world-famous Alhambra fortress sitting atop a mountain, Granada is amongst the best cities to visit in Andalusia!
In this blog post, you will find all the best places to visit and things to do in Granada with descriptions, photos, and locations where they can be found on Google Maps. We spent a whole week in Granada exploring everything this city had to offer, so let’s dive in!
Read more >>> 19 best Instagram photo spots in Granada, Spain
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1. Explore Alhambra: Nasrid Palaces + Generalife + Alcazaba
What is Alhambra?
Alhambra is arguably the most famous tourist attraction in Granada, Andalusia, and possibly in Spain. It is a massive fortress on a hill in Granada. Inside the citadel, there are multiple palaces and residences built for kings, expansive gardens, and other infrastructure made for Alhambra to be a self-contained city.
Today you can walk inside Alhambra and admire the layout of the stronghold and even visit some places like the Palace of Charles V for free. But there are other parts of Alhambra where you need to buy a ticket in advance in order to access them like the Alcazaba fortress, the Generalife, and the Nasrid palaces.
Which ticket do I need to choose for Alhambra?
There are different parts to visit in Alhambra and there are different tickets available for visitors. To see all of Alhambra in all its glory you would need that General ticket that includes all three parts of Alhambra – the Nasrid palaces, Generalife and Alcazaba.
There are tickets that don’t include the Nasrid palaces and it is a big NO! Although seeing something in Alhambra is better than nothing, the Nasrid palaces are the central part and the most important part of all places in Alhambra!
Which is the most beautiful part of Alhambra?
The Nasrid palaces – multiple royal palaces built by different Arab kings from the Nasrid dynasty – are the crown jewel of Alhambra. If you don’t visit the Nasrid palaces, then you haven’t seen Alhambra, that is why it is important to buy the right tickets well in advance that include a visit to the palaces!
But in case you don’t have time to explore all parts of Alhambra, then going to the Nasrid palaces is a must! All other parts are a bit less impressive and not so strikingly beautiful. Visits to the Nasrid palaces take place at certain hours so you need to book tickets prior to the specific time you wish to visit.
Inside Nasrid palaces in Alhambra: Comares Palace
One of the most beautiful places in the Nasrid palaces is inside the Comares Palace – one of the first palaces you will see during your visit. There is the famous Patio de los Arrayanes – an inner courtyard with a long rectangular reflective pool typical of Moorish architecture.
Back then the courtyard typically was a central space around which other rooms were organized. Somehow we got a beautiful peaceful moment inside the courtyard as we arrived 30 minutes before the opening and were the first in line to enter.
Inside Nasrid palaces in Alhambra: Palace of the Lions
As you walk to the next palace in the Nasrid palace complex you will find yourself inside the Palace of the Lions – one of the most famous palaces in Islamic architecture in the world.
Again the central element here is the courtyard – Patio de los Leones or the Courtyard of the Lions. There is a wide rectangular courtyard surrounded by a stunning forest of columns that have these ornately carved decorations and Arabic inscriptions.
In the middle of the courtyard, there is a magnificent marble fountain that is being held by twelve sculpted lions – thus the name of the palace. This was my favorite place in Alhambra!
The architecture and design are somewhat out of this world, especially the stalactite-like carvings in the ceiling of the vaults (known as muqarnas). So don’t forget to look up and pay attention to the ceilings when visiting the Palace of the Lions!
My favorite spots were those column forests at each end of the Courtyard of the Lions. The ornate carvings are incredible and make this one of the most stunning Instagram spots in Granada! No wonder Alhambra was amongst the finalists at the New 7 Wonders of the World voting contest!
Inside Nasrid palaces in Alhambra: Partal Palace
The beautiful Partal Palace built in the 14th century is one of the oldest surviving structures in the Alhambra complex.
It is another palace built for one of the Nasrid dynasty kings and is the last palace you will see during your visit to the Nasrid palaces in Alhambra.
It is a beautiful palace with a tower, an arcade, and a reflective pool in front of it which makes for a unique Instagram photo spot. The palace offers amazing views through the arched windows where you can see the hills and houses of Granada.
I found it to be the simplest of all the Nasrid palaces in Alhambra, but it was beautiful nevertheless. After visiting this palace (the last one of the Nasrid palaces) you will have to navigate through the gardens and pathways in the direction of Generalife – another part of Alhambra.
Inside Generalife in Alhambra
Generalife is the name of a complex that was a summer residence for the Nasrid dynasty kings. It has expansive gardens with fountains and lots of greenery.
The most beautiful part of the Generalife complex is Patio de la Acequia courtyard that you will find next to the palace.
The Patio de la Acequia courtyard is a rectangular area with a long pool and multiple fountains and plants. There is a beautiful pathway along one side of the courtyard that has arch-shaped windows looking out to Granada city.
The complex is very well maintained and has many beautiful hidden corners including another courtyard, viewpoints, and halls all decorated with Moorish-style elements.
Generalife is the oasis of the fortress. I do hope you get to visit this place when everything is lush and blooming! Such a scenic place!
Inside Alcazaba of the Alhambra
Alcazaba is the oldest part of Alhambra. It is important to understand, that Alhambra wasn’t a singular project but rather grew over time. Every king built something and eventually, Alhambra came to be a whole fortified city as we see it today.
Alcazaba means ‘citadel’ in Arabic which signifies a fortress typically on high ground. It is a fortress inside a fortress. There isn’t much left of Alcazaba today and it was the least impressive part of Alhambra.
However, there were great views from one of the defensive towers in Alcazaba where we could see the whole Granada at our feet. It was a nice way to finish the tour around Alhambra!
Where is the entrance to get to the Nasrid palaces?
When you buy a General ticket, you must choose a certain time you wish to visit the Nasrid palaces. That is because the palaces have limited space whereas the rest of Alhambra – Generalife and Alcazaba – can be visited all day long afterward.
It means that you will have to start your visit right at the Nasrid palaces first, and then walk around the rest of Alhambra. We bought tickets to Alhambra with an entrance time to the Nasrid palaces at 8:30 AM in the morning and we were a bit confused about the entrance. Where to go?
Well, you will have to walk a bit! At first, you have to go to Puerta de las Granadas gate, then go through it and keep left to hike uphill to the Alhambra fortress. After a couple of hundred meters, you will reach the Pilar de Carlos V fountain. Climb a few steps past it and turn left to Puerta de la Justicia gate.
We arrived before 8 AM at the Puerta de la Justicia gate and it was already open. Don’t wait at the gate! You have to enter the gate and walk inside Alhambra. Now you need to walk uphill, around the corner, through Puerta del Vino gate, and you will find yourself in a square next to the Palace of Charles V.
To enter the Nasrid palaces you have to wait for your entrance time in this square next to the Palace of Charles V. When we visited there was a tiny hut and ropes to separate the line of people on the far North side of the square (somewhere here). We waited here and got in as the first ones inside the palaces!
2. Hidden gem in Alhambra – Palace of Charles V!
Not many people know that there are places in the famous Alhambra fortress that you can actually visit for free! Yes, even if you don’t have a ticket for Alhambra you can still see some buildings and places around the fortress.
Or it might even be the other way round – some might think that the only places worth visiting are those that need the entrance tickets and might skip the ones that are for free. One such building that you can visit for free in the famous Alhambra is this beautiful Renaissance palace – the Palace of Charles V.
Construction of this palace inside the Alhambra complex was ordered by King Charles V at the beginning of the 16th century. It was a project to commemorate his grandparents – the Catholic Monarchs – who conquered Granada.
Building a palace of a Christian king inside Muslim kings’ citadel – Alhambra – was a symbolic gesture of their victory over the Muslim kings. Construction of this Roman-inspired palace with a stunning circular courtyard lined with columns started in the 16th century and lasted for 90 years.
The palace never got finished as it was meant to be, but it still looks pretty impressive today. Now it hosts multiple museums, exhibitions, and occasional events. Often overlooked by the famous Nasrid palaces right next to it, this hidden gem in Granada is a unique spot you should definitely visit in Alhambra!
Location: Palace of Charles V
3. Go on a delicious food tour in Granada!
Granada is full of delicious flavors waiting for you to taste them! There is no better way to enjoy local culture than by tasting local food and drinks! Tasting the unique Andalusian flavors and learning about the local culture and gastronomy is a must-do thing while in Granada!
The best way to taste some local tapas is by going on a walking food tour in Granada where you get to enjoy traditional dishes and products made in Granada. The tour will show you how to live, drink and eat like a local in an authentic way! An experience not to be missed in Granada!
Book now >>> Granada: Walking Food Tour
4. Visit the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel of Granada
Located in the heart of Granada city is the lavish cathedral – Cathedral of Granada. Built in the 16th century, this Renaissance cathedral is an impressive sight to see in Granada. With its gold-and-white interior, massive dome, and many chapels it tells a story about the city’s history throughout centuries.
Book now >>> 3-Hour Cathedral and Royal Chapel Tour in Granada
Like many other Christian cathedrals and churches all around Andalusia, this cathedral was also built upon a mosque. Mosques that were built during the Islamic period in Spain were usually destroyed or redesigned soon after Spain’s territory was reconquered from Muslims by the Catholic Monarchs.
The Granada Cathedral has a secret – integrated into the building complex of Granada Cathedral is the Royal Chapel of Granada. It is the burial place of the aforementioned Catholic Monarchs – Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II.
It was under their rule when the last Moorish dynasty in Andalusia – Nasrid dynasty – fell and all the lands in Andalusia were reconquered from the Muslims. They were both titled the Catholic Monarchs in recognition of their defense of the Catholic faith.
Today you can buy tickets and enter the Royal Chapel (you can’t take photos inside the chapel). There is a crypt under the floor where you can walk down and see the tombs of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. There are separate tickets and entrances for the cathedral and the Royal Chapel.
Book now >>> 3-Hour Cathedral and Royal Chapel Tour in Granada
5. Be blinded by the gold at Basílica de San Juan de Dios!
Basílica de San Juan de Dios is a true hidden gem in Granada. I am definitely not one of those people who always have to visit churches and cathedrals wherever I go, however, sometimes it is worth it and this is one of those times.
This 18th-century Baroque basilica is simply breathtaking. It is as if they tried to compete with the famous Nasrid palaces in Alhambra when they built this place. Embellished with ornate frescoes, golden altars, and a soaring dome, I was almost blinded by this bedazzling beauty.
There is an entrance fee to see this extraordinary building, but it is so worth it! The best thing is that you can not only visit the big hall of the church but also walk to the secret chambers behind the altar and inside the rooms and halls that are normally reserved for church personnel only.
Every room, staircase, and chamber is filled with jaw-dropping Baroque decorations, sculptures, furniture, and art. I thought this would be a relatively quick visit, but this unbelievable beauty left me speechless and unable to take my eyes off the spectacularity of it all.
The visit includes visits to the main hall, behind the main altarpiece, the sacristy, dressing rooms, and side chapels. My favorite spot was up on the upper balcony where you can see everything from above. I would definitely recommend stopping here for an hour of your time!
Location: Basílica de San Juan de Dios
6. The unique taste of Granada – pionono!
Did you know that Granada has its own sweet pastry called pionono? It is a small two-bite pastry made of a thin layer of rolled pastry and soaked in syrup. And then topped with toasted cream. Trying this is definitely an interesting experience!
As you walk around Granada Old Town, you will see multiple pastry shops and bakeries with pionono pictures in the windows. They are a popular snack with morning coffee or during the day. Just be careful during hot days – everything quickly melts and it is not easy to keep it all together intact, haha!
You can get authentic piononos in practically every cake shop, bakery, or pastry shop. We stopped at Casa Ysla 1897 Piononos near the cathedral and at Café Pastelería López-Mezquita. I can also recommend piononos at Croissantería La Blanca Paloma which is right on the way to Alhambra.
7. Visit the most beautiful sacristy in the world!
Monasterio de la Cartuja de Granada is a place with indescribable beauty. The plain grayish outside walls hide some of the most beautiful things you will ever see!
Located just on the outskirts of Granada’s Old Town (you can get there by bus or taxi), this monastery is a must-see place in Granada!
The monastery was built in the 16th century and combines many architectural styles. The complex consists of a huge courtyard where you can walk around and enter many different rooms and halls around the perimeter like the church, the sanctum, the sacristy, and common rooms.
The hidden gem of this place is the sacristy. It is considered to be the most beautiful sacristy in the world and I can attest to that. The paintings inside the dome, the marble, the exquisite carvings, and the bedazzling art is something I will never forget. The Nasrid palaces in Alhambra have competition here!
You will find a ton of stunning corners and truly beautiful gems in the monastery – including some of the most beautiful places in Granada! Definitely, my favorites among them all were the church and the sacristy. The patio was great too for some fresh air and relaxation. I hope you get to visit this place!
Location: Monasterio de la Cartuja de Granada
8. Get lost in the buzz of street shops and markets!
Going shopping and checking out street markets was one of my favorite things to do in Granada! Some corners of this city reminded me so much of the ‘souks’ street markets in Marrakesh, Morocco! Probably because of the history this city has and the long rule of the Arab dynasties in Andalusia!
La Alcaicería market
If you are looking for some cool authentic spots then I suggest going to the La Alcaicería market which is actually the place of the old silk market in Granada. This particular market reminds me so much of the ‘souks’ in Marrakech, Morocco.
The marketplace is not big, so you can easily wander around and see everything in a matter of a couple of minutes. There are two charming entrances to the market (I have added the exact locations below). Both have these Moorish-style arches – one is a brick arch, another has these beautiful carvings.
The La Alcaicería market is located right next to the Granada Cathedral, so it is easy to find it. There are narrow streets full of goods and shops. Parts of the market area are covered. Looks really cool and maybe you can even find some souvenirs there! It is definitely hidden and it is definitely a gem in Granada!
Paseo de los Tristes
Another cool place to go people-watch and shop for some souvenirs was Paseo de los Tristes. It is a notable street along the riverside at the foot of Alhambra hill. There are many different shops as well as restaurants and even squares with benches to sit on along the street. Definitely check out this street!
Calle Elvira street
Another great place to find authentic restaurants, cafes, tea shops, and souvenirs is Calle Elvira street. This was one of the busiest places I saw in Granada full of smells, colors, goods, and people. If you want to see the Arabic side of this city as well as try food and buy stuff, this is the right place to come to!
9. Explore Granada’s unique gardens – Carmen de la Victoria and Carmen de los Mártires!
Carmen is a word you will stumble upon frequently when searching for something on Google Maps in Granada. No, Carmen in this case is not a woman. The name actually comes from the Arabic karm which means vines.
Carmen in Granada is a rural property – a house surrounded by expansive gardens with decorative trees as well as fruit trees, pathways, fountains, ponds, and other water features. The garden is a mix of decorative (for relaxation) and practical (for food like fruit trees).
Carmen de la Victoria
One of my favorite places in Granada is Carmen de la Victoria garden. It is located inside the premises of the University of Granada right next to student residences. It is a gated territory, however, you are allowed to access the gardens for free.
There is a guard next to the entrance gate who let us in when we were sneaking around and trying to understand how to get inside. I saw that others just rang the bell and then the guard let them in. Either way, the garden is available for public access at certain hours.
The garden is very well maintained. There are very scenic views over the city and the Alhambra, there are fountains, pathways, hanging flower bushes, and trees cut into different shapes. Definitely one of the most unique places you will see in Granada!
Carmen de los Mártires
We explored two carmens in Granada – Carmen de la Victoria which I have already mentioned and also Carmen de los Mártires garden. It is always amazing to see how creative people are and how they try to adapt to the circumstances. The gardens are great for some shade during hot summers.
The Carmen de los Mártires garden is located on a hilltop and offers amazing views over the city. The area has working hours, but the entrance is free.
It is pretty massive with a whole forest included in the complex. There are ponds, sculptures, and even an aqueduct. it is beautiful, but I liked Carmen de la Victoria more!
We went there on a day when there was a private event happening in the garden, however, the area is free to visit even during the event, so we mixed around with people dressed in fancy clothes. If you are looking for a shaded place with some nice views to relax or take photos, then this is the spot to come!
10. Discover the impressive viewpoints of Granada!
Granada is a city at the foot of the famous Sierra Nevada mountains where you can see the highest peak in the Iberian Peninsula and in mainland Spain. And, quite often, walking around Granada means hiking uphill or downhill. I hope you are ready for that!
But they also say that the best view comes after the hardest climb! Granada is definitely famous for its viewpoints (‘mirador’) – especially the ones where you can see the Alhambra fortress sitting atop a hill. And, of course, the ones where you can watch the sun go down.
Here are some amazing viewpoints in Granada. if you only have time for one, I would go to the first one – Mirador de San Nicolás. It is the most famous viewpoint in Granada with iconic views over Alhambra. If you want a less popular one, I would then go to Mirador de San Cristóbal.
Mirador de San Nicolás
Probably the most famous viewpoint in Granada and one of the ultimate best Instagram spots in Granada city is Mirador de San Nicolás viewpoint.
It is a picturesque square on an elevated hillside where you can get the famous view of the Alhambra and amazing sunset views. It is very popular and can get very crowded!
We got this amazing view at Mirador Sacromonte viewpoint while hiking up to the cave museum in the hilly neighborhood of Sacromonte. The walk up to the cave museum is challenging, but it can be very rewarding.
If you decide to visit the Sacromonte Caves Museum, then definitely pay attention to the map and don’t miss this viewpoint! We got some of the best views of Alhambra right here along the way to the museum. Quite beautiful!
El Mirador de Tato
There is a beautiful viewpoint of Granada located on Plaza Maria Santisima de la Aurora square with a really nice restaurant right next to it where you can enjoy some quality dishes on the terrace and observe the views. We did not have time to enjoy food, but we spent some time enjoying the scenery.
View from Saint Helen’s Castle or The Moor’s Chair
If you are into hiking or just wandering around, then maybe you have time to wander up to Saint Helen’s Castle (The Moor’s Chair). There are hillside ruins of a 13th-century castle – a place that is known for its scenic views of the iconic Alhambra. And during sunset hours it was just mesmerizing!
Other amazing viewpoints in Granada:
11. Visit El Bañuelo – the ancient Arab Baths or hammams!
This incredible place with brick vaults, archways, and star-shaped and octagonal holes in the ceiling is El Bañuelo. These are the 11th-century public Arab baths called hammams that feature multiple rooms from cold to hot. This place is one of the best-preserved hammams in Andalusia and in Spain.
It is very interesting to see how people kept good hygiene thousand years ago. Bathing in public baths was a form of relaxation, a method of cleansing, and a form of therapy and socialization with others. Although the place is quite small, it is a place you should definitely see and experience once!
Usually, there were 3 rooms inside the public baths – the cold room, the warm room which was the biggest, and the hot room. There were holes in the ceiling to let in the daylight and let the hot steam out of the baths. This was one of the coolest and most unique places in Granada!
To visit this site, there was a possibility to buy kind of a complex ticket that includes multiple Moorish monuments around the city. We bought these tickets and visited El Bañuelo Arab baths, Palacio Dar al-Horra palace – the residence of a Nasrid queen – and Casa Árabe de Horno del Oro arab house.
Location: El Bañuelo
12. Visit the Nasrid queen’s residence – Palacio Dar al-Horra
Palacio Dar al-Horra is one of the hidden gems in Granada. It is a Moorish-style palace that once belonged to the Nasrid queen – the mother of the last Nasrid dynasty ruler in Granada. If you are interested to see how a residence fit for a queen looks like then definitely visit this place!
The palace was built in the 15th century. The name of the house translates as the House of the Honest Lady. It was built in a typical Moorish architectural style with a rectangular patio with columns and ornate archways. This place doesn’t compare to Alhambra, but it is nice for a quick visit if you have time!
Probably the most unique thing about Palacio Dar al-Horra is the view. The palace is located on a hillside so you can get very picturesque views of the city. We visited this palace with a combined ticket that includes multiple monuments (like El Bañuelo hammams), but you can visit this place on Sundays for free.
Location: Palacio Dar al-Horra
13. Relax in the traditional Hammam Al Ándalus Arab baths!
One of the rituals that was an integrated part of people’s lives in the Medieval Granada was the hammam or the so-called Arab Baths. Offering relaxation in multiple rooms of different temperatures (from cold to hot), the hammam is a form of therapy, a method of cleansing, and a place for relaxation.
Granada offers this unique opportunity to experience a traditional hammam at a 1.5-hour session at Granada’s Hammam Al Ándalus right at the foot of Alhambra! Combine this unforgettable experience with traditional tea and a relaxing massage (it is optional, so you have to select it!)!
Book now >>> Hammam Al Ándalus with Massage
14. Explore Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte
One of the most unique places to visit in Granada is Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte. It is an ethnographic museum of white-washed cave houses that used to be inhabited by the poorer part of society (mostly gypsies at that time). The museum was very informative and unique!
Book now >>> Sacromonte Caves Museum Admission Ticket
For an entrance fee, you can visit numerous caves each serving different purposes during the daily lives of people who lived here – pottery room, kitchen, stables, bedroom, and others. it will take about 30 to 45 minutes to explore all the rooms and understand their meaning.
The hike to the cave museum will be challenging on a hot day. It goes uphill and requires some extra time to reach the spot. However, I thought it was worth it as you get to have some of the best views over Granada and the Alhambra, as well as visit some artisan shops and souvenir stalls along the way.
Book now >>> Sacromonte Caves Museum Admission Ticket
Location: Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte
15. See an authentic flamenco show – a dance born in Andalusia!
There is a fantastic way to make your trip to Granada more fun and exciting! Did you know that the art of flamenco dancing was created in Andalusia? Yes, it is true! So visiting an authentic flamenco show in Andalusia is a must for every traveler!
Experience a fantastic flamenco show performed in the heart of Granada – in La Alboreá – with the option of a glass of wine and Iberian chorizo! This is the most convenient show location – right next to the main tourist attractions in Granada!
The show lasts 1 hour and is performed by professional Flamenco dancers (yes, it is a profession here in Andalusia!). Perfect cultural moment to be enjoyed together with Spanish wine and Spanish tapas (all are available on-site or you can select them when booking a ticket for the show!).
Book now >>> Granada: Flamenco Show in La Alboreá
16. Admire the Monasterio de San Jerónimo!
Monasterio de San Jerónimo is a 16th-century monastery located in the heart of the Old Town of Granada. From the outside you won’t see anything special, however, the inside hides a lavishly decorated Renaissance-style interior. It is definitely worth a visit!
There are two places that stood out to me (my favorite spots). The first is the inner courtyard which is created in a traditional way they built properties here centuries ago. The courtyard is lined with beautiful archways and columns and full of orange trees in the middle.
The other of my favorite spots here was the church (you can enter the church by one of the doors connected to the courtyard). It has stunning sculptures, bedazzling altarpiece, and fantastic frescoes on the ceilings. Looks simply stunning and I could only admire the beauty of this place!
Location: Monasterio de San Jerónimo
17. Take a trip to the Sierra Nevada mountains!
Granada sits at the feet of the Sierra Nevada mountains – a mountain range that contains the highest peak in continental Spain (Mulhacén at 3,479 meters / 11,414 ft) and housing one of the most Southern skiing resorts in Europe.
Exploring the mountains while in Granada is a great way to make your trip more memorable! There are many ways you can explore and enjoy nature to the fullest, but possibly the best options you have are exploring on a 4×4 tour, going on a canyon hiking tour, or enjoying a mountain e-bike tour. Have fun!
More Andalusia travel inspiration!
- Córdoba, Spain: 17 bucket list things to do in the beautiful Córdoba
- 25 most famous Instagram spots in Seville, Spain
- 13 ultimate bucket list things to do in Ronda, Spain (+map!)
- 19 best Instagram spots for amazing photos in Cádiz, Spain
- 9 best things to do in Spain’s hidden cave village, Setenil de las Bodegas
- 13 hidden gems and unique spots you should see in Malaga, Spain
Granada offers some of the most beautiful architectural marvels this world has to offer – starting with some jaw-dropping examples in secret churches and monasteries and ending with the Nasrid palaces in the world-famous Alhambra fortress.
I hope you enjoy your time in this charming city as much as we did! And I hope you will get some inspiration from this blog post to make your trip even more adventurous, fun, and exciting! Granada was truly captivating in all its glory and we will never forget the stunning sites we explored in this city!