Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of Southern Spain’s Andalusia region, Granada is not just a hidden gem, but a treasure trove of diverse ethnic groups and cultures. Exotic, breathtaking and serene, the old Moorish city is a cultural delight with its rich history. Striking Islamic architecture and beautiful Arab influence contrast against Spanish heritage, and renaissance and gothic aesthetics.
Tapas, wines, cheeses, jamones, flamenco, art, and history. There is no shortage of activities and sites to see, every corner is bursting with flavor and character. Here are a few highlights that are a must for any visitor.
1. The Alhambra (including Generalife, Nasrid Palace and Alcazaba)
Set against the backdrop of the stunning Sierra Nevada peaks, The Alhambra is an imposing fortress that sprawls across the hilltop.
The site includes royal palaces, peaceful gardens, patios, fountains and impressive Islamic architecture.
It is the greatest surviving relic of Andalusia’s 800 years under Moorish rule, built between the 8th and 15th centuries.
Once a walled citadel where Sultans resided, Alhambra is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This amazing structure is divided into 3 parts: the Nazrid palaces, the battlements or Alcazaba, and the gardens of Generalife . Dont panic, but there are five different types of admission tickets to choose from.
- 1.Alhambra General (includes everything – the Nasrid Palaces, Generalife gardens, Alcazaba)
- 2.Gardens, Generalife and Alcazaba
- 3.Night Visit to Nasrid Palaces
- 4.Night Visit to Generalife Gardens
- 5.Combined Visit Alhambra and Rodriguez-Acosta Foundation
Tickets will sell out quickly during peak tourist season. But dont worry, you will be able to purchase tickets to the Alhambra between two hours and four months in advance.
- On the Website HERE. If you don’t have your own printer, visitors can print the tickets at one of the vending machines next to the Alhambra entrance using the reservation number.
- By Phone (+34) 858 953 616, information 958 027 971.
- At the ticket office on the same day if any are still available.
- Note: You should schedule at least four hours for a trip to the Alhambra.
- By Bus: You can take the red minibus Alhambra Bus C30 or C32, which leave every 8-12 minutes from Isabel Catolica Square to the Alhambra. The stop where you need to get off is called ‘Alhambra – Generalife 2’.
2. Granada Cathedral and the Royal Chapel
In the heart of the city stands a most magnificent cathedral. This massive sanctuary was commissioned by Queen Isabella I in the early 16th century. This was immediately after the conquest of Granada and was constructed on the site of the Main Mosque. It is not only the fourth largest cathedral in the world but the first Renaissance cathedral in Spain.
Immediately upon entrance, visitors are struck by the beautiful circular design and unique walls of the main chapel. A visit to just the main chapel alone would be worth the trip.
Right next door is the Royal Chapel, the burial site of two of Spain’s most notable historical figures, Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II. The ornate burial tombs were all hand carved by sculptors from marble and are the real highlight of this monument.
The Granada Cathedral and the Royal Chapel each have a seperate entrance fee. Tickets can be purchased directly at the ticket office of the Granada Cathedral.
- General admission, individual or groups: 5 euros (audio guide included)
- Students and people with disabilities: 3,5 euros
- Children under 12: free entry
- Note: Photography is not allowed inside the Royal Chapel of Granada.
3. The Sacromonte
- By Bus: You can reach the Cathedral of Granada using Granada city buses, routes 4, 8, 11, 21, 33 (the bus stop is ‘Gran Via 1’ or Cathedral), routes C31, C32, C34 (the bus stop is ‘Plaza Isabel Catolica’).
This bustling neighborhood is home to Granada’s Roma community – a 15th century gypsy quarter with many cave dwellings and whitewashed streets to explore.
Youll spend hours roaming the district, being transported back into a place frozen in time. Thanks to the steep streets, the views from the top are picturesque, with panoramic views across the neighbouring towns.
The Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte consists of eleven cave houses, giving visitors a tour steeped in customs and history. It takes about one hour and costs 5€ per person.
While in Sacromonte, allow yourself to be seduced by the strumming of the Spanish guitar and the clicking of flamenco dancers.
It is here that you can witness and experience the most authentic long-standing tradition of flamenco performed by the Spanish gypsies (Gitanos or Roma).
The Gitanos mix the traditional Spanish flamenco with Arab belly dancing and shows are still frequently held in cave homes.
- By Bus: You can reach the Sacromonte from Plaza Nueva by bus number C34. The buses have an average frequency of 20 minutes. Duration of the trip is about 15 mins.
4. Granada ancient Arab baths
A hammam is an Arab bath – hot steam bath followed by a massage. Heavenly. In Granada, thanks to the Arab culture influence, visitors can explore the Ancient baths and experience the pleasure in some of the new, modern ones in the El Albaicín district.
El Bañuelo is the most famous of the hammams in Granada and provides a glimpse into Moorish life and history.
While there is no longer any running water, these 11th century baths have been maintained and are some of the few Moorish buildings that were not torn down after Granada was seized by the Spanish Kings.
The original brickwork and windows have been maintained and are an absolute marvel. Visits cost 2 euros per person and are free on Sundays.
After checking out the old baths, head over to one of the modern ones that are managed by professionals and treat yourself like a sultan with a relaxing bath amid spectacular decor while sipping on mint tea.
- By Bus: You can reach the Bañuelo by Granada city bus routes C31 and C32, the bus stop is ‘Banuelo’, or walking. Bañuelo is close to Plaza Nueva.
5. Painting Excursion
Granada is undeniably breathtaking and unique. Between the stunning mix of culturally diverse architecture, steeped in rich history and the magnificent natural scenery of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the background, Granada is awe-inspiring.
No wonder artists of all types have fallen under Granada’s spell and found their inspiration in the ancient Moorish city. For those looking for their muse, a painting retreat in Granada would be a unique and unforgettable holiday.
About the author:
Cristy “Pandoradota2” Ramadani is a behind the scenes Dota 2 professional Jack of All Trades. A freelancer, journalist, reporter, and travel writer for uptrek.com, Cristy is an avid reader and passionate cupcake baker.