Granada sits in the foothills of the grand Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s widely known as the location of dramatic Moorish architecture. While the Alhambra may be the focal point of this bustling Andalucían city, there’s a wealth of things to do in Granada to keep you busy. You can easily reach Granada by train from the Spanish capital Madrid. There are also several routes that will take you deep into the southern Spain countryside.
1. Tour the Alhambra (Obviously)
The Alhambra may be the most obvious attraction to visit in Granada, and for good reason. This stunning example of grand Moorish architecture sits proudly on a hill in the city’s center. A walk around the palace and the gardens is a humbling and breathtaking experience, and the views from the various vantage points will keep you absorbed for a few hours.
Insider tip: Tickets sell out weeks in advance. Book your tickets for the Alhambra online as soon as you know your arrival dates. If you aren’t able to get tickets ahead of time, keep checking the website for new availability or get up very early to queue for tickets. There’s often a small daily allocation for people who queue.
2. Venture into the Granada Cathedral
The Capilla Real in Granada dates back to 1521, and it’s home to the tombs of Spain’s notorious Catholic Monarchs. It’s also an architectural marvel, and well worth exploring – both inside and out. The monarchs are in in the crypt beneath the marble monuments close to the altar.
Insider tip: There is a small but fascinating museum in the church’s sacristy that has relics from Isabella and Ferdinand who commissioned the church.
3. Take in the sunset from Mirador de San Nicolas
Stunning views abound in Granada, but few are as dramatic as those from Mirador de San Nicolas at sunset. This is the perfect vantage point from which to view the Alhambra, and also watch the sun slip behind the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s not uncommon to find a spirited busker to set the tone for the evening, along with a throng of selfie stick wielding tourists, so get there early to claim a spot on the wall – the best seat for the best sunset show in the city.
Insider tip: Watch onto your bags and wallets. It’s easy to lose yourself in the views and not pay attention to the crafty pickpockets who work the crowd in the area.
4. Walk the Albayzín district
The narrow winding streets that line the hill opposite the Alhambra offer a window back into the city’s medieval history. Pack your walking shoes and get lost in this fascinating maze. The Albayzín district is packed full of sights and attractions, as well as cafés, restaurants, and a small but bustling souk. Every now and again you’ll look down a steep unassuming alleyway and take in an impressive view of the Alhambra, distant mountains, or city below.
Insider tip: There are several restaurants and cafés in the area. But if you’re after a good breakfast and coffee in a beautiful little café and courtyard, head to Café 4 Gatos.
5. Take a gentle walk down Carrera del Darro
If you’re a fan of quiet walks along beautiful streets, then you’ll be spoilt for choice in Granada. Carrera del Darro is perhaps the most celebrated of the city’s scenic walks. The street follows the entire left bank of River Darro and has two quaint stone bridges along with dramatic views of the Alhambra and the forests leading up towards it. The road dates back to the 17th century. Although it’s now a popular thoroughfare, it doesn’t appear to have lost its charm.
Insider tip: You can get to Carrera del Darro by bus number C1 – get off at the bus stop called ‘Paseo de los Tristes’. It is also easy walking distance from Gran Via.
6. Step back into the future at the Science Park
Granada may be a fascinating window back into Spain’s medieval era, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time in the distant past. The city’s Science Park is world-class and has a range of activities for all ages. You can learn about various phenomena such as gravity, Archimedes’ principle, and inertia through dozens of interactive exhibits. There are 27,000 square meters of outdoor exhibitions to explore as well.
Insider tip: There’s a lot to explore at the Science Park. Get there early or you may have to plan a return visit the next day.
7. Celebrate jazz and literature at Bohemia Jazz Café
There are dozens of great cafés and bars in Granada. But if you have to choose just one to visit, make it Bohemia Jazz Café. This dimly lit den may look closed from the outside, but it’s a haven for music and book lovers. They have a good selection of alcoholic drinks, and an impressive array of milkshakes and other sweet delicacies. Go there on your first night in town, and it’s quite likely you’ll schedule in a return visit for each of your remaining nights.
Insider tip: Skip a conventional beer and go with an alcoholic milkshake – you won’t regret it!
Granada is a fascinating city that’s perfectly located for a short stop while exploring Spain by rail. While the Alhambra and its surrounding gardens is Granada’s unmissable attraction, give yourself some extra time to explore all the other things to do in Granada. You’ll have leave with a new appreciation for this iconic corner of Andalucía.
Originally written for Eurail.com