Choose from 20 Fun Things to Do in Granada
Situated side by side, the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) together make an impressive monument to the power of Christian monarchs. The cathedral was begun in the early 16th century, and even though it didn’t achieve its full intended glory (it lacks, for instance, two immense planned towers), it’s still an impressive feat of Gothic-Renaissance magnificence. There are paintings by Ribera and El Greco and, in the main chapel, carvings of Ferdinand and Isabel kneeling in prayer.
The Royal Chapel is built in the Isabelline style, a flamboyant version of Gothic, and was finished in 1517. Ferdinand and Isabel, who commissioned the chapel as their mausoleum, died before its completion, so their remains had to be housed elsewhere for a time before moving to the chapel. They rest there today beneath their marble monuments, along with several of their relatives.
As well as paying tribute to the remains of the famous monarchs, you can gaze on their belongings in the Sacristy Museum, which contains the queen’s devotional paintings, jewelery box and crown, and the king’s sword.
Today, the bustling plaza is best known for its abundance of stylish bars and tapas restaurants, coming alive in the evening hours when both locals and tourists congregate on the lamp-lit terraces. There’s more to Plaza Nueva than its nightlife though and the elegant square is also home to a number of striking landmarks, including the 16th-century Royal Chancellery and Mudejar-style Church of Santa Ana, both the work of Renaissance architect Diego de Siloé, and the House of Pisa, which now houses the Juan de Dios Museum.
The Palace of Charles V is a carefully designed statement of triumph and prestige. By building a royal residence in the heart of a conquered Muslim citadel, Charles honored his grandparents, the Catholic Monarchs, and celebrated the victory of Christianity over Islam.
The palace is in the Roman style, with a circular building set in a square. It was begun in 1526. Work on it was abandoned for 15 years during Granada's Moorish uprising, and abandoned again in 1637, leaving the palace unfinished and roofless. Finally, in 1923, a plan was designed to rescue and complete it.
Today the Palace houses two museums. The Museo de la Alhambra houses artifacts from the palace, including perfume burners used in the harems; the Museo Bellas Artes contains mostly religious paintings.
- Sierra Nevada National Park is a must-visit for adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts.
- Remember to dress in layers; temperatures can vary drastically at different altitudes.
- Bring plenty of water; hot and dry conditions can quickly lead to dehydration.
- Wear sturdy hiking boots suitable for traversing rocky and uneven terrain.
- Cellphone coverage is unreliable within the park.
- Day trips to the La Alpujarra region from Grenada typically last around 10 hours.
The church of the Monasterio de la Cartuja is where Spanish late-Baroque hits its lavish heights. It was begun in the 16th century and building continued for another three centuries; it was never completed.
The Carthusian monks that lived in the Monasterio de la Cartuja lived a humble life. They practiced silence, ate simple vegetarian fare and spent their time praying, studying, working and making rosary beads from rose petals (you can still buy these from the souvenir shop). But their low-key lifestyle must have been made up for by the wild profusion of their surroundings.
The exterior of the Monasterio de la Cartuja is plain enough, but once inside, the eye is fed on cream and brown swirls of edible-looking marble, a courtyard paved in patterned stone, ornate carvings and of course, gilt gilt and more gilt!
The Albaicin (also spelled Albayzin or Albaycin) is Granada's old Muslim quarter, and its steep twisting streets still have a medieval feel. With its white buildings and deep-gardened mansions spilling down the hill, the Albaicin is beautiful in itself, but what makes it particularly stunning is its views of the Alhambra. (The views of the Albaicin from the Alhambra enhance that experience as well!) There's a viewing point by the church of St. Nicolas that offers particularly good Alhambra vistas.
The Albaicin was heritage-listed in 1984. Its name may have derived from settlers fleeing the Christian invasion of the town Baeza, or it may derive from an Arabic phrase meaning 'quarter of the falconers.' Despite the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, it survived as a Muslim quarter for some decades, and you can still see the remains of Islamic bathhouses, mansions and fountains.
Buses 31 and 32 from Plaza Nueva will take you on a circular route around the Albaicin. They run roughly every 10 minutes.
- The Alhambra is incredibly popular, so be prepared to wait in line, even to pick up pre-booked tickets. Choosing a tour with skip-the-line entry will help maximize your time.
- Visitors with disabilities should visit the Entrance Pavilion for information about accessibility. Wheelchairs are available.
- The complex has four restrooms: in the Entrance Pavilion (near the ticket office), the Pavilion of Services, the Low Gardens, and the Sultana's Court.
Some visitors walk up to the Alhambra on one of the scenic routes from the city center. These paths are on a bit of an incline, but many believe the views are worth the slight workout. Those who would rather rest their legs can take a bus or taxi, or drive up independently (note that parking spaces are limited). Most guided Alhambra tours include round-trip transport from downtown Granada or from nearby cities such as Seville and Malaga.
When to Get There
The Alhambra is open year round, with varied hours based on the season and day of the week. Much of your visit will be outside, so dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. If you're visiting during the summer months, try to go at the earliest or latest available time slots to avoid the biggest crowds.
How to Choose Between a Night Visit and Day Visit to the Alhambra
Marbella: the very name is enough to conjure an expensively scented whiff of the rich and famous who have flocked here since the 1960s and 70s. Sean Connery used to come here to play golf; Joan Collins lived here too. The cream of the stars may have moved on, but there's still plenty of money in Marbella - hence the prices.
The city still has a hearty whack of chic, despite the inevitable ugly over-developments and overcrowded beaches. And if you want to know why everyone started coming here in the first place, you have only to wander along to the old part of town, with its whitewashed houses, palm trees, jasmine and geraniums.
Marbella is beautifully situated at the foot of the Sierra Blanca, looking out to sea, in the province of Málaga. The closest airport is Málaga, or you can get buses from Madrid or Barcelona.
The small public square is a lively place to be at all times of the day, with a handful of craftsmen setting up shop along the paving stones and a roster of street musicians and flamenco dancers on hand to entertain visitors. The most atmospheric time to arrive is at dusk, when crowds of locals and tourists turn out to watch the sunset over the palace grounds, before adjourning to the restaurants and teashops of nearby Elvira Street.
- The Generalife Gardens are a must-visit for all first-time visitors to Granada.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to do quite a bit of walking.
- Don’t forget to bring sun protection, as southern Spain can get very hot.
- Strollers are not permitted on the grounds of the Generalife, so plan to bring a baby carrier if needed.
- The Generalife Gardens are mostly wheelchair accessible, and there are modified tours that cater to—and include—wheelchairs.
Despite it’s pared down size, the Alcaicería is still one of Granada’s most atmospheric areas, with a plethora of traditional craft and souvenir stores crammed with ceramics, silver jewelry, and alpaca knitwear, and stalls hawking an array of exotic spices, silks and incense. Wandering around the markets is an experience in itself, but with vendors happy to barter for goods, it’s also a great place to pick up some bargains. Look out for local specialties like fajalauza (hand painted ceramics), granadino farolas (stained-glass lamps) and taracea items (traditional wooden goods).
A hallmark of Granada's Moorish tradition is its use of water "“ fountains, pools, trickling streams, and of course the Baños Árabes (Arabic baths). Although it might not reach quite the glorious heights of the Sultan's own bath (Blind musicians! Dancing girls!), Granada's Aljibe de San Miguel Arab Baths (San Miguel Hammam) is still a great way to relax after a tough day on the tapas.
A soothing color scheme in yellow and blue, the waft of essential oils, chunky adobe pillars and seven pools with different temperatures will put you in a heavenly state of calm. If any stress lingers, choose some scented oils and treat yourself to an optional massage.
Sessions are mixed, so swimwear is mandatory. If you don't have a swimsuit you can buy one. The bathing experience lasts for about an hour.