I’ll be honest. I knew absolutely nothing about Granada before heading to Spain. It was only as we were getting ready to leave Barcelona that I first heard the word ‘Alhambra’. As it turns out, Granada may have been my favourite city of our Spanish tour.
To spare the rest of you the learning curve I had to climb, here’s my breakdown of the top 5 things to do in Granada.
Of course, no discussion of Granada would be complete without mention of the Alhambra palace and fortress, and the Generalife. In our case, we had completely failed to buy tickets ahead of time, but were lucky enough to buy them that day, only after literally running from the information centre near the cathedral all the way up to the top of the hill upon which the Alhambra complex sits. I wouldn’t recommend that. Instead, buy your tickets ahead of time and then leisurely show up for your time slot. I recommend the ‘general’ ticket that includes everything you’ll want to see: the Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Generalife, Carlos V Palace, the public baths and the mosque.
The Andalusian region is the birthplace of flamenco, so if you’re going to see it, it should be here. Granada has a special flamenco charm, since many of its venues are in caves.
Though there are a variety of cavernous venues, we opted for Le Chien Andalou, a flamenco cave on the Carrera del Darro. Walking there, it seemed a good sign that on the same street was a beautiful statue of Mario Maya, a famous flamenco dancer who grew up in Granada. It’s dark, intimate, and entrancing. Get there early to get a seat near the front, although there isn’t really a bad seat in the house.
It seems redundant to say that you should eat tapas in Spain, but trust me when I say that Granada will give you a true experience. Granada is home to some of the few remaining tapas restaurants that celebrate ‘free tapas’ culture. Of course, it’s not actually free, but it’s as close as you can get. So long as you keep ordering drinks, they’ll keep bringing tapas. It’s a glorious system, so order your favourite glass of Spanish wine and see what they bring to the table next.
Our AirBnb just happened to be next door to a wonderful wine and tapas bar called La Tana. Turns out you don’t need to just take my word on how good it is; Anthony Bourdain himself raves about it. There are a few other lovely tapas restaurants in Granada, but this is the one I’m still dreaming about.
It’s easy to overlook the Capilla Real, hidden next to the Cathedral proper. Many may scoff at the entrance fee, especially once they find out that photos are not allowed. But the Capilla Real is not just another Spanish cathedral, gorgeous as they are. The Capilla Real is home to the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, so in addition to being a beautiful, ornate chapel, it’s also a beautiful, ornate mausoleum. There’s also a small museum with some pretty impressive monarchical and religious artifacts.
Granada has maintained its Moorish history more than many Spanish cities, even among other Andalusian cities. Obviously, the Alhambra is one example of this, but the palace is not the only Medieval Moorish UNESCO world heritage site in Granada. Get lost in the winding narrow roads of this historic neighbourhood, slash casbah, slash outdoor museum. I won’t say more about what can be found there since this is really where you have to go explore and see what hidden gems you uncover.
So those are my top 5 things to do in Granada! When you only have 3 days, like we did, you have to be sure to make the most of them.