Exploring The Best Of Granada On A Budget (Southern Spain)
Granada is a beautiful little city in the South of Spain where I lived for a month as a digital nomad. Here are some of the best things to do in Granada on your visit!
Located at the base of the snowy Sierra Madre mountains, the city of Granada is full of history and character.
Because it was once a Muslim kingdom, much of the city has been built in a style of Islamic architecture that remains today. Granda is part of Andalusia, a large autonomous region in Southern Spain.
Boasting a vibrant population of university students, free appetizers with every glass of wine, skiing in the mountains, and Mediterranean beaches only an hour away, Granada is the perfect town to visit for a weekend while traveling through Spain.
The Sacromonte Caves
On the outskirts of Granada there’s a Roma (gypsy) neighborhood build into the side of a hill, where the inhabitants live in caves. Most of the caves are pretty modern these days. But you can also visit the Sacromonte Cave Museum to see what life was like here 100 years ago.
If you climb to the very top of the hill, you’ll find a less-than-legal community of hippies and immigrants squatting in older caves. Just be wary that these people aren’t always happy to see tourists gawking at them or their homes, and some can be aggressive.
Explore The Albayzín
The Albayzín is the historical Arab quarter of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This part of Granada has a lot of Moorish history, and this had a natural impact on the area’s architecture and decor.
For example, many of the walls are covered with gorgeous tiles that were hand-painted by the Moorish population.
Carrera Del Darro
Drink From The Fountain Of Youth
Fuente del Aceituno
Free Tapas & Spanish Wine
When in Granada, do as the locals do; go to a restaurant or bar during the afternoon or evening, typically between 1pm and 4pm or between 9pm and midnight, order an alcoholic beverage and dine for free on tapas (appetizers)!
It’s a Granada tradition to provide complimentary tapas with each glass of wine or beer, but you may find yourself paying for one of these delicious treats if you ask for a tapas menu instead of blending in with the crowd.
A popular snack is Black Iberian Ham, also known as Jamón ibérico, a common sight at these bars. The meat is cured with salt for up to 3 years, so it doesn’t need refrigeration.
Mirador San Nicolas
Watch A Flamenco Show
Flamenco is a form of festive gypsy (Gitano) folk music that originated in Southern Spain. It’s possible to visit one of the popular Sacromonte caves that feature full flamenco dance performances for about €22.
A less touristy and cheaper alternative is a small local bar called La Buleria which has excellent musical performances after 1am once most tourists go home for the night. Drinks run about €2-3 each.
The Alhambra Palace
One of Spain’s most popular tourist attractions, Alhambra Palace sits on top of a hill surrounded by forest while overlooking the city below. It was built by Moorish king Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar in the 11th century when the area was ruled by Muslims from North Africa.
Filled with Arabic inscriptions, painted tiles, vaulted ceilings, and plentiful water fountains, the building is incredibly beautiful inside and out. Depending on the season, you may have to book tickets weeks in advance.
People Watching At Plaza Nueva
If you’re looking for a unique souvenir in Granada, the best place to go is Alcaiceria. In the past, this area was a Great Bazaar. Although those days are long gone, you can still find earthenware that is reminiscent of the Moorish style of the Middle Ages.
I also enjoyed taking in the artistry of authentic Granada Taracea. Some of this furniture and the other wood touches would have made a nice addition to my place if I wasn’t living out of a backpack at the time!
Casa Del Chapiz
Sierra Nevada Mountains
These mountains are technically 30 minutes outside of Granada, but it’s a must-see for all travelers. The Sierra Nevada can be accessed via car, bus or taxi, meaning there’s no excuse not to check them out!
If you’re into skiing, this is by far the best spot in Spain. If you’re visiting in the summer there’s also mountain biking, hiking and music festivals. Make sure to check out the hanging suspension bridges of Los Cahorros!
Parque de las Ciencias (Science Park)
Granada is a wonderful place to learn about history and view ancient architecture. At the same time, there’s always a small part of me that stays rooted in the present. To take a break from Granada’s charming evidence of the past, check out the very modern Science Park.
Unlike many science museums, this interactive location was truly built with people of all ages in mind. I was able to participate in many hands-on activities, which were also popular with children. My favorite part of the Science Park was the planetarium.
Soak In A Hammam
Corral del Carbón
Corral del Carbón is an interesting place to visit if you’re interested in the history of the Nasrid dynasty because it’s the oldest remaining building in Granada from that era. Plus it’s free!
Built in the fourteenth century by Yusuf the First — it was used as a warehouse for goods and a shelter for merchants. Later it was also used for stage performances.
As an added bonus, if you visit Corral del Carbón in the summer there’s a chance of running into a flamenco or play performance in the courtyard. There’s also a bookstore inside the building.
Monasterio De San Jerónimo
The Granada Cathedral
Regardless of your cultural or religious views, you simply have to make some time to visit the Granada Cathedral. This stunning example of architecture was one of my favorite parts of the city.
The combination of Gothic and Renaissance style makes it pretty cool. Make sure you have plenty of room on your memory card for photographing the stunning exterior of this 16th-century masterpiece.
Royal Chapel Tombs & Crypt
The tombs of the Royal Chapel, better known locally as the tombs of Los Reyes Catolicos, were absolutely fascinating. The Royal Chapel itself is more than worth a visit if you like history, but I found the tombs and the crypt to be particularly compelling.
It’s interesting to get such a close look at the graves of royalty. When you combine this with the lifelike representations of historical figures such as Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, it’s no wonder that the tombs are so popular.
Getting To Granada
Flying Within Spain
Renting A Car In Spain
The best site to book your car is Discover Car Hire. They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car in Spain.
Traveling By Bus
Most people get to Granada traveling by bus from other large Spanish cities. Just be aware the bus station is slightly out of town and requires a taxi or local bus to reach the city center.
The bus from Madrid takes about 4-5 hours depending on the class. You can book tickets with ALSA.
Traveling By Train
Granada’s train station is at Avenida de Andaluces. However the trains are not high-speed, and the main routes are undergoing construction work until 2019. The train takes about 5.5 hours from Madrid, and 4 hours from Seville.
You can search for and book train tickets on Rail Europe.
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Any questions about things to do in Granada? Do you have other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!