The main reason most tourists visit Granada is probably to go see Alhambra. It is after all a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the Muslim World. So many people ask themselves: Is Granada worth visiting without Alhambra? And my answer would be: Yes, definitely! Visiting the Alhambra is great, but I actually enjoyed the city of Granada more than Alhambra. That doesn’t mean to skip Alhambra, of course, just leave enough time to see Granada as well. Keep reading to find out my 10 reasons why Granada is worth visiting.
The Obvious: Alhambra
Let’s get it out of the way, yes, you should visit Alhambra if you’re in Granada. It’s the main reason most people say Granada is worth visiting after all. And you should buy your ticket online as soon as you set your dates for visiting. I visited at the end of October and managed to buy a ticket two weeks in advance. In high season you should buy the ticket months in advance.
You can get to the entrance by bus but I would recommend walking. It’s a nice walk through a park and it’s not long at all. Just note that Google maps always wants to send you to the north entrance, the south entrance and the main entrance in the east are closer to the city centre though.
The time slot on the ticket you buy is just for the Nasrid Palace, you can visit everything else in the Alhambra complex at any time. Nasrid palace is definitely the highlight of the visit to Alhambra, the architecture and detailed wall carvings and paintings are truly stunning.
Before going I didn’t know that there are very normal buildings at the Alhambra complex, there are even hotels. So I was quite surprised about that. And, of course, there are loads of people. Although to be honest, I expected there to be even more people. Only the Nasrid palace felt truly packed with people and that’s even though you got a time slot. I found it best to hang back a bit, but not too much, otherwise, the next group of people catches up with you.
Find The Best Viewpoint in Granada
Granada is quite hilly, which can be exhausting when walking everywhere, but you get some great viewing points because of it. Most viewpoints are considered good if you have a great view of Alhambra from them. The most famous viewpoint is Mirador de San Nicolás. And to be completely honest I don’t know why it’s the most popular one. It’s the closest to the centre but unless you have a really good zoom, the rooftops of the neighbouring buildings are all gonna be on your picture of the Alhambra. And especially on weekends, it’s just overcrowded.
The viewpoint Mirador de San Cristóbal is close to the Mirador de San Nicolás, it gives you a great view of the town Granada without a lot of people there, but you don’t have a view of Alhambra from there.
Now to my favourite viewpoint: Right in front of the Ermita de San Miguel Alto, you get an amazing view of the city and Alhambra, with hardly a crowd at all. We enjoyed a lovely, quiet sunset there. But basically, any viewpoint in Sacromonte, a neighbourhood of Granada I’ll talk more about later, gives you a great view of Alhambra.
Same As In Every European City: Visit The Cathedral
It really is on almost every European city’s to-do list, go and check out the cathedral. In Granada, the cathedral is in the same building as the Royal Chapel of Granada and the Iglesia Parroquial del Sagrario. All three have separate entrances. I saw the side of the Royal Chapel of Granada first and was really impressed, I thought it was the cathedral. Only a bit later I realised the cathedral is around the corner. The cathedral itself would be impressive if you see it first but after the Royal Chapel of Granada, I was a bit underwhelmed by the cathedral. You can visit both, for €5 each. I only visited the cathedral and I think from the inside it’s more impressive than from the outside. The white walls and columns really make the altars and the religious artefacts pop. You can also download an audioguide on your phone and learn more about it.
Stroll Around Albaycín, The Arab Quarter
Sometimes I think it’s a bit awkward when I hear visit a neighbourhood because I’m always asking myself: Where exactly does the neighbourhood begin? Have I already seen the best parts of the neighbourhood? And so on. But you should definitely go see the Arab Quarter in Granada. Doesn’t matter if you know exactly where it starts. Once you’re there, you’ll know. There are no specific must-see places, just walking around the small cobblestone alleys, surrounded by white buildings is magical. I think just the Albaycín neighbourhood makes Granada worth visiting.
Usually, shopping would never be on my to-do list in a new city, BUT I just love those colourful stalls in Granada. There are two spots for the Moroccan market feeling. Calle Calderería Nueva and Calle Alcaiceria. The first is a little bit bigger, and the second is more of a network of tiny alleys, where you can find little shops everywhere. You can find similar items to purchase on both streets, but I would still recommend visiting both since they’re both not that big and not that far apart.
In Calle Alcaiceria you can find the remains of the big bazaar. Nowadays it’s not really a bazaar anymore, it’s basically just souvenir shops and the only remnant from the cloth and silk trade from the bazaar are the touristy hippy pants. But walking through the stalls is still an experience you should not miss if you’re in Granada. Besides Calle Alcaiceria is right next to the cathedral, so you can easily combine those two things.
Calle Calderería Nueva offers next to shopping opportunities many teahouses (see next point) and you can even get some henna there. I really like henna, looks so cool and it doesn’t hurt like a real tattoo (I got a lot of them as well though). One pro tip about henna is don’t get it wet before you peel it off, otherwise, it’s gonna smudge.
Sit Down In a Teahouse
In the Arab Quarter, especially in the street Calderería Nueva, you can find multiple teahouses. The traditional Moorish Teahouses offer a variety of classic and exotic tea flavours. Yes, they are quite touristy, especially in the popular street. But I think, it’s still worth going there for a cup of tea. When you enter, you feel immediately transported to a place far away. It’s not for nothing Calle Calderería Nueva is called “Little Morocco”. Another great reason why Granada is worth visiting is that where else in Spain do you get that Moroccan atmosphere?
I tried three different teahouses in Calderería Nueva, Tetería Kasbah, Tetería Al Waha and Tetería Nazarí. Out of those three Tetería Nazarí was my favourite, the tea tasted very nice, it comes in a cute pot and it feels cosy inside. And if you haven’t guessed already, tereía is the name for the Moorish tea rooms. Most tea houses also serve sweets, but none of the three I visited had any vegan sweets so (or at least the staff didn’t know about it). You can get some vegan sweets on the same street at Andalusí Nujaila though, a little bakery that sells vegan baklava.
Visit The Cave Houses in Sacromonte
Sacromonte is the next neighbourhood you should not miss out on in Granada. It’s historically known as the “Gypsy Quarter”, nowadays 50 000 Roma still live in Granada and a lot of them live in Sacromonte. The neighbourhood is known for its cave houses, houses that are built into the mountain. This very unique experience is another reason. that makes Granada worth visiting.
You can visit a few historic cave houses in the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte. Just remember that it’s an ethnographic museum and you only see historic caves there and not typical caves, where people live nowadays. For example, the caves in the museum don’t have running water or electricity, the modern cave houses do, however. You can check the opening on the museum’s webpage.
If you want an even deeper understanding of the caves, you can just spend a night in one. A lot of caves have been turned into guesthouses. I’m sure that’s a great experience, we preferred a more central location though.
See a Flamenco Show
Nobody knows exactly where Flamenco originates, as far as I know. If you visit the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte, you’ll read that it originates from Sacromonte. Either way, it’s undoubtedly a Spanish thing to do. Well, it’s a touristy thing to do in Spain. Our landlord said that she gets asked a lot for recommendations for non-touristy flamenco shows and she always says there are non, no Spanish person goes to see a flamenco show in the evening.
So, we visited a show anyway, it’s not something I’d do frequently but it’s definitely something you should try once. The show we visited was in the city centre and there were different parts, one just an amazing guitar player, one with a guitar and a singer (wasn’t quite my thing) and dances by a female and a male dancer (first both separate and then together). As it is a live performance you usually can’t take pictures unless they specify that you’re allowed. It was very cool, but I wished we had time to see a flamenco show in Sacromonte. That way you can combine seeing a flamenco show and a modern cave house. That would definitely be worth visiting in Granada.
Relax In a Hammam
Why would you only go see the ruins of a bath from long ago, when you can relax in an actual bath? You can either just visit the bath with hot and cold water pools or add a massage. It’s not the cheapest evening entertainment but I think it’s worth it. After a day of sightseeing and running around you can relax in a hot water pool, have some tea and enjoy a professional massage. There are multiple options for Hammams in Granada, read my article for a detailed description of the Hammams in Granada and which I liked best.
Go For Some Great Vegan Food
Granada is the town with the most vegan restaurants in Andalusia. That’s actually the reason why we chose to spend a week there. Upon having visited a lot of those restaurants, I wouldn’t consider them all vegan restaurants but there’s still a big enough selection to choose from. If you want to find out more about vegan restaurants in Granada, check out my article about it.
Many restaurants are closed in the afternoon and only open up again at 8 pm, which took some getting used to for me. And if you’re not too fussed about if it’s an all-vegan restaurant there are a lot of falafel places around, which are vegan by default. The only vegan options place we tried was Papas Elvira and we loved it. It was opposite our apartment, it was open all day till 1 am, and almost half the menu was vegan, including the desserts.
How Many Days To Visit Granada?
As I said in the beginning, I really think Granada is worth visiting for more than a day trip to Alhambra. I would recommend spending two nights in Granada, so you can spend one day at Alhambra and relax in the evening in a Hammam and spend one day exploring the city of Granada and end it with a flamenco show. If you have even more time, you can spend another night and do a day trip from Granada. I visited the Alpujarra region in Spanish Sierra Nevada and loved the little mountain villages.