Why visit Granada?
Many are drawn to Granada for one simple reason: the stunning Moorish complex of the Alhambra. Part tranquil gardens, part resplendent palace, part imposing fortress, the Alhambra is a wonder of the modern world. It is a constant presence wherever you are in the city and many visitors simply never look beyond it. For those willing to look a little closer though, what they find might surprise. Put simply, Granada is cool. With its free tapas culture, abundant student population and quirky Moroccan tea houses, Granada is Andalusia with a twist, that simply cries out to be explored.
Granada: the facts
Granada is the capital of the Granada province which is within the larger autonomous community of Andalusia and is called home by 250,000 inhabitants. It sits at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and at the confluence of three rivers: the Beiro, the Darro and the Genil.
Founded during the Caliphate civil war of the 11th century due to its militarily defendable position, the village quickly grew into one of the most important cities of Al-Andalus (Moorish Spain). In 1228, The Nasrid Dynasty established the Emirate of Granada which was to remain in place for more than 200 years and their architectural influence is still felt in the city today. However, the tides of change were flowing against the Emirate and on 2nd January 1492, Emir Muhammad XII, the last Muslim ruler on the Iberian peninsular surrendered to the Los Reyes Católicos (‘The Catholic Monarchs’) Ferdinand II and Isabella I after defeat at the Battle of Granada.
Religious persecution soon followed as the new Catholic rulers set about Christianising its new lands. The Jews were forced to convert or were expelled in the very same year as victory was won. Muslims suffered humiliation and persecution and by 1501 were given the same choice. Granada fell into terminal decline that was not arrested until the 1830’s when the Romantic Movement’s interest in the restoration of Granada’s Islamic heritage heralded the arrival of tourism.
During the Spanish civil war Granada was seized by the Nationalists at the outbreak of hostilities. It is estimated that over 4000 people with leftist sympathetic were killed including Federico García Lorca, Granada’s most famous writer.
The climate in Granada is extremely sunny with little rainfall. The winters are generally mild with temperatures ranging from 1oC – 12oC and hot summers (17oC – 33oC).
Weather in Granada now
Modern day Granada’s economy is driven by the booming tourism industry. The University of Granada is one of the Spain’s largest, and most prestigious, and ensures a healthy student population and thus night-life all year round.
The most important city festival is the Feria del Corpus Christi which takes place in the week leading up to Corpus Christi (8th Sunday after Easter.) The festival takes place all over the city with a number of different events such as processions, flamenco acts and fireworks. The Festival de San Cecilio on 2nd February marks the day of the city’s patron saint and is celebrated with gastronomy contests and is great way to try out some of the local specialities.
Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of four rivers, the Beiro, the Darro, the Genil and the Monachil. The stunning Alhambra fortress, which overlooks much of Granada, sits perched high up on the hill and is visible from almost everywhere in the city.
Calle Reyes Católicos and Gran Via de Colón are important thoroughfares in central Granada and intersect at Plaza Isabel La Católica. From here to the south-west is Puerta Real, while in a north-easterly direction lies Plaza Nueva (New Square).
From Plaza Nueva, the Cuestra de Gomerez head up the hill towards La Alhambra, while the district of Albayzin (the traditional Muslim district) snakes up a hill opposite. Many of the historic tourist attractions are located in the Old Quarter (Parte Vieja) and Albayzin district, both of which are known for their plethora of restaurants and endless array of shops.
Other notable areas include include the Realjo & Sacromonte districts, with the latter being known as the Gypsy quarter. Tourist Information Offices can be found on Plaza de Mariana Pineda, Plaza Nueva and Avenida del Generalife.
Granada Free Walking Tour
Monument & Sights Guide
Basílica de Nuestra señora de las Angustias
(Basilica of our Lady of the Anxieties)
Monument Type: Basilica
Address: Carrera del Genil, 42
Opening Times: Daily: 12.30 a.m.- 1:45 p.m., 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Information: Construction began on Basilica of Angustias in 1617. It has a richly decorated interior and is a very popular church with the local Catholic community. Inside the Basilica there are shelves containing statues of the Apostles by Pedro Duque Cornejo as well as other Baroque period paintings.
Monument type: Palace & Fortress
Opening Times: Oct 16 to Mar 15: Daytime: Mon – Sun: 8.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ticket office: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Night-time: Fri & Sat: 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Ticket office: 7.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. Mar 16 to Oct 15: Daytime: Mon – Sun: 8.30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ticket office: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Night-time: Tue – Sat 10 p.m. – 11.30 p.m. Sun & Mon: Closed: Ticket office: 9.30 p.m. – 10.30 p.m.
Buying tickets: You can purchase tickets at the door but due to the huge demand and the limited number of visitors every day, we recommend you reserve your tickets in advance. You can do this at any La Caixa cash-point which are common throughout the city.
Tickets: Day Visit There are two different day tickets which include Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Generalife, Medina and Gardens. Morning ticket: From 8:30 to 14:00. Afternoon ticket: From 14:00 to 18:00, or from 14:00 to 20:00. Night visit: The capacity is restricted (400 persons). Inc. Only Nasrid Palaces
Price: Direct Sales – Day visit: 13 € – Night visit: 8 € – Garden visit: 7 € - EU Students under 26 with valid ID: 9 € EU senior citizens (65+), pensioners 9 € People with disabilities 8 € children under 12 Free Advance Ticket Sales: 18,90 €
Information: The sprawling palace and fortress complex of La Alhambra in Granada, was originally constructed as a military stronghold in 889 and was converted into a Muslim Royal Palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. After the Reconquista by the Catholic Monarchs, the palace was modified, and added to by subsequent Christian Monarchs, including the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V who constructed the Palace of Charles V within the Alhambra’s walls. La Alhambra stands at the pinnacle of high Muslim art in Europe and is a sea of columned arcades, gentle running water and reflective pools all designed to combine with the austere and unremarkable exterior to promote the idea of peace and serenity.
Generalife was the summer residence of the Nasrid Emirs of the Emirate of Granada. The gardens were built during the reign of Muhammad III (1302–1309) and renovated by Abu I-Walid Isma’il (1313–1324) and consists of a long, thin pool framed by columns, flowerbeds and pavilions in the style of medieval Persian gardens.
Corral del Carbón
Monument Type: Islamic Merchants’ House and Warehouse
Address: Calle Molino de la Corteza del Carmen
Opening Times: Mon – Fri: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sat & Sun: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Information: The oldest surviving Muslim structure in the city. It was constructed in the 14th century and is the only surviving Islamic Corn exchange on the Iberian Peninsula. Later it was adopted by the Christian conquerors as a play house.
Palació de la Madraza
Monument Type: Madrasah (University)
Address: Calle Oficios
Opening Time: Summer: Mon – Sat: 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Winter: Mon – Sat: 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m – 7 p.m. Sunday: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Information: Located in the heart of the city, the Madrasah was established in 1349 by Yusef I as a place of learning and is notable for the number of Islamic scholars that passed through its halls. Under the terms of the Treaty of Granada (1491) the university was ceded to the Catholic Monarchs who promptly gave the building away to the new city administrators who turned it into the town hall. Today the building is once again home to students as in 1978 the buildings became part of the University of Granada. The buildings stand out feature, its façade, is inscribed in Arabic of poetry and philosophy.
Catedral de la Anunciación de Granada
Monument Type: Cathedral
Address: Calle Gran Vía de Colón, 5
Opening Times: Mar – Aug: Mon – Sat: 10:45 a.m. – 1.30 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. Sun & Festivals: 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. Sept – Feb: Mon – Sat: 10:45 a.m. – 1.30 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. Sun & Festivals: 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Price: General admission: 4 € EU Students under 26 with valid ID: 2.50 € EU senior citizens (65+) 2.50 € People with disabilities: Free Children under 10 Free
Information: Founded in 1518 on the site of a an ancient Mosque, Granada Cathedral took over 180 years to build and is the result of a blend of both Gothic and Early Renaissance (Plasteresque) styles. Enrique Egas had built the foundations of this new great statement of Christian power in the Gothic style but with his replacement, in 1529 by Diego de Siloé, the building’s nature changed course and became one of the earliest, and most durable examples of Renaissance architecture in all of Spain.
Capilla Real de Granada
(Royal Chapel of Granada)
Monument Type: Mausoleum
Address: Calle Oficios, S/N,
Opening Time: Mar-Aug: Mon – Sat: 10:15 a.m. -1.30 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 7.30 p.m. Sun & Festivals: 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. & 4 p.m. -7:30 p.m. Sept-Feb: Mon – Sat: 10:15 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m. Sun & holidays: 11 a.m. -1:30 p.m. & 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Price:- General admission: 4.50 € EU Students under 26 with valid ID: 2.50 € EU senior citizens (65+) 2.50 € Children under 10 : Free
Information: The Royal Chapel was constructed between 1505 – 1517 to house the remains of the Catholic Monarchs (Spanish: Los Reyes Católicos) Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon. Unfortunately the monarchs died before construction was completed and it was only in the reign of their grandson Charles V that their bodies were finally laid to rest. The Mausoleum continued to grow in size and Royal inhabitants until Philip II removed the majority to his newly built Escorial just outside Madrid. Originally entrance to the Mausoleum was obtained through the Cathedral but now you must go to Calle Oficios.
What is it? Town Square
Where is it? Beneath the Alambra and at the foot of El Albayzín
Information: The oldest and most important square in Granada and contains many important buildings including the Royal Chancellery (Real Chancilleria), the House of Pisa (Casa de Los Pisa), and the Church of Santa Ana on the east side of the square. Today it is the centre of the city’s nightlife with a plethora of bars and nightclubs.
Carrera del Darro
What is it? Promenade
Where is it? On the left bank of the River Darro
Information: one of the nicest walks in Granada, the street can trace its history to the 16th Century due to the explosion of an ammunition dump, leading to a redesigned and thus widening of the promenade.
El Bañuelo / Baños de Nogal
Monument Type: Arab baths
Address: Carrera del Darro 31
Opening Times: Tue – Sat: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Information: Located at the foot of La Alhambra, these Arabic baths were constructed in the 11th Century and are the best preserved and oldest example of its kind in Spain. The baths would have been a great communal building during the Muslim period and were only saved from destruction after the Reconquista because a private property was built on top of the vault. The ingenious use of star-shaped in the vaults allows light to enter the space and the fumes to exit and lighten its weight.
What is it? District of Granada
Where is it? On the hill facing Alhambra
Information: El Albaycin is a warren of winding streets maintaining its medieval Moorish past and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights include the Mirador de San Nicolás, “El Bañuelo” the Arabic baths complex, and the church of San Salvador.
Mirador de San Nicolás
(St. Nicholas Viewing Point)
What is it?: Viewing platform
Where is it?: Plaza de San Nicolás
Iglesia de Santo Domingo
(St. Domingo Church)
Monument type: Church
Address: Callejón de las Campanas 0
Opening Times: Hours of worship. Mon – Sat: 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. & 7:30 p.m. – 8.30 p.m. Sunday: 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Information: St. Dominic´s Church is a mixture of several styles: Baroque, Gothic and late Renaissance. Interesting features include the arched portico outside the church’s entrance with the initials of Ferdinand and Isabella, their shield, the Emperor and the motto ‘Tanto Monta’ in the centre. Above the porch two arches are highly decorated with scenes of Isabella and Ferdinand’s victories.
8 things to do for free in Granada
The main attractions of Granada, including El Alhambra, the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel are all guaranteed to lighten your wallet but that doesn’t mean that you must pay for everything in Granada. So join us here at hitchhikershandbook as we explore what you can achieve without spending a penny.
1. Carrol de Carbón (Calle Molino de la Corteza del Carmen, located near the Town Hall) is the sole remaining Caravanserai (Arabic Inn) in Spain and is Free to enter. (Mon – Fri: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sat & Sun: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
2. “El Bañuelo”(Carrera del Darro 31) is one of the oldest Moorish buildings in the city and is Free to enter. (Tue – Sat: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
3. Carrera del Darro is a wide promenade at the foot of La Alhambra and contains many of the city’s most interesting buildings, and is of course free to enjoy.
4. The district of El Albayzín is a UNESCO World Heritage City in itself, so simply walk around and soak up the atmosphere.
5. Museo de Casa de los Tiros (Calle Pavaneras 19) contains a wide variety of artwork and other arts in both its permanent and temporary collections and is Free to EU citizens. (16 Sep – 31 May: Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Sun: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Mon: Closed,1 Jun – 15 Sep: Mon – Sat: 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Sun: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Mon: Closed)
6. In Granada most bars offer free tapas when you buy a drink, so hold off on buying that expensive lunch you were thinking about. Simply eat and get drunk at the same time.
7. If you’re a fan of Flamenco shows then you might be disappointed to find out that almost all of the Flamenco clubs charge a cover fee at the door. You’re best bet is to head to Café Elvira (Calle Elvira, 85). It doesn’t do official concerts as such, but is popular with local musicians and artists
8. For fans of street art and interesting graffiti, head to Cuesta del Caidero which leads down the hill from La Alhambra, in the Realejo – San Matias district.
Finding accommodation in Granada need not be stressful as there are a wealth of options to cater to all tastes and budgets. Below we list some of the cheapest options, with budget travellers in mind.
Funky Backpackers (Conde de las Infantas, 15-17) is centrally located, only a few minutes walk from the Cathedral, and offers Wi-Fi as well as a host of activities for those looking to meet fellow travellers. 6 bed mixed dorms are the cheapest option (9€-11€) but there are slightly more expensive dorms (4/5 mixed: 10€-16€ and female only:13€-15€) available.
HostelOne Granada (Calle Azhuma 30) is perhaps a little further out of the centre, but it is still within walking distance of the major attractions and has a shared kitchen and a charming rooftop garden in which to relax. Basic 6 Bed Mixed Dorm cost between (9€-11€) and are the cheapest option. Other dorm rooms include Standard 6 Bed Mixed & Female Dorms (12€-14€).
Oasis Backpackers Hostel Granada (Placeta correo viejo, 3) is situated amongst the narrow winding streets of El Albayzín so it is an ideal place from which to explore the city on foot. Wi-Fi and breakfast are both available and the highlight is probably the relaxing patio with a BBQ, a great place to make new friends. 10 Bed Mixed Dorm (10€-14€) is great for penny-pinchers, although there is a variety of other dorm options with the price increasing as the size gets smaller.
Granada is a very popular Erasmus destination, which ensures the most active night-life anywhere in Andalucía outside of Sevilla. As it’s typically for Spain, the bars and clubs fill up very late, generally starting to get busy around 12 pm; restaurants tend to open their doors at around 8 pm.
→ Located to the south of the city centre, Calle Pedro Antonio de Alarcon is lined with bars and is extremely popular with the city’s student population. The surrounding streets also play host to the traditional Spanish ‘botellon’ with groups of young people warming up for the evening by drinking on the streets first.
→ The area around Plaza Nueva is slightly more upmarket, mature and popular with tourists and is particularly busy in summer, with people taking advantage of the weather to sit at one of the many terraces on offer. The square is one of the traditional homes of high quality tapas in the city and there are also a number of bars with live music.
→ The eclectic Calle Elvira & Carrera del Darro are popular bar streets very close to Plaza Nueva. They are popular with tourists so expect generally higher prices and a slightly older crowd.
→ Calle Calderia Nueva is one of the roads leading off Calle Elvira and is popularly known as ‘La Calle de Las Teterias’ (The Street of the Tea Rooms). As the name suggests the street is packed full of Moroccan style tea rooms, ideal for relaxed evenings with candles, cushions and a streaming brew.
Things to try and buy
Granadan cuisine is quite typical of Andalucia with staples such as gazpacho soup and grilled sea food available in almost all restaurants. However, for those looking to try local specialities Tortilla Sacromonte, a Spanish omelette with a local twist, is a good place to start. Jamón de Trevélez, ham that is cured in the snow of the mountain top villages surrounding the city, is unique to the region and is often served with other local specialities such as Papas a lo Pobre (potatoes and green peppers) and Migas (fried bread) to make a filling meal. In the chilly winter months Olla de San Antón, a pork, bean and potato stew, is the perfect stodge food.
Granada is also one of the few cities in coffee drinking Spain where tea is popular. So, if you are fan of a cuppa, head to one of the many Moroccan tea houses where you can try some green, black, white and red varieties.
Marquetry pottery (made by applying pieces of veneer to form decorative patterns) is also considered something of a local speciality and is heavy influenced by Moorish designs and makes an interesting souvenir.
Here a few places that offer WiFi connections:
Granada’s train station Estación de Granada, (Av de Andaluces) is located 30 mins walk north of the city centre, but by taking the number 3 or 33 bus, the centre can be reached very quickly. Services are provided by RENFE and links with Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla daily. There are also local trains which service the many villages around Granada, such as Loja, Guadix, Iznalloz and Moreda but the route is not so well developed and it is probably better to take a bus to these destinations.
The bus station, Estación de Autobuses de Granada (Avenida Juan Pablo II) can be found on the outskirts of the city, 3km from the centre, with the number 3 or 33 bus providing connections to the city proper. There are a number of operators with the most important being ALSA, who offer services to cities such as Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Malaga, Seville and many others.
The local bus system is run by Transportes Rober which offers a number of lines that run all across the city, including 5 lines that focus on all the main tourist attractions. Single tickets cost €1.20 , with multi-trip card options also available (€5 for 7 trips, €10 for 16, and €20 for 33 trips). Check out this useful map with all the stops and lines clearly marked.
Granada lies on the A-44: Autovía de Sierra Nevada which runs to Jaén and Madrid in the north and Motril in the south. The A-92, which connects to Sevilla to the west and Almería in the east, also passes close to Granada. The national road N-432 leads north-west from Granada through Cordoba and onto to Badajoz near the Portuguese border.
North-east towards Córdoba
Take the number 9 bus from anywhere along Gran Vía, heading west, to the stop Avda. Andalucía 6, the very last stop before the bus circles the roundabout under the A-44 motorway. From there walk under the motorway (be careful, its a bit dangerous) continuing for about 700 m until you find a REPSOL garage. We had to wait about an hour but remember this is Spain and nothing happens fast!
South towards Motril
Take the number 6 bus from anywhere along Gran Vía, heading east, to the very last stop Neptuno and cross under the motorway. Although it isn’t a great spot you can try on the motorway slip road or perhaps more advisably the nearby petrol station.
North towards Madrid, Jaen
Take the number 10 bus from Camino de Ronda, just south of the city centre, heading west. Leave the bus at the stop Juan Pablo II 5, anywhere along this route before the motorway slip roads is worth a try.
Although a little out of the city, by all accounts this seems by far the easiest way of reaching these tricky to reach destinations. Take one of the following buses, 122, 123 or 117, from Calle Rector Marín Ocete near the Train station to Albolote. After arriving in Albolote make your way through the down along Calle Real towards the A-92 Autovía de Andalucía. There are conveniently placed service stations on both sides of the motorway here. If you want to go west simply head under the bridge and turn left.
written by: Jon