Set in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada, Spain is charming and romantic. You will want to plan for more than one day in Granada since they are more things to do (than visiting the Alhambra). There are many sights to see and pomegranates figures to look for. The Spanish word “Granada” actually means “pomegranate” and you will find the motif hidden in many places around the city.
“If you were to visit just one city in Spain, it should be Granada.”
– Ernest Hemingway
A Little History of Granada
The history of Granada starts back in the 5th century BC when the Romans governed the region and made it a Roman Iberian settlement called “Elibyrge” until 711. Then it was taken under Moorish control due to the Umayyad conquest of Hispania.
The Moorish rule brought about harmony among various religions and increased the cultural and economic progress of Granada. Many attractions in Granada date from this period. It wasn’t until the 15th century that the Moorish Kingdom of Granada fell to the Roman Catholic monarchs as part of the Reconquista, ending the freedom of religion and ethnicity.
“Granada is so moving that it stimulates and melts all of the senses.”
– Henri Matisse
One Day Itinerary to visit Granada
Alhambra was the palace that Isabelle and Ferdinand lived at while they conquered the region. It is one of the popular attractions in Granada and gets very busy. I recommend booking your tickets online in advance. We rarely do group tours but did the Palace and General Life combined tour and highly recommend it.
See this short video of Alhambra in Granada, Spain
The Unesco World Heritage Site, Alhambra Palace and Gardens is one of the most visited sites in Spain. The beautiful Alhambra palace and fortress complex was a 13th century inheritance from the Nasrid dynasty.
When you enter and pass the Puerta de las Granadas (Gate of Pomegranates) a whole medieval world comes in view in front of your eyes – the Plaza de Nazaríes (The Royal Complex) or Nasrid Palaces, the fortified and military area of Alcazaba and the Generalife gardens, each packed with many astounding monuments. The details and architecture are amazing!
The Alhambra was built with its own special type of column, which is not used in any other buildings around the world. The columns have a very fine cylindrical shaft, the base of which has a big concave molding and is decorated with rings on the top part.
As you wander along the palace, you will notice the walls are covered in brightly colored ceramic tiles and poetic inscriptions. The plasterwork looks like lace!
Many inscriptions are phrases like “There is no victor but Allah” appears many times. Quotations from Koran appear towards the top of the walls, intentionally designed far from the ground. The higher up the closer to the heavens and the gods!
There are close to 10000 incriptions in the Alhambra. The ceilings and cedar work is something else. So precise and uniform. 3 dimnetional geometrical shape began to appear in the mid 10th century in Islamic architecture, creating a dazzling effect. This can be seen in the vaulted celings at the many rooms in the Alhambra.
Don’t miss The Hall of the Abencerrajes and the Mocárabe (Muqarnas) vault. Formed by little honeycomb cells or alveoluses placed one on top of the other one, it isjust so intricate!
Plan to spend at least half a day exploring the complex.
The Court of the Lions is the main courtyard of the Nasrid dynasty Palace of the Lions, and sits in the heart of the Alhambra. It was commissioned by the Nasrid sultan Muhammed V of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus.
The Patio of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) is probably the most famous place in the Alhambra. It features twelve lions that throw jets of water. A big dodecagon-shaped basin rests on top of these twelve lions, this white marble fountain is said to be one of the most important examples of Muslim sculpture.
Lunch at Bar Los Diamantes
This place has been around in Granada since 1942. The Plaza Nueva location is closest to the Alhambra and the perfect place to stop for lunch. Bar Los Diamantes serves many wonderful tapas, especially seafood.
They are famous for their seafood dishes sardines, calamari, shrimp and butterfish. You will get complimentary tapas with your drink order so keep that in mind! We tried shrimp, eggplant fries and tomatoes with olive oil and salt.
See: Drinks, Dishes and Desserts you MUST try in Spain
Cathedral of Granada
Granada’s historical center is a small neighborhood, adjacent to the Albaicín and has a variety of attractions including churches, monasteries, palaces, cultural centers and schools. The main attractions to see here are the Basilica de San Juan de Dios, the Cathedral and Royal Chapel and the Saint Jerome Monastery.
Head to the Cathedral if you want to see one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, built in the 16th century. Plan to spend about an hour at this beautiful here before heading to the sunset spot near by.
Charles V Palace is home to Granada’s Museum of Fine Arts which houses over 2,000 pieces, including a number of important religious paintings and sculptures dating from the 16th century.
Stop at Helederia los Italianos for their exquisite La Cassata and Spumoni ice cream.
Sunset Spot in Granada
Albaicín, the Arab Quarter which was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1984. Albaicín is an area where Nasrid and Renaissance architecture still shines. The vibrant atmosphere of Albaicín will take you back in time and you might want to spend some time wandering the atmospheric streets of Albaicín neighborhood.
Located in the Albaicín neighborhood, less than a mile north of the Paseo de los Tristes, Plaza de San Nicolas directly faces the Alhambra and the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountain range that sits right behind it. It is THE place to watch the sunset in Granada, Spain.
The restaurant is across the street from the famed San Nicholas Square is a great place to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset and the Alhambra glow. Or you can just watch it from the terrace. The crowd always gets into a frenzy and cheers when the sun hits the palace.
If you want to enjoy sundowners and some sangria when you watch the sunset in Granada, the terrace at El Huerto de Juan Ranas is perfect. The sunset view of the Alhambra is stunning and the Andalusian cuisine is top-notch. They have great options for vegetarians as well. El Balcon de San Nicolas is another good option as well.
We had just one sunset in Granada were desperately wishing we have a couple more days to enjoy and explore Granada.
Dinner or a Flamenco in Sacromonte
We saw a Flamenco show is Seville and didn’t plan for one is Granada. It is considered to be one of the top things to do in Granada. This Flamenco show in Granada comes highly recommended.
If you pay close attention you will notice a lot of pomegranates when you as you walk around the city. From paintings to street signs to metalwork on street pipes, they are everywhere! It is the symbol of Granada and the “Granada” in Spanish means pomegranate. The city was renamed for the fruit many centuries ago during its Moorish period.
Other things to do in Granada
Sierra Nevada National Park
Sierra Nevada Mountains are worth exploring as a day trip from Granada. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are part of Sierra Nevada National Park, the largest national park in Spain. The park stretches nearly 320 square miles from Granada to the edge of Almeria and features one of Europe’s tallest mountains.
Along with the Mulhacen, a 11,000-foot-tall mountain, there are more than 20 mountains to explore in addition to multiple lakes, rivers and forest areas. (Again wish we had planned better and had more than one day in Granada). But we did see some of the area when driving from Seville to Granada, we even stopped at a few white village of Spain on the way.
The nearby Sierra Nevada Ski Resort is Europe’s southernmost ski resort. During the winter months it offers more than 62 miles of slopes with chairlifts and gondolas for skiing and snowshoeing.
During the summer, the gondolas and lifts transport visitors to some of the park’s highest peaks, including Veleta (the tallest after Mulhacen) and their subsequent scenic trails. You can also plan for a private Sierra Nevada Safari in a 4WD if you don’t have your own car.
Shopping at Alcaiceria Market
Looking for some authentic souvenirs then Alcaiceria Market is the place to go. At first look, the market may seem like a tourist trap with stores selling cheesy magnets and postcards, but go farther into the market you find plenty of treasures difficult to find elsewhere.
The Alcaiceria was originally a bazaar established by the Moors. Look for wooden boxes with intricated inlay work.
Granada, Spain Photos and Favorite Quotes
“Every inquisitive traveler keeps Granada in his heart, without having even visited it.”
– William Shakespeare
“Granada, last refuge from a tiring life. Eternal garden, shows remnants of paradise that still remain, in only very few privileged places on earth.”
“Every city has its own charm, but Granada has its own and that of the rest.” – Antonio Machado
“Granada is the perfect dream and fantasy, forever ineffable… Granada will always be more malleable than philosophical, more lyric than dramatic.”
– Federico García Lorca
“Granada is like the beautiful, delicate land of our dreams; all those who see her dream of visiting her again.”
“My eyes filled with tears; not tears of sorrow nor of happiness, but of fulfillment of a quiet, hidden life in Granada.”
– Miguel de Unamuno
“I do not know what to call this land upon which I stand. If what is beneath my feet is paradise, then what is the Alhambra? Heaven?”
– Lope de Vega about the city of Granada
“This is the dream of all the world. The dream is to live in Granada. You know, work in the morning, have a one-hour in the afternoon, at night go out and have that life. You know. Go out and see your friends and eat tapa and drink red wine and be in a beautiful place.”
– Anthony Bourdain
“How lazily the sun goes down in Granada, it hides beneath the water, it conceals in the Alhambra!”
– Ernest Hemingway
Our One Day in Granada, Spain
Our one day in Granada was short but sweet. We got to watch the sunset over Alhambra (which was on the top of my wishlist), we visited Alhambra, enjoyed and a couple of authentic meals and we got a few more of the highlights and top things to do in Granada!
There is a lot to do here! If you want to enjoy Granada at leisure, plan for 3 to 4 days. You can go on a few days trips exploring Malaga or Marabella.
I liked Seville but I fell in LOVE with Granada, Spain! The romance of the gardens, the whitewashed homes with the oranged tiled roofs, the elaborate architecture of the buildings, the view of the mountains, the frenzy over sunsets, and the slow pace of Granada has me longing for a return visit!
“The truth is, that I’m beginning to wonder if there is any greater pleasure in life than visiting Granada. …and it is going back and visiting it again.”
– Alexandre Dumas
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