The city of Granada in southern Spain’s Andalusia region offers a wealth of beauty and history. Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the city is known for its impressive examples of medieval architecture dating back to the Moorish occupation, and its collection of unique neighbourhoods provide days of exploring for any visitor. So here are some ideas of what you can’t miss in 24 hours in Granada.
Of course Granada’s main attraction, although by no means the only one, is the Alhambra, and for good reason. There are few fortresses as impressive as this one, which dates back to when Spain was under Moorish rule between the 8th and 15th centuries, and is the greatest surviving relic of the era. Located at the top of the Darro Valley looking down on the city, the Alhambra offers both impressive views and incredible architecture and beauty. The fortress originally dates from the 9th century, although the fort and walls were rebuilt in the 13th century by Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar, Moorish ruler of what was then the Emirate of Granada. If possible, it is worth visiting the Alhambra both during the day and at night; the light of day shows the intricacy and skill of the building, whilst at night time the combination of light and water pools in the fortress makes for a magical experience.
Next to the Alhambra is the Generalife, which functioned as the fortress’ Summer Palace. The gardens are exquisite, with winding paths and elegant archways alongside beautiful flowerbeds and ponds. There is also an external walkway which connects the north side of the Generalife to the south side and boasts incredible views of the old Arabic neighbourhood of Granada called Albaicín.
After having viewed it from afar, delve deeper into the city’s oldest neighbourhood. Wander the network tiny cobbled streets and whitewashed houses, located on the hillside opposite the Alhambra with the Darro River between them. Once you’ve reached the top, the views from popular square Mirador San Nicolás are worth the trip, and Plaza Larga is also particularly pretty. There are several teterías or tea rooms in this are so it’s a great opportunity for a little sit down with refreshments.
Back in the day the Alcaicería was Granada’s Great Bazaar, filled with merchants selling silks and spices along every street. Nowadays it is a single passageway with souvenir shops of varying quality, but for a nice souvenir of Granada it is worth a look. Some of the more authentic crafts include the Fajalauza ceramics, Moorish-style earthenware hand-painted with blue or green motifs of plants, and taracea, inlaid furniture and other wooden decorative items which have beautifully intricate patterns. A prefect spot for browsing.
Demonstrating another era of Granada’s history is the city’s cathedral, the Cathedral of the Incarnation, located in the centre of old Granada.The huge building has an intriguing mixture of styles including Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque, started in 1518 and built over a period of 180 years with successive architects. There are still two 80 metre towers still to be built, which although originally planned, only half of one tower was ever finished. There are also several restaurants around this central area, so a lunch stop here is always a good idea.
If you’re looking for another charming neighbourhood to wander around, head to Realejo, Granada’s old Jewish quarter. An added interest to the area is the various artists’ works displayed on the walls along the way, including local spray-paint artist Raul Ruiz, also known as “El Niño.” Take your time to explore and admire the designs as you go.
7. Bañuelo Arabic Baths
The Bañuelo baths are the oldest and best-preserved Arabic baths in Spain, dating back to around the 11th century. Although most baths were destroyed following the re-conquest as they had a bad reputation and were seen as being like brothels, Bañuelo baths survived thanks to being underneath a private home built at the time the city was taken. Located about halfway along the Carrera del Darro, although the baths themselves have long since vanished the elegant Moorish archways and domed starred ceilings are still amazingly intact after a thousand years and are a beautiful example of Moorish architecture in Granada.
8. Caves of Sacromonte
Another of Granada’s famous attractions is Sacromonte, the gypsy quarter of the city. Visible from the Alhambra, as it sits in the hills opposite, it is filled with white caves carved out of the rock where many locals still live, as well a some made from scrap metal, wood, and cloth. It is the flamenco neighbourhood, with frequent spontaneous flamenco gatherings held late into the night as well as more scheduled tourist shows. Further into the wild mountainous countryside above is the neighbourhood’s popular historical location, the Abbey of Sacromonte and the Holy Caves annexed to it. Built in the 17th century by Archbishop Pedro de Castro y Quiñones, the now neglected abbey is an interesting visit. Socromonte also has several restaurants perfect for dinner, and don’t forget the tapas law in Granada, any restaurant serving a drink has to legally serve a tapa alongside it for free! These range in size of course, but still a great idea to be taken advantage of whilst visiting.
9. Viewpoint Mirador de San Miguel
The valley location of Granada means there are many impressive viewpoints around the city. Most neighbourhoods have a popular spot or two which boast amazing views of the rest of the area, but if you aren’t afraid of a bit of climb, head to Mirador de San Miguel. A spectacular scene of the Alhambra and the city below and even the mountains in the background stretches out before you, truly the best way to see Granada and a lovely way to end your busy day as the sun sets over the city.