Granada is an Andalusian city located at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was one of the most important cities in Moorish Spain, and remained under Islamic rule until 1492, making it the last city to fall back under Spanish rule. For this reason, you will experience an almost authentic Arabic vibe in the city – from the Alhambra to the Arabic cafes scattered throughout the city. This travel blog, 48 Hours in Granada, is intended to showcase the best the city has to offer, in 2 days.
Day 1 – Exploring Islamic Granada
Discover the Alhambra and Generalife
This is probably the main reason you have decided to come to Granada, and trust us, it was worth it. The Alhambra is a palace and fortress (it’s pretty much a citadel) picturesquely located in Granada. A site that began with the Romans, but was transformed by the Moors into a beautiful Palace and surrounding walls. After the reconquest, the Alhambra became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella.
The Alhambra is utterly breathtaking. The architecture throughout the site is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, even after being in several Mudejar style palaces in Andalucia before this. The structure of the Alhambra is divided into 3 main parts; Nasrid Palaces, the Alcazaba and Generalife.
The Nasrid Palaces are the only part of the Alhambra that has a controlled entrance, i.e. you need to book a time in order to visit. We booked for opening time, 8.30 am, and I honestly feel it was the best thing we did. There was an air of calm and peace about the place at this time, it seemed as we were leaving that this had changed as there was a lot more people in and around the complex – so book ahead, and book early!
The Nasrid Palaces were the homes of the royals during both Moorish and Christian times. The main site to visit here is the Court of the Myrtles (Patio de Los Arrayanes). This was the official seat of the Sultan, with the Comares tower acting as the seat of government.
The Hall of Ambassadors (Salón de Los Embajadoreses) is located inside the Comares Tower and is the largest room in the Alhambra. This was the grand reception room, where the Sultan sat facing the entrance. The facade inside the room has to be seen to be believed.
The Court of the Lions is also a famous feature of the Nasrid Palaces, with the fountain it’s most famous attribute. Again the architecture in this courtyard is astonishing with marble columns, designed in Moorish architecture surrounding the entire area.
You also cannot miss the amazing roof of the Hall of the Abencerrajes. Designed in a honeycomb fashion, with multiple colors on display. The gardens outside of the Palaces are also worth checking out.
The Alcazaba was a military fortress, used to protect the Alhambra. It also happens to be the oldest part of the entire Alhambra. You can walk around some of the towers, the Armas square, and the gardens.
The towers provide some great views over Granada, and particularly the Albayzin. The biggest tower is the Vela Tower and this provides the best lookout point.
The Armas square was the original entrance to the Alcazaba and consists of a number of constructions, including houses. This gives an insight into what life was like for those people who lived here during the time it was used as a military fortress.
Carlos V Palace
Just outside the Alcazaba lies the Carlos V Palace. The Palace is in complete contrast to the rest of the site in that it was built in the 16th century (although not finished until the 20th) in Renaissance style. There is a pretty good museum located inside too, so be sure to check it out.
The Generalife was the summer palace of the Nasrid rulers and dynasty. It is comprised of the Palace of Generalife and also the famous gardens. The gardens are very well landscaped and colorful – really good to just wander around here for a bit. There are some great views of the Alhambra from Generalife also.
Full day time access to the Alhambra costs €14.85 per person. You need to book your ticket in advance in order to get a timeslot to visit the Nasrid Palace. As mentioned earlier we would recommend booking this for the first time slot, at 8.30 am. You can book the ticket online and it is recommended to book them a few months in advance, as they do sell out quickly. We booked our tickets 3 months in advance. If you arrive in Granada last minute don’t panic though, you will still be able to sign up with a tour group and get access that way!
Stroll along the Carrera del Darro
If you are anything like us you will have spent 3 hours exploring the Alhambra, so now you are hungry! The Carrera del Darro is the perfect place to take in the scenery and stop off for some food along the way.
This is advertised as one of the most picturesque and romantic walks in Granada, and it follows along the course of the River Darro. Now, although it is picturesque, I definitely wouldn’t describe this walk as relaxing. Some traffic is still allowed on the road, and as there is no pavement, and the road itself is quite narrow, so it makes for some close shaves. Especially when buses go by!
That said, the cobblestoned roads and bridges throughout the walk do tick the romantic box!
Admire the views at Paseo de Los Tristes
As you come to the end of the Carrera del Darro you are met with some wonderful views of the Alhambra. This is the Paseo de Los Tristes. This is also a great place to get lunch, there are loads of restaurants nearby!
Visit the gypsy village of Sacromonte
Paseo de Los Tristes is the perfect location to begin the walk uphill to the small village of Sacromonte. It is known as the gypsy and flamenco quarter of Granada and is located to the east of the city.
It is also known for its cave houses, for a lot of the houses there look like they have been built into the side of the mountain. It is possible to visit a cave museum, which shows you what the traditional cave houses look like, we skipped it. Sacromonte is also famous for its abbey, but with the threat of rain looming, we also skipped this.
We did just stroll around the neighborhood, which was very quiet and very untouristy. Some of the views of the Alhambra were incredible – probably the best in the whole city!
Explore the ancient Albayzin neighborhood
We naturally entered the Albayzin neighborhood when heading back to the center of Granada from Sacromonte. The Albayzin was the old Muslim quarter of Granada and has distinctive white-colored architecture throughout.
The Albayzin is worth just walking around and exploring the different viewpoints. Due to its position on a hill it is quite up and down, however! Some of the key miradors to look out for are Mirador San Cristobal, Mirador San Nicolas, and Mirador del Jazmin.
Although we felt mostly safe in the Albayzin, there were some parts that had a rough vibe to them. I would try to avoid walking down from here to the center of Granada at night time.
Plaza de San Nicolas
Plaza de San Nicolas is located in the heart of the Albayzin and promises some great views of the Alhambra, with the mountains of the Sierra Nevada in the background. Full disclosure – we didn’t love this place. It is extremely packed with tourists, to the point that you have to queue to even get a viewpoint. Mirador San Cristobal would have been a better viewpoint except they were doing building work close by when we were there so there was a giant crane blocking the view of the Alhambra!
Plaza de San Nicolas does have lots of bars and restaurants around, however. It also comes highly recommended to visit at sunset.
Explore Calle Elvira
It’s been a long day, with lots of walking, but this is the perfect way to end the day! As you come from the Albayzin to the center of Granada, make sure to walk along Calle Elvira, it starts at the Puerta de Elvira, which served as the main access to the city in Islamic times.
As you walk along this road you will come across lots of tourist stalls (much cheaper than the Alcaceira, which we will visit on Day 2), kebab shops, Syrian restaurants, etc. You just really get an Arabic vibe from this part of town!
Ensure you turn up Calle Caldereria Nueva, where the Arab vibes continue. Here there are lots of Teteria’s (Tea Houses), where you can purchase all kinds of teas/coffees (mint tea, chocolate Arab coffee), traditional Arabic desserts and even Shisha pipes! You will feel like you are sitting in a cafe in the middle of Marrakech, not Granada!
There are also lots of good Tapas restaurants in this part of Granada. The best part of Tapas in Granada is that they are completely free – all you need to do is order a drink!
Day 2 – Exploring Christian Granada
Day 2 isn’t as hectic as day 1, so you can have a lie-in and a nice breakfast to start the day.
Marvel at the Granada Cathedral
Located in the center of Granada, it’s Cathedral is quite unique in that it’s construction didn’t begin until the 16th century (after the city’s control had been taken from the Nasrid dynasty).
The Cathedral’s architecture is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance style, with the highlight being the main chapel (Capilla Mayor). The construction of the building took 181 years in total, and it isn’t completely finished yet – it included plans for two 80-meter towers but only one was ever started.
The entrance to the Cathedral costs €5 and it includes an audioguide in it. Although interesting, the tour lacks a defining moment and isn’t something we will remember years down the line.
Discover history at the Royal Chapel
Right next door to the Cathedral (in reality they are joined together) is the Royal Chapel or Capilla Real. Here lie the Spanish Catholic Monarch’s, most famously Isabella and Ferdinand.
In the Chapel is a humongous marble tomb, depicting 4 Spanish Monarchs; Isabella I of Castile, her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon, Joana of Castile and her husband Philip I of Castile. The tombs were designed by Domenico Fancelli and Bartolomé Ordóñez. Underneath them lies the crypt where you can see the coffins, and say a little prayer.
The entrance to the Royal Chapel cost us €3.50, although it normally costs €5. The museum was under renovations when we were there – hence the discount. Note that no pictures are permitted within the Royal Chapel.
Wander back in time at the Alcaceira
The Alacaceira is all that remains of the once huge Grand Bazaar of Granada. Located just off the Calle Reyes Catolicos, this market place sells all kinds of trinkets and souvenirs.
In truth, the only reason to visit here is to get a feel of what it used to be like back in Islamic times. It isn’t really anything magical. Also, the souvenirs are a lot more expensive here than other locations (Calle Elvira for example).
Explore Carmen de los Matires
Carmen de los Matires are a 19th century estate that has landscaped gardens and sweeping views of the valley which Granada lies in.
This is quite a romantic place and has plenty of walking trails in it. Just be aware of the opening hours – 10 am – 2 pm and 6 pm – 8 pm in the summer, 10 am – 2 pm and 4 pm – 6 pm in the winter. Although they can be quite inconvenient times, the fact that it is free to enter makes it worthwhile!
Tapas in Granada
Ah, my favorite subject – Tapas! The tapas in Granada is extra special, as it was the only place we visited where Tapas comes FREE with a drink! This got us in all sorts of situations – specifically getting a free dinner one night due to all the tapas we got, but we also ended up pretty drunk! Just remember the most basic rule if drinking beer – order a caña, not a tubo. Caña’s are smaller sized than tubo and so they are cheaper. The size of the tapas you get does not equate to how much you spend!