Granada is one of the most famous towns in Southern Spain and a must stop on any Andalusian itinerary, if only to visit the Alhambra palace. We did a loop through Southern Spain from west to east and saved Granada for last. Logistically, this made the most sense and also heightened our anticipation at each stop along the way.
South Spain is noticeably different from Madrid and Barcelona. For one, the weather was at least 10-20 degrees warmer and the cities are smaller with a beautiful old town feel. The Moors held significant sway in Andalusia and their presence is still visible today in the architecture, numerous mosques and local culture.
Time wise, we budgeted a full 3 nights in Granada. I think it can comfortably be done in 2 days but if you like to take things at a leisurely pace, 3 or 4 days is a treat.
The easiest way to get there if you’re already in Southern Spain is to board a bus from Seville. Local bus company Alsa runs the easy 3 hour route and offers a great deal to those who purchase tickets in advance. I’ve seen one way tickets for as low as 5 euros a person, we paid about 10 euros. You can take a look at the current Alsa bus schedule here. Granada also has a small airport that runs flights from Madrid and Barcelona should you wish to fly.
3 Day Granada Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival
Checking In: Staying on Plaza Nueva
Upon arrival, we took a cab from the bus station to our hotel at the Anacapri Granada in the center of the old town right off Plaza Nueva. If you can, stay as close to Plaza Nueva as possible, as it’s the center of the tourist zone and where all the buses depart from in order to head up to the Albayzin (Moorish quarter) and Sacremonte (Gypsy caves) up in the hills. There are numerous sidewalk cafes and restaurants within walking distance and the Alhambra is an easy 15 min walk up the hill.
The Best Affordable and Centrally Located Hotels:
Tip: I like to price check all the different hotel aggregator sites – as sometimes one or the other can be cheaper!
A Quick Exploratory Walk + Alhambra Ticket Pick Up
The first thing I like to do upon arrival anywhere is to walk around and get my bearings. Key things to look out for in Spain: the best local gelato shop, cute sidewalk cafes and the most crowded tapas restaurants!
Armed with a map from the concierge, we explored the main street of Grand Via, people watched at Plaza Nueva and then headed to the caravanserai to pick up our Alhambra tickets. Most people visit Granada primarily to see the Alhambra, but since the site is strictly capped at 6,600 visitors per day, pretty much everyone has pre-purchased their tickets online before arriving. You can read my earlier post here about the best way to buy tickets and the ideal time slot to book. Once in town, head over to a local La Caixa ATM to print out your tickets, or head to the Tourist Office to snag a Granada Map and use the Ticketmaster dispenser machine.
Sunset at Mirador de San Nicolas and El Albayzin
After walking back to Plaza Nueva, we caught the local No. 1 bus to head up to the hills of the Albayzin, or traditional Muslim quarter. The streets are hilly, narrow and lines with white buildings for a very charming atmosphere. We walked around the neighborhood for a bit before finding a busy spot for dinner.
Mirador de San Nicolas is the spot to be if you want to catch the Alhambra with a view. We visited mid-day and at dawn, both were equally beautiful though dawn or sunset can be very packed.
Day 2: Walking Tour
Morning: Granada’s Old Town Walking Tour
With an extra half day to kill, we decided to follow Rick Steves’ Granada walking tour
- Corral del Carbon – this caravanserai is one of the only surviving structures where ancient merchants stopped to rest their camels on the Silk Road. today, it’s the new home to the local Tourism Info center (where you can also pick your alhambra tickets if you’re pre-purchased them)
- Alcaiceria – this recreation of the Moorish silk market is home to touristy local shops selling salt, silver, spices and silk. the tiny shopping lanes are overpriced but fun to walk through as a step back in time
- Plaza de Bib-Rambla – this square was the center of Moorish Granada. This is a good stop for coffee or lunch or if you’re game for more sightseeing, head inside to the Cathedral.
- Paseo de los Tristes – head back to Plaza Nueva and continue walking north along the River Darro to this pretty but sad ‘walk of the sad ones‘ where ancient funeral processions were held. Be careful of the cars, which drive on the same path!
Afternoon: Siesta + Carmen de los Martires
After a relaxing afternoon siesta back at our hotel, we headed out to see Carmen de los Martires. For some reason the house itself was closed on the day we visited, but the grounds are extensive and we had a great time exploring the various gardens and watching the peacocks! Carmen de los Martires is set on a hill (to the right of the Alhambra) and feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I think it’d make for a great picnic place or an alternative spot to watch the sunset.
Evening: Sacromonte Caves
Afterwards, we walked back down to Plaza Nueva and caught the No. 2 bus to head up to the gypsy caves of Sacromonte. These hills are even higher up than the Albayzin. It’s quite a long, steep walk so we explored for a bit and then settled in for dinner and a flamenco show.
Day 3: The Alhambra
Morning: The Alhambra
We booked the first time slot of the day at 8am and left our hotel for the 20 minute uphill climb to arrive at the Alhambra. Watching the morning sun while waiting in line was quite beautiful!
The Alhambra has numerous rooms and pools, which Rick Steves does a great job guiding you through. Make sure not to step in any of the running water pools! They’re right through the center of the floor and I definitely fell in once or twice. The Hall of the Lions is one of the most stunning courtyards.
Tip: Buy tickets in advance (if you wait till you’re in Granada, they will be all sold out!) Here’s everything you need to know about purchasing Alhambra tickets via Ticketmaster internationally.
Afternoon: The Generalife + Alcazaba
After visiting the Alhambra, the palace exits into the gardens of the Generalife. We spent another hour or so walking among the extensive gardens. If you keep heading northeast towards the main entrance, you’ll come across some beautifully landscaped rose gardens and a nice view of the palace.
Then we doubled back to see the ruins of the original fortress, the Alcazaba, and had a quick glimpse into the round amphitheater like fortifications of Charles V’s ‘palace’.
Evening: Relaxation at the Arab Baths
We had a couple hours left to kill before our late evening flight to Barcelona, so we decided to spend a couple hours relaxing at the Hammam Al Andalus, or Arab Baths. There are a couple places you can try Arab style baths in Spain – I believe Cordoba and Seville also have their own location. In Moorish times, hammams were a social and business gathering place.
The Granada location is built over the ruins of the ancient baths and about 5 minutes off Plaza Nueva. If you’re interested in a treatment (they have a kessara!) make sure to book about 2 days in advance. We unfortunately couldn’t grab a slot just the day before so settled for a day pass to relax in the numerous bathing pools.
If you’ve tried Roman style baths in Hungary, I’d say this is very similar but on a much smaller scale and all indoors. There were about 5 pools, all different temperatures, and the baths themselves are gorgeous. I wish I had taken pictures because the mosaics, Arab lamps and pools were quite pretty but I didn’t want to disturb or bother the other people there. Oh well, you’ll just have to try it for yourself!
And that’s it! A perfect 3 day Granada itinerary
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