Granada may not be the first city most travelers think of when considering where to visit Spain (such as Barcelona, Madrid, or Seville), but Granada really can hold its own to any of those cities in beauty, attractions, and overall charm.
If you’re planning a trip to Spain and trying to decide if Granada is worth visiting, then you’re in the right place! I spent several lovely days in this Andalusian city that is chock full of history, sites to see, and neighborhoods to wander. It was the best of times.
The TL;DR is that I truly can’t recommend Granada enough.
10 Reasons Why Granada Is Worth Visiting
Of course, I can’t just leave you with the punch line! The following are 10 reasons to visit Granada. There’s something for just about everyone in this beautiful Spanish destination.
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1. Visit the Absolutely Gorgeous Alhambra…
Alhambra is an old, fortified city that was first constructed as a military fortress in the 800’s AD. In the 1200’s palaces were built and the entire compound was developed into a small city.
Alhambra is not just any old fortified city, oh no no no. The entire complex is massive, incredibly well-preserved, and has one of the most insanely opulent and intricately designed palaces I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting (and I’ve visited Versailles).
When visiting Alhambra, you can visit the military fortress (somewhat in ruins), the medina (the village area where commoners lived), gardens, and several palaces, but without a doubt, the jewel of Alhambra is the Nasrid Palace.
Most of the pictures in this section are from the Nasrid Palace, which is filled with intricately carved stucco arches, ceilings, walls, and windows, as well as courtyards, private chambers, detailed gardens, and more.
Alhambra was a city, built in 1238, that served as a major seat of power for 150 years. The Nasrid family built it, and at its peak in 14th century, more than 2500 lived in this complex.
Alhambra is the second most visited attraction in Spain and for many people, is the entire reason why they visit Granada. And I have to say, I would agree: Granada is worth a visit just to see Alhambra.
A few tips for visiting: First, you absolutely must buy your tickets online in advance. A limited number of tickets are available for each day, and they will sell out. We actually saw people arrive, trying to buy tickets on site, and they were turned away.
Second, this is a spot where I would highly recommend a guided tour. While I’m generally an “explore on your own” type of girl, we decided to go for the guided tour and it definitely added so much to learn the history and backstory to all the spots in Alhambra. (If you book a guided tour, you do not also need separate entrance tickets)
Third, you MUST have either your driver’s license or passport on your person when you visit Alhambra – it will get scanned regularly as you tour through the complex. (And a picture of your ID will not suffice.)
2. …And Its Incredible Gardens
But wait! There’s more! Just outside of the walls of Alhambra is the lovely garden oasis of Generalife (pronounced heneral-ee-fay). This extensive garden was designed to be a retreat for the rulers of Alhambra, and there are many different gardens, groves, and beautiful corners to this sprawling greenspace.
I particularly loved the tall cypress trees, and all the hedges that created walls, arches, and little squares in the gardens. Generalife is best done wandering around at your own pace.
3. Historic White Neighborhoods of Albaicin and Sacromonte
Albaicin and Sacromonte are two neighborhoods that sit on a hill on the north side of Granada, and just north of Alhambra. These quarters are filled with charming, historic whitewashed houses, cypress trees, cobblestoned lanes, great viewpoints, and a lot of history.
Albaicin used to be part of the bigger military fortress citadel in Granada that predates Alhambra, and a section of those city walls are still standing in Albaicin. Sacromonte was inhabited by the Roma people, and also some of the Arabs who remained in the city after its fall.
Sacromonte is of particular interest because many of the homes are troglodyte, meaning they look relatively normal from the outside, but the inside are actually caves built into the sides of the hills.
Both of these neighborhoods are quaint and charming to walk through, and have such interesting history behind them. They are definitely one of the things that makes Granada worth visiting!
Tip: Want to learn more the rich and fascinating history of Albaicin and Sacromonte? This top-rated guided walking tour takes you to many points of interest in the neighborhoods while regalling you with interesting facts, history, and stories.
4. Lots of Beautiful Viewpoints and Sunset Spots
Thanks to the hills and mountains that surround Granada, the city has an abundance of beautiful viewpoints, that are particularly fantastic for sunset. Granada’s landscape is quite fun, in that there are hills surrounding the city and a major hill in the city, where Alhambra is located.
This means from Alhambra, you get great views down and over to the historic and charming neighborhood of Albaicin, and you also get a lot of viewpoints from the hills around the outskirts that look over the city and over to Alhambra perched at the top of the hill.
5. Exceptionally Good Food
As a rule, food in Spain is very good, but its worth noting that everything we ate in Granada was absolutely excellent. We ate a variety of different cuisines and foods, and every meal was delicious.
It’s worth mentioning that because Granada was one of the last Spanish cities re-conquered from the Islamic Moors, Granada continues to have more of a North African influence than many other cities in Spain.
Many restaurants in the city serve Moroccan cuisine (tagine, couscous, skewers, hummus, etc). I can highly recommend Arrayanes, where the skewers were served hanging!
Other good restaurants in city include El Laurel Tavern for hot chocolate and churros, Osso Buco Ristorante for Italian, Heladeria Los Italianos for ice cream, and Vino y Rosas for excellent Spanish home cooking.
6. Close Proximity to Many Other Cities
Granada is a city that’s very close to other cities and destinations in southern Spain, making it very easy to arrive here, or even visit for a day trip (though I’d recommend spending more than just a day here!). Conversely, it’s a good point to base yourself out of for day trips to other locations.
7. Flamenco Shows in a Cave
Flamenco dancing, the traditional, captivating dance of Spain, is believed to have originated in Granada, in the caves of Sacromonte. The few Arab people who remained after Granada was reconquered by the Christians mingled with the Roma in the caves of Sacromonte.
Flamenco started with these Roma groups. It is generally believed that the first flamenco dancing was heavily influenced by the Arab dances, and then transformed into its own unique style.
Today, there are still caves in the Sacromonte neighborhoods where you can see beautiful, mesmerizing Flamenco dancing. It is pretty incredible to be able to watch Flamenco in one of the original birthplaces of the dance!
👉I can highly recommend this cave Flamenco show in Granada – sitting in the cave watching the incredible dancers was definitely a highlight of my visit!
8. Resting Place of Ferdinand and Isabella
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were monarchs of Spain in the 1400’s, and are some of the most well-known figures in Spanish history. Their marriage created the unification of Spain (which was previously split between their two kingdoms).
Ferdinand and Isabella were the monarchs who re-conquered Granada, the last holdout of the Islamic Moors in Spain. They are most well-known, however, for being the rulers that sanctioned and funded the explorations of Christopher Columbus.
Ferdinand and Isabella are clearly beloved figures in Spanish history, as there are monuments and locations dedicated to them throughout Spain. Their resting place is located in the Capilla Real, or the Royal Chapel, which is just adjacent to the Granada Cathedral.
This chapel is relatively simple, but the tomb is ornate and magnificent. The coffins themselves are located just underneath the floor, and there is a small set of steps that take you down to see into the chamber. The underground chamber is topped by a magnificent and ornate effigy, decorated with gold, intricate details, and sculptures of the people who lay underneath.
9. Tons of Other Attractions and Sites to Visit
While the Alhambra is the most famous and popular attraction in Granada, don’t think there’s nothing else to do in the city! I was actually pleasantly surprised by how many things there are to do in Granada.
For example, you can visit the Granada Cathedral, the Royal Chapel, or the Cartuja Monastery. The Carmen de Los Martires is a beautiful estate with gorgeous gardens you can walk through (pictured above). The Paseo de Los Tristes is a cute street and pathway along a stream in the city.
The Alcaiceria Market is a really fun street market, with dozens of shops opening to narrow streets. And El Banuelo (below), is a beautiful old bathhouse from Moorish times.
And of course, that’s not counting the viewpoints already mentioned or the historic neighborhoods of Albaicin and Sacromonte that you’ll definitely want to explore.
Suffice it to say, you won’t be bored in Granada.
10. You Can Soak in Luxurious Arabian Hamman Baths
One of my favorite memories in Spain is the hour and a half that we spent soaking in the Hamman Al Andalus luxury baths. This hamman features half a dozen different pools that varied in temperature and size, but are all surrounded by the gorgeous Islamic architecture.
You’ll appreciate the tall ceilings, intricately carved archways, detailed mosaics, and gauzy curtains while soaking in the rejuvenating waters followed by enjoying a 15 minute massage. Honestly, this activity by itself almost makes Granada worth visiting 😉
And in case you were worried, this is not like a traditional Islamic hamman, where people are more or less nude – swimsuits are required here.
👉Make your reservations for the Hamman Luxury Baths here
So Overall, Is Granada Worth a Visit?
Definitely. There are so many great reasons to visit Granada. It absolutely should be a stop on your Spain itinerary, and will certainly be a city you won’t soon forget.
While you technically could do just a day in Granada and have time to see the Alhambra + Generalife complex plus maybe a couple other sites, I would really recommend 2-3 days here to fully see and experience everything that Granada has to offer.