The first time I visited Granada in the Southern region of Spain, I knew I was home. I immediately became hooked on everything the Andalusian city had to offer: the enticing character of each neighbourhood, the magical atmosphere on every street corner and the welcoming people who live there.
I loved it so much that I would return another six times within a few years. My most recent trip to the city was in February, just as the winter air was becoming milder. Believe it or not, I was still discovering new things about my beloved paradise, even though it was my seventh visit.
I am ecstatic to share my knowledge about my second home with you. Here’s the best ever travel guide to Granada!
Getting to Granada
If you’re not already in Spain, the cheapest option may be to catch a flight to Málaga and travel onwards to Granada, only a 1.5 hour drive North East. My return ticket cost £40 from Belfast to Málaga. Although there is an airport in Granada, it has limited flights and they are normally far more expensive. Of course, it does depend where you fly from. For example, it may be cheaper to fly direct from London Gatwick to Granada.
You can buy a bus ticket to Granada from any Spanish city on Alsa. You can even get a 2.5 hour bus from Málaga airport to Granada if you’re planning to go straight there (around €12 one way). Prices vary and tend to be cheaper the further you book in advance.
You can buy a train ticket to Granada from many Spanish cities on Renfe. However, it’s slower and usually more expensive than bus. Also, it may be best to avoid using the train here as there is ongoing construction during 2017.
This carpool website is a godsend if you’re travelling on a budget. People who are driving from one place to another advertise a seat in their car for a fair price. There are regular rides going from different cities in Spain to Granada and it’s cheaper and quicker than the bus most of the time.
Typically, a blablacar from Málaga to Granada will cost around €9 and takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes. You can be really lucky and meet amazing people who you make friends with. Also, it’s perfect if you want to practice your Spanish. Blablacar is definitely my favourite way to travel between Spanish cities.
Getting into the City Centre
If you get a plane to Granada airport, you can get the bus into Granada city centre for €3.
From La Estación de Autobuses (Granada bus station), you can either walk for 40 minutes (nearly straight the whole way) or take the SN1 bus for €1.20.
From the train station in Granada, you can either walk for 20 minutes or get the LAC bus.
If you arrive by Blablacar, you will probably get dropped off by Centro Comercial Neptuno (shopping centre). From here, walk past the Neptune and continue straight for 20 minutes to the centre.
Where to Stay
I have stayed at this hostel five out of the seven times I have visited Granada. They have paella and sangria nights, pub crawls, free tours and a huge indoor patio. I made friends for life each time I stayed here, both guests and employees from all over the world. Rates for bunk in a dorm room start from €15 in high season. Private rooms are also available.
Other Popular Hostels
Fundalucia, Oasis and Makuto Backpackers are all good choices.
The seventh time I visited Granada, I used Airbnb for the first time. And it was a phenomenal experience. Our deluxe double room was spacious, comfy and amazingly decorated. My favourite part was the indoor balcony with a breakfast bar looking out onto Plaza Nueva (very central). Best of all, it only cost €77 in total for 3 nights using my €35 discount!
Where to Eat
Do you like free food? Of course you do. The Andalusian tradition favours towards backpackers as you get a free small portion of food with every drink you buy in tapas bars.
La Riviera is my favourite place to eat in Granada because the beer and wine cost €2 and you get to choose a decent portion of food with it. Two drinks and two plates of food is enough for dinner and only costs €4! The popular dishes include the spicy chorizo in red wine, honey chicken wings and croquettes.
You can find La Riviera off the Elvira street on Calle Cetti Meriem.
Tip: Find other tapas restaurants along Elvira.
A Moroccan inspired restaurant with dishes such as tagines and B’Steeyas. A main costs around €8 for vegetarians and €12 for meat-eaters.
I have eaten here three times. Once with a large group of friends, once on a date and once with the people who work there. Let me elaborate on the last experience…
I was on a solo trip to Granada, strolling through the Albayzín and went to this restaurant for something to eat at lunch time. The doors were open but there were no customers and the lights were off. I peaked inside and shouted “Hola?”. A friendly face greeted me, but to say they were closed for Siesta. I never expected what would happen next. The man brought me down the back to sit and eat with the rest of the employees. They shared a massive cous-cous dish and Moroccan lemonade with me. And they refused to let me pay a penny!
I will never forget the kindness I experienced that day.
Hicuri Art Vegan
This is delicious cruelty free vegan food. Try the burgers and smoothies. A typical meal cost around €10.
Panadería La María
I stumbled upon this bakery by accident on Calle Horno del Moral near Plaza Larga. They have the most beautiful range of huge empanadas (stuffed savoury pastry) for only €1.50.
Here comes the fun part – there is so much to do!
Most people visit Granada to come here, the 1,530,000 square foot Arabic palace and fortress UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tickets for the palace cost €14 during daytime and €8 during nighttime. You can choose a specific time to enter the Palaces. I’ve visited both during the day and at night and loved each time. Of course, they have their own advantages. During the daytime, you have the wonderful views over the city, whereas there’s a mystical atmosphere at night and you can watch sunset.
Tip: Either buy tickets in advance or pay by credit card at a separate machine at the complex. The queues to pay with cash are usually very long.
Mirador de San Nicholás
Located in the Albayzín, this is the most famous square and lookout in Granada. And for a good reason. There’s a long wall where you can sit facing a stunning view of the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada mountains.
To get there, walk down Calle Elvira or Calle Cárcel Alta on either side of Plaza Nueva. Turn right at the end and keep heading North-East for 10 minutes. Eventually, there will be signs to Mirador San Nicholás.
Tip: Photo opportunity!
Las Cuevas (caves)
Sacromonte is a unique neighbourhood thanks to the multi-cultural traveller community that live in man-made caves further on up in the hills. Some caves don’t even have electricity.
Allow yourself to walk through the neighbourhood with a completely open mind and don’t be afraid to talk to those who live there. They’re some of the most interesting people I’ve met.
There’s a man specifically who I made friends with, who walks about with a parrot on his shoulder. Or this man photographed below who is insanely good on guitar. If you see them about, be sure to say hello!
Mirador de San Miguel Alto
The San Miguel church sits just above the man-made caves in Sacromonte. It’s an absolutely beautiful lookout, again with a wall to sit and relax, facing the Alhambra.
Tip: Visit during sunrise or sunset.
Spain is famous for its traditional dance. Zambra is similar to Flamenco but differs in that the singer also dances.
It’s possible to watch Zambra in Cueva La Rocío for €30 or Maria La Canastera. Both locations are set in a cave. I can’t comment on the actual shows as I have never seen them myself.
Tip: Do research beforehand. There may be less touristy and more authentic Zambra shows in Granada.
Moroccan Markets and Teashops
In the Albayzín, there are a couple streets with stalls that sell cheap Moroccan inspired lamps, jewellery, clothes and tapestries.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to barter. Owners won’t budge much but you may get a deal if you’re buying multiple items.
Call into a Moroccan teashop for a break from walking about the streets. My favourite is Baileys tea (yes, the whiskey) in Teteria Kasbah at €4 a pot. You can also smoke shisha in certain shops.
Take the first couple streets on the right off Calle Elvira if you’re heading from Plaza Nueva.
There are a few convents in Granada where nuns make and sell soap, sweets and other commodities. The experience is very charming (you will see why) and your money helps to keep the convent open.
A few convents are located at 20 Calle Santiago, 2 Calle Gloria, 39 Carrera del Darro and 15 Santa Isabel la Real.
Down by the River
In the summer, it’s nice to bring a blanket (which you don’t mind getting muddy) and relax by the river which runs along Carrera del Darro.
To get down to the river, you will need to cross to the other side before going off the path.
Like any city in Spain, Granada has a lot of plazas (squares). The most well known is Plaza Nueva, which is central and surrounded by restaurants. Placeta Cristo Azucenas, near Mirador San Nicholás, is common for “El Botellón” (street drinking). A more local square is Plaza Larga where there is usually a small food and clothes market.
The famous muralist from Granada, El Niño de las Pinturas has street art scattered all across the city. You can either take a street art tour or search for a map of the paintings online.
Hammam Arab Baths
You will leave this Moroccan inspired spa feeling 100x lighter than when you walked in. An hour and a half in the baths costs €30, or €45 with a 15 minute massage included in the 90 minutes. However, students get 25% discount (thank god).
Carmen de Los Mártires
For some reason, this park is fairly unknown to tourists. Take a stroll round the peaceful gardens and marvel at the stunning views of Granada.
Opening times are 10am to 6pm with a closure between 2pm to 4pm during weekdays.
Güéjar Sierra Lake
Güéjar Sierra is a small village located 16km from Granada. The fresh water lake is perfect for swimming in summer. Be alert as we saw multiple water snakes although we were fine floating about there…
There is no designated area for public swimming, but we took the bus to get there so we were limited with choice and time. To get there by bus, take the 390 from Paseo de los Basilios, which come every 20 to 30 minutes.
We simply asked locals on the bus where to get off for the lake. I’d recommend you do the same (si puedes hablar español) or look at Google maps. The area is still quite unknown to tourists so there is limited information online.
If you have a car, it might be worth driving around the whole lake to find the best spot.
Natural Hot Springs
Relax in the natural hot springs (las termas) near Santa Fé. They’re free, open to the public and only accessible by foot or car. Since the springs are off-road, prepare your car to get dirty.
From December to April, the ski resort opens in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Only 50 minutes away from Granada by bus, and fairly cheap to ski or snowboard, it’d be a wasted opportunity not to go!
Yep, Granada has it all. You can go to the snowy mountains and the beach in the same day.
The coast is an hour drive south of Granada along the A-44. Either rent a car or take a bus from Granada. Good beaches include Salobrena, Playa La Rijana and Cantarriján.
Nerja, half way between Granada and Málaga, is also really popular. It’s either an hour drive by car or 2 hours by bus.
If you like hiking, rock climbing or waterfalls, this is a must-see. The Cahorros (waterfalls) trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range is easy to find and navigate.
To get there, go past Mercadona in the centre of Granada, cross the river, turn left onto Paseo de los Basilios and take the 183 bus. Buses from Granada to Monachil come every 20 minutes past the hour. Buses from Monachil to Granada come every 40 minutes past the hour. The last bus back comes at 8.40pm. Single bus fares cost around €1.65 and the journey lasts 20 minutes.
Note: This information doesn’t include Sundays.
The bus will drop you off in the centre of Monachil, at the same bus stop as the return bus. Follow the river and signs to “Los Cahorros”.
Watch my last trip to Granada!
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