The Spanish city of Granada is one of our favourite places in Europe for a short break or weekend getaway. We found Granada, more-so than Madrid, to have that traditional old town Spanish feel, with it’s many plazas, fountains, churches and outdoor restaurants, which along with the sangria, really appealed to us.
There is so much to do in a short space of time, and it is definitely a place where you can immerse yourself in Spanish culture, not least in taking advantage of the many tapas bars, flamenco shows and paella dishes on offer! Here is our selection of what not to miss on a weekend getaway to this beautiful and varied place.
View of Alhambra from the hostel terrace.
We originally booked three nights, staying in the Rambutan Hostel high up in the old town, with this fantastic view of Alhambra from the hostel terrace. We followed directions to the hostel via their website catching the local bus to the Sacromonte area, and after a long winding ascent, we were glad we hadn’t decided to hike up with our backpacks in the heat of the midday sun! We were thrilled that the the hostel manager was waiting for us at the top not with a glass of water, but a can of beer – a great start!
Mural on the wall of our double room.
We booked the only double room in the hostel. It was comfortable enough and had this lovely mural painted on the wall. The only downside was that to get to the ensuite shower room, you actually had to go through next door’s bedroom, and then the staff kitchen to reach it – not exactly ensuite by UK standards!
Traditional Spanish apartments.
After familiarising ourselves with the hostel, and the local tapas bars, we headed out to explore the city. It was a lovely walk down the hill from the Albaycin area to the Plaza Neuva. We passed many traditional style apartments with pretty pots on the balconies like these pictured above. There were also hundreds of stray cats along the river embankment, whom many tourists were taking it upon themselves to feed. Being cat lovers ourselves, we also stopped by with a box of biscuits!
“Nice to meet you!”
In many of the public areas we found a variety of sculptures and statues, so we took turns having our photographs taken for our ‘Statue Collection’! It is amazing what statues you find in the oddest of places and having our picture snapped with them has become one of our customary travel obsessions, along with sampling weird and wonderful local delicacies. (More of that in future posts!)
Whilst strolling around the many courtyards and alleyways you cannot miss the grandeur of Granada’s Cathedral, towering above it’s closest neighbours. The Cathedral was extremely busy, as is expected of a major tourist attraction but we were still able to get some good shots minus people, which made Wayne very happy.
Cured meats hanging in a tapas bar.
A must-do is to sample some of the fine selection of cured meats that are on offer in the many tapas bars you will find around the plazas. One of the amazing things about Granada is that tapas is ‘free’ when you have ordered drinks – only one of a handful of places in Spain that continues with this custom. (If you’re on a tight budget it’s a great way to save money on food whilst getting drunk!)
Local busker playing the accordion.
Outside one of the tapas bars we enjoyed the music from a local busker playing on his accordion. He was really friendly and wanted to chat with us, despite our poor effort at Spanish. This reminds me, we had a running joke about a young Israeli working in our hostel who we nicknamed ‘Flamenco Factor’, (Think X Factor bad auditionee) as he only seemed to play his guitar and sing whenever there were new arrivals of ‘girl travellers’ to impress!
Meet & greet with Albert Einstein outside the Science Museum.
Observation Platform at the Science Museum.
Another must-do is to visit the Science Museum. We spent at least a half day there looking around the different areas and exhibits. Even though I am a total non-science geek (unlike my husband!) I have to admit I really enjoyed it. There are lots of fun interactive things to do to keep adults entertained without having to take any children! We had fun in the ‘hall of mirrors’ and liked the different outdoor activities to help you understand how light and sound travel. One of the best bits was going up to the ‘Observation Platform’ which gives you 360 degree views of central Granada. The giant ants crawling up the side of the tower were an added touch, as was the seating around a splash pool in the outdoor area – perfect for a paddle and bathing the feet after a long walk around the city and the museum!
In the centre of the Plaza de Toros, Bull Ring.
Being animal lovers, we have mixed feelings about bull-fighting. We decided not to go to an actual bull-fight, but to visit the Plaza de Toros when it was empty. Standing in the centre helps you appreciate the scale of the place. The ring itself is actually huge and the balconies are very steep! The medical hospital and small museum on site, are also worth a look.
Heading up to Alhambra…
We took the ‘City Sightseeing’ bus up to the Arabic fort and palace of Alhambra. There was a very long queue for people like us who had not pre-booked tickets, but after finally getting through the entrance, we spent an entire day wandering around the gardens, and different areas. The views over the valley were amazing, the sunshine was glorious, and the flowers in full bloom were beautiful. It was so peaceful and calm it was hard to believe a bustling city lay sprawled out below us.
Alhambra – Ruins of the fort barracks.
Alhambra – Nasrid Palace Courtyard View.
The intricacy of the Arabic patterns and the architectural style are also a photographer’s dream, and made for a good set of reflection shots.
Alhambra – Nasrid Palace – Patio de Arrayanes.
Alhambra is definitely a day trip not to miss and should be top of your list of what to see in Granada. (If old buildings and gardens are not your thing, then focus on the tan you will get from walking around in the sun all day!)
Roasted Duck in a Plum Sauce with Seasonal Vegetables.
Flamenco dancer in local restaurant.
Our final recommendation, rather than to pay to watch a flamenco show, is to enjoy one for free at a local restaurant. Many restaurants, particularly up in the Sacromonte area, presented a flamenco show throughout the evening whilst diners sat around a centre-stage for their enjoyment of an up close and personal experience. Quality food with quality entertainment – what more could you ask for? Except a little vino of course!
Traditional Seafood Paella.
And you cannot wave goodbye to Granada without sampling a traditional seafood paella!
We increased our original 3 night stay to 6 nights as we loved Granada so much. Can you recommend any other must-sees?
We would love to go back and can add them to the list for next time.