Two weeks ago, I trekked to the south of Spain to visit the lovely city of Granada. You may know Granada because it’s home to La Alhambra, the famous last stronghold of the Moors before the Catholics conquered the Iberian Peninsula. I was fortunate enough to visit Granada with one of my best friends, who had studied abroad there and knew the city very well, so I saw almost everything there was to see in only a day and a half!
For those of you without a handy tour guide friend, here’s my itinerary of things to see, eat and do in Granada:
The closest airport to Granada is in Málaga, which I flew to from Barcelona using Spain’s budget airline, RyanAir. RyanAir is like Spirit in the U.S., so they have stringent luggage requirements and annoying fees, but they are very cheap. You can also fly directly to Málaga from outside of Spain. From the Málaga airport, you’ll need to take a two hour bus ride into Granada which you can either book ahead of time or pay when you board. The bus pickup is at the airport and it’s super easy. The ride itself takes you through the southern Spanish countryside, which honestly just reminds me of southern California because the climate is pretty much the same and SoCal architecture is very Spanish-influenced. The bus drops you off in Granada and from there, you can take a city bus to wherever you need to go.
We arrived in Granada around 6pm on the first day. Thanks to Spain’s long days, that meant there were still 4 hours of daylight left! First thing we did was to check into our Airbnb, conveniently located near the center of town with a killer view of the Alhambra from the rooftop (pics below).
Here’s what we did after checking into our Airbnb:
8pm: Hiked up to a viewpoint of La Alhambra. It’s a popular tourist spot because you can see the entire palace sitting on the hill across from you. The path to get there is through cute residential neighborhoods, with the typical Mediterranean whitewashed walls, little gates, and tiled interiors.
9pm: Dinner time in Spain is around 9pm, and people usually eat small dishes called tapas because lunch is the biggest meal, not dinner. We ate dinner at a couple of random tapas places. Tapas are free in Granada when you buy drinks! My experience with eating in Granada was that the food was mostly the same no matter where we ate, so I don’t have any recommendations for restaurants or bars. However, I will recommend getting a tinto de verano. It’s red wine with lemon fizzy soda, usually lemon Fanta, and it’s freakin’ delicious!
7am: We f*cked up and didn’t book tickets to La Alhambra in advance, so we woke up super early to haul our butts up the hill and wait in line for the day’s tickets (a certain amount are available to buy for visiting on the same day). Tragically, the tickets sold out right before it was our turn! Lesson learned: buy your tix in advance or you’ll have to confess to your blog audience that you went to Granada without seeing La Alhambra in its entire magnificence! *insert crying emojis* I’d recommend buying a month in advance or earlier if you’re traveling to Granada during the late spring or summer months.
8:30am: Luckily, La Alhambra has a significant portion that you can visit for free, so we did that. I was so stoked to be in the Alhambra, because my hometown in California is named after it (aside: our high school mascot was the Moors, which I now realize is SUPER RACIST). This took up a couple hours; the views and architecture were really beautiful so there’s a lot to see.
10am: Ate breakfast at a random place along the river. A typical breakfast is stuff on toast, like meat and cheese, sausage, jam, etc.
11am: Explored Sacromonte, which is a traditional neighborhood on the hills of Granada, with caves and everything! Think whitewashed walls, cacti, bright colors, cute wooden doors. We hiked up a hill facing La Alhambra with really beautiful views overlooking more Mediterranean style homes on the adjacent hillside.
12pm: Mini-siesta to recharge before lunch.
1pm: Had paella at a place by the river with outdoor seating. Very touristy, but the paella was yummy and the price was reasonable.
2pm: Siesta! Many businesses close in the late afternoon for siesta, so it’s a great time to find shelter from the sun and take a nap.
5pm: Had tea at a tetería (tea shop), of which Granada has plenty due to its proximity to Morocco. I’d recommend trying Moroccan mint tea if you haven’t had it before. It’s not at all like the decaf “Moroccan mint tea” you can buy at the grocery store; it’s highly caffeinated, strongly brewed green tea with lots of sugar and fresh mint. The tea shops also have lots of fun blends of all kinds of tea, from black to green to herbal to rooibos. Most of these teas can be bought in the souvenir stalls lining some of Granada’s smaller streets.
6pm: Took a walk to see some of Granada’s street art. We ended up walking all around the city for hours (this happened to us in Granada fairly often). At the end of this day and a half, I felt like I had essentially seen the entire city.
9pm: Grabbed drinks and dinner at a tapas place next to the river. Ordered fried eggplant (highly recommend if you like eggplant or fried things) and got some surprise pieces of fried fish in there?? All the pieces were covered in batter so you didn’t know if it was an eggplant fry or a fish fry until you ate it. Not complaining because I like fried fish, but this gives you an idea of how laidback restaurants are compared to the U.S.
10pm: Stopped by some souvenir stalls and bought some cute mules (the shoes, not the donkey horse hybrid)! And color-changing lip balm! And tea! I think a packet of loose leaf tea from Granada makes a cute gift for family members and friends. Went to sleep around midnight for an early start the next morning, when we left Granada (using the same bus and flying back to Barcelona).
Some extra tips:
- The weather in early May was already very warm, with clear blue skies and 80 degree temperatures. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and light clothing.
- All the streets are paved with cobblestones, so if your feet are sensitive or prone to pain bring shoes with sturdy soles.
- Airbnb ended up being our cheapest option, especially since we were traveling in a group. Use this link to get $40 off your first trip: www.airbnb.com/c/cchiang468
- DON’T FORGET TO BOOK YOUR ALHAMBRA TICKETS IN ADVANCE!
And that’s a wrap on my day and a half in Granada. The city is definitely worth another visit for me, and I’d like to stay a bit longer next time to relax and enjoy the chill atmosphere and sunny skies.
If you’ve visited Granada, what were your favorite things to see and do?