The peace of the Alhambra and the magic of the Albaycin. The bustling tapas bars and the never-ending nightlife. The quote goes that if you’re tired of Paris, you’re tired of life, but for me, it’s this small, Andalusian city which you could never tire of.
Let me take you on a journey to this unique city, brimming with personality. Just make sure you read all the way to the end before you head over to Skyscanner and start looking at flights.
Granada (yes, with three As, GrEnada is an island nation in the Caribbean) is in Spain’s southernmost region, Andalusia. The whole region is famous for being home to villages of white houses nestled on hills and its rich culture, but also for its balmy weather and cheap drinks. Coastal towns attract large numbers of northern European tourists (who set about getting drunk) but you can easily leave the madness behind and really get under the skin of the place.
Although a tourist magnet, Granada is still a world away from the package tourism that dominates much of the coasts, so if you’re looking for a slice of culture as well as a spot of sunshine, it’s the perfect place.
It’s less than an hour from the beach. The city nestles beneath the majestic peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the snowy mountains, which are snow-capped all winter long.
When to go
The winter nights are cold and there’s a chill in the air in the mornings, but even in the depths of winter, the sun warms the city’s streets.
At the height of summer those that live in Granada tend to make their escape as the heat gets a bit much, but apart from the peak of July and August, this is a year-round destination.
Avoid Holy Week unless you’re religious, as you can’t move for the devout Christians that fill the streets to witness the famous processions that take place here.
Interesting from a cultural point of view, but not so great logistically, as you won’t be able to swing a cat, much less find accommodation.
How to get there
Granada does have its own international airport, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t have flight connections with many places, and flights directly there are usually on the pricey side.
Luckily, Malaga is less than two hours away its airport is a real hub, so you should be able to find cheap deals to get you there.
There are buses directly from Malaga airport to Granada that run all day, until about 9pm, a cheap and easy way of getting there. There’s also Blablacar, a rideshare app which is huge in Spain.
You can see people offering spots in their car at certain times, and check out reviews from their previous passengers to make sure they’re legit. Pay through the app for security, and you’re all set!
Where to stay
I was lucky enough to have friends host me on my last trip, but the first time I visited we stayed in an Airbnb with panoramic Alhambra views. Airbnb is wonderful for both budget and slightly more upmarket, boutique accommodation in Granada. If you can, find somewhere in the Albaycin or Realejo areas, preferably with a terrace, to soak up a bit of that sunshine, and a view. Heaven.
There are also plenty of hostels in the city centre, so check out the hostels on offer if you fancy meeting a few people whilst you’re there.
Travellers flock here, so you’re bound to meet people from all over the world as well as a few Spaniards to practice your language skills on.
Top tip: You’ll get far more out of the experience if you can understand at least a little of the language! But be aware, the Andalusian accent isn’t easy to understand, so don’t be disheartened.
What to do
Where to begin? The star of the show is the incomparable Alhambra. I have no words for this place. It’s walled city built on a dramatic mountain, perched high above the rest of the city, by the Moorish overlords that ruled this part of Spain for so long.
It’s a network of palaces spread over a large area all built at different times, and channels of water flow through, keeping it cool and tranquil, despite the crowds. Be sure to book your tickets online in advance, and leave plenty of time to look around and soak it up. It’s nothing short of sensational, and your jaw will drop every time you turn a corner.
After the Alhambra, you won’t be able to resist wandering in the Alabycin. Wind your way upwards and admire the houses, and then enjoy the view from the Miradores at the top.
Top tip: pop into the gardens of the Mosque right next door to Mirador de San Nicolas. The viewpoint is always absolutely rammed, but the gardens are beautifully quiet and picturesque, and have exactly the same view!
Wander the Calle Elvira at the foot of the Albaycin, perfect for picking up a few bargains with a top at a tapas bar in between shops.
The cathedral is beautiful, if a bit clunky after the detail of the Alhambra and that whole part of the city is another great spot to get lost. Wander the Realejo too, just as picturesque as the Albaycin, but without the crowds.
Don’t forget to head up to the Mirador de San Cristobal, a church perched high on the hill from where you can see the Alhambra and the Albaycin, and far beyond. An amazing perspective on a stunning city.
I can’t recommend heading to Tourist Information enough. They’re incredibly helpful and will give you great recommendations depending on how much time you have in the city.
This might be the best bit. This is the land of free tapas with every drink. And the drinks are cheap! There’s a tapas bar for everyone, from the ultra-traditional to the completely vegan.
Thanks to the thriving student population, the city is a haven for vegetarians and vegans, who’ll be overwhelmed by the choice at some places.
Order your drink and then check if there’s a choice of tapas or if you just get what you’re given.
Wandering from tapas bar to tapas bar until you’re merry and full is a great way to spend an early afternoon or an evening.
Evenings merge into nights, and Granada’s nightlife is so much fun, without a hefty price tag! The party doesn’t start till after midnight, here. Let loose and dance to Latin beats until the sun comes up.
It’s not all about the alcohol, though. A traditional tea in a tea house with Alhambra views isn’t something to be missed. Ask for recommendations!
Really, a weekend in Granada shouldn’t follow a set itinerary or plan. Make sure to pre-book the Alhambra, but otherwise, make sure you go with the flow.
Granada is not a place to be rushed. Wander aimlessly and see what you come across. Ask for recommendations and you’ll find hidden gems.
Relax, enjoy, and soak up the magic.