Top Things to See in Granada, Spain

Top Things to See in Granada, Spain

In the heart of Andalusia, tourists can visit Granada, a charming city known for its rich Moorish history, a wealth of architectural wonders, vibrant neighborhoods, and a cultural mosaic that resonates with every step. In this exploration of Granada, we embark on a journey through its storied streets, unveil hidden gems in quaint plazas, and immerse ourselves in the soul-stirring tales that echo through the Alhambra's walls. 

But what to do in Granada, Spain? Whether wandering through the narrow alleys of the Albayzín, sipping on traditional wine in Plaza Nueva, or capturing the panoramic views from Mirador de San Nicolás, each moment in Granada is a cherished memory. In this article, we will explore the best things to do in Granada and uncover the treasures that make this city a timeless destination for the curious traveler.


Historical and Cultural Landmarks

Let’s begin our tour by visiting the top things to do in Granada and discovering the most significant historical and cultural spots that the city has to offer. To learn more about the city’s rocky history, embark on the free walking tour Granada


Alcaicería: Historic Arab Market

Alcaicería is an Arab market that stands as a captivating testament to the city's rich cultural tapestry. Originally established in the 15th century, the market flourished as a bustling center for trade and commerce during the Nasrid dynasty. Today, the Alcaicería continues to exude an enchanting atmosphere, preserving the echoes of its Moorish past.


Wandering through the labyrinthine alleys of the Alcaicería, visitors are transported back in time, surrounded by the intricate architecture and vibrant colors characteristic of Islamic design. The market was historically renowned for its silk trade, and the name "Alcaicería" itself is derived from the Arabic word for silk. Though the original market was tragically destroyed by fire in the 19th century, the city undertook a meticulous reconstruction, preserving the essence of its historic charm.

Among the best things to do in Granada, Spain for art lovers, modern-day Alcaicería presents a captivating array of shops, where artisans skillfully craft and showcase traditional goods such as ceramics, textiles, and spices. The detailed patterns of Moorish tiles and the scent of exotic spices create a sensory experience that resonates with the market's storied past.


Palacio de la Madraza: Historical Palace and Educational Institution

Palacio de la Madraza is an exquisite historical palace that serves as an intersection of Islamic architecture, academia, and cultural heritage. Constructed in the 14th century during the Nasrid dynasty, the palace initially functioned as a madrasa, an Islamic educational institution, adding an intellectual dimension to its architectural splendor.

Palacio de la Madraza

The Palacio de la Madraza reflects the intricate beauty of Moorish design, showcasing elements such as horseshoe arches, stucco work, and geometric patterns typical for Islamic artistry. Its name, Madraza, stems from the Arabic word meaning Islamic college or school. 

While the palace has transformed over the centuries, including being repurposed as a Christian university and later a courthouse, efforts have been made to preserve its architectural and historical significance. One of the most intriguing Granada attractions for architecture enthusiasts, the palace boasts a gorgeous interior, which houses a beautiful courtyard adorned with a marble fountain, elegant rooms with detailed stucco decoration, and an ornate mihrab, highlighting its Islamic origins.

Among the most popular things to do in Granada, the Palacio de la Madraza not only captivates with its architectural splendor but also serves as a symbol of Granada's diverse cultural history, embodying the coexistence of Islamic and Christian influences in the region.


Royal Chapel of Granada: Historical Burial Place for Spanish Monarchs

The Royal Chapel of Granada is an iconic structure steeped in history. Commissioned by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, in 1504, the chapel serves as the final resting place for this renowned royal couple and several subsequent Spanish monarchs.

Constructed in the Isabelline Gothic style, the Royal Chapel showcases a blend of artistic elements, including delicate stained glass windows, intricately carved altarpieces, and majestic tombs. The chapel's significance lies not only in its architectural beauty but also in its role as the mausoleum for one of the most influential monarchs in Spanish history. One of the best Granada, Spain things to do for history buffs, visitors can marvel at the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella. They are beautifully adorned with elaborate statues, capturing the regality of their reign and the impact they had on Spain's unification.

Royal Chapel of Granada 

Adjacent to the chapel is the Comares Chapel, featuring the final resting place of Queen Joanna of Castile and her husband Philip I, known as Philip the Handsome. Visitors flock to the chapel complex to witness incredible Granada attractions, including a museum, exhibiting a remarkable collection of religious art, regal attire, and other historical artifacts.


The Royal Convent of Saint Isabel: Historical Religious Site

The Royal Convent of Saint Isabel is a significant historical and religious site. Founded in 1501 by Queen Isabella I of Castile, the convent was dedicated to Saint Isabel of Hungary, reflecting the queen's deep religious devotion and commitment to charitable works.

The convent's architectural style is a harmonious blend of late Gothic and Mudejar influences, contributing to its visual allure. The exterior features delicate ornamentation, while the interior boasts a serene courtyard, cloisters, and a church adorned with religious artworks. Among the top things to see in Granada, Spain, the convent's church holds the tomb of Queen Isabella, emphasizing its connection to the Catholic Monarchs.

The Royal Convent of Saint Isabel

One of the notable aspects of the Royal Convent of Saint Isabel is its charitable mission. Throughout history, the convent played a vital role in assisting the less fortunate, aligning with the queen's emphasis on philanthropy and social welfare. The convent continues to maintain its charitable traditions, remaining a symbol of compassion and service.

Today, visitors come to one of the most praised attractions in Granada, Spain to explore the convent's architectural splendor and learn about its rich history. The Royal Convent of Saint Isabel remains a testament to the deep intertwining of religious devotion, royal patronage, and charitable endeavors.


Puerta de Elvira: Historic City Gate

The Puerta de Elvira, a venerable historic city gate serves as a physical and symbolic threshold to the city's rich and storied past. Originally constructed during the 11th century when Granada was under Islamic rule, this gate has witnessed centuries of history, reflecting the diverse cultural influences that have shaped the region.

The gate derives its name from Princess Elvira, a daughter of the Muslim ruler Al-Mundhir, who is said to have played a role in the gate's construction. Puerta de Elvira was one of the main entrances to the medieval Albaicín quarter, a labyrinthine neighborhood known for its narrow streets, white-washed houses, and vibrant Moorish legacy.

Puerta de Elvira

Among the most interesting tourist attractions in Granada for architecture lovers, the gate combines Islamic and Mudejar elements, featuring horseshoe arches and intricate ornamentation. The remnants of defensive structures, such as towers and battlements, further highlight its historical significance as a fortified entry point to the city.

As Granada transformed with the Christian Reconquista, the Puerta de Elvira retained its prominence, adapting to new cultural contexts. Today, it’s one of the best things to do in Granada to connect the city’s multicultural heritage, symbolizing the blend of Islamic and Christian influences.


Catedral de Granada

The Granada Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an architectural masterpiece standing as a testament to the city's rich cultural and religious history. Construction of this awe-inspiring edifice began in the early 16th century on the site of the city's former mosque, symbolizing the transition from Islamic to Christian rule.

The cathedral is a stellar example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, with its intricate facade, imposing buttresses, and towering domes. The main chapel houses the remains of Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, highlighting its historical significance as a royal mausoleum. The ornate interiors feature exquisite altars, chapels, and religious art, including the renowned retablo by Alonso Cano.

Catedral de Granada

One of the most iconic things to see in Granada, Spain is the Royal Chapel, a separate structure adjoining the cathedral. It houses the final resting place of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, a couple whose marriage marked a pivotal moment in Spanish history.

The cathedral's Capilla Mayor is among the most outstanding Granada attractions, boasting an impressive collection of religious artifacts, including the Custodia de Arfe, a monstrance adorned with gold and precious stones, paraded through the city during the annual Corpus Christi procession.


Plaza Nueva de Granada: Central Historic Square

Plaza Nueva, the central historic square of Granada, Spain, is a bustling and charming public space that encapsulates the city's lively atmosphere and rich cultural heritage. Situated at the foot of the Alhambra, this expansive square has been a focal point for social, commercial, and political activities for centuries.

Plaza Nueva de Granada

A point of attraction to explore tourist things to do in Granada, the square is surrounded by historic buildings, outdoor cafes, and shops, exuding a vibrant energy. The square's layout is a blend of Renaissance and Baroque influences, offering a visual feast with its architectural diversity. Dominating the scene is the imposing Royal Chancery building, a 16th-century structure that once housed the highest court of justice in the Kingdom of Granada.

The square has witnessed significant historical events, including public celebrations, protests, and markets. Its strategic location, connecting the Alhambra with the city center, makes it a natural hub for both leisure and commerce. Among the most dynamic attractions in Granada, Spain, Plaza Nueva remains an essential stop for anyone exploring the city.


Aljibes: Historical Cisterns

The Aljibes of Granada, historical cisterns dating back to the Nasrid period are a remarkable testament to the city's sophisticated water management systems and architectural ingenuity. Aljibes is the Spanish word for cisterns, and in Granada, these structures played a crucial role in collecting and storing water for various purposes, including irrigation, domestic use, and supplying the magnificent Alhambra palace.


Constructed during the 11th and 12th centuries, the Aljibes are proof to the advanced engineering knowledge of the Nasrid dynasty. The cisterns are strategically located in different parts of the city, often near important structures like the Alhambra, ensuring a reliable water supply.

Anyone interested in engineering should visit the Aljibes, one of the top things to do in Granada.  Characterized by their impressive architecture, cisterns feature intricate brickwork, domed ceilings, and unique ventilation systems. These historical cisterns not only served practical purposes but also held cultural and social significance. They were vital in sustaining life in a region with a semi-arid climate, allowing Granada to flourish as a center of culture and civilization.


Viewpoints and Outdoor Spots

If you are lucky to visit the city during a warm season, don’t miss the chance to see this Spanish town from a viewpoint. In this section, we will go over the most breathtaking outlooks of the city and discover the best things to do in Granada. 


Mirador de San Nicolás: Famous Viewpoint

The Mirador de San Nicolás offers a breathtaking panoramic vista of one of the most iconic landscapes in the world—the Alhambra. Nestled on the slopes of the Albaicín neighborhood, this viewpoint provides an unrivaled view of the majestic palace complex set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Mirador de San Nicolás

Ascend the winding streets of the Albaicín to witness one of the most beautiful things to see in Granada, Spain, a popular gathering spot, that attracts locals and tourists. From the viewpoint, the Alhambra unfolds like a magical tapestry, revealing the intricate details of its palaces, towers, and lush gardens. The sight is particularly enchanting during sunset when the warm hues of the sun cast a golden glow upon the Alhambra, creating a scene of unparalleled beauty.

San Nicolás Square, where the viewpoint is located, exudes a laid-back atmosphere, inviting visitors to linger and absorb the cultural richness of the surroundings. Among the most fun tourist attractions in Granada, the square invites local artisans who offer handmade crafts and souvenirs, while nearby cafes provide the perfect setting for a leisurely moment to savor the breathtaking views.


Paseo de los Tristes: Promenade with Views of the Alhambra

The Paseo de los Tristes is a picturesque outlook offering views of the banks of the Darro River and the Alhambra. Translated as the Promenade of the Sad, the name carries historical significance, believed to originate from funeral processions that once traversed the route on their way to the cemetery.

Today, the Paseo de los Tristes has let go of its somber connotations and transformed into one of the top things to do in Granada. Lined with outdoor cafes and artisanal shops, the promenade exudes an atmosphere of timeless beauty. 

Paseo de los Tristes

As visitors stroll along the cobblestone path, they are faced with one of the most unique Granada attractions. Here, the red walls of the Alhambra rise majestically above the trees, the towers and turrets cast reflections in the river, and the ancient stone bridges add to the romantic ambiance. The promenade becomes particularly enchanting during the golden hour, as the setting sun bathes the Alhambra in warm hues, creating a magical spectacle. Jump on the free tour Alhambra Granada to learn more about the area. 

One of the best things to do in Granada for newcomers, the Paseo de los Tristes is more than just a scenic walkway; it encapsulates the essence of the city’s unique blend of history, nature, and culture. 


Carmen de la Victoria: Gardens with Views

Carmen de la Victoria is a historic and enchanting garden with breathtaking views of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains. Perched on the top of the Albaicín, this traditional Moorish house with a garden is a tranquil oasis that allows for a peaceful city break. Among the best Granada attractions, the Carmen de la Victoria also serves as a cultural and artistic space, hosting events, concerts, and exhibitions celebrating Granada's rich heritage. 

Carmen de la Victoria

The gardens of Carmen de la Victoria feature terraced landscapes adorned with vibrant flowers, fruit trees, and fragrant herbs. As visitors explore the meandering paths, they encounter secluded corners with fountains, ancient arches, and decorative tiles, all contributing to the garden's nostalgic charm.

One of the most unique things to do in Granada is explore the unparalleled panoramic views of the Alhambra. The garden offers a unique perspective, allowing visitors to admire the intricate details of the Nasrid palaces, the Generalife's lush gardens, and the Alcazaba fortress—all framed by the picturesque backdrop of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada.


Mirador Cruz de la Rauda: Scenic Lookout

For centuries, the Cruz de Rauda has been a historic landmark in the Albaicín neighborhood of Granada, tracing its roots back to the 16th century. Positioned on the north side, at the foot of Cerro del Aceituno, this site holds a unique significance. Influenced by the Arab rule, Cruz de Rauda became characterized by cave houses, the Muslim cemetery of Maqbarat al-Rawda, and several places of worship, including three mosques.

One of these mosques, Yamic-Susuna, located closest to the Rauda Cross, had a cistern that still stands today as the Cistern of Santa Isabel de los Abades. With the Catholic Monarchs' arrival in Granada, places of Muslim worship underwent Christianization. The church of Santa Isabel de los Abades, constructed in 1526 on the former site of the Mosque and the al-Rawda cemetery, eventually replaced the original structures.

Mirador Cruz de la Rauda

The Rauda Cross, a modest octagonal stone cross in Renaissance style, was erected near this church. Illuminated by brass lanterns, housing carved figures of the Crucified Christ and the Little Virgin, the cross stands on a step with three descending steps, adorned with decorative elements reminiscent of acanthus leaves.

Among the most breathtaking Granada, Spain things to do, this landmark provides a scenic lookout point that unravels breathtaking views of the Alhambra, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the meandering streets of Granada. As visitors ascend to this vantage point, they are treated not only to the rich historical context but also to an unforgettable panorama, making the Cruz de la Rauda an idyllic spot to absorb the beauty of Granada and create cherished memories against the backdrop of its enchanting landscapes.


Squares and Public Spaces

What to do in Granada, Spain if you’re looking for a fun activity? Head to one of the squares to immerse yourself in the local culture, enjoy Spanish tunes, and meet the friendly residents of this incredible city. Let’s discover the best things to do in Granada to discover music, cuisine, culture, and architecture. 


Plaza de San Miguel Bajo: Charming square

Plaza de San Miguel Bajo, nestled within the heart of Granada's Albaicín neighborhood, is a captivating square. This atmospheric plaza encapsulates the essence of Andalusian charm, offering a compelling blend of cultural richness and communal warmth.

Surrounded by whitewashed buildings adorned with intricate balconies and vibrant flowers, the plaza creates a picturesque setting. At its center, the Church of San Miguel Bajo, with its distinctive Mudejar and Gothic architectural elements, stands as a focal point, adding historical significance to the square. The church, dating back centuries, contributes to the plaza's timeless ambiance and serves as a cultural anchor for the community.

Plaza de San Miguel Bajo

One of the perfect things to do in Granada for foodies, Plaza de San Miguel Bajo is brimming with open-air cafes and tapas bars that spill out onto the cobblestone square. The square becomes a gathering place for spontaneous conversations among neighbors and lively gatherings of friends.

As the sun sets, Plaza de San Miguel Bajo transforms into an enchanting space, with the warm glow of streetlights illuminating the historic surroundings. Come to one of the most popular Granada attractions to listen to live music and enjoy a warm and vibrant evening. 


Plaza de Santa Ana: Central Square near Historical Sites

Plaza de Santa Ana is a picturesque plaza presenting a unique blend of Moorish, Spanish, and Romani influences that define Granada's character. At the center of Plaza de Santa Ana is the eponymous church, Iglesia de Santa Ana, a striking example of Granada's Mudejar architecture. The church's intricate details and historical significance contribute to the plaza's cultural richness.

Plaza de Santa Ana 

One of the most truly unique Granada, Spain things to do, the square exudes an authentic Andalusian atmosphere. Outdoor cafes and tapas bars spill onto the cobblestone streets, inviting locals and visitors to indulge in the culinary delights of the region while basking in the lively ambiance.

The plaza is not only a culinary and architectural delight but also a hub of social activity. Among the best tourist attractions in Granada to explore local culture, it often hosts street performances, live music, and cultural events, creating a dynamic space for community engagement. As the sun sets and the square is bathed in the warm glow of streetlights, Plaza de Santa Ana transforms into a romantic and enchanting space, embodying the timeless allure that characterizes Granada's historic squares.


Placeta del Comino: Small, Quaint Square

Placeta del Comino is a charming square that offers a tranquil escape in the heart of the bustling Albaicín neighborhood. Bordered by charming buildings, Placeta del Comino expresses a quintessential Andalusian ambiance. The square takes its name from the cumin plant, which historically grew in the area, adding a touch of botanical history to the surroundings.

Placeta del Comino

Visitors flock to one of the best things to do in Granada, Spain to marvel at the centuries-old fountain, providing a soothing soundtrack to the peaceful atmosphere. The sound of trickling water complements the natural beauty of the square, creating a serene enclave where locals and visitors can unwind.

Surrounded by small tapas bars and cafes, Placeta del Comino invites patrons to savor authentic Andalusian flavors while enjoying the gentle pace of life in the Albaicín. Among the best tourist attractions in Granada for a leisurely afternoon stroll, the square is a delightful mix of traditional cuisine and nature with gorgeous flowers.


Fuente de los Gigantones: Fountain in a historic square

Fuente de los Gigantones is a distinctive and historic fountain that adds a touch of whimsy and charm to the city's landscape. Constructed in 1554, during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the fountain has undergone various transformations over the centuries. The design, attributed to architect Diego de Siloé, features a circular basin adorned with intricate reliefs and sculptures. At its center stands a column surmounted by the figure of Hercules, symbolizing strength and valor.

Fuente de los Gigantones

The fountain is particularly renowned for the Gigantones, featuring four oversized figures that surround the central column. Among the perfect things to do in Granada for culture enthusiasts, these whimsical sculptures represent different ethnic groups – an African, an American, an Asian, and a European – showcasing the global perspective of the Spanish Empire during the Renaissance. From here, you can hop on the Granada Jewish tour to expand your knowledge of the local history. 

Fuente de los Gigantones has not only been a source of water but also a symbolic and artistic centerpiece in Granada's public space. The fountain has witnessed centuries of history, from the Spanish Renaissance to the present day, and remains a testament to the city's cultural richness. Today, locals and visitors gather around Fuente de los Gigantones, appreciating its historical significance, artistic beauty, and the lively atmosphere of Plaza Bib-Rambla, where the fountain stands as a timeless emblem of Granada's heritage.


Unique Neighborhoods and Streets

Finally, let’s investigate the most unique spots in the city to uncover hidden gems and get to know this Spanish town. What to do in Granada, Spain for avid travelers looking for one-in-a-lifetime experiences? 


Camino del Sacromonte: Road Leading to the Sacromonte Area

Camino del Sacromonte, a winding path guiding into the hills of Granada unveils a journey through history, culture, and a distinct Romani legacy. This picturesque route, also known as the Road to Sacromonte, leads to the iconic Sacromonte neighborhood, located on the hills overlooking the Albaicín.

Come on the journey that opens up one of the best Granada attractions to explore a blend of whitewashed houses, cave dwellings, and narrow alleys. The route meanders through the heart of the Albaicín, a UNESCO World Heritage site, offering glimpses of medieval Moorish architecture and the timeless charm that defines this historic quarter.

Camino del Sacromonte

The allure of Camino del Sacromonte is deeply intertwined with the rich cultural tapestry of Sacromonte itself. Famous for its cave houses, flamenco tablaos, and vibrant street life, Sacromonte has long been associated with the Romani community. Among the top things to do in Granada to discover the local music scene, travelers may encounter local artisans, hear the distant sounds of flamenco guitar, and witness the essence of Granada's spirited Romani heritage.

The trip culminates at the Sacromonte Abbey, a historic site that adds religious significance to this cultural voyage. Situated on the hill, the abbey offers panoramic views of Granada and the Alhambra, creating a remarkable view.


Río Darro: Street along the River

Río Darro, the poetic river that gracefully winds its way through Granada, is a vital artery of the city, breathing life into its historic landscape. Flowing gently at the foot of the Alhambra, Río Darro mirrors the enchantment of its surroundings, encapsulating centuries of Moorish and Spanish heritage.

Río Darro

As the river meanders through the heart of Granada, it reveals a picturesque panorama of cobblestone paths, historic bridges, and the iconic architecture that adorns its banks. Among the most noteworthy Granada, Spain things to do, the riverbank provides an idyllic setting for leisurely strolls, offering locals and visitors a serene escape within the bustling city.

Crossing the river, travelers encounter the famous Paseo de los Tristes, a promenade named after the mournful processions that once traversed its path. Today, this vibrant walkway is alive with the laughter of people, the melodies of street musicians, and the magnetic energy of Granada.


Casas Cueva: Cave Houses in Sacromonte

Casas Cueva, or cave houses, represent a unique architectural and cultural phenomenon found in various regions across the world, particularly in Granada. These houses, literally built into the sides of hills or mountains, offer a distinctive and sustainable living experience that reflects a harmonious integration with the natural environment.

One of the most remarkable things to do in Granada, the Albaicín and Sacromonte neighborhoods are renowned for their cave houses. Carved into the soft rock formations, these dwellings boast a rich history dating back to Moorish times. The unique thermal properties of the cave structures provide natural insulation, keeping the interiors cool in summer and warm in winter.

Casas Cueva

Casas Cueva often feature traditional elements such as arched doorways, wooden beams, and whitewashed walls, blending seamlessly with the landscape. Many of these homes have been adapted to modern living standards, offering a perfect fusion of historical charm and contemporary comfort.

Beyond their architectural appeal, Casas Cueva in Granada are often associated with the vibrant Romani culture concentrated in the Sacromonte neighborhood. Visitors who would like to learn more about the local Romani heritage should visit one of the top tourist attractions in Granada, a Casa Cueva. Here, cave dwellings are not only residences but also venues for intimate flamenco performances, creating a unique cultural experience for residents and visitors.


Escultura Chorrojumo: Sculpture dedicated to a famous Romani of Granada

Wandering through the enchanting Albaicín district on the path leading to Sacromonte in Granada, Spain, one encounters a unique sculpture paying homage to Mariano Fernández Chorrojumo, one of the most renowned Romani of the late 19th century. Positioned on the right side of the Cuesta del Chapiz, this captivating artwork, crafted by the skilled hands of forger Antonio Salazar, captures Chorrojumo's essence with a serious countenance, looking left, dressed in traditional attire symbolizing his patriarchal role over Sacromonte.

Escultura Chorrojumo

Born in 1824, Mariano Fernández Santiago, also known as Chorrojumo, gained prominence as a blacksmith. His fame soared when the celebrated painter Mariano Fortuny encountered him during a visit to Granada in 1868. Fortuny, captivated by Chorrojumo and two other Romani singing while working, persuaded him to pose in an anachronistic Goyesque Romani costume. This moment marked the birth of the Chorrojumo legend.

Chorrojumo's fame attracted tourists from afar, and his legacy persisted even after his death in 1906. The iron sculpture in Peso de la Harina square, installed in 1995, stands as a testament to his legacy.
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