Home to the world famous Alhambra Palace, visitors to Granada often overlook the city itself. While there’s no doubt that the expansive Alhambra Palace is worth a visit, Granada as a destination should also be explored. The city is an amalgamation of modern Spain and its Moorish past, which is still evident in the layout of the city’s winding streets and medieval architecture. Don’t worry: Granada has plenty of modern attractions as well. Whether you’re looking for history, culture, entertainment or cuisine, this handy guide will help you explore all the city has to offer.
1. The Alhambra
The Alhambra is the starting point—or even the point—of most trips to Granada. It was first referenced in the ninth century as a fortress. Following the decline of Moorish rule in Spain, in 1492 it became the official residence of Christian kings and queens—Ferdinand and Isabella probably the most famous of these—before falling into disuse. With several sprawling sections that include the royal complex, Hall of the Ambassadors and Generalife, you could easily spend an entire day here. The grounds are even lit up at night for nighttime tours of the complex.
2. The Albayzin
Just outside the Alhambra you’ll find the Albayzin, a neighborhood that maintains its medieval Moorish layout. After you’ve lost yourself in the maze of narrow and winding streets, head to the House of Masks, a building that used to be the residence of 17th century poet Pedro Soto de Rojas. Take a break for some tapas at Taberna 22, which features glorious views of the Alhambra in the distance. Before leaving, visit the Ziri Wall, one of the oldest walls in the city that dates back to the 11th century.
3. The Sacromonte Neighborhood
Now head to the Sacromonte neighborhood and make your way down the main thoroughfare of Camino del Sacromonte, which features an array of bars and restaurants. Stop for a bite to eat at Casa Juanillo, which features traditional Mediterranean and Spanish fare.
Set aside time to explore what the Sacromonte neighborhood is known for—its caves. Check out the myriad cave dwellings that date back to the 16th century, when they served as the homes to many of Granada’s Roma population. Once you’ve explored the white washed cave dwellings, head to the Sacromonte’s Interpretation Center, an open air folk museum that features exhibits about Roma culture and Sacromonte’s geology
4. Café Omka
Café Omka resides on Calle Jardines and celebrates Granada’s Moorish past with eclectic Middle Eastern dishes. You can take a breather from your explorations to enjoy vegetable tapas like the Medfona (noodles with toasted almonds) or La Saluka (an eggplant dish). Meat eaters won’t go hungry, thanks to brewat (chicken) and shawarma. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the tasting plate, which features a sampling of all the dishes from the restaurant’s menu.
5. La Alboreá
Head over to La Alboreá, located in Plaza Nueva, to take in a traditional flamenco show, where many of the performers come from generations of flamenco dancers. You can reserve balcony seats or sit in the main grandstand area. The performances last about an hour and consist of a male and female dancer, a guitarist and a vocalist. Feel free to dine on tapas or indulge in a glass of wine while watching the flow and drama taking part onstage.
6. La Qarmita Books and Café
Take a break at La Qarmita Books and Café, a quaint cafe that doubles as a bookstore. There’s a small library area with a vast selection to choose from, including graphic novels and general fiction. In the back, you’ll notice a small stage where performances are held. The cafe serves tea, coffee and pastries—try the chocolate and mint tea or a chocolate and orange tart pastry. If you’re so inclined, there’s also a small bar featuring an array of liquors to try. This is our kind of bookstore.
To get your souvenirs, make your way to the Alcaicería, the Grand Bazaar of Granada. The original Moorish bazaar, which survived the Christian conquest, was much larger, with two hundred shops. Now it’s tucked away off the Calle Reyes Catolicos, and you can peruse clothing, souvenirs and spices. Take a moment to immerse yourself in the winding paths of this medieval market before entering the stalls themselves. Souvenirs worth purchasing are the fajalauza (locally painted ceramics) or granadino farolos (stained glass lamps).
Dylan Hill is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles.