I unabashedly adore Granada. Set at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada draws masses of tourists for its spectacular Alhambra. This Moorish fortress- turned Christian castle- turned Lord’s quarters is the most visited attraction in Spain.
Yet, when I settled in Spain for Autumn/ Winter in 2018- I found it was easy to escape the crowds. With this 48 hours in Granada itinerary, step beyond the epic castle.
Wander the barrios of this gorgeous city to find spectacular views, trendy coffee spots, and craft beer venues.
Find authentic flamenco in a cave, stroll along the Carrera Del Darro river, and snack on free tapas and Andalusian wine. Prepare yourself for fascinating Moorish history, a fantasy castle framing the city and brilliant Andalusian cuisine.
With this two-days in Granada itinerary, you will pack in the best of Moorish architecture and art, Medieval History, and Andalusian culture. However, I do urge you to invest more time in this spectacular town. If you can, just take a day to walk up and down the cobbled streets, practising your Spanish.
I recommend buying your ticket for the Alhambra ahead of time. You will be given a time slot- this refers to the time you can enter the Nasrid Palaces. When you first enter the complex, you will be in the gardens. Make sure you head to the Palaces as per your ticket time. They are not worth missing!
Today we venture out into the cobbled Barrios of Granada to explore the Carthusian Charterhouse and the Basilica of San Juan.
Wander up the charming medieval streets, noting the Moorish architectural motifs and indulging on churros and tapas along the way. Save room for sweets from the cloistered nuns at the Convent of San Isabel la Real and finish your day with a sunset.
I recommend spending the night in the Albaicin district. I particularly liked the Hotel Rosa D’Oro.
Cafe 4 Gatos (The Cat Cafe) is centrally located just across the valley from the Alhambra. A beautiful whitewashed building that bleeds out onto the cobblestone street, Cafe 4 Gato serves the classic Espanol breakfast of ‘huevos, jamon, y tostado’ for a reasonable price. The best way to start your day in Andalucia is to eat like an Andalusian. And I thoroughly recommend this cafe.
From here, it’s only a ten-minute walk to our next destination. You also will get great views of the Alhambra and enjoy fabulous service. However, because of the quality of Cafe 4 Gatos, it pays to get there early if you want to grab a seat. Popularity with locals and tourists alike mean Gato’s tends to fill up quickly.
Time to walk off that breakfast! Indulge yourself in a coffee to go and head up the hill along the winding roads of Urban Jardines de Rolando. This walk is 26 minutes long and will leave you a little out of breath. Gosh! You say! A half an hour walk straight after breakfast, why not take a car?
Because Granada is simply not built for cars. If you don’t want to walk, take the number 8 Green bus (a mini tram designed for narrow and cobbled roads) from Gran Via 5 to Prof Vicente Callao and look across the street.
But the walk is worth it! Granada is a charming mix of old and new- simultaneously a historical, UNESCO site and a University Town.
Take a moment to catch your breath in front of the Granada Charterhouse- one of the most notable examples of Spanish Baroque architecture still standing. The building doesn’t look like much from the outside. However, the internal flamboyance and ornaments make this building a true testament to its artistic period.
Plus it serves as a gallery of paintings, so this stop satisfies all you art lovers out there. Pay special attention to the Dome of the tabernacle, which features jaw-dropping frescoes.
Just 800 metres from the Charterhouse is Apo Restaurante. I stumbled across this sleek restaurant with my mum after walking up too much of an appetite.
The servings are generous and perfectly cooked. The atmosphere is upmarket and modern, and, while this isn’t the cheapest food inclusion on this itinerary, the food was worth it.
Try beginning with some Gazpacho- a classic Andalusian recipe make of raw, blended vegetables and served cold. The recipe may sound unappealing, but the result is not! Apo Restaurante is a great way to spend your first lunch during your weekend in Granada Spain.
The Basilica of San Juan De Dios is back down the hill (sorry!), but a much easier walk than the uphill slog. Plus, it gives you time to digest your delicious steak lunch and admire the view of the Alhambra.
Feel free to take your time on this walk as it takes you down the Medieval and Moorish history of the area. The Basilica itself is opulent, ostentatious, and surreal. We recommend taking an hour to wander through the gold-encrusted Church.
There is also a fascinating audio guide available (though it becomes a little repetitive). The guide is worth investing in as it points out the basics of Catholic storytelling and gives a basic overview of Granada’s unique history.
This convent is tucked away near the centre of the Albaicin. The building dates back over 500 years to the time of Queen Isabella of Castile and rests on the site of a Moorish Palace named Dar al- Horra. It represents an amalgamation of two empires: the Moorish Muslim history and Christian crusades.
While the building is stunning and I especially enjoyed the wooden carved ceiling in the Church, the real highlight here is the nuns. Not that you will ever see them.
The women are cloistered away to avoid direct contact with the public. From them, you can buy delicious sweets. Simply ring the buzzer next to the carved wooden door, place your money on the in-built lazy susan in the wall, and it will rotate with your purchase on it.
This small interaction provides a glimpse into the religion that gives part of the spiritual undercurrent of this great city.
To add to your 48 hours in Granada, head 12 minutes down the hill towards the river. This walk will give you a chance to breathe in the city.
Granada is a brilliant place to people watch as students drift along historical alleys, and locals bustle by. It can feel surreal to wander these ancient streets and yet, see the marking of modern technology.
La Catedral de Granada or Cathedral of the Incarnation is incredible. Brace yourself for the central nave floor, which features black and white tiles, sweeping white arches, ornate pillars, and echoing empty spaces. The cathedral was built in 1518 after the city was taken from it’s Muslim Nasrid rulers. The building is an amalgamation of Gothic and Spanish Renaissance architecture and has some spectacular stained glass windows.
We recommend at least an hour in the church. I took in earphones and listened to Ahmed Adnan Saygun (A Turkish 20th Century Composer) while wandering. He may not be strictly Ottoman-era, but the music fits the scene.
Head back down to the river for a tapa and afternoon drink to help round out your first night of this 2 day Granada itinerary. Bar La Fontana is right on the River Darro, and opposite the Alhambra. The staff are lovely, and they serve a delightful mulled wine. I spent many cold nights here listening to local music and gorging myself on tapas.
Instead of an extra night, you must head here to sit on rickety wooden chairs, steal a spot on the terrace, and watch the Alhambra above you. The tapas here are another great reason to stay. Tapas are served free with drinks at La Fontana, and it’s a bit of the luck of the draw. This place can also get touristy in the summer.
Are you looking for a more local spot? Try Cafe Bar La Fragua- Bar de Tapas down the hill from Plaza Aliatar. Be warned; you’ll need Spanish to get by here. Practise “puedo tener una cerveza un tubo, por favor?” (Can I have a big beer please?)
Watching the sunset over the Alhambra has been on my bucket list since college. Full disclosure I was an Islamic History Major and studied Spanish, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. I spent a lot of nights hunting down sunsets while living in Granada, and I think it was time well spent.
The mountains behind the Moorish fortress glow pink in the right light, and the red and white stone of the monument itself lends a magic flush to the vista.
To get to the Mirador de San Nicolas head up the hill, following the stone staircases that pepper the neighborhood. You will reach a big, cobbled public terrace with stone benches. This walk will take 20 minutes from the river.
While heading up, grab yourself a tea from one of the many tea merchants in the district. Settle in on the stone wall, and let the light do its thing.
A ten-minute walk down the hill again will bring you to the Moroccan Oasis that is Restaurante Arraynes. Wait- you say- I’m in Granada. Surely I want to be eating Spanish food?
Granada was once a stronghold of Moorish tradition before, and while, it was ruled by the Ottoman’s and Spanish Catholics. The Moorish culture heavily influenced all that is Grenada and Southern Spain. And, considering Moor, was a catch-all phrase for Muslim- majority North Africa, Morocco is a substantial historical player in the tapestry that is Granada.
Phew! That was a big historical jump around to justify dinner. More importantly, the food here is excellent, the decor beautiful, and the staff a delight.
Wake up and get ready for the centrepiece of Granada! Today, you will explore the Alhambra (which makes my heart swell), enjoy a flamenco show, and immerse yourself in the fascinating history of Granada as a whole. If I could rediscover the Alhambra for the first time, I would.
Do yourself a favour and put aside the tour book and camera. This building deserves to be appreciated. And the gardens are magical.
To get a real sense of the Alhambra, you may want to brush up on your history. If you have time, listen to Melvyn Bragg's excellent overview of Muslim Spain or delve into the Khan Academy abridgement. I'd recommend A History of The Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani if you're very dedicated- but that's a pretty epic undertaking.
There is also the famous Tales of Alhambra by Washington Irving, which is a rambling collection of essays and stories. I was never a fan.
Plaza Nueva, or the New Plaza, is a great place to start your second morning of this 2 days in Granada itinerary. Wander into the Little Souk Markets running alongside this square, and grab your breakfast at one of the many cafes lining the plaza.
I recommend grabbing a decent coffee and fuel for the day because the Alhambra does involve a lot of walking. Sneak a takeaway pastry (“Para fuerra, por favor”) to keep you stocked up throughout the day.
You can catch the red minus C3 from this square up to the Alhambra. They leave every ten minutes, and you can listen for the Generalife stop.
Alternatively, it’s a steep (but pretty!) walk up the hill to the Palace gates. This should take you around 15 minutes.
Welcome to the crowning jewel of Granada. The Alhambra is a sprawling complex and contains our next three stops. It is not a mosque, castle, or fortress- but rather a royal city separate from the main town below it.
As you wander through this epic citadel, keep a lookout for the Court of Myrtle and The Court of Lions. These were my highlights, where sheets of water reflect the architecture and light.
When you enter the palace gates, you will find yourself in the beautiful gardens. As I have written at the beginning of this Granada Itinerary, you must keep an eye on the time slot on your ticket. This time slot is for the Nasrid Palaces. Fit your visit to the Gardens and the Alcazaba around this time.
While we haven’t included them on this list if you have time explore the romantic Woods of the Alhambra, the Gate of Justice, and the Charles V Palace which contains the Museum of Fine Arts.
The Alcazaba is the military area of the grounds. It served as the barracks for the elite guards who protected the citadel during the Nasrid Dynasty residency.
The Nasrid Dynasty was the last of the Muslim rulers to govern in Spain and held the area until around 1492. The citadel itself began construction in 1238 and outlasted the Nasrid Dynasty as a place of prominence. When the Catholic Monarchs conquered Granada during the Reconquista period during the 15th century, the Alhambra became a Christian court.
You’ll notice the amalgamation of both Muslim and Catholic religious motifs as you move through the gardens.
The Alcazaba is most interesting for its age and its Vermilion Towers (Torres Bermejas). The Alcazaba is believed to predate the rest of the citadel, with the tower foundations dating back to the 9th century.
The foundations would have been built by the Muwalladins- a settlement that occupied the area before the Nasrid's conquered Granada.
The Alcazaba also has some fascinating modern history, being used as a state prison during the French occupation, and as a stronghold in the Spanish civil war.
The Nasrid palaces are ornate, stunning, and historic. Spend time in the Court of the Myrtles, visit the Banos, and the Palace of the Lions.
Each of the three palaces (The Mexuar, The Camares Palace, and The Palace of the Lions) feature different artistic styles. It’s especially worth comparing the Palace of the Lions to the Comares Palace. The former is more Catholic in manner, due to the friendship between the Nasrid Ruler, Mohammad V, and his Castillian Counterpart, Pedro 1, the Cruel.
The stories of these infamous men are worth a book alone, and I would recommend researching them before entering this stunning building.
The Palaces are very popular, but the design lends itself to peace. Notice the way the Court of Myrtles uses water to reflect the design of the buildings and create symmetry.
Try to take a deep breath and imagine what the building would have looked like in its full glory.
From the Nasrid Palaces, follow the signs to the Generalife. The Generalife occupies the Hill of the Sun (Cerro del Sol) and is a sprawling pleasure garden devoted to luxury and relaxation.
My favourite part was the tiled fountains and the ornate gutters that carried water downstairs and through the maze of greenery.
The Generalife has been rebuilt and reinterpreted many times- and now features Catholic opulence, Muslim motifs, and modern-day horticultural techniques.
The buildings in the Generalife can’t compare to the palaces, but the grounds themselves are truly magnificent.
Here it’s possible to escape the crowds and steal moments of utter peace. Bring a sketchbook, rest, or listen to a Ramin Djawdi piece (after all many Game of Throne scenes are shot in Spain - though none in the Alhambra itself).
The Alhambra should take you most of the day. It’s got a lot to offer, and I don’t want to spoil any of the discovery by telling you how to travel through it.
In my several visits, I began in the Alcazaba, then the Palaces, and then the Generalife. However, you can mix up this order. The gardens took the most considerable chunk of time for me.
When you are ready to leave the citadel, head back through the Palace gates and walk down along the beautiful Carrera del Darro back to town.
The river section is often dubbed the prettiest half-mile in Europe. As you wander the cobbled streets, it’s easy to see why! Your two days in Granada is coming to a close.
The walk should take you twenty minutes heading West from the Alhambra and Carrera del Darro.
Bar Avila is typically Spanish. It’s a traditional tapas bar, run by the same family since 1967, and has some sincerely friendly charm.
The wine is good, it’s packed with locals, and the dishes include all the Andalucian classics. Try croquettes stuffed with manchego, roasted ham Asado, and marinated olives served with crusty bread and papas bravas. It’s honest Spanish food at a great price.
What, you say, a siesta? But I only have two days in Granada! Well, for one, you must be exhausted and deserve a nap! And siestas are a Spanish tradition. You know what they say- when in Rome- do as the Romans do! And when in Spain, we siesta. If you are staying at the Hotel Rosa d’Oro, this will take 8 minutes to walk to from Bar Avila.
You may have noticed the business gap that occurs from around 3-7, where restaurants close. This period is prime siesta time and is made to replenish revellers for a late dinner to come. Spaniards often dine at 10 pm to midnight, so the day is hardly done!
If a siesta doesn’t suit you, try walking into Sacromonte, which will be the feature place of our next stop.
Granada is not just famous for its Alhambra and history. It also features a thriving ‘gipsy’ community and historic residential caves in the Sacromonte district.
This district is stunning with houses installed into whitewashed caves, and areas that still speak traditional Calo (which originates in India where the Romani came from centuries past). If you’re interested in the district, read up on the legends surrounding buried treasure here left by fleeing Arab nobility during the Granada War.
But we aren’t here for legends. We’re here for Flamenco.
Be warned, Flamenco and the Cuevas (caves) have been called a tourist trap. You can come across good, non-touristy Flamenco is you have time to bar hop and explore the area, but that is all luck of the draw.
I liked Cueva de La Rocio, a flamenco cave in Zambra style. Zambra style means that all dancers and musicians come from the same family, and the cave was small and intimate. Settle in with a drink to watch the emotive music at play.
Restaurante Chikito features Andalusian cuisine influence heavily by Arab-Andalusian roots and culture. The food is simply spectacular.
You can get here from Sacromonte by taking the C34 bus or walking for half an hour.
The site of this restaurant used to be home to many famed authors and literary gatherings, including the author Federico Garcia Lorca. A life-sized statue of him still resides in the restaurant corner.
I’d recommend the Sacromonte omelette, oxtail, and Nasri fillet on the Chikito menu. But save room for the homemade dessert!
And so your weekend in Granda comes to an end. Granada will always hold a special place in my heart. The romance of the area is unparalleled, and I hope you treasure it too! With only two days in Granada, there is a lot to see and do- but I hope the taste tester approach detailed here will help you understand the charm and beauty of this spectacular city. Hasta luego.
On a side note, although non-EU passport holders can only visit Spain for 90 days, if you want to spend more time exploring Granada, you can apply for a Non-Lucrative Visa to stay as long as you want.
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