Granada’s Hidden Gems
Situated at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Granada is one of the most popular cities in Andalusia for travellers from all around the globe.
Its popularity is in large part due to the city’s main attraction: the astounding Alhambra palace.
However, aside from this, Granada is a city of secrets and hidden among its narrow winding streets, high up in the mountains and off the beaten track there’s so much more to discover!
One minute you can find yourself walking through the lively streets of the city centre, full of university students, contemporary tapas bars and alternative coffee shops, then you’ll find yourself walking up the hill of the Albaicin, surrounded by Moroccan shops and teterias infiltrated with Arabic cultures.
Check out our list of the places places to visit and things to do in Granada which are off the beaten tourist trail...
1. Exploring the Albaicin
There’s no experience more authentic in this city than getting completely lost in the Albaicin. It’s the medieval neighbourhood which was once the Moorish district and is now a labyrinth of street artists and contemporary culture. This is one of the highlights of Andalusia.
Landmarks to visit here include: the Arco de las Pesas, a gateway dating back to the eleventh century and also the entrance into one of the liveliest and most beautiful squares in the Albaicin; the Colegiata del Salvador, a sixteenth-century church built on the site of the Albaicin’s main mosque; and Plaza de San Nicolas, a magnificent viewpoint and gathering place for street sellers and musicians.
2. Mirador de San Cristobal
Whilst tourists normally head straight to the notorious Mirador de San Nicolás in search of a panoramic viewpoint to enjoy sights of this astounding city, on the opposite hill of the Albaicin you will find the Mirador de San Cristobal which boasts arguably equally stunning views without the countless tourists.
Situated in the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Albaicin, the views from Mirador de San Cristobal include the cathedral, the Ziri wall, San Cristobal church, the palace and much more.
3. La Casa de Zafra
This is a typical example of one of the old Arab houses of the Albaicin area. Often compared to the renowned Alcazar in Seville, the Casa de Zafra is a great place to visit free of charge and inside contains a museum in which you can learn all about the rich history of Granada.
4. The Arab Tea Houses
A trip to Granada is not complete without sampling some Arabian tea in one of the city’s many mystical tearooms.
You’ll find them lining the winding streets up the hill in the Albaicin’s Calle Caldereria Nueva; Teteria Abaco comes highly recommended.
These tea houses offer a unique experience with dark lounges decorated with Arabian drapes, pillows and authentic music, selling a variety of flavours of exquisite teas in ornamental teapots.
5. Hammam Arab Baths
This is an exclusive and luxurious experience that can be enjoyed in this magical city. The Hamman Arabian baths are integral to Granada’s history; they were originally built by Muslims to symbolize purity and cleansing.
Unfortunately, Christians later believed them to signify self-indulgent behaviour and thus had the majority destroyed. Therefore, this is a unique experience and a glimpse into day-to-day life in old Granada.
Enjoy massages, authentic rituals and all the luxury that the spas have to offer.
6. Free Walking Tours
Exploring this wonderful city doesn't need to be expensive either!
A top tip is to head to the Plaza Nueva in the city centre where you’ll find a host of tour guides available to show you around this city and explain its culture and history, asking for nothing more than your attention. The majority are free and cover various aspects of the city, both contemporary and historic.
There are tours of the Albaicin as well as of the modern city. All very informative and without spending a penny! Before you travel, ensure you check out important webpages on essentials such as local laws and customs, or search overland Spain tours which can give you a great insight on such traditions from a native’s perspective too.
7. Free Tapas
On the topic of saving money, it is fairly well known that Granada has a famous tradition of serving complimentary tapas with every drink ordered. This is indeed true of many bars and restaurants and also gives you an idea of the traditional cuisine and hospitality of Granada.
In order to get the best experiences and flavours, avoid restaurants on main squares, streets and near the main tourist attractions. Bar recommendations include: La Sitarilla, Chantarela, and Bar Damasqueros. These all offer a wide variety of traditional tapas and a variety of wines and alcoholic beverages too.
I would recommend learning some useful phrases for visiting Spain so you can impress the locals.
8. House Caves
Set back in the mountains, you simply cannot afford to miss the house caves of Granada that offer yet another truly authentic experience. When considering where to stay the night, you can also consider this as a unique option as over 3,000 families in Andalucía open up their houses to tourists. You can also visit flamenco shows set in these caves too!
9. Catedral de la Capilla Real
Dating from the sixteenth century, this is an impressive Gothic building that is definitely worth a visit.
Often overlooked by tourists as they head straight to the Alhambra, this beautiful cathedral also contains a museum which boasts Cano’s San Pablo sculpture and the golden gift to Granada from Isabel La Católica.
Next to the cathedral is also Granada’s most revered Christian building, the Capilla Real (royal chapel), a mausoleum which contains the simple lead coffins of the monarchs in the crypt underneath their marble monuments.
10. Monasteria La Cartuja
If you’re willing to travel a short distance, two kilometers west of the city centre yet another of Granada’s architectural masterpieces can be found.
La Cartuja Monastery dates back to the 16-18th centuries and boasts a breathtaking church filled with gold, marble and sculptures as well as a sacristy.
11. Carrera del Darro
Back in the main city, this is a highly recommended walk for all tourists.
The entire left bank of the River Darro running through the city is known as the Carrera del Darro and is one of the most beautiful walks in Granada.
There are two stone and brick bridges (Espinosa and Cabrera) that link Carerra del Darro with the Churra neighborhood. Dating back to the seventeenth century, this walk also enables you to see many amazing original buildings still standing including the remains of Arab houses.
Plan a Trip to Granda
This dynamic city has so much more to offer than just the Alhambra and hopefully our list of essential places to add to your Granada travel itinerary has given you some top ideas.
Whether you are looking for a city break, keen to explore the highlights of Andalusia, want to go backpacking or spend a gap year in Spain, you won't regret visiting Granada.
A trip to this city promises to be a memorable one.
By Charlotte Daniels