As I rode the bus from the airport to Granada's city center, I gazed out the window and my mind wandered to my first few international trips to Central and South America more than a decade ago. Time flies. I remember always being so eager to stare out the window after my international arrivals. I wanted to know what was different, what was the same, and if I could tell I was somewhere new. As I travel more and more, I've tried to maintain that curiosity. I want to make sure to keep taking in all of my surroundings, not just the ones that are “the sites to see.” So with this in mind I set off to discover Granada in a one day tour.
An Andalusian Coffee and Tostada
Start your morning by swinging by D'etí Coffee and Cake for a delicious tostada (the traditional Andalusian breakfast) and coffee. You won't be let down by their food, drinks, or wifi. After breakfast, mosey past the Granada Cathedral (where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel are buried) and stop by the Alhambra Bookstore (Librería Alhambra) to print out your already purchased Alhambra entrance ticket.
If you forgot to purchase your ticket in advance, this is also the best place to go to ask about cancellations. It's an official vendor and much closer than heading all of the way to the Alhambra entrance.
Granada's Mirador de San Nicolas
If you do any amount of research about Granada you'll likely stumble upon a recommendation to go to the Mirador de San Nicolas at dusk. I agree, but it's worth visiting during the day. Now that you have your Alhambra ticket and are ready for your 2PM entrance time, head over to the Mirador de San Nicolas for a full daylight view of the Alhambra.
To get to the lookout you'll wander through the Albayzin area where you'll be surrounded by Moorish influence of the city: The area is chock full of narrow, winding streets that often feel more like alleyways than roads and once you reach the Mirador, there will be a a church behind you and a mosque to your left. It's the perfect representation of the Christian and Muslim dichotomy that exists all throughout Granada. Enjoy the view from the lookout and make sure to explore the garden area and vistas from the Mesquita Mayor, the mosque next door.
Casa de Zafra de Granada
When you've had your fill of views, head partially back down the hill to Casa de Zafra. This house is a typical home of Islamic nobility from the 1500s. If you're not looking for it, you'll walk right past its whitewashed exterior, so keep an eye out. Inside you can watch a short video about the history of this home, tour its rooms and garden area, and learn about the history of the Muslim-Christian strife in Granada. It's a pretty quick stop, it's free, and it provides the perfect amount of information before a long visit to the monumental Alhambra.
Lunch on Granada's Plaza Nueva
Enjoy lunch on the Plaza Nueva at the base of the Alhambra along the Darro River or right off of the plaza for a less touristy feel. There are plenty of menu del días to choose from, so find one that looks good and sit down for an early Spanish lunch. While you eat, enjoy yet another spectacular view of the Alhambra.
Now it's time for your visit to the Alhambra, which you can read all about here.
In summary, it will look like this:
- The Nasrid Palaces
- The Alcazaba
After you've had your fill of the inside of the Alhambra, it's time for one more view back at the Mirador de San Nicolas. Head back down to Plaza Nueva and then back up to the Saint Nicholas wall. Enjoy the changing colors of the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada backdrop as the sun sets over the city. While you're there, you'll likely be serenaded by Spanish guitarists and offered jewelry and crafts being sold by artists. Between the artisans, locals, and tourists, the official lookout spot can get crowded, so if you're overwhelmed, head back into the gardens of the Mesquita Mayor for a more peaceful scene.
If you're interested in a walking map for all of these spots, you're in luck:
To download the map to use offline during your visit, follow this link.
Dine like the Locals
Now that your touring is done, enjoy dinner like the locals by picking at tapas. Find any little bar, order a drink (alcoholic or non) and along side it you'll be served a complementary tapa. Order your fill at one spot or hop around to a few different places and enjoy!
Have you been to Granada? What do you recommend?