For us, a visit to Granada was ALL about seeing the Alhambra, but when we failed to plan our visit properly and couldn’t get a ticket to the palace for a few days, it gave us plenty of time to check out the other attractions the city has on offer – and there are plenty of them to keep you entertained.
Where we stayed in Granada
We knew we would be in Granada for quite a few days and it was cold there because of the altitude, especially at night, so instead of looking for a free parking spot in the city, we decided on a campsite. Then we could be certain the van was secure when we left it all day, and we could have the heating on overnight on the electric hook up and stay nice and toasty! However, it was bar far the most expensive campsite that we had stayed in on our trip so far. It was €27 a night including EHU.
That also included the family from hell opposite, who were very sadly British and appeared to be long term residents on the site. They had quite possibly the noisiest nastiest kids ever who appeared to love trashing the toilet block each day and generally acting like hooligans. We find most motorhomers are quiet people but OMG this family… trailer park trash.
Campsite: Camping Reina Isabel (website)
Location: La Zubia, 30 min scooter ride to the sights
SatNav: See our maps page for the exact location on the map and co-ordinates
Facilities: Showers, EHU, swimming pool (high season only), Motorhome service point, grocery shop, restaurant and bar, washing machines, dishwashing sinks, bus stop outside for Granada
Cost: €108 for 4 nights including EHU (varies according to season)
Our favorite places in Granada
Of course the Alhambra complex, the Nasrid Palace, the Generalife Gardens and the Fort – they all come TOP of the must-see list for Granada. You could write a whole article just on that one attraction. Oh did I say could? We DID! You can read all about the Alhambra here.
But Granada has SO much more to see, so here are our personal favorites.
This was ‘home’ to us because this is where every day we parked our moped before setting off for the sightseeing. It’s a great central base for discovering all that Granada has to offer, and a hub for tourists and locals alike. We were a bit unsure if we were allowed to park there. It was on the pavement next to a government building. Luckily the police pulled up and we asked and got the OK. Seems moped parking is Ok all over the place in Spain. (Apart from Barcelona where we got a ticket once.)
We liked it so much in the square we even had expensive coffee there one day and we happily tucked into some Churros and Chocolate when we saw someone else ordering them. It was a good place to warm up because although the sun was out, it was pretty cold up in the mountains. After a drive on the scooter, and a few hours of sightseeing, we often needed to stop to warm up – or at least that was our excuse for the Churros!
Plaza Nueva is a historic square in the centre of Granada and despite its name Plaza Nueva (New Square), it is the oldest square in Granada. It was formerly one of the most important parts of the city where various tournaments, games and bullfights were held. Around it are several important buildings such as the Royal Chancellery and the House of Pisa.
It’s home to the Tourist Office, as well as a lot of the most popular tapas joints in the city. They all seem to serve dried fish though, which we aren’t a big fan of.
Flamenco dancing is super popular in Granada and everything we read about it recommended we go and enjoy an evening show and meal. Well, we didn’t. It was expensive. We just watched a free public performance on the Plaza Nueva, which was very emotional. Flamenco is a dance of passion, and you had to admire the athleticism and endurance of the dancers in the heat of the sun for hours.
Here’s a quick 1 minute video. Our phone takes terrible video so we don’t do it often.
Carrera del Darro
The name Carrera del Darro comes from Latin – darro means gives gold, Carrera means road. It’s a very romantic place in the city and has one of the most scenic walks in Granada. It is crossed by two brick and stone medieval bridges (Cabrera and Espinosa) and the street dates from the seventeenth century.
The tourist train runs along here, and it’s also open to taxis, but not to regular traffic. There are some nice old churches and buildings, picturesque bridges, quaint touristy shops, and then a lovely open plaza at the end with several restaurants. Great views up the hill to the Alhambra too.
Because of the damage caused in 1509 by the explosion of an ammunition dump near the Church of St. Peter, part of the wall that ran here was demolished which changed the direction of the river, hence widening the street. It even retains many interesting buildings from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The tourist train is, by the way, terrible. Just don’t do it. We went on it because it was included in our Granada Card, but completely regretted it. See more of our rant about it below.
One of the most enchanting things to do in Granada is to get lost in the hillside neighbourhood of the Albaicin, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. The Albaicin, Granada’s historic Arab quarter, was once surrounded by defensive walls, and its picturesque little lanes, cobbled steets and whitewashed houses still reveal the atmospheric Moorish character found in some of the doorways, windows and arches.
Many places in the Albaicin offer stunning outlooks onto the Alhambra Palace, which is separated from the Albaicín by the dramatic gorge of the Río Darro. The most spectacular of these is from the Mirador of San Nicolas, the terrace in front of the 16th-century Church of San Nicolas at the heart of the Albaicin quarter. The word Mirador appears on many maps in Spain and Portugal and they show you some of the best places to stand and take photos from an advantageous high point.
We had a fabulous ride on our moped going around the Albaicin districts tiny roads and alleyways. It was very easy to get lost and then you would pop out at another amazing plaza. We ate lunch one day at the one shown above. Not driving for the faint-hearted and we wouldn’t recommend it in a car (we came across one that got stuck when it couldn’t make a tight 90 degree bend in a narrow street), but walk or take a scooter and you’ll have a lovely time. Marvel at how the buses make it through – those drivers know every inch of those streets and their bus!
Sacromonte Gypsy Quarter
Granada’s colourful Gypsy quarter on the Sacromonte is a fascinating place to visit. This hilltop neighbourhood is where Gypsies (Gitanos) have had a presence in Granada since 1532 and settled in the caves of Sacromonte in the 18th century. There are few roads in the district, but a maze of tiny alleys, steep staircases and narrow walkways will enchant you as you discover the tiny homes built into the caves and rocks. One of the cave houses is open to visitors if you want to take a look inside.
We wandered about the hillside roads, a lot of which were too narrow for a large car, and regularly needed to top up on water. This atmospheric neighborhood allows you to get up close to artistic Gypsy homes, some of which are decorated with vibrant handcrafted ceramics.
It was sad to see however that some of the homes are unoccupied and falling into disrepair now. They are just too small, too basic, too far from the road, no where to park, too steep to carry your groceries, and just not suited to modern life. Hopefully, some investment can come to the district to keep it vibrant and thriving.
The Sacromonte offers another chance for the best views in Granada. Some vantage points look out to the Alhambra Palace and the Albaicín. This frequently painted panorama captures the Alhambra Palace and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
We really enjoyed the details of the two districts. A lot of the time you had to look down now and again or you would miss all the stunningly beautiful herringbone cobbles underfoot.
Tourist Train – skip it
This was NOT one of our favourite things to do in Granada, but we thought we should mention it. Taking the tourist train should have been a fun and easy way to see all of the important sites around Granada. Please don’t bother. Of very little interest, it was supposed to take 40 minutes but was more than double that and spent most of the time trawling through ugly residential or commercial districts with no touristic interest.
There was an audio guide (for which you had to provide your own ear phones) but it barely told us anything. It was boring. We were cold which didn’t help. Just spend your money somewhere else and use that time more positively. If you want to take transport up the hill to the Alhambra, skip the train and take a taxi from the Plaza Nueva. It’s only about €6.
Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Encarnacion
It is described as the finest Renaissance church in Spain and it was very impressive. It’s very striking from the outside, completely dominating and overpowering the small square it faces.
The cathedral was built by Queen Isabella as a monument to the victory of Christian Spain over the Moors (although I don’t think she laid the stones personally.)
It stands on the site of a former mosque. Begun in Gothic style in 1523 and continued in Plateresque style from 1525, the cathedral was consecrated in 1561 while still unfinished.
The Renaissance splendor of the interior is extraordinary. It really was full of light and white which helped us produce some better than normal internal photos of a religious building.
Capilla Real (Royal Chapel)
For this one, you are going to have to take our word for it as no one was allowed to take photographs. The grandeur of Spain’s Catholic Monarchs is best seen at the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), which houses the royal tombs. The Royal Chapel is attached to the Cathedral Santa Maria de la Encarnacion but has a separate entrance. The interior features beautiful 16th-century stained-glass windows and seven large paintings by Alonso Cano. An elaborately wrought grille by Bartolomé de Jaén encloses the richly decorated royal tombs. To the right is the Tomb of Ferdinand and Isabella in a monument of Carrara marble created by sculptor Domenico Fancelli of Florence.
A highlight of the Capilla Real is the sacristy, a treasure trove of artwork, including Botticelli’s Christ on the Mount of Olives painting and many other staggering pieces of art. The collection also displays King Ferdinand’s sword; Queen Isabella’s crown; and a prayer book, which belonged to the Catholic Monarchs.
Sorry again about the no photos rule in the Royal chapel. It wasn’t our rule. Booooo. You’ll just have to go and see those wonderful marble tombs and treasures for yourself!
Parque de las Ciencias (Science Park)
We had a great time at the science park that was opened in 1995, however, we must say the lunchtime meal at the cafeteria rated as one of the worst three meals we have had so far on our European Motorhome trip.
Forgetting about that horrible meal, we very much enjoyed the tropical butterfly garden (sorry we seem to have lost our photos of the butterflies) while the most fun part of the park for us was the area exploring the human body. We were like big kids in there pressing all the buttons and playing with all the gadgets etc.
One part which was just so funny was where you stood in a particular area and a camera picked up your heat map and then projected that on a screen in front of you for everyone to see. Absolutely everyone who took part or watched this experience smiled or laughed. It really was a happy place.
You could stay at this park all day, there was so much to do. And if you have kids it seemed to be an excellent place for everyone to have fun. It was very interactive. We were like big kids too, trying out all the fun activities.
So those are some of the top sights we would recommend if you ever visit Granada. Overall Granada passed our test of would we like to one day go back. And of course, the answer is always YES, please.