Granada in Spain is… gosh, it’s just amazing.
I’ve already posted a more textual travel guide to Granada. But I enjoyed photographing Granada so much that I thought I’d also make more of a visual guide. Here, I’ll share some photos along with commentary and tips for visiting Granada.
Arriving in Granada at night, this was the first thing I saw: the Alhambra Palace across the valley all beautifully lit up and giving some real Arabian Nights vibes.
Not bad, huh?
The Alhambra is part fortress and part palace, built in the Middle Ages by the Moors who ruled over southern Spain. It’s easily the biggest attraction in Granada, but the city is highly worth visiting even if it weren’t for this amazing sight.
I stayed in a cute cave house in the traditional neighborhood of Sacromonte.
There are cave houses all over this area which is a hillside overlooking the Alhambra.
The cave house was super comfy!
The caves stay cool in summer and warm in winter. You can find a bunch of these cave houses on Booking or Airbnb. My cave was — for lack of a better word — in the more gentrified bit of Sacromonte, which is closer to the base of the hill.
If you climb further up the hill, you’ll see there are many more basic caves that are inhabited by all sorts of free spirits and hippies. The vlogger Drew Binsky did a great piece on them recently:
The Sacromonte area is also traditionally where many Roma people lived and where the Flamenco dance (and some specific variations of it) have flourished.
The view from Sacromonte is spectacular. What you see above is what I saw every day when I stepped outside my door! I loved visiting in December when autumn colors contrast against the snowy tops of the Sierra Nevada.
The Sacromonte area is filled with windy little pedestrian alleys along with whitewashed houses and many colorful flowers. If you’re looking for accommodation with character, try in Sacromonte or the neighboring Albaicín.
Granada is a soulful place where the Flamenco dance seems to be present everywhere. You can catch a Flamenco performance in one of many cave bars in Sacromonte — I think it’s one of the best ways to experience it. At Cuevas Los Tarantos, a truly multi-generational cast of singers and dancers gave a fantastic show.
The next day called for more exploration of the city. When walking from Sacromonte to the Albacin, Granada still feels more like a village.
I stopped at one of the many miradors (viewing points) to admire the view. Just type mirador into your phone and check some of them out. They’ll give you some amazing views of the Alhambra, the Sierra Nevada mountains, or the wide-open valley to the west that the city at large stretches into.
One of my favorite viewing points was the Mirador de San Nicolas, shown below. It’s next to a local mosque and so there are a few Arabic cafes and restaurants around this viewpoint point. At Restaurante Teteria Marrakech they serve Moroccan dishes like tajine and have a huge selection of teas on its terrace that’s right near the viewpoint.
From this viewpoint you can also clearly see the Generalife, which is the summer palace section of the Alhambra, with the snowy tops of the Sierra Nevada in the background.
Moving into the city center of Granada, I took a closer look at the Catedral de Granada. Just outside, buskers were performing Flamenco dances. Inside, the cathedral turned out to be quite unusual in its layout, and the included audio tour is well worth a listen.
December was a wonderful time to visit Granada. The more I travel, the more I realize how much the off-season is actually underrated, especially in the south of Europe where even the winter is still quite mild. It felt very much like autumn with beautiful colors to enjoy and relatively few other tourists.
One of the most charming bits of the city center is the Carrera del Darro, a small street closed to most traffic that runs along the river at the base of the former Arabic Quarter.
One little tip: if you’re looking for an amazing buffet breakfast in Granada, go to Durán Barista on this street. You can get anything you’d want for breakfast, plus some fantastic specialty coffee, which can still be rare to find in Spain. I enjoyed some delicious specialty Ethiopian brew while listening to the cafe’s soothing soundtrack of classical music.
There is also a fun cavernous tavern with tapas and wine just across the bridge from here.
Finally, it was time to hit up the Alhambra. It’s one of the best-preserved monuments of the Moorish times and one of the grandest sights in southern Spain.
The fortress part of the Alhambra is the easiest to visit. Some parts of it are open to the public, while the inner parts are easy to get tickets for. You’ll get to walk the fortress walks and have some lovely views of the city.
The inner palace parts of the Alhambra require booking tickets far in advance. You’ll also get a specific timeslot during which you can visit.
Don’t screw this up!
Some people in the queue in front of us got confused about how the timeslots work and forfeited their chance to see the Nasrid Palace.
The Alhambra was the royal residence of the Emirate of Granada during the Middle Ages. The decorations inside the palace are beautifully intricate.
Since the Islamic faith discourages the representation of figures of beings, especially God or prophets, the artists excelled at the creation of abstract geometric patterns. I thought the ceilings even had an almost fractal-like quality to them.
The Palace courtyards are equally impressive with their symmetry and beautiful pool reflections. I highly recommend taking the audio tour, which will give much more context to everything you’re seeing. Take your time with the Alhambra, as it’s a large complex that even includes an art museum inside its walls.
To see everything in the Alhambra can easily take a whole day. The palatial rooms will lead you to a set of gardens, followed by the Generalife, a summer residence that’s on another hill next to the main Alhambra.
The Generalife is definitely not to be missed. Besides the Nasrid Palace, I thought it was one of the most interesting parts of the complex.
The Court of la Acequia and the Generalife is a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with the rest of the Alhambra. They were built during the reign of Muhammed II (1273-1302), the Sultan of Granada.
Finally, looking back at the Alhambra from the Generalife, as the sun starts to set.
It’s easy to see why so many travelers consider Granada their highlight in southern Spain. If you’re into the culture, history, the maze-like streets, and at times bohemian atmosphere, then Granada should be top of your list.
Want to know more? Then don’t miss my post with some of the top things to do in Granada.
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