Granada is a gem among gems in Spain’s culturally rich southern autonomous community of Andalucía. Locals often refer to the city as Graná, cutting off the final syllable of the word, which is commonly done for various words in Andalusian accents. I spent a week in Granada in August of 2020 while working from a hotel to get out of Madrid on a “fake-cation” of sorts. I know what you may be thinking – Granada in August?! Yes, Granada was HOT…But so was Madrid, haha. Plus, having an air-conditioned hotel room to work from doesn’t hurt! (Can’t say the same about my room in Madrid 😂). Throughout my week in Graná, I got to know the city itself beyond just the world-renowned La Alhambra. So, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite sights in Granada that will help you appreciate everything this Andalusian jewel has to offer!
I was fortunate enough to visit La Alhambra in 2011, when I studied abroad for a month in Alicante. I absolutely loved La Alhambra and still have vivid memories of my visit. However, on that trip, we only visited La Alhambra and didn’t see much of the city. So, this trip – 9 years later – was more about experiencing the city itself. La Alhambra is hands-down spectacular, but there is so much more to see in Granada than JUST La Alhambra – although this majestic structure seems to peer at you from virtually everywhere, and there are plenty of lookout points to enjoy it from a distance! For info on where and what to eat in Granada, see my post here.
My Favorite Sights in Granada: The City
Mirador de San Nicolás
The best-known views of La Alhambra are most def at the Mirador de San Nicolás. This hotspot is always bustling with tourists for a reason: the views are simply glorious. My experience listening to flamenco – listen to the short vid below – while watching the sunset over the golden La Alhambra makes this 💯 one of my favorite sights in Granada. The upward climb through the Albaicín (also spelled Albayzín) neighborhood to get to this lookout point is well worth it.
The Albaicín neighborhood is Granada’s heart and soul and one of the city’s most characteristic, must-see neighborhoods. The Albaicín was actually the old Muslim quarter dating back to Moorish rule here (Granada was the last Muslim stronghold to fall during the Reconquista, when Los Reyes Católicos, Isabel I de Castilla y Fernando II de Aragón, finally conquered it in 1492). The idea is to essentially get lost along the narrow streets that twist and turn through this hilly quarter. Below are pics of some of my favorite spots in the Albaicín, along with views from El Mirador de Los Carvajales, a lower-key and much less-frequented version of El Mirador de San Nicolás. Although the views aren’t quite as spectacular as those from its better-known counterpart, this lookout point is worth a stop!
La Carrera del Darro & El Paseo de los Tristes
A paseo along La Carrera del Darro is a must while in Granada. This pleasant riverside walkway provides views of the La Alhambra perched to the south and glimpses of the winding alleyways up the Albaicín to the north. Start your stroll from the church, Iglesia de San Gil y Santa Ana, by the central Plaza Nueva. You’ll eventually arrive at El Paseo de los Tristes, a pleasant promenade area with awesome views of – you guessed it – La Alhambra!
Palacio de Dar al-Horra
The Palacio de Dar al-Horra perched up in hills of the Albaicín provides a lighter, lower-key dose of Alhambra-style charm. This 15th-century Moorish palace is small and pleasant to walk around; it also offers awesome views from the second floor 🤩. I really enjoyed my visit!
Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo
The Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo is a low-key sight but definitely one of my proudest discoveries and favorite sights in Granada 😍. I stumbled upon this little gem because I saw it on Google Maps – it’s not even listed on my trusty Lonely Planet guide! The Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo is what remains of a Moorish palace dating back to the 1200s in the historic Realejo neighborhood. Although the Cuarto Real is small – there really is only a “cuarto,” or room, to see – it’s breath-taking. Like the Palacio Dar al-Horra, this visit gives you a taste of what it’s like to be in more grandiose Moorish structures like La Alhambra or El Alcázar in Sevilla. The pictures below barely do the place justice: the woodwork on the doors is ornate and the craftsmanship of the stone and tile is fantastic. Light filters magically through the arched windows, where erstwhile Nasrid royalty prayed facing Mecca.
Granada’s cathedral is certainly beautiful, but in comparison to other sights in the city that I think are more interesting and unique to Granada, it didn’t necessarily blow me away. In common Andalusian fashion, the cathedral was built over a former mosque.
La Capilla Real
Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pics inside the Capilla Real, or the Royal Chapel, the resting place of Los Reyes Católicos, Isabel I de Castilla y Fernando II de Aragón. The king and queen commissioned this elaborate mausoleum to house them after their death in the city that represented the final step in their Reconquista of Spain from the Moors. The chapel features the monarchs’ ornate marble tombs along with other interesting artifacts, like Fernando’s sword and Isabel’s scepter and silver crown. It was really cool to see Isabel’s crown up close; it is decorated with pomegranates, or granadas, a symbol of the city and its ultimate conquest. La granada is quite important in Spanish cultural and political imagery: the fruit is actually featured at the bottom of the Spanish coat of arms on the nation’s flag.
Calle Zacatín is a central shopping street in the heart of town: I especially loved it because of the unique, Moorish-inspired lamps that hang down this narrow, picturesque lane.
Corral del Carbón
Although El Corral del Carbón‘s use has evolved over the centuries, its aesthetic is undoubtedly granadino. This 14th-century, two-story courtyard dates back to Moorish rule, when it was a corn exchange. It was later used as an inn for coal dealers (hence the name) and then as a theatre. Sneak a peek if you can!
Puerta de Elvira
La Puerta de Elvira, or the Elvira Gate, was built by the Moors in the 11th century and once marked the main entrance into the city. Now you can walk through it as you meander up toward the lanes of the Albaicín!
There’s my hit list of favorite sights in Granada! 😊