One of Spain’s most striking and historic cities, Granada boasts ancient Arabic architecture, rich culture, and delicious cuisine of every variety. Standing proud at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, it’s a feast for the senses, no matter what season you visit. Here’s a guide to help you make the most of a weekend in the city.
Start with a stroll through the handsome neighbourhood of Realejo, the historic Jewish quarter from which scholars say the city takes its name. The Campo del Príncipe is a charming square, and a good location to grab a caña (small draught beer) and some tapas. Explore the winding alleyways of this ancient area and you’re sure to spot street art done by local resident El Niño de las Pinturas, whose work is instantly recognised by its subdued earthy tones and elegant figures. Albaicín is another beautiful neighbourhood that must be explored on foot, with winding, narrow medieval streets that offer surprises at every turn.
If you’re still peckish, call into any number of great tapas places as you walk; it’s hard to go wrong. In Andalucía, drinks usually come with a free small dish. This can include boquerones fritos (deep fried anchovies), migas (breadcrumbs with meat or fish) or some simple cheese on bread. If you don’t trust fate, order an extra tapa from the menu, or go for a full or half ración, a bigger plate that you are charged for.
Highlights include Bar Los Diamantes (try any seafood dish) and Los Manueles (order the morcilla — blood sausage). Alternatively you can head to Mercado de San Agustín, a bustling food market with stalls serving food and drinks until 3pm.
From there it’s just a two-minute walk to the Catedral de Granada, with its beautiful domed ceiling and stained glass windows. Visits cost €5 and include an audio guide.
As twilight sets in, head for the caves of Sacramonte to take in a traditional Gypsy Flamenco show at La Cueva de la Rocío. Book ahead, and choose dinner and a drink for €20 or a Flamenco show with dinner afterwards for €55. Founded in 1951, La Rocío was one of the first Gypsy Caves in the quarter, and presents a stunning and captivating show.
Stop in for a scoop at Heladería Los Italianos ice-cream parlour or have piononos (sweet pastries), leche fritas (fried milk) and/or “five-storey” meringues from Dulce Ángel Pastelería at Calle Acera del Darro. Cap off the evening with a glass of red under the stone archways of La Tabernilla del Darro, a cosy wine bar at the footbridge of Puente Espinosa.
Start your day off right with a coffee at I Need_, one of the best cafes in the city. Its orange cake and banana bread are an absolute necessity, but if you want to go the typical Spanish route, order some toast topped with tomato and optional jamón ibérico (Iberian ham) washed down with fresh orange juice.
Saturday morning presents you with an opportunity to visit the world renowned Alhambra, the main reason countless people from all over the globe venture to Granada. The last stronghold of the Spanish Moors, its ornate palaces and stately gardens truly live up to their reputation. Tickets are extremely hard to come by, especially for the 14th-century Palacios Nazaríes. Book as far in advance as possible through the proper channels to avoid disappointment (or having to pay through the nose with third-party companies). Failing that, keep your eyes peeled on the website for last minute cancellations the night before. Be sure to see the Generalife gardens and the Alcazaba while you’re there.
You’ll definitely have worked up an appetite after a few hours of walking, but a ten-minute walk downhill will bring you to El Fogón de Galicia, a traditional restaurant serving up specialities from the north west. Order the rich and steaming mixed paella with a basket of crusty bread and a bottle of dry Galician white wine.
Head to Paseo de Los Tristes to see one of the most delightful areas of the whole city. At weekends, small market stalls can be seen on the plaza, with owners selling handcrafted lamps, soaps, jewellery and notebooks. In this neighbourhood you’ll find Patio de los Perfumes, a 17th-century palace courtyard that now houses a sleek shop selling artisanal perfumes. You can even book a course to learn about the art of scent-making, with the option of concocting your own completely bespoke creation to take away.
Tucked away just off Plaza de los Lobos in an unassuming row of buildings is Bohemia Jazz Café, an exceptionally cool vintage-vibe club and concert venue that will make you feel as if you’ve just stepped back in time and landed in a speakeasy. The cafe hosts live concerts Thursday to Saturday from 10pm to midnight and on Sunday from 6pm to 8pm. It serves the standard spirits, beers, and cocktails and a range of incredible sweet creations, from decadent chocolate cake with whipped cream to chocolate alcoholic drinks.
Grab a table outside Café Fútbol at Plaza de Mariana Pineda, beside the throngs of locals that will no doubt be digging in to churros con chocolate and chatting to friends and family. Very much a when-in-Rome experience, you simply have to try some of these deep-fried, waistline-expanding breakfast treats.
Your day of self-love is just getting started however, as a visit to Arabic baths Hammam Al Ándalus Granada is on the cards. Book ahead (packages start from €39 with the option to add a massage) to secure the experience, through which you rotate through serene candle-lit baths of different temperatures as well as a steam room.
Continue your relaxation at Tetería Nazarí, an exotic teahouse with cushioned seating, dimly lit nooks and exotic tiled walls. The selection of herbal and fruit teas is especially good, as are the sticky Arabic pastries and sweets. If you’re on the hunt for something different, order a cachimba (hookah pipe) in a flavour of your choosing.
Just 1.5km from the city centre is Huerta de San Vicente, the house where celebrated writer Federico García Lorca spent summers and wrote some of his best known works. Amble around the surrounding Parque Federico García Lorca after your visit.
As the sun sets, head to Mirador de San Nicolás to take in one of the most stunning views in Spain. Here, the stone walls and lush green expanse of the Alhambra can be seen basking in the soft light against the hulking backdrop of the mountains. Soak in the atmosphere and listen to the buskers. Grab a gin and tonic or a beer at Restaurante El Balcón de San Nicolás or El Huerto de Juan Ranas, both of which offer exquisite views of the Alhambra at night. Drinks here will be more expensive, but you’re paying for the view!
Call in to Real Asador de Castilla at Calle Escudo del Carmen and fill your belly with prime regional meats such as secreto ibérico (a specific cut of pork) or roast suckling lamb from the wood-fired oven. Try the torrijas (sweet fried bread) for dessert.
Plan B: If you’ve gorged yourself on Spanish food and are in the mood to try something different, Masae serves up some of the most authentic Japanese food outside of the country, while Mi México has tasty tacos and margaritas.
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