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10 best things to do in Granada

Granada, Spain – 10 Best Things to Do

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Granada is a fine example of Moorish architecture and living evidence of the Islamic regime that ruled Spain. The city gains world fame as the home of the spectacular Alhambra, an extraordinary palace and fortress with winsome gardens that is an absolute must-visit.

While the Alhambra is indeed monumental and the main landmark in the city, Granada presents plenty of other wonderful attractions. This list of 10 best things to do in Granada makes sure you will not miss any important place in this lovely city. It will take you to the exquisite Catedral de Granada, to the splendid alleyways of Alcaicería, and to the lively Albayzín neighborhood. It will lead you to the fascinating caves of Sacromonte, the ancient hammam El Bañuelo and more.

Visit Granada, experience the Andalusian charm and see mesmerizing Moorish architecture.
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10 best things to do in Granada
10 places   
Alhambra, Granada
  C. Real de la Alhambra, s/n, 18009 Granada, Spain
The Alhambra ('The Red One') is a palace and fortress complex. It is one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture and one of the best-preserved palaces of the historic Islamic world, in addition to containing notable examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture.

The complex was begun in 1238 by Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar, the first Nasrid emir and founder of the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim state of Al-Andalus. It was built on the Sabika hill, an outcrop of the Sierra Nevada which had been the site of earlier fortresses and of the 11th-century palace of Samuel ibn Naghrillah. Later Nasrid rulers continuously modified the site. The most significant construction campaigns, which gave the royal palaces much of their definitive character, took place in the 14th century during the reigns of Yusuf I and Muhammad V. After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered. In 1526, Charles V commissioned a new Renaissance-style palace in direct juxtaposition with the Nasrid palaces, but it was left uncompleted in the early 17th century. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, with its buildings occupied by squatters, the Alhambra was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon I, whose troops destroyed parts of the site. The rediscoverers were first British intellectuals and then other American and northern European Romantic travelers. The most influential of them was Washington Irving, whose Tales of the Alhambra (1832) brought international attention to the site. The Alhambra was one of the first Islamic monuments to become the object of modern scientific study and has been the subject of numerous restorations since the 19th century. It is now one of Spain's major tourist attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the Nasrid era, the Alhambra was a self-contained city separate from the rest of Granada below. It contained most of the amenities of a Muslim city such as a Friday mosque, hammams (public baths), roads, houses, artisan workshops, a tannery, and a sophisticated water supply system. As a royal city and citadel, it contained at least six major palaces, most of them located along the northern edge where they commanded views over the Albaicín quarter. The most famous and best-preserved are the Mexuar, the Comares Palace, the Palace of the Lions, and the Partal Palace, which form the main attraction to visitors today. The other palaces are known from historical sources and from modern excavations. At the Alhambra's western tip is the Alcazaba fortress. Multiple smaller towers and fortified gates are also located along the Alhambra's walls. Outside the Alhambra walls and located nearby to the east is the Generalife, a former Nasrid country estate and summer palace accompanied by historic orchards and modern landscaped gardens.

The architecture of the Nasrid palaces reflects the tradition of Moorish architecture developed over previous centuries. It is characterized by the use of the courtyard as a central space and basic unit around which other halls and rooms were organized. Courtyards typically had water features at their centers, such as a reflective pool or a fountain. The decoration was focused on the inside of the building and was executed primarily with tile mosaics on lower walls and carved stucco on the upper walls. Geometric patterns, vegetal motifs, and Arabic inscriptions were the main types of decorative motifs. Additionally, "stalactite"-like sculpting, known as muqarnas, was used for three-dimensional features like vaulted ceilings.

This text is based on a Wikipedia article written by contributors under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
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Generalife, Granada
  18009 Granada, Spain
The Generalife was a summer palace and country estate of the Nasrid rulers of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus. It is located directly east of and uphill from the Alhambra palace complex.

Based on the oldest decorations studied in the palace, the Generalife was most likely constructed by Muhammad II (r. 1273–1302) at the end of the 13th century, or possibly by Muhammad III (r. 1302–1309) at the beginning of the 14th century. The Generalife is one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens. However, the present-day gardens today date from various changes and creations made since the 16th century, after the beginning of Spanish Christian rule in Granada, and up to the 20th century.

The present-day site

The Generalife today includes a mix of original Nasrid-period elements as well as extensive modern elements (especially in the appearance of the gardens). The walkways are paved in traditional Granadian style with a mosaic of pebbles: white ones from the River Darro and black ones from the River Genil.

The outer gardens

The Generalife gardens occupy three large terraces on the hillside, each measuring about 35 meters wide by 250 meters long. The two lower terraces, on the southwest side, are occupied by market gardens and orchards. Known today as Las Huertas, these gardens have served this purpose since the 14th century. The highest terrace is occupied by the Jardines Nuevos ("New Gardens"), a series of 20th-century gardens that form the main approach to the historic palaces today. The southern part of this garden area was designed by Francisco Prieto Moreno and finished in 1951. It includes walls formed by trimmed cypress trees and a large cruciform pool inspired by Islamic/Moorish gardens, along with other decorative plants. An open-air theatre was also added here in 1952. The northern part of the gardens, which features a rose bush labyrinth, was designed by Leopoldo Torres Balbás in 1931.

The main palace

The Generalife Palace itself stands on a fourth terrace above and north of the outer gardens. Several smaller garden terraces also climb the hillside above this, with some auxiliary buildings located. The core of the palace complex is centered on the Patio de la Acequia ("Courtyard of the Water Canal"), the largest structure. The courtyard is about four times as long as it is wide, measuring 12.8 meters by 48.7 meters. It is entered via a smaller courtyard, the Patio de Polo, on its south side, which in turn is accessed through another minor courtyard, known as the Dismounting Courtyard. The word acequia is derived from the Arabic word al-saqiya, meaning a water canal or water supply. The building is arranged around a long interior courtyard, occupied by a garden that is split into four equally elongated flowerbeds. This type of garden with a four-part division has its historical roots in the Persian chahar bagh-type gardens, a model which spread westward across the Islamic world and is also found in the various riyad gardens of Al-Andalus and the Maghreb. Between these, along the courtyard's long axis, runs a water channel or pool lined on either side with water jets spouting water across the pool. On the courtyard's short axis is a paved path. In the middle of this path, in the axial center of the courtyard, is a paved platform, which originally would have had its own central fountain. Today, two fountains, consisting of a low round water basin with a central spout, are located at the north and south ends of the water channel. Aligned with the middle of the courtyard is also a small belvedere or mirador (lookout) chamber that projects outward from the western wall of the garden. The square chamber measures 3.98 meters per side and its interior is decorated with carved stucco. This is probably the earliest known mirador in Nasrid architecture, establishing a feature that appeared in many subsequent palaces.

The Patio de la Acequia is framed by pavilion-like structures at its north and south ends. To the south, the Pabellón Sur ("South Pavilion") is a two-floor structure with a portico fronting its courtyard side and is less well-preserved than the north pavilion. The north pavilion was originally called Majlis al-Akbari (meaning roughly "the Main Hall") or Majlis al-'As'adi ("the Fortunate Hall") in Arabic. is preceded by a portico of five arches with a larger central arch. The arches feature richly-carved stucco decoration with a sebka motif and bands of cursive Arabic inscriptions. Behind the arches is a roofed gallery space covered by a wooden ceiling of octagonal coffers. This gallery leads to another chamber, known as the Salón Regio (Royal Chamber), via a stucco-decorated entrance of three arches. The chamber is covered by another wooden ceiling. The arches and upper walls in the chamber are covered with more stucco decoration, including an upper frieze of muqarnas (or mocárabes) sculpting. In the middle of the northern side of the chamber is a tower incorporating a mirador chamber with more intricate stucco decoration. This mirador provides views of the Albaicin from windows on three sides.

Directly above Patio de la Acequia, on its northeast side, is the Patio de la Sultana or Patio del Ciprés de la Sultana ("Courtyard of the Sultana" or "Courtyard of the Cypresses of the Sultana"). Occupied by pools, gardens, and paved paths, this courtyard's current design and construction date from after the Nasrid period. The arcaded structure on its north side was built between 1584 and 1586.

The Water Stairway and the upper gardens

Above the Patio de la Sultana in turn is the celebrated Water Stairway or Escalera del Agua, a four-flight staircase whose balustrades on either side are carved with water channels that run along their top and along the entire length of the staircase. The flights of the stairway are interrupted by small circular terraces or landings in the middle of which are fountains. At the top of the stairway is a small 19th-century pavilion known as the Romantic Pavilion (Pabellón Romántico). Next to the Stairway and to the Patio de la Sultana is the High Gardens or Jardines Altos, arranged across several terraces climbing up the hillside. At the southeast end of the gardens and of the main palace structure is the Paseo de las Adelfas ("Walk of the Oleanders"), which today is the path used by visitors to exit the Generalife.

This text is based on a Wikipedia article written by contributors under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
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Paseo de los Tristes, Granada
  P.º de los Tristes, 18010 Granada, Spain
Paseo de los Tristes, at the end of Carrera del Darro (bus stop Paseo de los Tristes, routes C1 and C2). Perched above the Rio Darro at the end of Carrera del Darro, this plaza was once on the busiest gathering spots in Granada, positioned along a curve of the river between the Alhambra and the Albayzin. Today it is a popular place to eat owing to the restaurants lining the north side of the square and the magnificent views of the Alhambra palace it offers.

This text is based on a Wikivoyage article written by contributors under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
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Carmen de los Mártires, Granada
  P.º de los Mártires, s/n, 18009 Granada, Spain
Carmen de los Mártires is a charming set of gardens near the Alhambra. The place is well worth a side trip if you have an hour or two to spare. The gardens date to the nineteenth century and have a blend of Moorish-style elements such as amble shade, decorative arches and bubbling fountains with English and French romantic style elements - one garden has an ornamental duck pond complete with statues, grottoes, and follies (keep an eye out for the peacocks that wander the gardens). In addition, the views of Granada and the Alhambra from the terraces are absolutely marvelous.

This text is based on a Wikivoyage article written by contributors under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
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Catedral de Granada, Granada
  C. Gran Vía de Colón, 5, 18001 Granada, Spain
Granada Cathedral or the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Spanish: Catedral de Granada, Santa Iglesia Catedral Metropolitana de la Encarnación de Granada) is a Roman Catholic church and the seat of the Archdiocese of Granada. Like many other cathedrals in Andalusia, it was built on top of the city's main mosque after the reconquest of Granada.


Granada's cathedral has a rectangular base due to its five naves that completely cover the cross. All of the five naves are staggered in height, the central one being the largest. At the foot of the cathedral, there are two towers. The left one, called the tower of San Miguel, acts as a buttress that replaced the planned tower on that side.

The main chapel consists of a series of Corinthian columns on which capitals is the entablature and, over it, the vault, which houses a series of delicate stained glass windows.

The facade consists of a framed structure in the form of a triumphal arch with portals and canvas. It consists of three pillars crowned by semicircular arches supported on pilasters, similar to San Andrés de Mantua of Leon Battista Alberti. The pilasters don't have capitals but projections sculptured in the walls, as well as attached marble medallions. Above the main door is located a marble tondo from "José Laughing on the Annunciation". Additionally, there is a vase with lilies at the top, alluding to the virgin and pure nature of the mother of God.

The sacrarium, raised between 1706 and 1759, follows the classic proportions of the whole, keeping the multiple columns of the transept the shapes of the compound of Siloam.

This text is based on a Wikipedia article written by contributors under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
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Royal Chapel of Granada, Granada
  Calle Oficios, s/n, 18001 Granada, Spain
Commissioned after the Reconquista of the city, the Royal Chapel holds the tombs of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I, the famed Catholic Monarchs who conquered the city and decided to be buried at the site of their victory. The chapel was constructed in Gothic style but the intricate marble tombs are done in Renaissance style. Additionally, Ferdinand and Isabella's heirs Juana I (Juana la Loca) and Philip I (Felipe el Hermoso) are buried here. Aside from the beautiful and intricate artwork in the chapel and high altar, there is also a museum on-site with a number of objects symbolizing Ferdinand and Isabel's rule, including Isabella's art collection, crown, and scepter, and Ferdinand's sword.

This text is based on a Wikivoyage article written by contributors under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
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Alcaicería, Granada
  C. Alcaiceria, 1, 3, 18001 Granada, Spain
Alcaiceria is located south of Granada Cathedral, it contains a set of winding alleyways that were originally home to a Moorish silk market under Granada's Muslim rule. Although the market initially survived the Reconquista, Philip II had it shut down and a fire destroyed what was left in 1850. Today's market was rebuilt in the late 19th century for tourists and holds mostly souvenir stores underneath the Moorish-style archways decorating the walls. While the wares are mostly tacky novelties, the architecture is worth a look

This text is based on a Wikivoyage article written by contributors under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
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El Bañuelo, Granada
  Carrera del Darro, 31, 18010 Granada, Spain
The Bañuelo or El Bañuelo (a diminutive of Spanish baño "bath"), also known as the Baño del Nogal ("Bath of the Walnut") or Hammam al-Yawza, is a preserved historic hammam (Islamic bathhouse). It is located in the Albaicin quarter of the city, on the banks of the Darro River. It was used as a bathhouse up until the 16th century at least, before becoming defunct and being converted to other uses. In the 20th century, it underwent numerous restorations by Spanish experts and is now open as a tourist attraction.

This text is based on a Wikipedia article written by contributors under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
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Albayzín, Granada
  Albaicín, Granada, Spain
Situated on a hill above the center of town and across from the Alhambra, the Albayzín (also spelled Albaicín, Alayzín, and Albaycín) is an ancient Muslim neighborhood popular with visitors - and rightly so. Among its narrow, winding streets one will find beautiful white-washed old buildings, splendid Arabic shops and restaurants, scenic gardens, and marvelous views of Granada and the Alhambra.

Today part of a UNESCO World Heritage site (along with the nearby neighborhood of Sacromonte and the Alhambra, covered below), Albayzín dates back to the fourteenth century and was built as a defensive town and thrived as one of the centers of Granada under Muslim rule.

Once inside the Albayzín, you'll find the layout of the streets very confusing, with many steep sections and stairways - though this is indeed part of the charm of the neighborhood, always with a new path to explore or a hidden surprise waiting to be discovered. However, if the climb or the confusing layout sounds like too much, you can also take the C1 minibus to the top of the hill from Plaza Nueva.

Main attractions

San José Church (Iglesia de San José) - Located in a spot previously occupied by the Almorabitín, or mosque of morabites, and is one of the oldest churches in Granada, dating back to the sixteenth century. The architecture of the old mosque is still visible in parts, particularly in the minaret-turned-bell tower.
San Nicolas Viewpoint (Mirador de San Nicolas).
Mosque of Granada (Mezquita Mayor de Granada) - Following the Reconquista, Islam was banished from Spain and its practitioners were persecuted, effectively stomping out any practice of the religion in Spain for centuries thereafter. But Islam has been making a comeback in Spain and this mosque, built in 2003, stands as a link with the Muslim Granada of old. The mosque maintains an open-door policy and while you need to arrange an appointment to see the main prayer spaces, you are free to enter the fragrant garden and take in the architecture of the rather humble yet beautiful building. Even if you have little interest in Islam the place is still worth visiting for the garden's marvelous view of the Alhambra and for the sight of Moorish-style architecture that's newly constructed rather than ancient and crumbling.
Plaza Larga - A small and shady plaza, this is the center of Albayzín for its residents, removed from the tourist crowds of the San Nicolas Viewpoint, surrounded by local shops and restaurants and home to a local market on Saturday mornings. On the west edge of the plaza, tucked around a corner, is Puerta Nueva, a passageway to Placeta de las Minas situated at the end of a remaining section of defensive wall which once protected the Albayzín. The wall itself is mostly inaccessible, but excellent views of the wall, which really speak to how imposing it must have looked from the outside, are available from the 28 Mirador de San Cristobal uphill from Plaza Larga (alternatively you can just walk along Cuesta de Alhacaba west from Plaza Larga from excellent views from beneath the wall).

This text is based on a Wikivoyage article written by contributors under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
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Sacromonte, Granada
  Sacromonte, 18010 Granada, Spain
Sacromonte is a gypsy (Roma) district situated east of the Albazin, which is demarcated by the road Cuesta Chapiz. The neighborhood is noted for its many cave dwellings built within the sides of the hill poking out here and there between the scrubby bushes and cacti. The district is also famous for its flamenco shows popular with tourists and the amazing views of the Alhambra.

To get to the neighborhood, you can walk or take the C2 minibusses up Carrera del Darro to Paseo de los Tristes. From there walk up Cuesta Chapiz until you reach Peso de Harina (where you'll find a small plaza with a statue of a man with a strange hat, Chorrojumo, who was regarded as the king of the gypsies). From there walk along the Camino del Sacromonte.

Other attractions

Museo Cuevas Sacromonte - a lovely museum that offers a chance to get to know this neighborhood, with geological and historical exhibits on the caves, the biology, the people and the form of living as well as the traditional handicrafts of the locals.
Sacromonte Abbey - Founded in the seventeenth century. Local legend says that the catacombs under the church are where the city's first bishop (and today Granada's saint) San Cecilio underwent his martyrdom.

This text is based on a Wikivoyage article written by contributors under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
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House Museum Federico Garcia Lorca

To the poets at heart and anyone who loves poetry, it is recommended to visit the former house, today a museum of one of the greatest Spanish poets and artists - Federico Garcia Lorca.

Address: Calle Poeta Garcia Lorca, 4, 18340 Fuente Vaqueros, Granada, Spain.