A Weekend Guide to Granada

It’s been raining for the past couple of days in Madrid and I thought it was just fitting for me to write about a sunny destination in Spain. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain aside from its major cities Madrid and Barcelona, is the beautiful city of Granada in the Andalucía region of Southern Spain.

Granada City

How to go

There are three ways in which you can go to this city from Madrid. By plane, by train or by bus. Buses and trains have frequent trips to Granada everyday. I went to Granada on the earliest time at 7 am. With the bus it takes 5 hours to get to Granada and 4 hours by train. Depending when you book your ticket, sometimes train tickets can be cheaper or slightly cheaper than bus. Since I booked mine on the last minute, it cost me Euro 18 ($25) for a one-way ticket. I’ve only taken buses in Spain for my travels and I can say that their buses are very comfortable and sometimes have wifi too. I recommend taking the bus.

When to go

Last year I planned to visit Andalucía after volunteering in Avila but I decided not to because of summer is the worst time to visit the region. Temperatures can climb up to 35°C (95°F). After having visited Toledo and Salamanca last summer, I can say that the trip would have been a lot more enjoyable if it wasn’t too hot and dry.

Although Granada enjoys sunshine almost all year long, when I went here, it was raining so my pictures are cloudy. The owner of the flat where I’m staying told me that it has been the first time it rained in two years. So, the good news is that most likely when you go it will be sunny. But due to its proximity to Sierra Nevada mountain, nights can be cold. If you travel during the winter time just like I did, it will still be sunny but gets cold especially at night so bring layers of clothes. I would say the best time to visit is Spring (April-May) or Fall (October, November).

Winter in Granada

Where to Stay

An acquaintance invited me to stay at a local’s flat so I wasn’t able to try any of the hostels in Granada. Although I have asked a couple of travelers whom I met at a hostel in Portugal who recommended Oasis hostel. I’ve seen a lot of ads leading to the direction of this hostel and it’s one of the most popular hostel centrally located downtown. There are also plenty of apartments for rent by the day which are inexpensive. For apartment hunting, my number one choice is airbnb.

What to Do

I may have been unfortunate with the weather but luckily for me, one of my students is a native of Granada. So she gave me some insider tips on how to enjoy this city on a weekend trip.

Here are my top 5 cultural experiences in Granada:

1. Enjoy the free tapas

Granada is a university town. Everything tends to be relatively inexpensive here compared to the rest of Spain. One thing that is best in this city are the free tapas. Generally, when you order a drink in any of the bars in Granada you get a free tapa. For vegetarians, they also have different variations of tapas made with eggs, potato and cheese. I enjoyed the free tapas a lot that I forgot to take pictures. The best place to have tapas is in Calle Elvira which has plenty of bars to choose from.

2. Get lost in the narrow streets of Granada

A Street in Granada

This city is unique in itself compared to other popular parts and tourist destinations in Spain due to Islamic/ Arabic influence. The best way to explore this special city is by foot. Just take note that a lot of its streets are short, winding, narrow and hilly.

If you get tired climbing up the streets especially on the way to the Alhambra, there are mini buses available from the main street in front of the cathedral in Gran Via. Since this is university town, bus tickets are cheap costing around Euro 1.20. And if you have the bus pass cost can be Euro .80 per ride. Unless you plan to stay longer than 3 days, I recommend exploring the city by foot instead of buying a pass. All points of interest are walking distance.

3. Wander around Albyzin area

Granada Street

For me, the most beautiful area in Granada is the Albyzin area. The very first picture from this post was taken from Alcazaba overlooking the beautiful Albyzin. On the other hand, if you want to see the most beautiful view of the Alhambra, go to this area.

However, there are two things you should know when you’re walking around this city: 1) the city has lots of cobblestone streets and hills, therefore wear the most comfortable shoes and 2) watch where you’re walking. Dog owners don’t clean up their dog poops. I read about this somewhere but I ignored it and remembered it when I stepped into one. Woops. This is the very first time I stepped onto one in my travels. They are really everywhere.

4. Take your time to see the Alhambra and Generalife

The Alhambra

You don’t have to do everything here for such a short period of time but you absolutely cannot miss Granada’s most famous attraction, the Alhambra. The art and architectural details in this place is simply breathtaking.

Here is a preview of some of the arts and architecture you can marvel in this magnificent place:

Palace ceiling

Arabic artwork

Court of the Lions

The Alhambra is a very touristy place so it doesn’t matter when you go. But one thing you want to do is to get your ticket at least a day or two in advance. There are only certain times when you can enter the Nasrid Palaces where you can view and marvel the most beautiful arts and architecture in the Alhambra. You can get more information here.

The ticket you will get also includes the entrance for Generalife gardens.

Generalife Gardens

I don’t think I’ve seen anything in the Alhambra that is not beautiful. It’s also the same with the Generalife gardens. The gardens are very well maintained and probably one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe.

The Alhambra, Generalife and Albyzin are UNESCO’s World Heritage sites due to their spectacular architecture and richness of Spanish-Moorish history. The Alhambra is massive and you may want to allot at least half a day to marvel and enjoy the sights you will see in this destination. This is one place you will want to take time to enjoy. Besides, you are in Spain. Spanish people are never in a hurry.

5. Watch a Flamenco dance at one of the caves in Sacromonte

Flamenco Dancer

If you ever intend to watch a Flamenco show in Spain, the place to watch is in Granada. The Sacromonte area in Granada is home to caves where Spanish gypsies dance flamenco. There quite a few caves in the area but what I forgot my student is to ask in which cave should I watch. Upon reaching the site, I asked some locals where to go and watch the best flamenco show. They all pointed me to Cueva Los Trantos. The place is very touristy but the dance performance was amazing nonetheless.


There are still other activities to do in Granada city such as the Arab baths, museums to visit and the Cathedral. I spent a lot of time getting lost in the streets that I forgot to visit the Cathedral. There’s also the Sierra Nevada for skiing and a beach half an hour drive from the center.

A lot of people love Granada and say it’s the most beautiful city in Spain. I’m not exactly the biggest fan. Most probably because of the timing that I went and it was rainy and also because I had a bad experience with some locals. The people here aren’t exactly the nicest ones in Spain. Or maybe I just really love the city of Madrid and its people and I think it is still the best city in Spain. I can’t say. Will I give it another try? Maybe not. Andalucía is a big region still waiting for me to be explored. All I know is that three-day weekend is enough for a visit to this unique historical city of Granada.

Wanting to explore more of Andalucía,


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One Response to “A Weekend Guide to Granada”

  1. March 26, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    Excelente blog entrada para Granada! Tu piedra señorita Anna!