Granada is one of the gems of Andalusia, that probably attracts even more tourists than Seville. Even though the two are quite close I found that they were very different, not only for their location, with Granada being further inland and a bit higher in the mountains, but also for how the city is structured and their atmosphere.
During my one-month stay in Seville, even though there was so much to see there, I really wanted to take the opportunity to visit another Andalusian city, and Granada was my first choice. For this occasion, some of my friends came to visit and we could explore the tiny streets of Granada all together.
Even though we didn’t stay very long, I feel like we had enough time to really explore the city and take in its wonderful atmosphere. Here’s what we saw!
The Alhambra is Granada’s most famous landmark, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a fortress built on top of one of Granada’s hills and hosts a number of palaces and fortresses. When I say it is the most famous part of Granada, I mean it. We planned our trip a month in advance and we couldn’t find tickets for the whole Alhambra, only parts of it, and obviously not the most famous parts: the Nasrid Palaces
We could however see the Gardens, and that alone made us realise how spectacular the Palaces must be. When we entered the complex, we followed the map and visited the gardens: from large ponds with water lilies, to lovely honey-scented bushes and colourful rose gardens. It was the end of spring but all the flowers were blooming and we could have stayed wandering around for hours.
After the gardens we went to visit the Generalife palaces, the leisure place of the kings of Granada. Their structure is similar to the patios and gardens you would see in Seville, with a very strong Moorish influence and style. My favourite part was a huge patio with a long pond surrounded by fountains, flowers and trees. Some windows on the wall offered an incredible view of the city and the architecture is simply spectacular.
From there, we went to see the last part that our tickets allowed us to visit: the Alcazaba. This fortress is the oldest part of the Alhambra and is definitely less stylish than the others, despite being as impressive – but for different reasons. Walking around this huge fortress you get multiple breath-taking views of the Albaicín, a wonderful neighbourhood in Granada that we would visit in the afternoon.
Each of these parts of the Alhambra is definitely worth the visit, and even though I have seen most of it, I still want to go back to admire the Nasrid palaces and discover a bit more the rest of the city. The visit of the Alhambra can take up to a whole day if you have a full ticket, but we managed to wrap it up in one morning, being there when it opened, without rushing at all!
This pretty district is located on a hill that faces the Alhambra, and it is characterised by the white colour of its buildings. As well as the Alhambra, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage, and it is not surprising: walking around there almost feels like walking in a fairy-tale-like town.
There are plenty of cute streets, wonderful houses with bright white walls, cute plants and flowers everywhere. Some parts are more residential and quiet while others all full of life and music, with more original and colourful houses.
There are two main things to see at the Albaícin, apart from just walking around. The first one is the mirador de San Nicolás, a sort of square where you have an incredible view of the Alhambra. It is especially beautiful at night when all the buildings of the Alhambra light up. A lot of people seem to gather there in the day and at night to have a drink with friends or listen to some music, though there are obviously a lot of tourists.
Next to the mirador the mosque has cute gardens where you can sit and relax in a quiet space. It is also possible to visit inside, but it was closed when we got there so we mainly hung out in the gardens.
The historical centre:
The areas that I’ve mentioned before are mainly touristic spots, but it’s in the centre that you will find most of the people, cafés, tapas restaurants and bars. During our second day in Granada, we took our time to explore the city centre, which also has some beautiful monuments and buildings.
My favourite was the Madraza, the first university of Granada decorated in a wonderful Nasrid style, with obvious Arabic influences. Visits are regularly organized there and I really suggest booking one as they are very informative and they allow you to admire fully the beauty of the place.
The cathedral of Granada is also a must-see. Walking around in the centre you definitely cannot miss it given how big and stunning it is. Its style, Spanish Renaissance, is quite different from the style of the buildings you would have previously seen in Granada, even though it does have some Moorish influences, mixed with some Gothic and Renaissance style.
Finally, I absolutely enjoyed simply walking around in the streets of the centre, sitting down at a tapas bar, ordering some delicious food, then continuing to explore all the wonders of this city. By wandering around in the centre, you might come across the mercado de Artesanía, that has a lot of small shops where you can mainly buy a lot of souvenirs. I was definitely expecting more local products and handicrafts, but the atmosphere was lively and colourful as I expected it to be!
After this short weekend I no longer wondered why Granada was so famous and why so many people from all around the world come to visit it each year. Not only its buildings and landmarks are absolutely stunning, the whole atmosphere of this small city simply draws you in and makes you want to stay to discover all of its secrets.
However lovely Granada is, I think that if I had to choose between it and Seville, I would probably pick the latter, as I really adore the liveliness of Seville, whereas Granada felt more like a very touristic city – though an absolutely wonderful one!
Have you ever been to Granada? What did you think of it?
If you had to choose between Granada and Seville, which one would you pick?
Other posts about Andalusia:– Walking around Triana in Seville
– Wonders of Seville: Plaza de España and Parque de María Luisa
– Day & Night at the Alcázar of Seville