Is Granada Worth Visiting? 16 Reasons Why You Must!

Spain is home to some of the most sought-after vacation destinations in Europe, so it’s no wonder many of us are wondering: is Granada worth visiting?

The sun-soaked city of Granada is world-famous for its Moorish architecture and history, tapas culture and Flamenco performances.

View of Granada from Alhambra

Despite its notoriety, it’s in heavy competition with neighboring Seville as the best city to visit in Andalusia. So which should it be?

I’m here to make the case for Granada – but don’t worry, I’m not totally biased. I’ll give you a few reasons why folks avoid it to help you make your mind up. Let’s start there!

Why some travelers avoid Granada

It gets busy – like, really busy

So, the Alhambra is a must-see and you probably already knew that. Thing is, everyone already knows that. This means you compete for space pretty much everywhere you go in Granada. However, this is also the case in Seville from my experience – and I visited during the so-called “off-season”.

Tickets for major attractions have to be booked weeks in advance, and I highly, highly recommend you visit them early in the morning.

Some people get bored of it quickly

Even though it always seems to be busy and full of life, I’ve seen people say they got bored after a day or two in Granada. I have to really employ empathy to understand why – my schedule didn’t allow for gaps of boredom – but I’ll do my best. 

If you get bored from a lot of walking through historical streets and sites or gardens, then sure, Granada isn’t for you. Tapas is, pretty much, the most widely available food on offer and picky eaters might get tired of eating the same thing every day. 

It’s very hilly

If mobility is a problem for you, then Granada might not be your best choice. Its location in the Sierra Nevada mountain range is a bit of a giveaway that it’s going to be hilly. And steep hills, at that. Parents with strollers or wheelchair users may also struggle with the cobblestone sidewalks that dominate the city center. 

Granada, Spain

It’s a student city

Compared to some other Spanish cities, Granada strikes me as quite a young place. Its streets get packed with twenty-somethings at night and, probably after a few Alhambra beers, it can get quite raucous. 

Now, this isn’t necessarily a negative. If you love to party or you’re a student, then this would probably be an upside for you. If you’ve spent the whole day walking and exploring and you want to get a decent night’s sleep but you’re staying in the city center…well, take it from me, you’d do well to pick accommodation a little off the beaten track.

It gets super hot

It’s best for both of us if I get my biases off my chest from the off. I am from northern Europe so I long for sunshine. I got plenty of that while I was in Granada, maybe even (dare I say it?) too much…

The temperature in Granada during the summer months can regularly peak at 40°C+. I was there during springtime and my freckles made themselves known with a vengeance. Unsurprisingly, even locals escape the city during July and August – so it really matters when you choose to visit if you hate the heat.

Why is Granada worth visiting?

Don’t get caught up on that stuff, though. Here are 16 reasons why I think you should visit Granada!

1. It’s really, really beautiful

Alhambra

But so are lots of places, I hear you say. You’re right, the world is full of beautiful cities and we must make the most of each and every one of them. However, I would argue that Granada is so enchantingly beautiful that it deserves extra special attention.

I’m not just talking about the Alhambra or the famous Sierra Nevada mountain range (though both are breathtaking). The city itself is decorated with unique flags and hand-painted tiles honoring saints or with beautiful ornate patterns.

Although the buildings mostly consist of whitewashed villas, it is covered in pops of vibrant colors from plants or decorations that constantly compete for your attention.

2. It’s inspired lots of art & literature

Alhambra patterns

Again, I have to admit bias. I am a great lover of books and the arts, so if you are too, then you’ll love Granada for getting some inspiration.

I caught people scribbling in sketchbooks, notepads, or taking photos of the most random things in Granada and I can totally see why. It’s full of geometric patterns, Arabic-inspired buildings and fascinating designs. 

Granada is brimming with stories and the surreal. Some truly great books were inspired by the city, including South From Granada by Gerald Brenan, Granada: Light of Andalusia by Steven Nightingale and The Return by Victoria Hislop. 

If you’re a writer, artist in the making or a poet, I can’t think of a better place to visit for some new-found inspiration than Granada.

3. You can visit the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens

Alhambra palace
Alhambra Generalife Gardens

The Alhambra is, quite rightly, the crown jewel of Granada and I can’t overstate its beauty enough. If you aren’t familiar with it, La Alhambra is a 13th-century Moorish palace and fortress.

The Moors were Islamic North Africans who conquered and ruled Spain, leaving their gorgeous buildings, culture and even parts of their language that remains to this day. 

While we toured the Alhambra, I felt transfixed. It was more beautiful than I had possibly imagined it could be. If the architects had been striving for perfection, they certainly achieved it in my opinion. 

There’s something about the symmetry and ornate detail in every room, nook and cranny. The overall look is so distinctive that occasionally it felt as though we were walking around Morocco. The gardens are immaculately kept and are full of gorgeous flowers and orange trees that scent the air, and it really is one of the most pleasant days out I’ve had as a tourist in a long time.

4. It has excellent spas

Nasrid Palaces
Note: you can’t swim or bathe at the Alhambra, pictured above. But the spa looks pretty much like this, but indoors. It also has a steam room and free, mint tea!

If you love a soak and steam room as much as I do, then you need to put Granada at the top of your list. My partner and I visited the Hammam al Ándalus, which is located a stone’s throw away from the historic Albaicin quarter. 

The inside has been decorated in a typical Hammam bath style, reminiscent of the Alhambra. The second your skin touches the different baths with varying temperatures, you feel any travel-related stress melt away from you. We booked for 10pm, where we found rippling water in cavernous tunnels lit up by candlelight. It wasn’t crowded and very quiet, almost like a cloister. I LOVED it. 

A nice trip to the spa after an action-packed day of walking up and down hills was just what we needed. We also tried the sister-spa in Córdoba, but I found Granada’s to be more authentic, relaxing and enjoyable.

5. The tapas is FREE

Granada tapas

To be honest, if I only had to give you one reason to visit Granada then this would be it. Free tapas? Sign. Me. Up. And we’re not talking about a few pieces of bread or a tiny bowl of olives, here. 

No, we’re talking about authentic, delicious dishes casually placed on the table a few minutes after your Sangria has arrived. My partner and I spent a good few hours bar-hopping in Granada, and we managed to sample everything from slow-roasted pork in cream sauce to sizzling garlic shrimp.

Our hostel receptionist gave us some handy info: Granada is basically divided in half between free tapas bars, and places where you can order your own (and pay, obviously). While I recommend you give a surprise dinner a try; I more than understand people who are horrified by the idea.

If you have allergies or dietary requirements, you can sample one of the many fabulous restaurants in Granada that have tapas menus. Bonus? We never paid more than €6 for a delicious, fairly large plate of tapas.

6. Flamenco (partly) has its roots there

Flamenco dancer

If you’ve never seen a Flamenco show before, I highly recommend you do so in Granada. Granada is situated in the region of Andalusia, which is the home of Flamenco dancing.

While it’s possible to watch Flamenco shows in most of the region, including Córdoba and Seville, if you want an authentic Flamenco experience, go to the Sacromonte neighborhood in Granada.

In my opinion, one of the best places to watch Flamenco is in the caves in the former Romani gypsy neighborhood of Sacromonte. Originally a gypsy neighborhood, the Sacromonte caves of Granada are home to some of the most epic Flamenco shows – and views of the Alhambra. 

Once you step behind the white-washed walls of the caves, you’re transported to another time and culture. Flamenco dancing is passionate, intensive and elegant. As with any performance, the atmosphere is anything – and that’s where Granada has the edge over other Andalusian cities.

7. You can ski and sunbathe on the same day

sierra nevada cable car


You read that right. How awesome would it be to finish a day’s skiing and not have to defrost by a fire for hours after? A taxi driver in Málaga enlightened me with this fact, something he apparently frequently does during the winter months. 

Due to Granada’s typically dry climate, the city itself is often exempt from snowfall or heavy bouts of rain. But the Sierra Nevada has been voted in the top places to ski in Europe for many years, and at just 45 minutes away from the city, you could hardly pick a better spot to please everyone, weather and activity-wise.

8. Granada has its own Sagrada Familia story

Granada cathedral

The cathedral is the center point of Granada and, quite rightly, it’s up there with the most impressive tourist attractions in the city. Wherever you go, you can see it on the skyline somewhere, its steeples rising in an oddly satisfying way. 

But the best parts about Granada Cathedral are still relatively unknown. The most famous unfinished building in Spain is undoubtedly La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, but you might be surprised to find out that Granada Cathedral has a similar backstory. It took 180 years to build, and it’s actually unfinished (there were supposed to be two 80-meter towers attached) but the plans were abandoned. 

Granada Cathedral is also a fascinating beacon that symbolizes the change from Muslim rule in Spain to Catholic. The cathedral contains kneeling effigies of the monarchs as well as Queen Isabella’s library. 

Other than its tumultuous history, the cathedral is also a very pleasant place to walk around while it’s too hot to do anything outside. It’s eerily cool and quiet inside, and the beauty of the building imposes itself on you from every angle. 

9. It’s easily navigated

Street of Granada

This point does come with a caveat. As I mentioned earlier, Granada is hilly and its streets can feel a little perilous. I think I saw my life flash before my eyes three or four times as speeding taxis hurtled along streets I would personally deem too narrow and pedestrianized for cars. 

However, if you are a keen walker and able-bodied, Granada is a great city to wander around. Every alleyway seems to lead somewhere you haven’t been before, but turn a corner and you recognize your position immediately. Because of this, you can take several different routes to get to the same spot, meaning you’ll always gain new perspectives. 

According to my Fitbit, I clocked some 27,586 steps on my first day in Granada – impressive, considering I felt like I sat down at a lot of bars for longer than I normally would. At least I earned it!

10. It’s not an overly expensive place to visit

Granada dinner

Obviously, expenses are a very personal thing and everyone’s budgets are different. That said, I was left stunned at how affordable a lot of things were in Granada. 

For breakfast, we opted for typical Andalusian-style toasted bread with Iberico ham and tomato paste, with freshly squeezed locally harvested orange juice and coffee for just over €5 each. That’s roughly the same as most people’s Starbucks orders, but this was fresh, delicious and filling. 

By the time it came to lunch (and a lot of walking later) we settled down at a restaurant that offered a three-course meal for €9 each. We each had a Sangria too (because, why not?) which brought the total to €23. Where I’m from, that is an absolute bargain. 

If that is beyond your budget, however, don’t worry. You’d think that since the tapas in Granada are free, the bars would raise drinks prices. But they don’t. We never paid more than €2-3 for a beer or a Sangria, which were always served cold and lovingly prepared.

11. You’re close to the coast

Sea Malaga

Do you have a yearning for the sea? Me too. Which is why I think if you’re going to visit a city in southern Spain that isn’t directly on the ocean, Granada is an excellent choice. It’s only 89km (55 miles) to Málaga, but you can find much better beaches than that even closer by.

From Granada, your closest beaches are located on the Costa Tropical. The towns of Salobreña and Almuñecar are only a bus ride away and both offer outstanding beaches which are much less crowded than those of the Costa del Sol. 

If you’re spending more than a couple of days in Granada, I highly recommend broadening your horizons and going for a coastal hike. Though, I won’t blame you if you can’t bear to leave the city, either!

12. It has easy & affordable transport links

Street view of Granada

Granada is an ideal stop-off location on a road or interrail trip. However you plan to get there, Granada is ready for you. My partner and I arrived by bus from Málaga after a journey that took less than two hours to complete. The ease of transport makes life so much easier if you have a tight schedule as we did. 

The bus and train stations are located slightly out of the city center, but there are great transport links to take you into the city. Local bus routes regularly depart from outside the stations, meaning you don’t have to battle with luggage.

13. You can shop ’til you drop

Flamenco shoes

One thing many of us love to do when traveling is stock up on souvenirs. And the Spanish souvenirs available in Granada do not disappoint.

One street in particular is famed for its market-style shopping, and that’s the Alcaicería, a historic shopping quarter that dates back to the 15th century. Anything that can be handmade or crafted can be bought here.

Flamenco dresses (of course) are available all over the city, and you can also buy Flamenco shoes, which I personally recommend buying as a souvenir. (When I was a little girl, my grandmother bought me a pair of Flamenco shoes when she visited Spain. I still have them, actually. They’re over 20 years old and I still love them!).

14. It’s a friendly & safe city

Selfie in Alhambra

If you’re new to traveling or traveling alone for the first time, Granada is a great choice for a trip. Not only are there heaps of things to see and do, but it’s a safe, smaller city that will delight and surprise you.

Equally, if you’re a seasoned traveler looking for somewhere new to explore, Granada has so many options that you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Unlike bigger cities such as Madrid or Barcelona, you don’t have to be on your guard 100% of the time on the lookout for pickpockets. Of course, you should always be aware of your space and personal items while traveling, but personally, I felt very safe and at ease there. 

Huge crowds are quite rare and the atmosphere is very relaxed, meaning you can enjoy your time without needing to worry too much. Locals are helpful with advice and directions – though I would recommend that you learn some Spanish before you go!

15. You can visit quirky sites and museums

Granada uni corridor

Some people say that once you’ve seen the Alhambra and Generalife then you’ve seen all that Granada has to offer. Those people are wrong. But many of them probably just haven’t taken the time to learn about Granada’s history since Moorish rule.

Granada has lots of small, intimate museums that offer unique insight into Granada’s people, past and present. You can tour the Sacromonte Caves Museum, to see how people lived 100 years ago, or visit the famous Spanish composer, Manuel de Falla’s, home – exactly how he left it.

The various campuses of Granada University are also beautiful buildings I can recommend seeing in Granada. I don’t know about you, but the corridors at my university weren’t as beautiful as the one above!

16. It’s home to some amazing teahouses

cup of tea

Maybe it’s the English in me, but I just can’t say no to a cup of tea. And luckily for me, and all other tea lovers out there, Granada is bursting with unique tea houses called teterias. Another remnant of its Moorish past, these tea houses are a giveaway that this city was once an extension of North Africa.

Calle Calderería Nueva is the most famous teterias street in Granada, and you can hardly miss them. They’re brightly colored, dimly lit and that sweet, fresh smell of loose-leaf tea wafts down the street for miles.

Conclusion

So…is Granada worth visiting? Well, I say yes, yes, YES! Whether you’re planning a short-sharp trip or plan to spend a few days or a week in Granada, I can almost guarantee you’ll have a splendid time. 

Granada is such a fascinating blend of cultures and you can get to grips with each one without having to succumb to tourist traps. You’re invited to take things at your own pace while never being lost for options – as long as you do a bit of research.

My favorite thing about Granada though is its beauty. It can be found anywhere, any time, in any place. Wherever I went, I found expressions of culture, friendly faces and breathtaking views. Even when I was on my way to see the sun set on the Alhambra, I got stuck looking up at a balcony where a sunbathing cat grabbed my attention and forced me to take in the view from where I was. 

I recommend you do the same. Slow down, enjoy this gorgeous city for what it is, and enjoy!

Interested in Spain? Also read:

Leave a Comment