In a city of free tapas, a heady fusion of Christian and Moorish cultures, the home of the stunning Alhambra, a city that is at once storied and cultured, but also young and energetic, Granada offers plenty for a visitor.
In Andalusia, there are plenty of cities to choose from, including but not limited to Seville, Málaga, and Cordoba, all very popular cities to choose from.
Granada was the last stop on my 3 week trip, bearing in mind I’d spent every single day exploring, covering coastal towns, small towns in the hills, drives that went on for hours (not that I’m complaining), just about saw every cathedral in every city and town we went to and ate copious amounts of tapas.
It was so easy to gain travel fatigue— you know the kind, when suddenly another monument doesn’t seem so impressive because of the sheer number you’d already burst through in the past 2 weeks, when the thought of another tapas bar makes you go, “hmm, shall we try something else instead?”
A large part of it had to do with the fact that we were inland for so long, which I don’t particularly love.
I’ve always needed to be closer to the coast and take a trip to be near the sea, and when heading to Granada knowing we were going to be stuck inland again filled me with a certain kind of dread.
And yet, Granada ended up being one of my favourite cities, here’s why.
What to See
1. THE ALHAMBRA
Not putting this on top of the list would be like not putting La Sagrada Familia on a Barcelona list.
There’s a reason why this is a must-do and a must-see.
There’s a reason why you need to book tickets for the Alhambra in advance when in most cases in Spain, I’d argue you hardly need reservations anywhere at all even in the summer.
Good restaurants and popular football matches, La Sagrada Familia and The Alhambra.
Those are the ones that do.
And believe all the hype, because the sheer size of the compound means you can easily spend a couple hours here.
But first, practical things to know out of the way.
Tickets can be obtained through the Alhambra’s website itself and there are three types of tickets, namely the Daytime, Nighttime and Garden Tickets.
Personally, I would opt for the Daytime tickets as you can start your visit earlier in the day and see the Alhambra basking in the sunshine.
The Garden tickets include access to the entire compound sans the Nasrid Palaces, and to be honest, I can’t imagine making the trek to any country or city and not try my best to see everything when I’m already there.
It’s also important to note that you’ll realise timing of the tickets are time-based, but what this actually means is that time-based entry is only for the Nasrid Palaces, everything else can be accessed within the day of your ticket.
Our tickets for the Palaces were at 5pm, but we headed in to the Alhambra itself straight after brunch at about 1pm and ended up only leaving the Alhambra at about 7pm.
That’s how much time we took to explore the Alhambra.
Of course, the amount of time you take is completely up to you, but I’ve always hated zooming past monuments and never really getting to take everything in.
The Alhambra also has a strict no reselling rule, so it’s warned that proof of identification will be required on your visit as each ticket is tagged to an individual’s personal data.
Personal data is collected for every ticket so even if you’re buying tickets for more than just yourself, you’ll have to provide the personal information of every ticket holder.
Our tickets were scanned a total of 3 to 4 times, the first just outside the Alhambra’s entrance and the rest within the different compounds inside the Alhambra.
I was asked for proof of identification once, and this proof of identification is subject to the scanning machine’s auto-generated response, so I gather it’s a “check one in every 500 people” type of arrangement.
This is where it matters that the ticket you’re holding matches your personal identification, as buying a resold ticket would mean you’d be unable to match your identity with the one stated on the ticket.
Of course, you could wing it and leave it all to luck, and pray you don’t get asked for ID, but whatever happens as a result of that will be on you.
Some visitors have gone about the Alhambra not having to produce any form of identification at all.
Moving past getting tickets, do try and get yourself on a tour of some sort, whether a guided tour or an accompanied audio guide, if only to give you some context of the sprawling compound, and you’ll be able to better appreciate what it is you’re seeing, including all the flourishes on the walls and in the gardens.
Many advise heading to the Alhambra early in the morning to avoid the crowds and photograph the Alhambra without fighting for space.
Truth be told, I never found the crowds even in the height of summer to be too much in the afternoons, so I wasn’t too bothered.
All in all, the Alhambra is perhaps Spain’s best display of Moorish influence, and is beautifully restored and well-kept, and singlehandedly made my trip to Granada completely worth it.
WHERE | CALLE REAL DE LA ALHAMBRA, S/N, 18009
2. GO CHASING FOR STUNNING VIEWS
If there’s anything Granada offers in spades, it’s stunning, sweeping views of the city.
The Sierra Nevada mountain range sitting behind the city gives you unique views of the Alhambra perched on the hilltop in the foreground of said mountains, and I loved that there were so many viewpoints all around the city with breathtaking views.
For the classic Granada shot, head to Mirador San Nicolás, a lookout point that’s incredibly famous and so is packed.
The Alhambra also offers some sweeping views of the city around it from the various windows, courtyards and gardens.
Of course, if you’re looking out from the Alhambra, naturally you’re not going to get the actual monument of the Alhambra in your shot.
Or, head to what feels like the highest point in Granada with a view on the outskirts of downtown, called La Ermita de San Miguel Alto. Though it started off as a bit of a local secret, thanks to the discerning travellers that have descended upon the city, in the summer even this place was packed.
You can either hike all the way up from downtown which might take over an hour, or grab a taxi or bus up.
Up here you’ll find many youngsters both foreign and local playing music, having a cigarette, enjoying a glass of wine, all whilst watching the sun set on the city skyline, and it surely is from here where you’ll find the most expansive views of the city.
MIRADOR SAN NICOLÁS | PLAZA MIRADOR DE SAN NICOLÁS, 2, 18010
ALHAMBRA | CALLE REAL DE LA ALHAMBRA, S/N, 18009
ERMITA DE SAN MIGUEL ALTO | CALLE PATIO DE LA ALBERCA, 36, 18010
3. EXPLORE THE CAVE DISTRICT OF SACROMONTE
The exact beginnings of Sacromonte remain somewhat of a mystery today, but it’s said that the cave-dwelling hillside community of gypsies first moved into the area on the outskirts of downtown after the banishment of the Moors by Ferdinand and Isabella.
These days, Sacromonte is home to cave houses fully equipped with WiFi, electricity, running water, and in some cases, even solar panels.
These cave houses are also now widely available for rent, both temporary and more permanent arrangements.
Truth be told, unless you’re living in one, you’re not going to be able to easily find one and just wander round.
But, you can enter a cave restaurant, and many in the district offer nights of flamenco song and dance.
We stumbled on a photography studio which we weren’t meant to enter, but it was fascinating being inside one and it was very cooling, providing some much-needed respite from the Spanish sun beating down tirelessly on our backs.
4. WANDER THE STREETS OF THE ALBAICÍN
The Albaicín, or Albayzín, is the traditional Moorish neighbourhood in Granada that has maintained its characteristic atmosphere.
Narrow streets with shops and markets sell all types of trinkets and clothing, including Turkish lamps, Moorish tiles, Indian linen shirts and the like.
Head upwards anywhere, and you might stumble on a Mirador of your own, offering stunning views of the Alhambra.
The famous market in town is called the Alcaiceria, a very new line of shops selling all sorts of knick-knacks, but I preferred the streetside stalls of the Albaicín, if only for the atmosphere.
I haven’t been to many souks around the world, the last one I did being in Dubai, where I found the vendors to be overly pushy and incredibly annoying.
They couldn’t let you walk down a street without bothering you to lure you into their shops, which I absolutely hated.
The most incredible thing in Granada though, is that the vendors were the complete opposite.
They left most travellers (and face it, if you’re in the Albaicín having a look around, you’re most likely going to be a tourist) alone and were friendly and happy to engage if you did show interest in something first which I thought was a refreshing change of pace.
While in the Albaicín, don’t forget to head to Carrera del Darro, one of the oldest yet most photogenic streets in all of Granada, running alongside the Darro River, characterised by the streetside shops and cafes, offering views of the Alhambra from down below.
WHAT TO EAT
1. ROSARIO VARELA
I’m starting this list with one of my absolute favourite tapas places in all of Spain, namely Rosario Varela.
Located on a street corner with plenty of busy and packed out eating options that looked really good, we revisited Rosario Varela on a separate occasion and I rarely like revisiting places, including restaurants if I’m just passing through for a couple of days, mostly for the sake of being able to try something new.
Rosario Varela is a very popular haunt for locals as big groups pour in in the evenings, not to mention the lively atmosphere that and the decor creates.
The food though, was show stopping.
We tried many things from the potatoes (not quite the patatas bravas dish you have in mind) which were beautifully seasoned and came with three different types of dips, the tender and juicy meats that were well-plated, the octopus, and the free tapas which were just two sliders.
And honestly I cannot stop raving about this restaurant.
Food was brilliant as it offered a bit of a modern twist on Spanish classics but still feeling very true to the cuisine, the atmosphere was buzzing, service was quick and the decor was the right side of rustic and quirky.
WHERE | CALLE VARELA, 10, 18009
2. BAR LA RIVIERA
When in Granada, many take advantage of the free tapas with a drink deal, and as you drink and eat your way through the city, you’ll find it’s a fantastic deal that allows you to save a couple of euros each time.
One of the better places for it is Bar La Riviera, a humble tavern but with plenty of options for you to choose which tapas you’d like free.
This is a massive plus as there are some places that don’t allow you to choose, or offer only a very limited selection.
And with the many different types of drinks available, Bar La Riviera combines that plethora of options with a good selection of tapas.
Of course, don’t expect hearty dishes and well-plated tapas.
But it is what it is, cheap as chips and down to earth, and there’s a reason why locals pack out the bar everyday.
WHERE | CALLE CETTI MERIEM, 7, 18010
3. TABERNA EL AVISO
Also offering drinks and tapas, we opted to head into Taberna El Aviso for a bigger sit-down meal, and of course, this Spanish tavern delightfully indulged with good meats and a good selection of food.
I’ve always loved local cuisine and the way the meats are done, and Taberna El Aviso was a reliable option.
WHERE | CALLE VIRGEN DEL ROSARIO, 1, 18009
4. HELADERÍA LOS ITALIANOS
Fancy something sweet?
You’ll realise Heladería Los Italianos draws in crowds by the droves.
The speciality here is the cassata, which they serve in a triangular shape in a cone.
Cassata originated from Sicily in Italy, and it was a wonderful treat to have in a summer.
I won’t go as far as to say it’s the best ice cream I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly the most popular in the city.
WHERE | CALLE GRAN VÍA DE COLÓN, 4, 18001
From my trip to Spain this summer, I've turned some of my photography into my brand of everyday products which you can check out below. Worldwide shipping is available so if you're looking for a tote bag or postcard to take home to remember your travels if you too have been to these parts of Spain, and if you'd like to support this passion project of mine, look no further!
View the full product catalogue at the shop here.
The stereotypical view of the white villages of southern Spain (los pueblos blancos) includes white houses, narrow pebbled streets barely wide enough for vehicles to pass through, and the flowering bougainvillaea poking through the houses.
Frigiliana made all the pueblos blancos views I had in my mind manifest in real life.
It was stunning on every corner, but from where we parked at the foot of downtown, we had to scale a number of steps to get up to the town centre, and halfway up we saw these bougainvillaea growing out of the walls with the beautiful town in the background which was absolutely stunning and this is where I took this photograph.
View the rest of the collection here.
When in Seville, we went on a walking tour to get ourselves familiarised with the city.
I've fallen hard for walking tours after this summer, and I'm so glad I went on 2 in Spain alone.
Across the Guadalquivir River lies the neighbourhood of Triana, so called the neighbourhood of gypsies and outcasts, where inhabitants used to identify as being from Triana before Seville.
The draw of Triana though, apart from the flamenco flair, is Calle Betis, the riverfront promenade lined with restaurants and bars which turns into a hotspot in the evenings.
In the sleepy late afternoon though, the buildings shine in the sun as workers of each restaurant start slowly setting up for a busy evening ahead.
View the rest of the collection here.
Barcelona wasn't on the itinerary this summer, but as you can imagine I have plenty photos from my stint 2 years ago.
One of my favourite neighbourhoods in Barcelona is El Born, which is basically the Gothic Quarter except lined with local boutiques instead of kitsch tourist souvenir shops, which lends itself to a really nice bohemian atmosphere.
Not to mention some of the best tapas bars in the city can be found here, which is a major plus.
El Born's also where you get all the beauty of the Gothic Quarter, and I particularly like the doors and façade of shops and houses here.
So here's a photograph of a coffeehouse in El Born, and I think this is quintessential Barcelona in a photograph.
View the rest of the collection here.
When I lived in Barcelona, there were quite a few vintage clothing stores around, and this in particular was a chain of them— Flamingos Vintage Kilo. I would always walk into these stores even if I wasn't looking for anything in particular for the vibe of them. Everything about them just felt so damn cool. In this shop, I stumbled onto an area where there was a collection of vinyls, and there really is something about vinyls for me and the way they are packaged. There was no way I was leaving this store without at least a snap on the camera.
Andalucia in Spain may be famous for its whitewashed hilltop towns, but I got a slice of that in Sitges in Northeastern Spain, Catalonia. The streets in winter were almost completely empty save the odd resident or two going about their daily business, meaning we got to explore the entire town almost to ourselves that day.