Exploring The Best Of Granada On A Budget (Southern Spain)

Things to do in Granada
Best Things To Do in Granada, Spain
Granada, Spain

Granada is a beautiful little city in the South of Spain where I lived for a month as a digital nomad. Here are some of the best things to do in Granada if you’re passing through!

Located at the base of the snowy Sierra Madre mountains, the city of Granada is full of history and character.

Because it was once a Muslim kingdom, much of the city has been built in a style of Islamic architecture that remains today. Granda is the ancient capital of Andalusia, a large autonomous region in Southern Spain.

Boasting a vibrant population of university students, free appetizers with your wine, skiing in the mountains, and Mediterranean beaches only an hour away, Granada is the perfect town to spend a few days while traveling in Spain.

Because I had such a great time during my visit, I wanted to share some of the top things to do in Granada with the rest of you!

Granada Spain Highlights Map

How To Use This Map

Above you’ll find a map of highlights in Granada. Click on the top left of the map to find separate layers marking the route and points of interest. You can hide and show different layers, or click icons on the map to see the names of places I mention in this travel guide. “Star” the map to save it to your own Google Maps, or open the map in a new window for a larger version. Enjoy!

Best Things To Do In Granada 2019

Alhambra Palace in Granada Spain
The Magnificent Alhambra Palace!
Walls inside Alhambra
Stunning Architecture at Alhambra

1. The Alhambra Palace

One of Spain’s most popular tourist attractions, Alhambra Palace sits on top of a hill surrounded by forest while overlooking the city below. It was built by Moorish king Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar in the 11th century when the area was ruled by Muslims from North Africa.

Filled with Arabic inscriptions, painted tiles, vaulted ceilings, and plentiful water fountains, the building is incredibly beautiful inside and out. It was definitely a highlight of my trip to Granada, and the reason most people make the trip.

You need to buy a ticket in advance due to a strict limit of daily visitors.

Booking Tickets For Alhambra

Sacromonte District in Granada
Modern Sacromonte Cave Neighborhood

2. Sacromonte Neighboorhood

On the outskirts of Granada there’s a Roma (gypsy) neighborhood build into the side of a hill, where the inhabitants live in caves. Most of the cave-homes are pretty modern these days, but in the past, this is where the workers who built the Alhambra Palace lived.

If you keep climbing to the very top of the hill, you’ll find an odd community of hippies and immigrants squatting in more rugged caves. Just be aware that they aren’t always happy to see tourists gawking at them or their homes, and some can become aggressive.

Inside A Sacromonte Cave
Sacromonte Cave Museum

3. The Cave Museum

Visit the Sacromonte Cave Museum (Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte) to see what life was like in Sacromonte 100 years ago.

The museum is a short climb up from the main neighboorhood of Sacromonte. I really found this place fascinating, as it features about ten cave dwellings that give you an idea of how people lived in them historically.

Albayzin Streets at Night
The Arab Quarter in Granada

4. Explore The Albayzín

The Albayzín is the historical Arab quarter of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This part of Granada has a lot of Moorish history, and this had a natural impact on the area’s architecture and decor.

For example, many of the walls are covered with gorgeous tiles that were hand-painted by the Moorish population.

Walking Path in Granada
Walking the Carrera de Darro

5. Carrera Del Darro

Under the Albayzín neighborhood, the River Darro flows through Granada where the old walls used to be. There’s a nice walking path that follows the river’s edge.

Enjoy the mix of renaissance and Moorish architecture, listen to street-buskers play their guitars, and try to imagine what it was like way back when.

Water Fountain in Granada Spain
Fuente de Aceituno

6. Drink From The Fountain Of Youth

One fun little fact about Granada is that all the fuentes (fountains) in the city provide free drinking water to anyone who wants it. Probably the most famous fountain in Granada is the Fuente de Aceituno (Fountain Of Youth).

Local legends tell the story of an olive tree growing here that started producing water, which people drank and it made them younger! I took a drink, so maybe I’ll live forever now… :p

Tapas Jamon Iberico
Free Tapas with Drinks!

7. Free Tapas & Spanish Wine

You can’t visit Granada Spain without going to a restaurant or bar for free tapas! During the afternoon or evening, typically between 1pm and 4pm or between 9pm and midnight, order a beer or wine and get free appetizers!

The best streets in Granada to find great tapas are Calle Navas and Calle Elvira.

A popular snack is Black Iberian Ham, also known as jamón ibérico, a common sight at these bars. The meat is cured with salt for up to 3 years, so it doesn’t need refrigeration.

Tourists at Mirador San Nicolas
Mirador San Nicolas Crowd

8. Mirador San Nicolas

One of the top highlights in Granada is this popular viewpoint above the Albayzín neighborhood. It’s quite a hike from the center of town, but views of the Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada mountains are awesome.

Sunsets up here can get very crowded during high season, and it can be full of street performers and vendors. For an even better 360 degrees view, you can climb the bell tower of the Church of San Nicolas for €2 EURO.

This is the perfect place to get your Granada Spain postcard photo — as seen in the lead image of this blog post.

Spanish Flamenco Music Party
Secret Flamenco Bar in Granada

9. Watch A Flamenco Show

Flamenco is a form of festive gypsy (Gitano) folk music that originated in Southern Spain. It’s possible to visit one of the popular cave tablaos in Sacromonte that feature full flamenco dance performances.

Cuevas los Tarantos is one of the most popular spots to watch Zambra, the regional style from Granada, and shows cost about €20 EURO.

There’s also a slightly hidden/secret local cave bar which hosts incredibly authentic performances after 1am when most tourists are back sleeping in their hotels.

I’m not going to name it, you’ll just have to meet some locals to learn what it’s called! I can’t hand you ALL the best travel secrets without doing a little work…

Flowers at Generalife
The Beautiful Generalife Gardens

10. Generalife Gardens

The Generalife Gardens are located on a hill next to the Alhambra, easily accessible after your visit to the Palace. You can buy a combo ticket for both Alhambra & the Gardens, or just visit the gardens on their own.

The gardens are full of flowers, trees, shrubs, reflective pools, and fountains. It can be a very peaceful place if you’re there early or late in the day. You can also visit at night!

Buskers Playing on the Street
Street Musicians in Granada

11. People Watching At Plaza Nueva

Plaza Nueva (New Square) is actually the oldest part of the city. This is where a bunch of Granada’s old buildings and monuments are located.

The square used to be the site of tournaments, games and bullfights in the city. From here you can start the climb up to Alhambra Palace, or just hang out at a local cafe and watch the tourists and street performers milling about.

It’s where most people begin walking up the river Darro, along the Carrera Del Darro, to reach The Albayzín and Sacromonte neighborhoods. You can also enter the Church Of Santa Ana for free.

12. Shopping At Alcaiceria

If you’re looking for a unique souvenir in Granada, the best place to go is Alcaiceria. In the past, this area was a Great Bazaar. Although those days are long gone, you can still find earthenware that is reminiscent of the Moorish style of the Middle Ages.

I also enjoyed taking in the artistry of authentic Granada Taracea. Some of this furniture and the other wood touches would have made a nice addition to my place if I wasn’t living out of a backpack at the time!

Sierra Nevada Mountains Spain
Skiing the Sierra Nevada in Spain

13. Sierra Nevada Mountains

These mountains are technically 30 minutes outside of Granada, but it’s a must-see for all travelers. The Sierra Nevada can be accessed via car, bus or taxi, meaning there’s no excuse not to check them out!

If you’re into skiing, this is by far the best spot in Spain. If you’re visiting in the summer there’s also mountain biking, hiking and music festivals. Make sure to check out the hanging suspension bridges of Los Cahorros!

14. Parque de las Ciencias (Science Park)

Granada is a wonderful place to learn about history and view ancient architecture. To take a break from Granada’s charming evidence of the past, check out the very modern Science Park.

Unlike many science museums, this interactive location was truly built with people of all ages in mind. I was able to participate in many hands-on activities, which were also popular with children. My favorite part of the Science Park was the planetarium.

Granada Orange Trees
Orange Trees Everywhere in Granada!

15. Soak In A Hammam

A hammam, if you are unaware, is a kind of steam room where people go to wash themselves (or be washed by others). Visiting an Arab hammam is a very typical thing to do in Granada.

Often, they involve bathing pools, washing down with black soap, and exfoliation of the skin. The most popular hammam in Granada is Hammam Al Andalus, located in the old city of Granada.

16. Corral del Carbón

Corral del Carbón is an interesting place to visit if you’re interested in the history of the Nasrid dynasty because it’s the oldest remaining building in Granada from that era. Plus it’s free!

Built in the fourteenth century by Yusuf the First — it was used as a warehouse for goods and a shelter for merchants. Later it was also used for stage performances.

As an added bonus, if you visit Corral del Carbón in the summer there’s a chance of running into a flamenco or play performance in the courtyard. There’s also a bookstore inside the building.

Granada Cathedral in Spain
The Beautiful Cathedral in Granada

17. The Granada Cathedral

Regardless of your cultural or religious views, you simply have to make some time to visit the Granada Cathedral. This stunning example of architecture was one of my favorite parts of the city.

The combination of Gothic and Renaissance style makes it pretty cool. Make sure you have plenty of room on your memory card for photographing the stunning exterior of this 16th-century masterpiece.

18. Royal Chapel Tombs & Crypt

The tombs of the Royal Chapel, known locally as Los Reyes Catolicos, were fascinating. The Royal Chapel itself is more than worth a visit if you like history.

It’s interesting to see the graves of royalty. The chapel once held the bodies of Queen Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, but were later moved. Now only the Catholic Monarchs and their children are buried here.

The entrance to the Royal Chapel is at La Lonja, in the Cathedral Complex, and it is open from 10:15am – 6:30pm. A ticket costs €5 EURO.

Transportation in Granada
First You Have to Get Here!

Getting To Granada

Flying Within Spain

Granada has a small airport that runs daily flights from Madrid and Barcelona. Flights are often cheaper to nearby Malaga though, and then you can take a bus from there. Check for deals on Skyscanner and read my guide to tips for finding cheap flights.

Renting A Car In Spain

The best site to book your car is Discover Car Hire. They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car in Spain.

Traveling By Bus

Most people get to Granada traveling by bus from other large Spanish cities. Just be aware the bus station is slightly out of town and requires a taxi or local bus to reach the city center.

The bus from Madrid takes about 4-5 hours depending on the class. A bus from Malaga only takes about 1.5 hours. You can book tickets with ALSA.

Traveling By Train

Granada’s train station is at Avenida de Andaluces. However the trains are not high-speed, and the main routes are undergoing construction work until 2019. The train takes about 5.5 hours from Madrid, and 4 hours from Seville.

You can search for and book train tickets on Rail Europe.

Where to Stay in Granada
Neighborhoods in Granada

Where To Stay In Granada

There are all sorts of good accommodation options in the many neighborhoods of Granada, from right next to the Alhambra Palace itself to budget backpacker hostels. Here are suggestions for places to stay on your trip to Granada Spain…


Best Accommodation In Granada


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Travel Planning Resources for Granada

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my post on how I find the cheap flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Car Hire is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Find a great hotel in Granada. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my tips for booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

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Granada is a beautiful little city in the South of Spain where I lived for a month as a digital nomad. Here are some of the best things to do in Granada if you're passing through!
Granada is a beautiful little city in the South of Spain where I lived for a month as a digital nomad. Here are some of the best things to do in Granada if you're passing through!

READ MORE SPAIN TRAVEL TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide on how to explore Granada on a budget! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Any questions about things to do in Granada? Do you have other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
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Comments (18)

  1. I loved the Alhambra Palace, it was so beautiful! Similar architecture and decorations I have seen only in Algeria.

  2. During my trip to Andalusia, Granada was the cheapest city after Malaga and Seville. As you said, when you go to a tapas bar and have a drink, you get one tapas for every drink you order. Restaurants are cheaper than in Seville. About the Alhambra visit, the single ticket is quite affordable (about 13-14€) but it is strongly advised to take a guide (and in this case book in advance the guided tour). The price is then about 40€. In conclusion, if you want to discover the charm of Andalusia on a budget, Granada is clearly the destination to go to!

  3. Very nice to stay in Granada.
    Old town is very caractheristic and Alhambra is wonderful . . . .
    And then in the evening nothing better than “jamom e un vaso di sangria”

  4. Im backpacking in Spain for 20 days (that’s all I can get!). This 2-day on a budget in Granada is a BIG help. How did you get around the city, by bus? local train?

  5. I love [CENSORED]. Some of the worlds best flamenco guitarists have played here. Better tourists not know about this spot IMO. Better to understand the culture and history of flamenco than go to a place that comes alive after 1-2am.

    • I understand what you mean, but my guess is the average tourist won’t visit that late at night, so far from the city center. Plus I’ve decided to not name it specifically for that reason.

      Some hidden spots need to stay hidden!

  6. secret tip for last minute Alhambra tix: there are ticket kiosks in a small building near the main ticket counters. If you pay with a debit or credit card, you can skip the line & buy tix (early morning is best still). If using a credit card, you must have a 4-digit PIN! We also heard about the main library in Granada having tix for sale but did not try that.

  7. The last time I saw a leg like that was on Dancing with the Stars, or was that an S&M site? The cave is neat. I wouldn’t want to have eaten a bowl of chili before I went in. The free appetizers with wine should be mandatory worldwide. The gypsy music should be worth the whole trip.

    • You should see what some of the hippie caves look like from the outside. Pretty cool. I’m planning to take more photos soon.

  8. I love Granada! One of my favourite things is to go to the Convent on Calle Gloria and buy traditional Andalucian sweets (more like cookies, but they are called sweets) from the nuns. The nuns living in the convent bake the sweets themselves and sell them as a way to earn a small income. They also sell wine, though it is made at another Convent, not at this particular one.

    Who would have thought… the nuns are actually amazing bakers. It’s not only for the novelty value, they taste good too!

  9. Never been to Grenada, but it looks beautiful! I dance Paso Doble, and Flamenco isn’t too far off, so I think this place would suit me just fine! :)

  10. I would also recommend the Parque de las Ciencias if you’re up for a bit of quirky fun. The Cathedral is an absolute must. The Catholic Kings, Isabel and Ferdinand are buried there. This couple was extremely important to Spanish history! The Arab Baths are also pretty affordable if the girls (and guys) out there are looking to relax and be pampered for a few hours. I studied abroad in this city back in 2010 and loved every minute of it. This post definitely took me back.