You won’t have any problem finding places to visit in the Andalusia region of Spain. One of the region’s best known tourist destinations, Granada, is a city bursting with history and character. It also happens to be home to one of Spain’s most famous attractions, the Alhambra. It should come as no surprise then that Granada is an essential stop on any Spain itinerary.
What is nice about Granada is that you don’t need to allow a huge amount of time to have a comfortable visit. In fact, the best places to visit in Granada can be quite conveniently folded into a single day of sightseeing. The trick with seeing any big destination in such a short time-frame is planning, and that’s exactly where this Granada itinerary comes into play. With it, you’ll have no doubt about what to do in Granada in 1 day to make the most of your visit.
Best Time to Visit Granada
With travel, timing is everything, since bad weather or crazy long lines can upend an otherwise perfect perfect vacation. But with the right timing you can easily set yourself on track to have the perfect trip.
It’s generally agreed that the best time to visit Granada is during the spring and autumn. In September and October you’ll find that the city has nice weather, but fewer crowds. The same goes for April, May, and early June, though those months can be a little cooler. Typically the main period to miss is summer, as July and August are not only high season in Granada but are also when the weather is at its hottest and driest.
For an offbeat choice, you may want to look at visiting Granada in winter. November through February is very much the low season for the city and while it will be cool there, it should be relatively warmer than other parts of Europe at that time. Because it’s low season, you can also enjoy cheaper accommodation rates.
How to Get Around Granada
While visiting Granada, another thing you need to think about is how to make your way around the city. If you’re only spending one day there, chances are you won’t venture much further than the city center and the sights of the Alhambra, which makes things easier. Thanks to that, you’ll probably find that walking is the most sensible option. There’s also the fact that walking is your only real way of getting around all the sights of the Alhambra.
Your other alternative for getting around Granada is the city’s bus network. Buses run all over the city and there are even minibuses (C32 and C30) which can take you up to the Alhambra from the city center. A single trip ticket starts at €1.40, with more for night buses and bus passes.
As for arriving in Granada, there are two main options if you fly in. While Granada is serviced by its own airport, there are only a limited number of destinations and flights that fly there. The other alternative is to look to larger regional airports, namely Malaga and Seville. If you are flying into Granada airport, there are regular buses that run from the airport to the city bus station and city center, costing €4 one way.
Where to Stay in Granada
Even though Granada is a fairly large city for this part of Spain, deciding where to stay in Granada shouldn’t be too difficult. As a tourist there, your main focus will likely be on the Alhambra and the Old Town, so the city center is where you want to be looking for accommodation. The good news is that generally the best places to stay in Granada and many of the city’s options are found there so you shouldn’t run into too many difficulties finding the right area to stay in.
If you’re looking to wrap yourself in comfort and grandeur, stay at the Hotel Alhambra Palace up on the hill by the city’s most famous attraction. Located close to the Alhambra with stylish rooms and excellent service, this hotel is a treat to stay at.
For a nice mix of home comforts, style, and affordability, Petit Palais 1829 is well worth considering. This large apartment in the city center has everything from a kitchen to a washing machine truly making you feel at home.
While you’ll find plenty of hostels with dorms, you can have your own room at Pensión El Hidalgo for around the same price. Hosted by a friendly family in the city center, this guesthouse may be simple but it has all the essentials for your visit.
For more accommodation options in Granada check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 1-Day Granada Itinerary
It may come as a surprise that it is possible to see the highlights of such a remarkable Spanish destination in just one day. While this city will reward you more and more the longer you stay, 1 day in Granada is all it takes to see the city’s best attractions. Now, if you don’t know the city, fitting the best things to do in Granada into a single day is going to be a big challenge. That’s where our Granada travel itinerary comes into play, as it will tell you what you need to know to make all this possible. This Granada itinerary takes you through the main sights in the historic center of Granada and offers suggestions for if you happen to have more time in the city.
However, before we get to our Granada itinerary, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and, trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
We personally use and recommend SafetyWing. For only around $10 a week, it’s really a no-brainer. You can get a quick, non-binding quote below:
With the important matter of insurance covered, it’s time we looked at how you can see the best of Granada in one day and make the most of your time in Spain.
When in the center of Granada, there’s no better place to begin your visit than with the Granada Cathedral. Unlike many places in Spain, this cathedral has no Moorish influence and instead boasts beautiful Renaissance architecture from the 16th century.
Imposing from afar and quite detailed when you get up close to its facade, the cathedral is actually most impressive from inside. Decked out in white and gold, with a vaulted ceiling and checkered tiles, there’s a lot to take in as you roam the cathedral’s cavernous interior.
Right next to the Cathedral of Granada you’ll come across a sight just as impressive, the Royal Chapel. Specifically built to house the remains of the royal family, this 16th century chapel houses two of Spain’s most famed monarchs. The remains of both Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II of Aragon are located inside this ornate mausoleum, as well as several other royals. Besides admiring the sculpting on the royal tombs, there is also artwork to see inside the Sacristy-Museum.
Recommendation: If you want to learn more about the history of the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel, consider booking a guided tour with a local expert.
While you’re down in the center of the city, you may as well take some time to explore the other sights in the area. What’s nice about wandering through the narrow labyrinth of streets here is that you can find many sights from the city’s distant Moorish past. A good place to start is with the Alcaiceria, a small passageway that is all that is left of the old Islamic merchant bazaar. Then there’s the Madrasah of Granada, the former mosque school which is now part of the University of Granada.
You’ll also come across more of these Moorish remains if you take a stroll along the scenic street of Carrera del Darro. This cobblestone street along the River Darro is actually quite romantic, and it brings you to both the El Bañuelo and Casa de Zafra. El Bañuelo is an ancient Arabic hammam from the 11th century, and Casa de Zafra is a history museum set inside a 14th century house.
When people talk about the Old Town of Granada, they tend to talk about the neighborhood of Albaicín. Sprawling up the hillside to the east of the city center, Albaicín is Granada’s medieval Moorish quarter. Thanks to its winding streets and traditional houses, the neighborhood was included as a UNESCO site when the Alhambra was added to the register.
The best way to visit Albaicín is to simply start at the bottom of the hill and stroll up through the quarter. Spend as much time up there as you like, but make sure to see the view from the Mirador San Nicolás before you leave. Not only will you get a fantastic view of Granada but also the iconic angle of the Alhambra in all its glory.
Recommendation: Albaicín is also a great place to visit around sunset because of the amazing panoramic views it offers. There are even dedicated sunset walking tours that go to this part of town.
Alhambra: Alcazaba & Carlos V Palace
Now we get to the biggest reason that most popular come to visit Granada, the Alhambra. Positioned inside a vast fortress, this palace complex dates back to the 13th century. It was from the Alhambra that the Emirate of Granada ruled until the Christian Reconquista forced the Muslim ruling dyanasties out. Left to ruins for centuries, it’s incredible how much of this grand fortress has survived, making it little surprise that UNESCO granted it world heritage status.
You could spend pretty much all your time in Granada in the Alhambra and not run out of things to do. We’ll get to the main sights in the fortress in a moment, but there are some other ones that deserve a mention. First is the Alcazaba, the pointy end of the Alhambra fortifications, where you’ll pass ruins and the site of the former barracks to reach the big Vela Tower and its city views. Among the other assorted ruins, fortifications, and buildings, there is also the Carlos V Palace, built for Emperor Carlos V after the Reconquista. Unlike other big landmarks in the Alhambra, this palace is free to the public to visit.
Recommendation: The best way to get to the Alhambra from Albaicín is by minibus C32. If you are reasonably fit you can also walk up the Cuesta del Rey Chico/Cuesta de los Chinos, which takes about 15-20 minutes.
Alhambra: Nasrid Palaces
One of the most popular attractions of the palace is the exquisite Nasrid Palaces. These were the main palaces of the fortress complex and where the private and official parts of the kings’ lives took place. A tour of the palaces passes through three sections, first a section for affairs of state, then the official private residence, and lastly a section for the royal family and harem. Along the way you pass through countless palace rooms, halls and courtyards, each with incredibly ornate architecture and finely detailed walls, ceilings and pillars. What’s good about the Nasrid Palaces is that even if you can’t get tickets for the day visit, they’re just as spellbinding at night.
Recommendation: If you plan to visit the Nasrid Palaces, and you really should, make sure to buy your Alhambra tickets well in advance. You can buy your fast-track tickets here. However, we highly recommend you book a guided tour instead. That way you get to learn all about the fascinating history and significance of Alhambra.
The other major part of the Alhambra not to miss is the Generalife gardens. Built as a royal summer palace with surrounding gardens for the Sultan during the 13th-14th centuries, this is one of the prettiest spots within the Alhambra. Visiting the Generalife is all about strolling through the perfectly manicured gardens, past the playful fountains and pools, not to mention gawking at the many different viewpoints. Standing in the courtyard garden, surrounded by vibrant flowers and astounding villa architecture, the Generalife certainly looks fit for a sultan.
Have More Than 24 Hours in Granada?
At this stage it should be pretty clear that you can experience a lot of what Granada has to offer in a day. And yet, if you choose to spend more than 24 hours in Granada, you won’t have any problem finding more to see and do there. Above we’ve covered the big-ticket attractions in the city, but Granada has more that you may not be aware of. Plus there are the opportunities open to you in the surrounding regions, so don’t be afraid to spend more time in Granada if you can.
1. Los Cahorros in Monachil
From any of Granada’s viewpoints you’re bound to notice the dramatic form of the Sierra Nevada mountains not far away. So one way you can spend a second day in Granada is by venturing out to explore the mountains. Many visitors to the mountains choose to spend their day doing a walk through the Los Cahorros Gorge, first starting in the village of Monachil. Hiking here you’re surrounded by the rugged natural beauty of the gorge as well as superb views from the hilltops, not to mention the hanging bridges that connect one of the mountain routes.
Recommendation: Another popular day trip is this 4WD Safari of the Sierra Nevada. On this 6-hour jeep safari you travel through picturesque villages and the forests of Andalucia, while enjoying breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada.
2. Granada Charterhouse
They say that good things take time, and the Granada Charterhouse in the city’s northern outskirts is proof of that. It took over 300 years for the construction of this monastery to be completed and you can’t argue with the results. This substantial building is said to be one of Spain’s most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture. That may not seem clear from the outside but venture in and you’ll be charmed by the lavish interior, and tabernacle in particular.
3. Sacromonte Caves Museum
Even though it’s close to the city center, it’s interesting how the Sacromonte Caves Museum manages to show visitors a totally new side to Granada. Found in the Sacromonte neighborhood, this ethnographic museum displays what life was like for residents 100 years ago who called local caves here home. All told, ten caves have been recreated to show what living conditions were like for the community of Spanish “gypsies”, known as Gitanos, who lived here.
And there you have it – the ultimate Granada itinerary with everything you need to know to comfortably explore Granada in 1 day. While the Alhambra will always be the city’s star attraction, you should be able to see that there’s plenty more to fill a visit.