So you’ve come to Granada to see the Alhambra. You spent a day touring the incredible site, one of the finalists for the seven new wonders of the world, and maybe even watched the sun set from one of the view points in the city to see it glow in the twilight. Tomorrow you’ll wake up and have another day in Granada before continuing along on your Spanish journey. What is there to do? Does Granada have anything to offer outside of its famous fortress and palace complex?
While virtually every tourist who comes to this southern Spanish city is here for the Alhambra, Granada fortunately offers some other things that are absolutely worth seeing, meaning a second – or even a third – day here is not only appropriate, but recommended. Let’s walk through a few things to see in Granada besides the Alhambra.
Just because the Alhambra can be seen from almost everywhere doesn’t mean it’s the only sight worth visiting in Granada.
Granada Cathedral and the Royal Chapel
While connected, these churches have separate admission fees. If you’re a fan of cathedrals, see both. If you have to pick one, the Royal Chapel is the standout. (It doesn’t allow photos so you’ll have to take my word.) This church was designed by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, to house their tombs. And it does, as well as the final resting places of a couple additional monarchs.
It also holds Isabella’s personal religious art collection, artifacts from their reign, and all the elegant altars and artworks befitting the burial place of the rulers who united Spain, finished the reconquest, and are known simply as the Catholic Monarchs for purifying Catholicism by establishing the inquisition. So while historically they are seen with mixed reviews, here in Spain they are revered almost fanatically. As such, their chapel is pretty well maintained, updated, and gorgeous.
The entrance to the cathedral complex
This is the oldest market in Europe, supposedly, dating from before the conquest of Granada in 1492, although it is less than half the size of the original. If you want souvenirs, this is the place to visit. The stalls sell all sorts of interesting things from religious iconography to Moorish tiles to spices. If you aren’t going down to Morocco on your trip, this is probably the best place to purchase spices and teas. I did. A lot of them.
For those who have been to Istanbul or North Africa and the bazaars there, this won’t be so impressive. But in the context of Western Europe, it is pretty cool. It’s also directly across from the Royal Chapel, making it a nice diversion following the seriousness of the church.
I love markets like this!
This hillside district of Granada is in many ways the opposite to the luxury of the Alhambra. Its initial occupants (and many current) are the Romani. What makes the neighborhood unique is that many of the dwellings are built into caves that formed in the hills. Walk through for the views of the Alhambra and nearby mountains, but climb to the top to visit the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte to truly learn about the caves and the people who lived here.
It’s a steep climb up, and can be hot, but it is worthwhile. The caves are not huge, but with an extended family occupying many, it could actually be a pleasant life. I picked the one I’d live in, with a separate alcove for my writer’s nook.
The cave houses of Sacromonte are worth a visit.
Sightseeing out of the way, it is time to feast on the best of Granada. Tapas here are especially cheap, but deliciously wonderful. My favorite: Avila Tapas – and its Avila II twin, which is actually a better ambiance. Buy a drink and pick a tapa to receive for free. Two drinks and two tapas per person is a solid and cheap dinner!
For a bite to eat while walking, swing by Viandas de Salamanca (Viandas Hacienda Zorita on Google maps) for what is advertised as the “world’s best bocadillo,” a sandwich of thinly sliced Iberian ham with or without cheese. Well, it lives up to the billing, and for less than €5. Get one!
Truth in advertising!
However you slice it, Granada is a pretty cool city. In winter you can even leave town and go skiing in the nearby mountains, the highest this side of the Pyrenees. While the principal reason to visit is – justifiably – the Alhambra, make sure to spend at least one more day exploring the city.
Like it? Pin it!