Granada and the Alhambra, a must visit in Spain

laneway in granada spain

Visiting the Alhambra Palace was a long held dream of mine but when we got to Granada in 2017 we found the Alhambra to be just one of Granada’s treasures.

Getting to Granada

We arrived in Granada by first class train from Madrid, and were delighted by the Spanish train service. In truth first class wasn’t really necessary but we enjoyed drinking some free Cava at high speed! Due to some work being done on the rail system we caught a bus from Antequera-Santa Ana station for the final leg of the journey but this was a small annoyance as we sat near a local who was very happy to tell us all about the region surrounding Granada.

Our understanding is that this bus interim leg from Antequera-Santa Ana will be replaced by a train service between the two locations. At the time of writing (October 2018) the bus service was still being used. 

On arrival at Granada station we then caught a taxi to the centre of the City and our accommodation.

Where we stayed in Granada

We had a really lovely apartment in the very centre of Granada, which we booked via Apartamento Centro Granada

We had a challenging time finding our way to the apartment as the address was a narrow street (calle) which was a pedestrian only thorougfare. Our taxi driver explained he could not drop us at the exact address but only at the entrance to the calle. It then took us some time to discover that the entry to the apartment was in the rear lane.

Having sorted all that out, we found the owner and were taken up in the lift to a very well appointed apartment overlooking the calle and very close to the lovely Plaza Bib Rambla.

Things to do in Granada

There is no doubt that the Alhambra Palace is the most famous landmark in Granada and it was high on our list of things to do. Having said that, we quickly realised that Granada was a beautiful, friendly and very accessible City.  Our Central location allowed us to wander through the old City, exploring the Calles, stumbling upon magnificent buildings and enjoying watching the passing parade on the Plaza Bib Rambla.

We got a real taste of the vibrancy of the City as we sat in the Plaza in the evenings watching the passegiata and the children playing around the square until late in the evening. The Plaza was also the location of a number of restaurants as well as ice cream shops; needlesss to say we ended up there most evenings.

Our favourite spot though was the small taverna in the back lane near our accommodation – Taberna Mas Que Vinos. This was a small friendly place which in the Granada tradition served tapas for free along with our drinks.

taberna mas que vinos granada
Our local – Taberna Mas Que Vinos

And very filling those tapas were, as well as delicious. In truth one wouldn’t need a meal after a couple of rounds of these but we did also enjoy some lovely food in both the taverna and the restaurants around the Plaza.

It was warm the entire time we were in Granada and so a beer was refreshing after a day out and about. We were encouraged by the bar staff to try the local beer, aptly named Alhambra, it was good.

tapas at taberna mas que vinos granada
Tapas comes free with your beer or wine in Granada

The architecture in central Granada is very grand with patches of Moorish influence throughout. There are many squares and fountains and statues to explore. There is also very stylish shopping in Granada, with everything from international brands like MAC, to small market-like stalls in the narrow calles. Our noses and our stomachs led us to nougat shops and spice shops near our apartment, we definitely purchased nougat (how could we resist with the sweet smells wafting up to our living room).

Be aware, if planning to shop, siesta is definitely in place in Granada and shops may also be closed on Sundays.

The Alhambra Palace

soft light at the alhambra granada
Soft light on the walls of the Alhambra Palace

There is no doubt that the Alhambra Palace is the jewel in Granada’s crown and for me it was truly a dream come true. But it was more than that, it was one of the most delightfully overwhelming experiences I have ever had.

I’m not sure words can really describe what it is like to visit the Alhambra, I think I can only say do go and see it for yourself. The sacred geometry of the details was mind blowing, as was the water management which is both highly functional and stunningly beautiful in its execution, with the fountains in the gardens almost deafening.

breathtaking details at the alhambra granada
Breathtaking details are everywhere at the Alhambra
beautiful fountains at the alhambra granada
The fountains at the Alhambra were simply stunning

The Alhambra is high on a hill overlooking Granada. We caught a taxi up because we failed to come to terms with the bus service. It is possible to walk but it is relatively steep. We did walk back down and found it to be a very pleasant way to see more of the City.

Touring the Alhambra

You should definitely pre-book your entry tickets to allow you to enter all the areas of the complex. Entry to the Nasrid Palace is by time slots which means that despite the crowds you will still get to enjoy the area without being overrun. We chose to take the official tour as well, which we booked along with our Alhambra ticket. We found this really worthwhile as it gave us such a great overview of the history and design features.

Alhambra tips

  1. pre book your entry ticket
  2. take the official tour
  3. wear comfortable shoes and take a hat
  4. take water
  5. be prepared for steps and some gentle inclines 
  6. go early in the morning before it gets too hot
  7. be aware outside food is not allowed
  8. allow plenty of time; at least 3 hours for the offical tour, plus time to wander afterwards
  9. charge up your phone and/or camera batteries before you to, you will want to take loads of photos
  10. unless you are fit, take transport up but enjoy the walk back down
looking back over granada from alhambra
The view over Granada from the Alhambra

We enjoyed every minute of our time in Granada; we found it to be a friendly, vibrant and beautiful City. We may not have the opportunity to visit again but it will always hold a special place in our hearts.

After Granada we headed to Barcelona. And if walled Cities are of interest to you read about our top 5 (yes it includes the Alhambra)

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