Perched at the foot of Spain’s Sierra Nevada, Iberia’s highest mountain range, is Granada. A town landscaped with crags, ravines, and terraced fields, Granada is where the the steep slopes of the Sierra Nevada meet the plains. One of the most celebrated architectural highlights of the region is the ancient royal citadel of the Alhambra, which attracts many thousands of tourists to Granada each year. Magnificent architecture, energetic dance performances, gaudy fiestas, and religious processions, you’ll find an amusing combination of things to do here. Follow this list we’ve put together and experience the best of the city like a local. Here are the best non-touristy things to do in Granada, Spain.
1. Have a walk to remember at Carrera del Darro
A walk down Granada’s Carrera del Darro is all things scenic. This narrow stretch is rife with crumbling bridges and beautiful facades all along. Strolling past, you’ll have the gentle River Darro on one side and 16th- and 17th-century buildings lining the path on the other side. In peak tourist season, it can get quite crowded here, but the allure remains intact. Walks at the dawn or dusk will only add to the experience. There are several restaurants and bars on the street, so fret not if the walk stimulates your appetite.
Carrera del Darro
Website: Carrera del Darro
You may be an avid photographer looking for a perfect shot or one who enjoys balmy wind slapping against your cheek–Sacromonte viewpoint will offer you best of both. Slightly removed from Granada’s main city center, this point offers some brilliant views of the region. A steep walk uphill the Gypsy quarter of Granada will take you to this highest point of the city. Once at the summit, you’ll find the challenging hike pays off with stunning 360-degree views of the Spanish countryside set against a picturesque landscape. Stay a bit longer and you’ll be able to catch the sun set over Albaicín. Enthusiastic travellers go a mile further and time their hikes in a way that they’re able to see the sun rise over the majestic Alhambra. Trust us, it’s definitely a sight!
Albayzin and Sacromonte Private Tour at Sunset
Duration: 2.5 hour
3. Call it a day watching the sun at Mirador de San Nicolás
If you thought Sacromonte viewpoint was stunning, Mirador de San Nicolás viewpoint is nothing less. Located higher up from the bars, white houses, and cobbled streets in the Albayzín neighbourhood, it offers an unmissable view of the Generalife Gardens and the Alhambra set against a backdrop of the magnificent Sierra Nevada ranges. Catching the sunset from here is a special delight. US president Bill Clinton was so taken in by the views from here that he went on to call it “the most beautiful sunset in the world”. It can be reached by foot or by a bus as well. However, please beware of bag-snatchers and pickpockets here.
Mirador de San Nicolás
Address: Calle Espaldas a San Nicolas s/n, 18009 Granada, Spain
Website: Mirador de San Nicolás
4. Go back in time at Casa de Zafra
Built in the 14th century as a modest Moorish house with a central courtyard and pool, Casa de Zafra is perhaps the best intact example of a residential dwelling from its time. There are excellent decorative wall paintings and carved ceilings you can appreciate here, thanks to several restorative efforts. If you’re an architecture or history buff, you’ll find a trip here simply amazing. There’s also a museum dedicated to take visitors through Spain’s past here. The visit won’t take you more than half an hour, so you must definitely take out that much time from your schedule and pay this place a visit.
Casa de Zafra
Address: Calle Portería de la Concepción, 8 18010 Granada
Website: Casa de Zafra
Opening hours: 10am - 5pm (daily)
5. Delight in good drinks and a side of food at La Sitarilla
La Sitarilla is a quintessentially Spanish bar, which you’ll find packed with locals regardless of what time you go there. Usually you expect getting a free drink with your meal at restaurants or bars, here it’s entirely the opposite. No matter which drink you order, it’ll always be accompanied by a complimentary dish of food. Ever heard of such a concept? Your drink could be a alcoholic, non-alcoholic, or even a fizzy beverage and the rule applies. The portions of the dishes are generous so order accordingly. The prices are unbelievably reasonable, too. The servers are helpful and friendly here, so don’t worry if you’re not very savvy in speaking Spanish. Most tourists are unaware of its existence so go there and give others plenty of reasons to be jealous!
Address: 7 San Miguel Alta Street 18002 Granada, Spain
Website: La Sitarilla
Opening hours: 10am - 12am (daily)
6. Head to Alcaicería Market, but not just for shopping
For a full-blown Arabian experience, head to the Alcaicería Market in Old Granada. Packed with quirky knickknacks that make for great souvenirs, you’ll find everything right from spices to fabrics in its narrow alleys. Cobbled streets and worn-out buildings that once made up a Moorish market have now transformed into a modern yet local market. Apart from shopping,which is its main calling point, you can also have a great time people watching, amplified by the historicity of the place. You can find yourself a good spot at one of the restaurants and just soak in the Arabian aesthetic and architecture all around. If you’re ambling about here, find your way to a courtyard that houses a fountain, perhaps a place where camels were once watered.
Address: Calle Alcaicería, 1 Granada
Website: Alcaicería Market
Opening hours: 10am - 8pm (daily)
7. Spend a day with gypsies at the Sacromonte Gypsy caves
Meander slightly away from Granada’s main areas into Sacromonte and you’ll find a narrow path along the hillside ridge, leading your way into shacks and caves. Uniquely decorated with wood and metal artifacts, these are previously-abandoned spaces occupied by an eclectic mix of people now. While the original inhabitants were people of the Gitano or Romani descent, they have now been replaced by seasonal inhabitants, i.e. tourists, artists, etc. You can spend a few hours or even an entire night to enjoy the spirit of freedom that abounds the atmosphere here. The caves are enveloped in flora and fauna and have electricity. Although, shared bathrooms and lack of running of water might be a couple of things to keep in mind before venturing. Leave behind the city’s modern offerings behind and spend some time living with these gypsies for a non-touristy twist to your holiday.
Sacromonte Gypsy caves
Website: Sacromonte Gypsy caves
8. Have a night filled with dance, music, and a whole lot of energy at a flamenco show (from USD 29)
A trip to Spain can’t be considered complete if you haven’t attended at least one Flamenco performance. Having originated in the Granada region itself, you’ll find a great many spots in the city that you can hit up to witness this thrilling and energetic Spanish dance form. You can catch some superb shows at Sacromonte’s Gypsy caves that haven’t become commercialized and retain the original charm. There will be singing, dancing, tapping, dining, and wining, all in the course of one evening! Hispanic women sporting polka dot dresses and flaunting nuanced emotions as well as moves–ooof, we’re already in love!
Skip the Line: 1 Hour Flamenco Show Ticket in a Cave-Restaurant in Granada
Duration: 1 hour
Introduced to Spain by the Andalucían Moors, hammams are a traditional Arabian equivalent of modern-day saunas and spas. Much like their contemporary counterparts, hammams offer services like bathing, steaming, and massage to alleviate stress. So give your body some tender love and care and book yourself an appointment at one of the many hammams in Granada. Several new services like aromatherapy and specialised massages have now been introduced by hammams in the town to make it a wholly pleasurable experience for their customers. This will definitely make for a perfect end to a tiring day or an exhausting trip.
Hammam Al Andalus Arabian Baths Experience in Granada
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
10. Visit a secret oasis in the middle of the city
Rising from a dark past when this spot housed a palace, dungeons, and a place of worship, the stunning gardens of Carmen de los Martires now lie here. Strewn with grottos, fountains, magnolias, palm trees, and walking paths, this place is an ideal non-touristy thing to do after a long day of activities for tourists. If Arabian hammams aren’t your thing, head here. The garden is styled with a typically French-English aesthetic–French Baroque architectural elements like the fountain and English-style garden setting–complementing an overall atmosphere of serenity and tranquility that exudes from every aspect here. There’s even a small lake with a lovely castle folly within its premises. Feed the ducks loitering around freely here or just sit and marvel at the greenery.
Carmen de los Martires
Address: Carmen de los Martires, Paseo de los Martires, Granada, Andalucia, Spain
Website: Carmen de los Martires
Opening hours: Varies (check website)
A destination straight out of a story book
The setting of the city is such that it feels like the Middle Eastern folktale, “One Thousand and One Nights” coming to life. Relics of a warring past and notes of a thriving present make Granada a town like none other. Among Andalucía’s main cities, Granada is a humbling repository of Spain’s historical symbols as well as identity. For your trip to this magical destination, these non-touristy things to do in Granada are sure to keep your interest piqued.
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