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Things to Do in Granada

The last Moorish stronghold in the heart of Andalucia, resettled by Catholic monarchs and migrating Romani, Granada thrums to a rhythm all its own. Crowned by the magnificent Alhambra Palace complex and set against the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, this picturesque little city holds a wealth of attractions. The UNESCO World Heritage–listed Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens belong right at the top of your list. A priority-access or skip-the-line tour is the best way to experience this treasure trove of Nasrid-era art and architecture. Other historical highlights include the Cathedral, Nasrid Palace, the Palace of Charles V, and Alcazaba Fortress. Fascinating though it may be, don't let the past consume your whole visit: Stroll around to admire the work of Granada's prolific street artists (it's not all "graffiti"), visit the Arabian Baths at Hammam Al Andalus, and try to catch a local festival, where you'll see colorful costumes, traditional dances, and Andalusian horses on parade. In the evenings, Granada's living culture takes the stage: Watch a fiery Flamenco performance in the Sacromonte caves; take a walking tour of the Albaicin (Albayzin), the old Moorish quarter; and feast on tapas and sangria. A number of day-trip destinations also lie within easy reach of the city. Visit the Caves of Nerja, go wine tasting in the mountain town of Ronda, or relax on the golden beaches of Costa Tropical. Nature-lovers can hike in the Sierra Nevada National Park, home to the Iberian Peninsula's highest mountains, or tour by 4-wheel-drive.
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Alhambra (Alhambra de Granada)
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Built on a hill overlooking Granada and set against a backdrop of the Sierra Nevada, the Alhambra (Alhambra de Granada) is a sprawling complex of intricately decorated palaces, pristine gardens, and a once-mighty fortress. This UNESCO World Heritage site was constructed during the Nasrid Dynasty and later partially destroyed and rebuilt by King Charles V. With its mix of Renaissance and Moorish architecture, the Alhambra Palace is the most sought-after attraction for visitors to Granada, sitting high on most must-see lists for Andalucia and Spain as a whole.

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Generalife Gardens
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The 13th-century Generalife served as a summer retreat for Nasrid kings when they needed a break from palace affairs. From its perch on Cerro del Sol (Hill of the Sun), the series of terraces, promenades, and gardens spread across 74 landscaped acres (30 hectares) of the Alhambra complex afford some of the best views over Granada.

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Palace of Charles V (Palacio de Carlos V)
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During a visit to Granada in 1526, King Charles V (Carlos V) chose the Alhambra as the site of his future royal residence. The Palace of Charles V (Palacio de Caros V) stands in stark contrast to the style of the surrounding Moorish Alhambra. It is notable for its 2-level columned circular courtyard and surrounding square structure.

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Sacromonte
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The Sacromonte district of Granada is the seat of the thriving Gitano gypsy community that settled in hillside caves during the 15th and 16th centuries. Today, Sacromonte is also the epicenter of Granada’s zambra flamenco scene, with performances staged at thee tablaos along Camino del Sacromonte.

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Albaicín
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The Albaicín (also spelled Albayzín or Albaycín) is Granada's old Muslim quarter, and its steep twisting streets underscore a medieval past. Founded in 1228 by the Moors, the neighborhood is dotted with Baroque churches inside old mosques and traditionalcarmenes (villas). Albaicín is also known for having stellar views of the Alhambra.

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Mirador de San Nicolás
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The biggest draw of Granada’s Albaycin quarter (the old Moorish quarter) is the hilltop Mirador de San Nicolás, a small plaza that lies in front of San Nicolás Church. This lookout point offers panoramic views spanning the city center, the distant Sierra Nevada Mountains, Rio Darro canyon and, most famously, the grand Alhambra palace.

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Hammam Al Andalus Granada
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The tranquil Hammam Al Ándalus Granada, located at the foot of the Alhambra and just past Santa Ana Church, is the place to relax after a long day of exploring the Alhambra’s gardens, palace, and fortress. The Arabian-bath setting has pools of different temperatures and a steam room for Moorish-style rejuvenation.

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Royal Chapel of Granada (Capilla Real)
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Situated side by side, the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel of Granada (Capilla Real) together make an impressive monument to the power of Christian monarchs in Andalucia. The cavernous cathedral houses paintings by Ribera and El Greco; the remains of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragón are interred within the chapel’s shrine.

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Paseo de los Tristes
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Granada's Paseo de los Tristes is a riverside walkway along the canyon separating the Alhambra from the Albaicín neighborhood. Paseo de los Tristes once served as the route for funeral processions—hence its name, which means "Promenade of the Sad." Today restaurant terraces tempt passersby with refreshment and sweeping Alhambra views.

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Plaza Nueva
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Plaza Nueva has long been at the center of local life in Granada, and its location at the foot of the Alhambra palace means many tourists will pass through it. Laid out in the early Christian era, the square was built over the Darro River and once served as an arena for sporting tournaments and bullfights, as well as public executions.

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More Things to Do in Granada

Sierra Nevada National Park (Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada)

Sierra Nevada National Park (Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada)

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Sierra Nevada, known as the Mountain of the Sun by Andalucia’s Moorish residents, is home to 15 peaks that are more than 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) high, including the highest point on the Iberian Peninsula and Europe’s most southerly ski resort. This national park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve attracts hikers from around the world.

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San Jeronimo Monastery (Monasterio de San Jerónimo)

San Jeronimo Monastery (Monasterio de San Jerónimo)

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San Jeronimo Monastery (Monasterio de San Jerónimo), the first monastery built after the Christian conquest of Granada, was also the first church in the world consecrated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The monastery is known for housing one of the most exquisite Spanish Baroque sacristies on earth, as well as its courtyard, which is filled with orange trees.

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Plaza Bib Rambla

Plaza Bib Rambla

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Also known as Plaza de las Flores (Flowers Square), pedestrian-friendly Plaza Bib-Rambla is at the heart of Granada’s bustling street scene. In the center of the plaza is a 17th-century marble fountain featuring Neptune, and the bell tower of Granada’s Spanish Renaissance cathedral peers over townhouse facades with wrought-iron balconies.

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Alcaicería

Alcaicería

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The Alcaicería was once a lively Arab bazaar and the center of the city’s Muslim silk exchange. The original gated bazaar was almost entirely destroyed by a fire back in 1843, and today the restored shops occupy a smaller space, dotted around Calle Alcaiceria, in the shadows of the Cathedral of Granada.

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Cartuja Monastery (Monasterio de la Cartuja)

Cartuja Monastery (Monasterio de la Cartuja)

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Cartuja Monastery (Monasterio de la Cartuja) is where late-baroque Spanish architecture reaches its most lavish heights. Although work began in the 16th century, construction continued for another three centuries and the complex was never actually completed. The imposing sandstone exterior gives way to a lavish interior of marble, ivory, ornate stucco, and gilt.

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Campo del Príncipe

Campo del Príncipe

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Campo del Príncipe—the Prince’s Field—is said to be named for Prince Juan, whose late-15th-century wedding was supposed to be celebrated here (but wasn’t). Today the square is known as a pilgrimage destination during Holy Week, when its 17th-century white alabaster Cristo de los Favores cross serves as the main draw.

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Science Park (Parque de las Ciencias)

Science Park (Parque de las Ciencias)

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Go beyond just seeing Granada’s historical sights, and head for its famous Science Park, the most visited museum in Andalucia. The 70,000-square-meter interactive museum is a veritable playground of discovery that features concepts ranging from physics to chemistry, culture, philosophy and more.

These subjects are investigated in a variety of spaces, both indoors and out. Inside, for example, check out the planetarium, Foucault’s pendulum, special temporary exhibits, and an area with basic concepts and activities that are suitable for younger children. Outdoors, visit the tropical butterfly house, the astronomical observatory, botanical garden, and much more. With loads to do (largely all available in English, too), one could easily spend hours here immersed in exploration.

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Ermita de San Miguel Alto

Ermita de San Miguel Alto

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Situated atop one of Granada’s northeastern hills, the tiny Ermita de San Miguel Alto (Hermitage of San Miguel) is known for its sweeping views. From the church, look out over the whole city, from the Albaicín neighborhood to the Alhambra fortress and beyond to the distant and often-snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains.

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Aquatropic

Aquatropic

Located in Costa Tropical, Aquatropics is Spain's only saltwater water park. Spanning 376,737 square feet (35,000 square meters), the park offers more than a dozen water attractions, including water slides, wave pools, play pools, Jacuzzis, and waterfalls, as well as non-water attractions and amenities for the whole family.

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Baños Árabes (Arab Baths)

Baños Árabes (Arab Baths)

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A hallmark of Granada’s Moorish tradition is its use of water—fountains, pools, trickling streams, and, of course, the Baños Árabes (Arab Baths). A soothing hammam, with several pools of different temperatures, is a great way to unwind after walking the steep streets of the Albaicin and feasting on tapas.

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