A day in Granada was way too short. I would have loved to stay a second day, but in the game of travel, there’s never enough time for everything.
I arrived in Granada after a slight transit hiccup – the trainline to Granada is closed for repairs and there will be no trains there for a few years. Somehow, in all my research, I found NOTHING about this. When I transferred trains, I was herded to a bus, and cossed my fingers I was headed the right way.
The beauty of driving through Southern Spain
Driving at sunset through the hills was breathtaking, and i started planning a second trip in my head (road trip anyone?). There’s not a postcard in the world that could do justice the rolling hills, peaks, valleys, and sunset justice. The bus was as fast as the train, and we made great time..
Walking the hills of Granada
Other than the Alhambra, I knew very little about Granada. I joined my hostels free walking tour. This tour was perhaps the best one of the trip – over 3 hours long, it didn’t miss a thing.
We went inside the Cathedral of Granada, wandered through the markets and tight streets of the arab quarter. Our guide pointed out ancient buildings that were some of the first libraries and markets, over 1000 years old.
I knew the Alhambra was on a hill, but I hadn’t realized that the rest of Granada was also built into hills (putting San Francisco to shame). We passed more cathedrals and flamenco houses, twisting through neighborhoods of gardened compounds and breathtaking views from the heights. We even briefly passed the gypsy quarter.
Mirador San Nicolas
We ended the tour at perhaps the most breathtaking view: the Mirador San Nicolas. The one problem with the Alhambra is that you can’t see it when you’re inside of it. This vantage point solves that problem. The full scope of the Alhambra’s size becomes evident, its strategic position as a fortress on a hill makes it seem invincible. This is probably the time I most wished for a real camera and not my Kodak disposable.
Arab influence and the best falafel
I love bread and cheese, but at some point, I was sick of eating it at every meal. As I was hiking down the hills, I realized that in a city of Arab Influence, I was bound to get some good middle eastern food. Falafel is my favorite food, and I will say, the falafel in Granada did not disappoint. It’s done right, with the pickled vegetables and sauces. Plus, there’s nothing better than a 5 euro meal that keeps you filled for hours.
I took the shuttle up to the Alhambra. You can walk up, but it was hot, and after my morning of hill climbing, I was relishing the 2 Euro shuttle up the hill. It’s a nice walk, but be sure you leave time to hike it.
BOOK YOUR ALHAMBRA TICKETS WEEKS IN ADVANCE.
They sell out – sometimes you can get last minute tickets, but there is no guarantee. I found calling was the easiest way to book.
I timed it so I had an hour to do the Alcazaba (the fortress) before my time slot to enter the Nazaries Palace, and then finished with the gardens. The first two parts you can only enter once, so make sure you leave yourself ample time to do them.
The Alcazaba reminds you just how amazing the craftsmanship in 800 was. This stone monolith of a fortress is 1200 years old, and here I am thinking my Ikea bedframe is a successful build. I climbed through and eventually ascended to the top of the towers, taking in the breathtaking views of the city and getting a birds eye view of the rest of the Alhambra.
The Palace is something out of Game of Thrones, with open air courtyards, gilded walls, and beautiful script scrolling throughout. Unfortunately I kept getting caught in tour groups, and felt like I rushed through in an effort to untangle myself from the crowds.
I finished up by buying an ice cream from the vendor (a chocolate ice cream bar has never tasted so good) and proceeded to the last part of the Alhambra, the gardens. I could have spent hours wandering through the tree mazes, hoping across the ponds and fountains.
I spent about 2.5 hours (included getting there) here. The recommended time is to leave yourself 2.5-3 hours, which I felt was a great recommendation. If I’d known, I would have brought food and maybe sat and eaten in the gardens.
In the end, I felt I had only glimpsed the city, and wished for another day to explore. But my flight back to the USA was sadly waiting.
The Useful Stuff:
Why it’s good for the thrifty traveler:
I felt my activities here took me a while to complete. The walking tour was a few hours, and free. The Alhambra ticket was not terribly expensive and also occupied a lot of the day. If I had more time, I would have extended both of these. In the end, breakfast, lunch, coffee and a full day of activities came out to 50 Euros, which is great considering the caliber of the day.
There is more the Granada than the Alhambra. Take a second day to explore and see the rest of the city. Otherwise you’ll be left dissatisfied.
Try the middle eastern influenced cuisine. After eating out for 10 days of the same sort of food, my body was overjoyed at a change in cuisine. Having been to Israel and eaten falafel & hummus for 10 days straight before, I can say that the falafel here is some of the best I’ve ever eaten.
Beware the Siesta. I made this mistake a second time on my trip. I had assumed that because Granada was a bigger city, the siesta would not effect it as much. While there was more open, much of the shops I had noticed in the morning that I noted to go back to where closed.
Book a cheap flight. I flew from Granada back to Barcelona to get my flight home. It was a 2 hour flight for $50 instead of another train ticket and a 7-9 hour train ride. If you are city hoping the train is great. Otherwise, Vueling has great cheap ticket options that can save you tons of time and money getting across the country.
Pin it with the photo below!