Hello Motha? Hello Fatha? Here we are in… Granada!
You’re welcome: that little jingle will be stuck in your head for a few days. I’m still singing it after the other weekend. I wasn’t away at camp but I did take a getaway road trip south to spend a couple days in Granada, a charismatic city in Andalusia, Spain that boasts an abundance of history and personality.
If you’re making your way through the country and have at least a full day to spare, I highly suggest adding this beautiful city to your list. Seeing the Alhambra is on a lot of travelers wish lists, so getting tickets can be tricky. So, read on for my…
Guide to Visiting Granada & the Alhambra
The main attraction for sightseers coming from all nooks and crannies of the globe is La Alhambra, Generalife Gardens, and the Nazari Palaces. This massive palace and fortress complex is the product of hundreds of years of developing styles based on the techniques of the time and the leaders present. It represents and includes Roman architecture, Moorish styles, Renaissance tastes, Mannerist transitions, and Nasrid Andalusian architecture. It was deemed a UNESCO site in 1984 and has become one of Spains’ biggest attractions, exhibiting significant Islamic architecture mixed with Christian building and gardens.
You’ll ogle at the intricate detailing along the pointed arches and fall in love with the breezy terraces. The panoramic views of Granada over the lush gardens will certainly take your breath away… if the bustling tour groups don’t do it first!
How to Get Tickets
There is general ticket for €14 per adult that covers everything: the Nazari Palaces, gardens, and Generalife. This ticket sells out fastest because it’s very exclusive and you must enter it at the time assigned on your ticket. The other fun option is to purchase the night viewing ticket and return in the evening to see the palaces and gardens illuminated against the starry night sky. This sells out just as fast, but is a great option if you only have a weekend in Granada. The last main option is a ticket for just the garden, Generalife, and Alcazaba for €7 per adult.
Getting tickets will be a big challenge, especially in high season. There are just a few ways to secure tickets and here’s how:
- It’s highly suggested to buy them in advance online. You can pre-purchase up to 3 months in advance and I suggest booking as soon as you know your plans.
- If you still know your dates but they’re sold out on the website, you can purchase the Granada Tourist Card which secures access to the Alhambra plus many other sites in the city.
- You can book a guided tour that guarantees a ticket for you
- For last minute travelers like myself – I had to stand in line. The trick is to get there early, (maybe 7am?) before they open at 8am if you want to get tickets and enter straight away. Otherwise, if you arrive “late” around 9:30 like me, you’ll have to get a 2pm admission and come back later in the day (you can’t purchase for the following day). Even at 9:30, there were only 200 tickets left (they show a countdown on a TV screen), so I’d guess they sold out the whole day by maybe 10:30.
Mirador de San Nicholas
This is a viewpoint that gives amazing views of the Alhambra from across the city. There’s a cafe/restaurant as well to grab a drink and take it all in.
Where to Stay
Budget: Oasis Backpackers Hostel has an amazing location right on a pedestrian street at the base of the Albayzín, near the Gran Vía and the Moroccan market at Calle de la Alcaicería. They offer apartments and various dorm options, complete with homemade breakfast for €3.50. They’re extremely helpful, clean, and even host a pubcrawl if you want to get rowdy! I’d say the only downside is parking. If you’re road-tripping and arrive late in the evening, chances are the closest parking garages are full. After an hour of searching, we finally found an option a bit farther away and pricier at about €45 for 2 nights. Apparently there was a free parking location way out of town, but I never ventured to find it. I suppose that comes with the territory of staying central on a pedestrian only street!
Upscale Boutique: Palacio de Santa Ines is fantastic boutique accommodation with a lot of charm and views of the Alhambra. Prices starting at $200/night
Wake up early and take a wander before the crowds fill the streets. We arrived after midnight and woke up before 8am so Granada felt like a misty ghost town… until midday.
Where to Eat
Along the river and scattered throughout the old pedestrian area are squares with cafes and restaurants perfect for people watching. They’re touristy and a bit higher priced but they’re convenient and offer a variety of tasty drinks and food. For breakfast before La Alhambra, we grabbed a pastry and coffee from a quick patisserie near the West entrance along the river.
For tapas I have to suggest Bar Poë on Calle Verónica de la Magdalena. It’s hands-down been the best food for the best price so far. Here’s how it works: if you order a drink, you get a choice of 1 of maybe 12 tapas for free. The portions are very generous and the quality is fantastic! It was basically a small gourmet meal after each beer. You can order a 1/2 or full portion of your favorite for a small price and options include soups, kebabs, vegetables, and little meat/side combos. 5 beers + 5 tapas each and €16 total… we were stuffed! The bartender was British and the clientele were an assortment of nationalities so I won’t say its a traditional hole-in-the-wall, but it was out of the tourist area, great food, fun atmosphere, and at a great price.