Granada: My 3-Day Itinerary
In addition to writing up suggested itineraries, I like to lay out what I did in Granada, what mistakes I made (there’s always a few!), and what were my favorite sites. Hopefully this helps inspire you for what to do and expect in your own trip to Granada!
I originally had more planned to do, but unfortunately thanks to a delayed flight I didn’t get into Granada airport until late in the evening, feeling completely exhausted and with sore muscles thanks to a work trip in Barcelona. Granada’s airport is tiny. There is one coach bus that can get you into town. I was worried about locating it, but I shouldn’t have been, as Immediately outside the lone terminal, I was happy spot the Alsa coach bus waiting outside in the small roundabout that makes up the airport’s pick-up area. All of the travelers were taking this bus, so when in doubt, just follow them! Our luggage is stored underneath and I found the the 5 Euro fare highly preferable to the 30-40 Euro cab ride.
About 40 minutes later, I was dropped at the Catedral stop along with about half of the bus riders. Despite it being 10pm at this point, the streets and restaurants were packed. My hotel, Palacio de Santa Ines, I chose both because of the reasonable price, but also because of its proximity to the Alhambra and the city center. According to google, it was about a 7 minute walk from the bus stop. I quickly realized my mistake in not factoring in the struggle of pulling a rolling suitcase over cobblestone streets on a busy evening. Nor did I realize my hotel, while in a picturesque area, was actually up several steps on a smaller side street. Fun fact of Granada: It’s built on several hills, and it’s hard to know in advance which streets are quite steep, or which ones have steps! The night manager at the Palacio was at least was kind enough to carry my luggage up to the 2nd floor. Palacio de Santa Ines’ website claimed they had an elevator, but it was not in operation while I was there. Once in my room, I found I had paid about $88/night for a small room with one window that looked out onto the lobby... overall the hotel was good, but I'd recommend calling ahead to make sure your double room has a window to the outdoors that doesn't guarantee you'll be hearing every guest check out in the morning.
I dragged my tired, sore self out of bed as I had a 9:30 reservation at the Nasrid Palace which I booked with my Granada Card in advance. I followed the google map from my hotel across the now-empty plazas, going uphill a few streets, and into a park that surrounds the Alhambra. At 8:45, it was empty and the signage in the park is basically non-existent, so I had a few moments of panic that I was going the wrong way. Stay to the left and keep going uphill, and rest assured that eventually you’ll see the walls of the Alhambra looming over you.
The Alhambra was, as I explain in more detail in this post, fantastic. I spent a few hours wandering around. I left at noon, just as the bus swarms were getting to be a bit much, and headed back to my hotel. The Palacio de Santa Ines, as mentioned, gave me an underwhelming room, but it was affordable, centrally located, and had a delicious buffet breakfast (for 8 euros extra). While I was still irrationally angry at them for having too many steps, they did also help me book an afternoon appointment at the al-andalus hammam (60 Euros for a 90 minute session in the heated pools with a massage).
Before I could go to the hammam, I first had to purchase a bathing suit. As I was visiting cities in the interior of the country, it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d need one! This allowed me to walk through the route of the old bazaar, known as the Alcaiceria, to browse the souvenir shops. Most of what I found were cheap, factory-made trinkets, along with a variety of women offering to tell my fortune, but there were a handful of interesting, higher quality shops within that area. It’s worth checking out!
Next up was the hammam experience. In the US we’d call it a spa. All I can say is after days of travel and aching muscles, it was fantastic. You buy a ticket for a timed entry (check you hotel if they say online that they’re booked up). Everyone goes in at once and changes into suits. You’re then lead into the first of several rooms of hot steam pools, where we were rejoined by the men (hence needing the swim suits). The pools come in about 5 different temperatures, are dimly lit and, while not the original walls, have an amazing Moorish design. The rooms are candlelit with a few small, slitted windows casting light below. Trays of tea are available. Attendants will find you in the baths to take you to-from the massage area, which was also excellent, if a little on the ‘light and easy’ side.
Freshly relaxed, I set out that evening to investigate whether tapas were still complimentary in Granada bars and tabernas. After stops at a few places for small caña (cup) of beer, I was delighted to find that they were! After a few rounds of beer, olives, bruschetta, potatoes, and a mini quiche, I settled in for a meat-heavy meal at Bodegas la Mancha, where I met several other travelers.
We swapped Andalucian travel tips before I made my way home around 11:30. Many people were still out dining, and as mentioned in the guide, I felt perfectly safe walking home by myself.
I had a bus to catch this afternoon, but this left time for an early morning walk along the Rio Darro up to the Albayzín neighborhood to see it in the early light.
The walk started off fairly flat (and nicely empty at 9am on a Saturday), but eventually the elevation started gaining. I was passed several times by the C1 and C2 buses, their passengers giving me odd looks for choosing to climb the hills. Eventually I made it to the Mirador de San Nicolas overlook. At that time in the morning I shared the overlook with a couple taking wedding pictures, and their cab driver waiting patiently for them.
I wandered through the maze of streets, stairs, and backed myself out of more than a few dead ends before I found myself back in the Centro area. I stopped by the Granada Cathedral, whose entry fee was covered by my Granada Card. I was delighted to find the cathedral offered a free audio guide. I was less delighted to find that it ran a little on the dry side. It went on at length about the artists who created some of the beautiful statues, paintings, and gold work throughout the massive interior of the cathedral. It was less helpful in explaining what I was looking at. There was one wall that showed a Spanish soldier on a horse, sword out, crushing someone beneath his feet. The guide did not cover this one!!
Eventually I made my way back to my hotel, where I arranged both for someone to carry my suitcase downstairs as well as for a cab to take me to the bus station (about 10 euros, 20 minute drive). The bus station was, as I detail here, much harder to navigate than the airport. I probably should have budgeted more time to find my bus, as I had to go down a level, through a cafeteria, go on a mad rush to find a bathroom, and then get to my bus gate. And then felt very sheepish for explaining to an older man in broken Spanish that he was sitting in my seat… did you know Spain’s coach buses have assigned seating? I did not!
After that experience, the rest of the bus trip was lovely and uneventful. And then it was on to Madrid… but that is the subject of another post!
My Three Favorite Stops IN GRANADA
The Nasrid Palaces
Wandering the cobblestone streets
What I wished I had done
A trip up to Sacromonte to see the views and the flamenco shows
Called my hotel ahead to check which room I was getting/how many stairs were involved!
What I COULD HAVE SKIPPED
The Cathedral - only worth it as I hadn’t had to pay for it