Moorish Granada – Alhambra and Hammam

Granada is the site of the stunning Alhambra.  This incredible complex of palaces and gardens is worth at least a day of your time, but there is also lots more to do in Granada from Flamenco shows to relaxing in a Hammam. In this blog we talk about visiting Alhambra and 5 more things to do in Granada, plus a tapas bar we recommend.

Alhambra & Generalife Gardens

View of palaces from Generalife gardens

This fortified palace complex dates to the 13th and 14 centuries, although there is reference to building on the site since Roman times.   The Alhambra is number one thing to do in Granada and often called the number one attraction in Spain.  The Alhambra is a hugely popular site receiving over 6000 visitors per day.

Buying tickets for Alhambra

Visitor numbers are capped and tickets sell out a long time in advance.  If you are too late to buy tickets from the official website,  there is still the option to join a guided tour or to purchase tickets from a third party operator.

We used get your guide to buy our tickets including an audio guide. The audio guide was excellent and added a lot of value to our visit.  We were too late to  get tickets for Nasrid Palaces, these are restricted with specific time slots for entry.

 

 

Generalife

We went to the Generalife first.  This was the sultan’s summer estate, a playground for royalty. The Generalife palace, (the sultan’s summer palace) is set in magnificent gardens.  Flowers in every colour are a feast for the eyes, the design of fountains, pools, paths and clever planting for shade makes this a relaxing and refreshing place to spend an hour or two.  Especially in the height of the Spanish summer.

The children preferred the garden to the palaces as they were a bit freer to walk around and explore. There are surprises around every corner and there is some relief from the heat of the sun.

Alcazaba

Alcazaba

The Alcazaba is the Alhambra’s original 13th century citadel or fortress.  You can visit the martial ramparts and towers.  The watchtower offers fantastic views over the rooftops of the city of Granada and the Cathedral in the centre.

There was lots more to see at Alhambra including the Palace of Carlos V which had an interesting museum inside with Islamic artefacts.   We spent about 3-4 hours there and saw most of the site but if we had more time in Granada I would have considered one of the tickets that allows you to come back in the evening. Both to see the site in the evening and to break up the day a bit.

5 More things to do in Granada

Albayzin neighbourhood

Moorish architecture, cobblestone laneways, traditional tea houses.  Granda’s old Muslim quarter is a great place to wander, explore and shop, before sitting down for a cool iced tea or Arabic mint drink.  In the neighbourhood are traditional Arabic mansions with walled gardens.  The Calle Caldereria Nueva is a street connecting the upper and lower parts of Albayzin and is famous for its teahouses (teterias), the shops here are similar to the bazaar selling leather slippers and traditional North African items.  Walk all the way up to be rewarded with fantastic views of Alhambra at Mirador San Nicolas (see below).

Mirador San Nicolas

View of Alhambra from Mirador San Nicolas

In the neighbourhood of Albayzin, on the hill facing Alhambra, head up to the Mirador San Nicolas, a viewpoint with stunning views of Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains.  They still had a little snow on them when we visited.

It is meant to be beautiful at sunset but also very crowded then, it was quite quiet when we visited mid afternoon.  Probably because it is a ridiculously hot time of the day to climb to the top of a hill!  You need to watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers up here.

Visit before or after your visit to Alhambra to get some perspective on the scale and magnificence of the palace.

Alcaiceria Granada Bazaar

Backpacks and Sunhats at Granada Bazaar

The Alcaiceria was previously a silk market and Granda’s Grand Bazaar.  It is now much smaller and found in narrow alleyways between the cathedral and Plaza Bib-Rambla.  The stalls are aimed towards the tourist market now.  However we still thought it was fun to explore the narrow streets and stalls. They sell many products similar to what you would find in a Morroccan souk, leather goods, spices and lanterns.  Having recently been to Marrakech for us it wasn’t as impressive. However the kids hadn’t been and they loved the bazaar and sifting through the trinkets.

Shopping in the Granada Bazaar

Hammam Al Andalus

Hammam a relaxing thing to do in Granada
Hammam Al Andalus

These Arab baths have pools of different temperatures from cold plunge pools, to warm and hot pools. There is also a steam room.   The whole space is Arabic themed with lots of candles and lanterns.  The beautiful space also includes warm and cool relaxation spaces where tea is available.

I went here after our visit to Alhambra while Paul and the kids hung out at a local bar and watched a football game.  It is possible for children to visit these baths but they are a space of relaxation and silence.

There are a number of package options, either just the baths or a combination of baths with massage and / or a traditional purification ritual on a hot stone bed.  I chose Midra 30, a 15 minute massage and 15 minutes purification ritual.  This seemed like a good option to balance with plenty of time spent in the pools.  This is not the same as a Morrocan Hammam but nor does it claim to be.  For me the water and steam rooms could be hotter and the massage and scrub more intense.  If you’re looking for something relaxing to do in Granada, after a hot days sightseeing on your feet, this is just the place to refresh.

Casa del Arte Flamenco

We really wanted to see Flamenco in Spain but it is difficult with young children.  Many shows are in very small crowded venues and start late.   Casa del Arte Flamenco was a great choice for us.  They describe themselves as a cultural space for traditional flamenco shows.  It is a small theatre style space, no matter where your seats are you are still close to the stage.  Arrive up to half an hour early for the best seats.

Casa del Arte Flameco are located in central Granada with two shows each evening at 7.30pm and 9pm.  The one hour show was just enough for L & S to enjoy before they started to get a little bit bored. There is a restaurant so you can book dinner and show tickets if you want to.

Casa del Arte Flamenco doesn’t allow children under 6 years, which is understandable.  Also photography wasn’t allowed for most of the show allowing everyone to fully focus on the music and the dance.  Then there was one set during which we were able to take pictures and video.

Flamenco in Granada
Casa del Arte Flamenco

 

When you’ve had a busy day in Granada you need to stop for drinks and snacks!

Mosto in Granada

El Tabernaculo – Bar & Tapas

Tapas at El Tabernaculo

This quirky little bar is on the popular street Calle Navas.  The inside of the bar is crammed with religious (Catholic) icons.  We were sitting outside on the street so we didn’t see the icons in great detail but for many people they are the main attraction here.  The limited seating outside in the summer is popular and fantastic for people watching if you can get it.  A lot of places on this street looked like tourist traps and had terrible reviews but this place has 4 stars on trip advisor and google.  We enjoyed the mixed tapas plate.

Although Granada would have been a bit different without children with a few adjustments we still managed to see a lot of what Granada has to offer.  We think both Seville and Granada have a lot of interesting things to see and do and would be great weekend break destinations.

After Granada we drive a short distance to the unusual town of Guadix to experience sleeping in caves!

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