How To Spend 2 Days in Granada
Updated: Dec 12, 2020
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The southern Spanish city of Granada is less than a 2 hour drive from Malaga, and is a great option for a day trip if you're only visiting the area for a short amount of time. We were fortunate enough to spend 2 days in Granada, and managed to see all of the main attractions. The city itself was under Muslim rule for 800 years, something that becomes very apparent as you walk along the streets and explore the gardens and palaces. Granada is a beautiful city, and there are certainly lots of things to do here and neighbourhoods to discover. The big draw to Granada is The Alhambra, but there are a number of free things to do in the city as well, making it an ideal city in Andalusia to visit if you're travelling on a budget.
Accommodation in Granada is quite difficult to come by, especially during the peak season. I tried to book a hotel at the last minute and the prices were ridiculous. We ended up staying in a town called Albolote, at Hotel BS Principe Felipe, which cost just €46 per night for a double room. It actually turned out to be a much cheaper alternative to staying in Granada's city centre, and took only 20 minutes by tram to get back among the main attractions. Here are my recommendations for how to spend 2 days in Granada:
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What To Do in Granada
The Alhambra is worth every penny, so if you're only in Granada for 2 days, put this at the top of your priorities. Make sure you leave at least 3 hours in your schedule to visit it. It's absolutely massive, and there's no way you can rush around it without missing some incredible spots. There are various parts of the complex, each with their own architectural designs, as rulers continued to add their own mark on the palace. This shot was taken from the Mirador de San Nicolas viewpoint, which is a bit of an uphill trek to get to, but it's one of the most popular spots in Granada and has the best views of the Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada in the background.
The most stressful part of this trip? Getting tickets for the Alhambra. They're sold out months in advance, so there was no chance of me getting any online at the last minute. After a lot of digging, I learned that every day at midnight, they release cancelled tickets on the official website to be resold. Result! There were quite a lot of resale tickets available, but they sold out very quickly so make sure you're staring at the screen right at midnight and can fill in your details fast! Here is the website that you can book Alhambra tickets on. There are a number of tickets to choose from, but if you want access to all parts of the Alhambra complex, you need to purchase the General Day Visit ticket for €14 per adult. You also need to arrive at the time slot you're given, because if you're late they won't let you enter.
The Generalife Gardens date back to the 12th century and are both vast and very beautiful. They became a place of leisure for the kings of Granada, and have been added to over the centuries by each ruler. As well as the Alhambra palace, the gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and take on a more simplistic design than the palace itself, signifying it as a place of peace for the kings to retreat to.
I'd recommend seeing the Alhambra Fortress after the palace and gardens. We almost missed our slot to get into the palace itself because we went to this first, not knowing that the entry time on the ticket referred to the palace and not the complex as a whole! The fortress should take you less than an hour to walk around. Make sure you climb to the top to get some great views of the surrounding landscape!
Charles V Palace is one part of the Alhambra that is actually FREE! It was built in the Renaissance and is quite a deceptive building, as it's round on the inside but from the outside it looks square. So if you can't get tickets for the palace or gardens, you can at least say you've been in part of the Alhambra.
Located a 20 minute drive from Granada's city centre is the Carthusian Monastery, also known as the Granada Charterhouse. It's considered to be one of the best examples of Spanish Baroque architecture, and was founded in 1506. The inside of the monastery is very ornately decorated with gold and displays an extensive collection of famous paintings too. We stopped here on our way out of the city, so if you're spending 2 days in Granada you may not have time to visit here. But we did notice that the Tourist Train goes to the monastery if you've purchased a ticket for that, which may make it easier for you to get to.
Granada Cathedral is located right in the middle of the city, and blends in with the surrounding buildings so much that I didn't even notice it was there until I looked up. It's enormous. Like most cathedrals in Europe, there's an entry fee of €5 but it's definitely worth it. This is one of the top things to do in Granada, and is close to a number of other key attractions in the city. Connected to the cathedral is the Royal Chapel, the final resting place of the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, which is also worth a stop - especially if you're a history geek like me. The entry fee for the chapel is also €5. See? 2 days in Granada is more than enough time to get around the attractions.
Located right next to the cathedral is the famous Alcaiceria Market, which was originally founded by the Moors and was a hub for the silk trade. It now stands at half its original size, but is still the perfect place to get your hands on some Moroccan goods and souvenirs. It's also something free you can do in Granada, unless you are buying things of course. You absolutely need to walk through this outdoor market, especially if you're only in Granada for 2 days. We saw a number of guided walking tours passing through here, so if you want to learn more about the history of the market, booking one of these tours is a good option.
If you still have some room after all the tapas you've been eating in Andalusia, take the time to taste some of the delicious desserts the city has to offer. We asked at the counter for some desserts that were traditional to Granada, and the pionono were pretty good!
The city centre is surrounded by unique neighbourhoods that are just waiting to be explored. My favourite was the Albaicín, which leads up to the Mirador de San Nicolas viewpoint. It's a great place to discover some traditional Moorish architecture, and the narrow winding streets haven't been altered in centuries. If you're doing Granada on a budget, there are more than enough areas in the city for you to freely walk around and enjoy.
Mirador de San Nicolas viewpoint is the location of the best views of the city. It's a bit of an uphill trek, but the view of the Alhambra against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada is unbelievable. The photo of the viewpoint was the first photo in this blog post, but I wanted to point out that there's also a lovely church here surrounded by market stalls. This area also has a large amount of restaurants and bars for you to choose from, and in the evening some have flamenco shows for you to watch. The Tourist Train also comes up to this viewpoint if you don't have time to walk up to it.
On your walk back from the stunning viewpoint (depending which way you go), you'll pass Sacromonte, a picturesque neighbourhood set in the hillside. It's known as the gypsy area, and a lot of visitors come here in the evening for live music and dance performances.
Granada is bursting with historic narrow shopping streets. Realejo has a number of these streets, and is considered one of the best neighbourhoods in the city. It was once an important Jewish quarter, and is now a great area to get some traditional tapas as well as snag some pretty unique souvenirs too. There are a lot of neighbourhoods to explore, but I would recommend going to this one first if you're only spending 2 days in Granada, and then seeing what others you have time for.
Whether you're in Granada for 2 days or just a few hours, you need to visit the Alhambra. I'd recommend it so much that I've added it a second time to this post. A lot of tours in southern Spain will give you the option of visiting here because it's such an important attraction in Spain, and even if you're planning your own day trip from Malaga to Granada, you need to make this your number one priority. But don't forget to plan ahead to ensure you get your tickets. Or if that's not possible, you can try to grab some online at midnight the night before you're planning on visiting.
Granada is one of the best and most popular cities to visit in southern Spain. There's enough here to keep you busy for several days, but if you're like us and only have 2 days in Granada, don't worry, you can definitely visit all of the main attractions with some time to spare to enjoy the city's food scene. Granada was the last stop on our road trip in southern Spain, and we may have just saved the best for last.
Driving in southern Spain is amazing, so if you're thinking of planning a road trip in Andalusia, check out my recommendations for places to visit here. If you're in Granada for longer than 2 days, there are a number of day trips you can go on too, such as to Malaga and Cordoba. Or you can go even further afield and visit Seville and Cadiz. If you want to go to some unique spots in Andalusia, check out my blog post for some ideas. And don't forget to follow me on Instagram for some more travel photos and inspiration!