Granada, Spain, is a fantastic city any time of year. Its rich architecture includes the famous Alhambra Palace, former-home of Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabella, and their tombs in the Royal Chapel located next to the cathedral. In the cobbled labyrinth of its old quarter, the Albaicín, you’ll find an area known locally as Little Morocco, where brightly coloured pashminas and silver tea pots dance in the breeze. You should also know that this city is the home of tapas. No matter where you go, each time you order a drink you’ll receive a complimentary small plate of homemade food alongside it. If you’re planning a trip here anytime soon, you’ve probably got a good idea about which sights you want to see. But for those moments in between the sights where you need a coffee or meal, forget about the guide books and follow our list of tried and tested places.
Where to: Get the Best Coffee
A little off the beaten track, Al Sur de Granada offers delicious coffee that goes down very well with a square or two of the organic chocolate bars they sell here. The deli stocks a range of wines, beers, olive oils and sweet treats that you can scan over when sitting on one of the few tables in the café. Staff are friendly, helpful, and they make a mean coffee.
Al Sur de Granada, Calle Elvira, 150
Where to: Eat Churros
A trip to Spain wouldn’t be complete without trying a portion of churros and chocolate. The deep-fried pieces of dough are served hot, and taste great rolled in sugar then dipped into a cup of melted chocolate – the way the Spanish do it. This indulgent treat is served all over the city, but the best place to eat them is in the famous Bib-Rambla square. Although it’s a touristy area, the old Gran Café won’t let you down, and you’ll be able to enjoy your churros on the terrace as you watch passers-by in the bustling square.
Gran Café Bib-Rambla, Plaza de Bib Rambla, 3
Where to: Tapear (that’s the verb to eat tapas)
Like many of Granada’s hidden gems, La Bodega de Vinny doesn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, it’s just a standard door with a small sign, located down a dimly-lit side street. But you know you’re at a great spot when you see groups of Spaniards queuing outside, preparing to battle their way in to the small building. The reason it’s so popular is because with one drink you’ll get plate after plate of tapas – and they’re free. Expect the finest Iberian cured ham, Manchego cheese and tortilla – Spanish potato omelette.
La Bodega de Vinny, Calle Sol, 3
For less traditional tapas, head to Bar Poë for homemade dishes inspired by Brazil, Portugal and Thailand. They’ve got a mixture of meat, fish and vegetarian options that come with rice and a chunk of bread. After buying one drink you’ll find you’ve got yourself a free meal.
Bar Poë, Calle Verónica de la Magdelena, 40
Where to: Drink
There are plenty of great bars to visit where you’ll get generous sized drinks for next to nothing prices, but some have a little more edge than others. The Bohemia Jazz Café is a quirky bar hidden away in one of Granada’s smaller squares. It’s all about vintage here: black and white photos, newspaper cuttings and antique instruments cover the walls, and you’ll find everything from a grand piano to an old dentist’s chair. Whether you want to slurp a goblet of gin and tonic or a fruity cocktail, this bar offers a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy some background jazz. And while Spain isn’t known for its sweet food, the ice creams here are incredible. Luxuriously thick and jam-packed with chocolate chunks, the creamy sundaes are a great way to end an evening.
Bohemia Jazz Café, Plaza de los Lobos, 11
Where to: Eat Meat
Don’t let the old taverna’s decor put you off – the food at Chantarela is out of this world. Think tender duck with balsamic-caramelised strawberries, and charcoaled fillet steak that melts in the mouth. One dish can serve up to three people, and they come served with mixed vegetables and crusty bread. A word of warning: the Spanish serve their meat rare, so a request for well done won’t go down well here.
Chantarela, Calle Águila, 18
Where to: Get the Best All-rounder Meal
Carmela restaurant make traditional Mediterranean food with unusual twists. Try the black pudding croquettes, the tuna tataki with soy reduction and finish off with a chocolate coulant. The staff speak good English and are happy to offer suggestions. They also serve enormous glasses of gin and tonic expertly mixed with everything from liquorice to crushed cardamom. They’ve got three different restaurants across Granada, but the best all-rounder is situated off the big Plaza Isabel La Católica.
Restaurante Carmela, Calle Colcha, 13
Where to: Get the Best View
The San Nicolas viewpoint is a popular spot with tourists, especially at sunset. While there’s no denying that here you’ll get a great selfie with the Alhambra Palace in the background, there’s a much better place to get a panoramic view across the whole city – if you don’t mind a short hike. The San Miguel Alto can be reached from the Albaicín in 20 minutes. Head up the winding streets until you come out at the bottom of a rather steep grassy hill where you’ll see a church at the top. Pass lazy horses chewing grass on the long winding path up to the church, or save time by climbing straight up the hill. Once you reach the top, we guarantee the view (and the climb) will take your breath away. It’s not signposted, so be prepared to ask a few locals to point you in the right direction.
Calle Patio de la Alberca, 36
How to: Prepare for the Sights
There’s plenty to see in Granada and while you’ve probably got a good idea of where you want to see, it’s worth reading our tips about how to maximise the experience while you’re there.
Save time when you visit the Alhambra Palace and its gardens by booking online in advance. Feel smug as you waltz past the long queue of people waiting to buy tickets on the day.
A word of warning for when you visit the Cathedral: watch out for women walking around with sprigs of rosemary. They hand them to you, demand money, and won’t leave you alone until you pay them. When you see them, make a run for it in the opposite direction.
When visiting the old Arabic quarter, the Albaicín, you’re going to have tourist stamped across your forehead. Be aware of your bags and keep the map reading to a minimum. While Granada is generally a very safe city, pickpockets tend to linger around this area so you need to look like you know where you’re going. As a general rule, if you’re walking downhill you’re heading back to the centre, so you shouldn’t need use a map too much.
If you’re planning on a guided tour of famous poet Lorca’s old house, don’t sit on the sofa in the waiting room – yes, waiting room – because it’s part of the museum and you’ll make the tour guide very upset. Do, however, take a stroll around the poet’s gardens which are now a public park.
Where to: Relax
After exploring everything the city has to offer, you might want to spend a couple of hours relaxing in the old Arabic baths at the Hammam Spa. Between the different temperature pools and relaxation rooms decorated with colourful mosaic patterns, you’ll sip traditional mint tea before enjoy a soothing massage and a lie-down on some hot stones. Finish off in the ice cold plunge pool – if you dare.
Book in advance at granada.hammamalandalus.com
Hammam Al Andalus, Calle Santa Ana, 16
Where to: Sleep
Hotel Villa Oniria is a four-star hotel, located just 10 minutes by foot from the cathedral. The 19th century manor house offers comfortable, quiet bedrooms, a relaxing spa and a lounge area with an open fire. Granada is only 30 minutes from the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains, so you’ll appreciate sitting next to a warm fire when you come in from a cold day exploring.
Hotel Villa Oniria, Calle San Anton, 28
Fly from Newcastle to Malaga with Easyjet, Ryanair and Jet2. The easiest way to reach Granada is by bus, either from Malaga airport or the main bus station in the city centre. Regular shuttle buses from the airport stop at the bus station. Alternatively, take a taxi but bear in mind the drive takes around 90 minutes – so it won’t be cheap.