This Sunny Spanish City Is Known for Amazing Tapas and a ‘Magical Vibe’ — and It Won’t Break the Bank

Here's everything you need to know to plan a perfect trip to Granada, Spain.

<p>Rory Fuller/Travel + Leisure</p>

Rory Fuller/Travel + Leisure

Granada is about as captivating a city as they come. The city, tucked at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Spain's Andalusia region, is filled with more historic charm than perhaps one place deserves. Here, travelers can walk through winding cobblestone streets, drink in views of Moorish architecture, and stroll through buildings dating back to the 14th century, all within the span of an afternoon.

"Granada is a gem filled with history, culture, and stunning scenery," Tim Hentschel, the CEO and co-founder of HotelPlanner, shares with Travel + Leisure. "Granada is also known for its delicious cuisine, particularly its tapas culture. You can enjoy various mouthwatering dishes while exploring the city's vibrant culinary scene. And what is especially remarkable is that Granada doesn't break the bank like other big Spanish cities, but it still oozes authentic charm. The locals are friendly, the vibe is lively, and your wallet stays happy without missing out on that classic Spanish charm."

And, as Alicia Benito, a Spanish language and culture specialist at Promova, notes, it's a place where you really can kick up your heels, too.

"It's like the perfect mix of history, amazing sights, and a very lively culture. Also, the people there really know how to live," Benito says. "There are cool street markets everywhere, cozy tapas bars on every corner, and passionate flamenco shows in Sacromonte. It's just got this magical vibe that grabs you and doesn't let go."

Not only that, but Granada is also a destination that experiences some 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, practically ensuring at least one beautiful day while you're there.

Here's how to plan the perfect trip to Granada.

Stay in a former monastery when you book a room at Parador de Granada.

Explore the stunning Alhambra.

See a zambra flamenco show in Sacromonte.

Go for a tapas and wine crawl around the city’s best bars and restaurants.

Visit in the spring or fall for beautiful weather and fewer crowds.

<p>Rory Fuller/Travel + Leisure</p>

Rory Fuller/Travel + Leisure

Best Hotels & Resorts

Hospes Palacio de los Patos

Hospes Palacio de los Patos is the perfect representation of Granada. It's a 19th-century palace turned modern retreat located in the heart of the city. Here, guests can unwind in stately rooms with soaring ceilings and royal-ready beds, relax in the Bodyna Spa, or dine on local dishes — including plenty of tapas — on its outdoor terrace.

Parador de Granada

Sleep amid history at Parador de Granada, located within Alhambra's grounds. The former monastery has been transformed into an inviting escape with rooms overlooking the Generalife's lush gardens. It's a modest accommodation, but one that is ideal for those looking for a quieter stay and access to utmost tranquility.

Hotel Casa 1800 Granada

Pining for even more history? Then book a stay at Hotel Casa 1800 Granada. As the name implies, the hotel was once a private home, built in the late 16th century, and it maintains much of its charm — including the original facade. Every room here is unique, but all offer historical touches, including original balconies, shutters, and frescos.

Carmen de la Alcubilla del Caracol

Get a room with a view at Carmen de la Alcubilla del Caracol. The boutique hotel's privileged position atop a hill provides spectacular views from every window of both the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Spring for a room with a terrace for an unforgettable stay.

Best Things to Do

<p>Rory Fuller/Travel + Leisure</p>

Rory Fuller/Travel + Leisure

Explore the Alhambra.

We're not sure it's possible to visit Granada without visiting the Alhambra, often regarded as a masterpiece of Islamic architecture and art. "The number one must-see is definitely the Alhambra palace," Benito shares. "It's like the crown jewel of Granada, with its amazing Islamic architecture and beautiful gardens. You can spend hours exploring the different palaces and courtyards, and the views from up there are incredible."

Visit the Granada Cathedral.

The Granada Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Incarnation, is a stunning Roman Catholic church dating back to the 16th century. Outside, travelers can spend hours looking at its imposing arches and pillars, while inside, they'll be in awe of the spectacular dome and frescos lining the walls. Guests can come to worship or go on a cultural tour to learn more about its fascinating history.

See a flamenco show in Sacromonte.

Immerse yourself in local culture with a flamenco show in Granada's historic Sacromonte district. Here, you'll find a unique form of flamenco known as zambra, passed down for generations. It's emotional and rhythmic, and it will leave you fully inspired.

Check out the Parque de las Ciencias.

Have a day filled with fun and science with a visit to the Parque de las Ciencias. Here, guests can learn about everything from the human body to the outer edges of space all in one afternoon. Don't miss the outdoor astronomy garden, where you can play with all the observation instruments.

Stroll through the Albaicín.

"If you're into history and culture, don't miss wandering around the Albaicín neighborhood, where you feel like stepping back in time with all these narrow streets and cool Moorish architecture," Benito says. Indeed, the neighborhood is known as Granada's oldest and most traditional neighborhood. The historic Moorish quarter is a melting pot of cultural influences, including Iberians, Greeks, Romans, and Visigoths, who have all passed through these streets, just like you.

Related: 15 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Spain

<p>Rory Fuller/Travel + Leisure</p>

Rory Fuller/Travel + Leisure

Best Restaurants

Bodegas Castañeda

Find a traditional atmosphere matched by a traditional tapas menu at Bodegas Castañeda. Go for one of its famous platters that come with a taste of everything, including its tabla fria, with two croquettes, a Russian salad, tortilla española (a potato omelet), ham, cheese, and chicken. They offer plenty of wines by the glass, but make sure to check out the Wine of the Week menu for something special.

Bar Los Diamantes

Famed for its fried fish tapas, Bar Los Diamantes is a hit among both locals and tourists alike. Yes, it's crowded, but that's because it's just that good. There are several locations around the city, but no matter which one you visit, you'll be delighted by the fried prawns, calamari, or daily specials.

La Sitarilla

La Sitarilla, a family-run restaurant, is one more spot where you can find plenty of traditional bites. Go ahead, get the pig feet. But also get the meatballs, the fries, or whatever else is offered to you alongside each beer or wine you order.

<p>Bjoern Bremer/Getty Images</p>

Bjoern Bremer/Getty Images

Best Time to Visit

According to Benito, the best time to visit Granada "really depends on what you're looking for. But generally speaking, spring and autumn are probably the best bet." That, Benito says, is when the weather is at its best, as it's not too hot nor too cold, and the crowds are at their thinnest, allowing you to explore more and wait in line less. "But honestly, Granada is beautiful year-round, so whenever you go, you're going to have an amazing time," Benito adds.

Spring also offers travelers the chance to take part in festivals like the Cruces de Mayo, celebrated on the third of May. And in the fall, guests can swing by the Granada Film Festival to check out the latest cinematic talents or visit all September long to honor Virgen de las Angustias, the patron saint of the city.

Related: The Best Time to Visit Spain for Great Weather and Famous Festivals

<p>Courtesy of Parador de Granada</p>

Courtesy of Parador de Granada

How to Get There

By plane: The nearest airport is Federico García Lorca Granada-Jaén Airport, located about 12 miles outside the city. The airport offers mostly domestic flights and a few international connections (most flights connect through Spain's larger cities, Madrid and Barcelona).

By train: Travelers can also make their way to Granada by train from both Madrid and Barcelona. Madrid to Granada takes about four hours, while the Barcelona to Granada train takes about six.

By car: Anyone can get to Granada by car as well, as the city is well-connected to major highways traveling to and from Madrid, Seville, and other coastal cities.

<p>KavalenkavaVolha/Getty Images</p>

KavalenkavaVolha/Getty Images

How to Get Around

By car: Renting a car in Granada is simple. Several major rental car companies have outposts here, including Sixt, Europcar, and Avis. Having a car will allow you to explore the outer regions of the city and into the mountains, but be warned — parking in the heart of town can be difficult.

By public transit: Buses are the main form of public transport in Granada. The system covers most of the city, making it simple to hop on and off between neighborhoods. A regular bus ticket runs at about $1.50. See the map and full fare schedule here.

By taxi: Taxis are also easy to come by throughout Granada. As Love Granada explains, there are two types of fares — daytime rates for weekdays and nighttime rates for late weeknights and holidays. Just like in cities around the world, you can hail a cab on the street by throwing up your hand in the air and by trying to spot any taxi with a green light on its roof (which indicates it's open for a ride).

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