Granada is a must addition to any Andalucia itinerary, and even if you only have one day in Granada, you’re able to fit in the most important sites that will leave you wanting more. And believe me when I say Granada welcomes you in a way no other cities do.
Nestled in the foothills of Sierra Nevada National Park Granada is dominated by Moorish legacy, infused by a culture-rich melange from the early Iberian settlements, the Romans, the Visigoths, and finally the Christians’ reconquest in the late1400s.
There are so many things to do in Granada that you could easily stay a week. Nevertheless, since you don’t have that much time, read on to find out what to do in Granada in one day.
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Table of Contents
How to get to Granada
However, there are usually free parking places along the roads above the old town right outside the old city walls where you can walk down in only a few minutes. I always find free parking not too far from Ermita de San Miguel Alto where you’ll get epic views of the city and the Alhambra.
If you travel by train from Seville to Granada, make sure you take the early direct train, as it takes about 2.5 hours. By bus, you can get there in about 3 hours. Driving takes 2 hours and 40 minutes and is, in my opinion, the best way to go on a day trip to Granada from Seville.
Malaga is only 1.5 hours away by car and 1 hour and 45 minutes train ride away. By bus, you can expect the same time as the train if you take the direct bus.
From Jaen to Granada, it only takes an hour to drive and the direct buses take the same time. There are no direct trains between the two cities, however, so you shouldn’t opt for going to Granada in one day by train from Jaen.
If you’re still in need of a rental car, check the prices here.
STAYING THE NIGHT IN GRANADA?
Read my complete guide to where to stay in Granada
Best time to visit Granada
The best time to visit Granada is from the fall to the spring. Summer in Granada gets extremely hot and even 1 day in Granada can get unbearable. Personally, I’d not go near Granada in the summer.
Yet, if it’s the only time of the year you can go, make sure you wear a hat, slap on big amounts of sunscreen, and carry more water than you think you’ll need.
The coldest months are December to February, where daytime temperatures can be around 12-13 degrees Celsius and nighttime temperatures can go down close to zero.
In my opinion, both fall and spring are wonderful times to visit Granada. In fall, from October to November, you get pleasant temperatures and by November you’ll be pleased by the fall colors, especially in the Alhambra. In the spring, you’ll fall in love with the colorful spring flowers blooming everywhere around you.
Things to do in Granada in one day
Visit the Alhambra
The imposing Alhambra fortress won’t go unseen when visiting Granada and the epic attraction, UNESCO World Heritage site, and fusion of architectural styles – like Andalucia as a whole.
Even with only a day in Granada, you must take the trip to visit the Alhambra. Consisting of the Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Palace of Charles the V, and the Generalife Gardens and palace (separate ticket) you can gladly spend a whole day wandering around this historic melting pot. But with only 1 day in Granada, you’ll have to make it quick.
For this reason, I do recommend getting a guided tour and skip-the-line tickets to save time and ensure you get all the information about the site in only 2-3 hours.
You can get skip-the-line tickets here.
If you prefer to go on a guided tour to learn more about the site from a knowledgeable local guide (highly recommended) I suggest this tour.
The Alhambra was already settled in Roman times. Later, the Moors came and built their famous fortifications to the complex, and finally, after the Christian reconquest, even more building was done.
The Nasrid Palaces are the main part of the complex and are where the kings lived their daily lives so you can only imagine what an exquisite place this must be!
The Alcazaba is the city fortification and offers epic views of the city. Further, the Palace of Charles the V was built after the Christian reconquest but was never finished.
On top of these sites, you should get tickets for the Generalife Palace and gardens. You will not be surprised if these are the most beautiful gardens you’ll ever see.
After my first visit to the Alhambra in 2003, the only image I truly remembered from the Alhambra until I revisited the next time in 2014 was the gardens. They were just as captivating and are still today one of my favorite places to visit in Granada.
Lunch in Albaicín
After an intense visit to the Alhambra complex you’re probably getting hungry, so head to the Albacín neighborhood where you’ll find a whole lot of restaurants to have lunch.
If you’re looking for a vegan place to eat, I can recommend Paprika Vegan Restaurant right on the outskirts of Albaicín. This is not too far from the Cathedral, so if you opt for this I also suggest you rock around on your itinerary and visit the cathedral next before you walk back to Albaicín.
Mirador de San Nicolas
After lunch, you should head to the most iconic viewpoint in Granada, Mirador de San Nicolas. This is where most pictures you see of the Alhambra are taken.
Especially in the winter months, this view is magical as you see the entire 700-meter complex with the backdrop of the majestic snowcapped Sierra Nevada mountains.
The viewpoint sits on a busy square where street sellers, locals, and tourists fight for the space. Children run up and down and dogs are barking. The edge is always jam-packed with people wanting their pictures taken and others are just taking in the epic view.
Walk around Albaicin
Next, take your time walking around the narrow cobbled streets of the Albaicín neighborhood where colorful potplants cover the whitewashed houses. Being the old Moorish quarter, it boasts endless charm and history.
There are many places to see in the neighborhood, like the 16th-century Church of San Salvador boasting the perfect fusion of classicism and Moorish features.
The most endearing piece of Albaicín might be the Carrera del Darro lining the picturesque Darro River right below the majestic Alhambra. Flourishing with life as street vendors and performers give you plenty to look at. Here you can relax with a coffee before continuing your walk.
Another top attraction that you shouldn’t miss out on is the Arab Bath dating back to the 11th century. Pay special attention to the octagonal holes in the ceiling which would work as natural ventilation.
Sacramonte Cave Museum
Granada’s gypsy quarter is famous for its vibrant flamenco shows at night and ancient cave houses known in Spanish as Casa Cuevas.
Situated right next to Albaicín, I wouldn’t let one day in Granada Spain get by without visiting this unique area of the city and taking a peek into the tiny Cave Museum.
The soft rock is perfect to dig out caves and even before the Moorish settlements, cave houses were built in Granada. In Sacramonte, the gypsies moved into the caves after the Moors were driven out of the area.
The museum shows traditionally equipped cave houses with the tools and decorations that the gypsies would have in their houses and the history of the 18th-century gypsy settlements. There’s no doubt this is one of the best things to do in Granada Spain in one day.
Have time for a Flamenco show?
More than 30 years after the Christian Reconquista, the building of the Renaissance cathedral of Granada started and wasn’t completed before nearly 200 years had passed.
A visit to the magnificent church is truly one of the top things to do in Granada in one day. While it looks like a pretty regular cathedral from the outside – that meaning quite spectacular in the cathedral world – the inside will blow you away.
Unlike most cathedrals in Spain, Granada cathedral will mesmerize you with its imposing white walls and columns, and golden decorations. It truly gives you a sense of calm and saintly delight no matter if you’re religious or not.
Entry to the cathedral is 5 Euros for adults. You can also opt for a guided tour of the cathedral and the Royal Chapel, you can check availability here.
If you’re around for sunset…
Reflections on one day in Granada
There’s no doubt Granada deserves more than a day, yet there’s quite a lot you can fit into Granada in a day and it’s no doubt a good start to fall in love with the city and with Andalucia.
The most important part of any Granada itinerary is to visit the Alhambra. And with a few more things on the agenda including strolling around the enchanting streets of the historic center you should have an epic experience to add to your memory book.
There’s no person I know that hasn’t been blown away by this exotic Andalusian city. If you have more time, you’ll get the chance to dive into the cultural layers of Granada.