I lived in Granada the fall of 2014. Here I've compiled a list of my favorite restaurants, sights, museums, things to do, and (of course!) food to eat. If you have any more questions or want any other recommendations, contact me on this page.
Important Foods/Dishes to Try:
- Tortilla Española – no trip to Spain is complete without eating a tortilla, the traditional Spanish frittata with fried potatoes and onions
- Paella – Southern Spain is known for its paella (its history in the region goes as far back as the caliphate of al-Andalus), just make sure it’s the real stuff, because many restaurants color it with paprika, not the traditional saffron
- Berenjenas a la miel – my absolute favorite tapa, it consists of thin slices of eggplant, lightly battered and fried until crisp, drizzled with what is called miel de caña (“cane honey” – it’s not really honey, but rather light molasses)
- Manchego – it’s very hard to avoid jamón ibérico (Iberian ham) in Spain generally, but you can often swap in Manchego (a hard, salty cheese that is slightly nutty in flavor) for the jamón on your tapas if you ask your server
- Bacalao con Tomate – a very traditional Southern Spanish tapa/lunch dish that consists of light as air pan-fried cod topped with a slightly sweet tomato sauce… it’s so good!
- Migas – the name of this dish literally means “crumbs” but it’s deceptive: it actually consists of well-seasoned bread crumbs (usually pre-soaked in garlic, paprika, and olive oil) that are pan-fried, sometimes with vegtables, and often served with sardines
- Gazpacho – the famous cold Spanish soup of tomatoes and other vegetables, very refreshing, even on a cooler day
- Salmorejo – a thicker version of gazpacho made only with tomatoes, bread, salt, and olive oil
- Croquetas – balls of mashed potato, vegetables, meat, or fish filling mixed with acreamy béchamel sauce, then breaded and fried; though they sound very heavy, they’re surprisingly light and very classic – the vegetable ones are my personal favorite (usually they’re listed on the menu as croquetas de espinacas, with spinach, or croquetas de verduras, if it’s assorted veggies)
- Pisto – sort of the Spanish version of ratatouille (vegetable ragout), except slightly sweeter; delicious with fried potatoes and an egg, as it is usually served
- Pastilla – the Spanish version of the Moroccan b’stilla, a phyllo-like pastry stuffed with chicken and spices like cumin, clove, and cinnamon and lightly dusted with sugar; it’s an interesting salty-sweet entrée!
- Torta de aceite – though this food is called a torta (“cake”), it’s really more of a lightly sweetened yeasted bread; it’s very common to find tortas of all types in Spanish bakeries, especially with an anise flavor (anís or matalauva)
- Pionono – a traditional Granadan dessert, the pionono is a cylinder of sponge cake soaked in sugar syrup, sometimes flavored with cinnamon and rose water, and then topped with toasted cream; it sounds very strange, but it’s actually quite good and very unique to the region
- Churros con chocolate – these churros are not the US state fair food that comes to mind: rather, real churros are long tubes of unsweetened fried dough that are served alongside a cup of melted chocolate to dip them in; warning: this will make you very sleepy after you eat it, so I suggest saving it for a more leisurely afternoon of sightseeing
- Jerez (sherry) – no visit to the South of Spain would be complete without a taste of Jeréz, or sherry, named for the Southern Spanish region in which its produced; warning: it can be very sweet, so sip slowly as an after-dinner digestif.
- Café – there’s a ritual in Spain (especially in the south, where people still adhere to the traditional siesta schedule) that around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, everyone stops for a coffee; indeed, coffee almost has a sort of language all its own, so here’s a brief explanation:
- Café con leche – the traditional coffee, it’s a small intense brew of dark roast coffee cut with about an equal amount of milk, which you can get hot or cold (I recommend hot) – about 1:1 coffee to milk ratio
- Café manchado – the name means “stained coffee,” but it really is more like stained milk because it’s mostly steamed milk with just a touch of coffee
- Café solo – the name means “just coffee” but it’s more like a shot of espresso
- Café Cortado – in English, “cut coffee” is coffee that with steamed milk, but it has mostly coffee in it
- Café Americano – is really just a shot of espresso watered down with hot water
- If you want decaf coffee, ask for “café descafeinado de maquína” because otherwise you’ll get instant coffee instead
- Recommended wines: Rioja and Ribera – two regional classics, that are available at nearly every restaurant across the south of Spain, a must try!
A note about Granada: Granada was the last Islamic city conquered by the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, in 1492 in the Reconquista. The name “Granada” means pomegranate in Spanish, but it comes from the Arabic “al-garnata” or “al-karnata” which approximately translates to “hill of strangers.” Though there were very few inhabitants of where the city now stands during the Visigothic and early Roman periods of Spain’s history, around the 8th or 9th centuries, a small group of North African Muslim people settled the area up in the hills surrounding the city, naming their settlement “Elvira.” However, the population soon realized that it was difficult to live in their higher altitude environment and migrated downward to settle where Granada now resides (you can see the original entrance to the medieval Islamic city at the end of Calle Elvira, called the Puerta (Gate) de Elvira).
Granada has an incredibly interesting and deeply rooted Islamic history, spanning from its establishment until its conquest in 1492. Much of the physical structure and unique culture of the city reflects its deep attachment to the time of the medieval Spanish convivencia, in which the three Abrahamic faiths (basically) lived in peace under the rule of the Islamic caliphs. Indeed, there used to be such an enormous and vibrant Jewish population there that it was called “Garnata al-Yahud,” or “Granada of the Jews.” Now, Granada is one of the hippest, most vibrant cities in Spain, where you can still find free tapas for every meal, live life on a siesta schedule, and encounter unique cultural experiences at every turn. The city is vibrant, buzzing with students from all over Europe who attend the Universidad de Granada, and the people are incredibly friendly, so don’t be surprised if many people casually strike up conversations wherever you go. It’s an extremely manageable size, allowing you to see nearly the whole city in a day or two, but also offers tons of interesting events, delicious restaurants and bars, and cool historic sites from which you can learn a lot about the city’s history and quench your desire to sightsee. The city tends to run at a leisurely pace, though, so do as the Granadans do and feel free to eat a late lunch and take a siesta afterward. I hope you enjoy it!
Bar Poë (Calle Verónica de la Magdalena 40) – A Granada staple that speaks to its diversity, funky style, and rock and roll past is Bar Poe, a standby for the college student and rockn’roller alike, Bar Poë is great for a late night conversation with the co-owners/husband and wife duo who run the place and the spicy Brazilian-fusion tapas.
Taberna La Tana (Placeta del agua 3) – one of my favorite and quality-wise the best tapas bars in the city – the wine selection is phenomenal and every tapa is paired perfectly.
Los Manueles (Calle Reyes Católicos 61) – A Granadan classic, Los Manueles is full nearly every night, alogn with almost every other tapas bar along Calle Navas, just across the street. Be prepared to sit elbow to elbow with entire families of patrons.
Café Picaro (Calle Varela 10) – Café Picaro isn’t known for their food, but rather the nighty concerts given by local jazz bands. Definitely worth a stop if you want to unwind with a drink and some really awesome live music.
Hicuri (Plaza de los Gironés 4) – A delicious vegan option for those nights when you want to escape jamón, with lots of homemade and organic options that are quite satisfying as well.
Los Diamantes (Calle Navas 26) – Another Granada classic, Los Diamantes is known for their seafood; it’s a good standby if you’re stuck in the center of the city with no place to go!
Abaco Te (Calle Álamo del Marqués 5) – Hidden in the windy streets of the Albaicín is Abaco, a tetería (or tea salon) with amazing house-made smoothies, juices, and teas. The best part is the view of the city it offers – I recommend going there around 5 or 6 pm, around sunset, and ordering some sweet things and delicious drinks and going up to the terrace to watch the sun set over the city.
Bohemia Jazz Café (Plaza de los Lobos 11) – Bohemia prides itself on being a blast from the past, and it totally is thanks to the décor of old movie posters and typewriters that plaster the place. It’s a great little café to stop in for afternoon tea or coffee, when a crowd of students from the Universidad del Derecho (Law School) come in for their break between afternoon classes. They also have excellent hot chocolate!
Casa de Vinos La Brujidera (Calle Monjas del Carmen 2) – A delightfully old school haunt, full with barrels of aged wines, this Casa de Vinos provides its patrons with delicious traditional Granadan dishes that come in to your table in neat little cazuelitas (ceramic baking dishes) straight from the stovetop. It’s a cozy stop on a cold night!
El Bar de Fede (Calle Marqués de Falces 1) – A bar that’s dedicated to Granada’s most famous poet, Fedérico García Lorca, El Bar de Fede captures his whimsical spirit with fun décor and fusion tapas. If it’s still around, the Microteatro may be putting on 5-minute plays across the street as well, so inquire at the bar about buying tickets there.
Saint Germain (Calel Postigo Velutti 4) – Another one of my favorite tapas bars, with a fabulous selection of wines and interesting, seasonal tapas that vary each night. Be sure to try the seasonal cheese plate, which comes with an abundance of delicious local cheeses, dried fruit, and nuts.
Papaupa (Calle Molinos 16) – A quirky little hang-out on Calle Molinas, Papaupa has been changing the dining scene quietly in Granada with its unconventional tapas. It’s still a city secret though, so it isn’t always full – but don’t let looks deceive, the food is wonderful and imaginative!
La Casa Cubana de Nancy (Calle Azacayas, 11) – La Casa Cubana de Nancy is an homage to Cuba in culinary form; from the tropical drinks, to the pictures of Nancy and her family, to the pieces of fresh fruit she cuts and lays on the bar for snacking, you can feel Nancy’s personal, loving touch in every aspect of the experience here. A warm, positive environment with delicious snacks and refreshing drinks.
La Criolla gastrobar (Plaza de Campillo Bajo 10) - By far one of the best restaurants in the city, with an innovative menu heavily influenced by molecular gastronomy. Every tapa is high-quality and inventive while also being accessible and satisfying, like their spinach croquetas or take on salmorejo. It’s a must go!
Bodegas Castaneda (Calle de Almireceros 1-3) – Part of the reason the name Bodegas is appropriate for this bar is the sheer sie of the tapas they offer; “family style” is definitely the appropriate adjective. Stop here for traditional tapas and a warm, convivial atmosphere for dinner.
Los Pescadores (Calle Dr. Pareja Yébenes, 9) – As the name suggests, Los Pescadores is known for their seafood. Come to this minimally decorated, simple restaurant for the catch of the day with a cold cerveza and neighborhood regulars.
El Molino (Calle de Molinos 8) – A classic Granadan restaurant in the heart of the Realejo, the old Jewish quarter. Though they aren’t kosher by any stretch of the imagination (blood sausage is their most popular tapa), it’s an interesting place to go to observe the traditional soul of Granada over a cervezica (a ‘little’ beer).
Babel World Fusion (Calle de Elvira 40) – This is a fun little tapas bar right in the middle of Calle Elvira, which is just on the edge of the Albaicin and a gathering place for many of the Sacromonte hippies. If you’re looking for a lively bar with a Spanish take on a hummus plate and great sangria, this is the spot.
Reca (Plaza de la Trinidad) – delicious contemporary takes on classic tapas, in my favorite square in Granada, great for midday lunch. Their take on pisto and patatas bravas are a must try!
La Creperie (Plaza de la Universidad) – a fun crepe café run by a political anarchist in the heart of the Universidad de Granada’s campus; come for the crepes, stay for the political discussion and lively student scene.
Café Futbol (Plaza Mariana Pineda 6) – one of the classic Granadan spots – come here for the best churros y chocolate you’ll ever have, along with a plethora of other sweet things, and it stays open until very late if that’s when the sweeth tooth strikes
La Blanca Paloma (Calle Alhamar, 24) – One of my favorite tapas places in my old neighborhood, if you go to this restaurant you have to get berenjenas fritas or berenjenas a la miel – this restaurant does them the best.
Pan y Dulces de La Alpujarra Tahona de los Galindos (Calle San Antón on the corner of calle Alhamar) – my favorite pastelería in Granada, where everything is traditional, home-made, and absolutely delicious; it’s one among many bakeries on Calle San Antón (and I recommend that you walk the length of this street all the way to Calle Reyes Católicos because it has tons of delicious restaurants and cool stores), but it’s by far the best. A great place to buy tortas, alfajores, hojaldres (types of cookies), and pasteles (cakes) of all types!
Made in Italy (Calle Alhamar) – delicious, home-made Italian food in a fun little sports bar right off the main road of Calle Alhamar.
Mercado San Agustín – this is a covered open market right behind the Catedral de Granada that opens early and closes early, but it’s a great place to go to get high-quality, traditional, fresh foods for a picnic; it’s also the closest feel you can get to the plethora of old Islamic markets that once blanketed the city. You can sample all types of Spanish food products like fish from the coast, jamon ibérico from the north, Manchego cheese from Asturias, and fruits and vegetables from the Alpujarras. It’s also just a joy to walk through and hear the voices and orders of both the vendors and buyers as they do their weekly shop.
Any tapas bar in Plaza San Miguel el Bajo in the Albaicín – the quality of food is pretty consistent with most other restaurants in Granada, but go to this plaza for the atmosphere and the view – it’s one of my favorite plazas in the entirety of the city! And, if you go during the day, pay a euro to climb the tower of the church of San Miguel el Bajo, which was once of the ubiquitous mosques in the Albaicín for an amazing view of the city, the Alhambra, and the Albaicín’s wonderful courtyards.
Parque García Lorca (where Casa Museo Fedérico García Lorca is located) – The old Lorca family home that once sat on a vast tract of agricultural land, but has been absorbed and reopened in the city as a museum, a must-visit to learn about the city’s most famous poet!
Catedral de Granada (also known as the Catedral de la Incarnación) – you’ll see this cathedral’s spires poking through the rest of the city skyline as soon as you set foot on the Gran Vía de Colón, located across from the old Nasrid Madrasa; when you go be sure to stop in the plaza before the churches entrance/exit (depending on where you are) and watch the free flamenco shows and see the famous quotation about Granada in mosaics on the plaza wall (“Dale limosna mujer que no hay nada en la vida pena como la pena de ser ciego en Granada” – Francisco A. de Icaza).
Centro José Guerrero – right across from the Cathedral’s Gran Vía entrance is this gem of a contemporary art museum dedicated to the amazing painter Jose Guerrero, a native Granadan, who later migrated to the United States, befriending modern art greats like Mark Rothko and Franz Kline along the way. It’s a small museum, but it’s modern, glass-based architecture provides a refreshing contrast to the heavy baroque style Granada Cathedral just ten feet away, and the art is pretty sensational too.
Casa del Chapíz – This old estate tucked away among the carmenes (houses with terraced gardens) of the Albaicín, it’s a prime example of mudejar architecture that now houses the Centro de Los Estudios Arábes (Center of Arabic Studies) of Spain’s government funded research centers across the country.
Mirador San Nicolas – One of the must-visit tourist sites in Granada, a lookout point from which you can see the entirety of the city and the Albaicin below. There is always flamenco music playing, tourists touring, and restaurants buzzing there. It’s a must-go when the sun goes down, as the gold of the setting sun illuminates the sky and the Alhambra (which is named for it’s red color when lit) catches fire in the dying light.
Sacromonte (San Miguel el Alto) – At the very topmost point of the mountain across from the Alhambra is the Church of San Miguel el Alto, which is an incredibly lookout point from which you can observe every miniscule detail of Granada. To get there, you need to go trough the famous caves of Sacromonte, where the gypseys traditionally (and still do) live, though many of the caves have been updated to accommodate modern conveniences like TVs, so you’ll see many an antennae poking out of a cave as you walk all the way up.
Museo Casa de Tiros - this frankly non-descript looking building on Calle Pavaneras could easily escape notice, but don’t let it! Once the home to the Granadan noble-run government, the house itself is a prime example of the mudejar style and now houses interesting and eclectic exhibits by local artists along with some fascinating portraits of Spanish monarchs pass. Make sure you stop here along your way into the Realejo!
Alhambra – simply a must-see. I’ll let better guide books describe it! But be sure to get your tickets early so as to have enough time in the palace. And don’t miss out on the Museo de Las Bellas Artes inside the Palacio de Carlos V.
Museo CajaGranada – Home to Granada’s science museum, Museo CajaGranada is exactly the opposite of the traditional Granada aesthetic, with its modernist lines and removal from the city center. It’s definitely worth a trip for a wonderful, interactive museum experience that will give you a new appreciation for Granada’s political, economic, and even agricultural history.
Basilica San Juan de Dios - an ornate, over-the-top Baroque cathedral squeezed between several buildings of the Universidad de Granada. You can take an hour-long audio tour that details the history of the church, see the bones of various saints and cardinals who helped build it, and gape over the serious amount of gilt surfaces contained in the (pretty small) main chapel. Then you can walk around the area for a nice afternoon coffee and peruse the many great bookstores and shops with the throngs of students who are just finishing classes.
Alcaicería – This windy passage of small shops is merely a remnant of the past Alcaicería, the main market of Granada, where sellers would hawk their wares from Plaza Bib Rambla all the way down to Calle Reyes Católicos. It’s worth a stroll inside for interesting gifts and a glimpse into what Granada really used to look like.
Corral de Carbón – at the end of the Alcaicería, across the street on Reyes Católicos, is the Corrál de Carbón, which was once a coal storage building-turned-hotel for wandering merchants back in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The entrance, hidden away behind the commercial ice cream shops of the modernized stretch of Reyes Católicos, is a gorgeous example of Islamic architecture and artistic detail that once adorned all the buildings of the city.
Things to do around the city:
- Tea at the Alhambra Palace Hotel
- Walk from the bottom (Calle Ronda) to the top of the city (The Albaicín)
- Get lost in the Albaicin
- Go across the river to the Zaidín district
- Walk through the university campuses, all across the city
- See a Flamenco show
- Live like a local – check out Yuzin Granada for monthly events, concerts, and exhibitions in the city
- Visit the cafes and sit in Plaza Bib Rambla
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: spend as many hours as humanly possible wandering around the entire city; the best part about Granada is there is always something magical to discover simply by walking on the street.