Granada is a historic city located in Southern Spain and many people visit there to see the Alhambra Palace and Fortress complex. It is equally important to visit the Granada Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Incarnation, and the Royal Chapel, which is adjacent to the church. The cathedral has an interesting architecture that represents the changing styles that were occurring during its construction in the mid-16th century. There are some gothic features, but it is mainly in the Spanish Renaissance style with elements of Baroque.
The cathedral features a large organ, high domed ceilings, white marble pillars, and a black and white checkered floor. The main dome, with its green background and gold stars, certainly draws the attention of anyone who visits the cathedral. In addition to all of the golden features throughout the interior of the cathedral, beautiful pieces of art adorn the walls of the church. Although the exterior is not as impressive as some of the other gothic cathedrals that can be found all around Europe, it is still quite worth visiting.
Located next to the cathedral is the Royal Chapel, which is the burial place of the Spanish Monarchs, Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand. It was Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand who famously funded Christopher Columbus’ venture that led to the European colonization of the Americas. Construction of the Royal Chapel began in the early 1500’s and was built in the gothic style. The highlight of visiting the Royal Chapel is seeing the tombs, which are protected by a glass wall.
The Granada Cathedral is certainly gorgeous and is a highlight of any visit to Granada. In addition to the cathedral and the Royal Chapel, there are many small streets that wind all around the heart of the old town area with plenty of small restaurants and shops.
Located at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada is a wonderful city located in southern Spain. For obvious reasons, the Alhambra Palace is a definite highlight of a visit to Granada, but there is more to see than just the fortress and palace. The narrow streets, beautiful cathedral, the Royal Chapel, and restaurants and stores make visiting the city worth at least a couple of days in order to see it adequately. The city is very walkable, although many of the narrow streets can be quite steep, so feel free to stop at a local bistro for a quick break to enjoy a glass of Spanish wine.
With an elevation over 2,400 feet (730 meters) above sea level and with roads that crawl up the sides of the Sierra Nevada mountains, there are wonderful views of the city from several vantage points. Some of the best are from the walls of Alhambra, but there are many from neighborhoods as well. Even though the panoramic views are amazing, the best views can be found by walking the side streets and discovering some of the many restaurants and shops that the city has to offer. One of our favorite streets wrapped itself along the sides of Alhambra and provided a different view of the fortress.
When planning a trip to Granada, or southern Spain in general, one should be prepared to be on a relaxing schedule. No one is in a hurry and even though the temperatures can be more mild than other parts of the region, people still go out for walks late into the evening. Granada is located about an hour’s drive from the coast and an hour and a half from the city of Malaga. It was closer to a four and a half hour drive from where we stayed in Estepona. It was certainly worth taking the time to get there. If you intend to go to Alhambra, as you definitely should, be sure to buy your tickets well in advance as they do sell out up to six to eight weeks ahead of time.
We really enjoyed our time in Granada and it was one of our favorite memories of the region. We also spent time in Seville as well as Ronda, but seeing Alhambra in Granada is a memory of a lifetime. We spent several days in Granada, making our time there very relaxing and enjoying many different restaurants with wonderful food.
There are so many wonderful places to see in Southern Spain, so we have put together what we considered to be an ideal itinerary for visiting the region. We rented a car for the 2 weeks that we spent there, which is ideal as it is easy to get around and the highways are not very busy. Although we stayed at one central location so that we didn’t have to continuously pack and unpack, it could easily be done by going to each place individually.
Granada – You will want at least 2 days in Granada with the highlight of city being the Alhambra Palace. There are wonderful restaurants and plenty of quaint hotels to choose from. Situated near the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the city has breathtaking views. Although we only spent a couple of days in Granada, it is certainly worthy of more time if you have it available.
Malaga – We flew into this city and then immediately drove to our home-base in Estepona, but we made sure to come back and spend a day in the city later. You can also catch a high-speed train to Madrid if you want to see something other than Southern Spain. Sitting on the coast of the Mediterranean with a history that stretches back almost 3,000 years, it is certainly worth at least a couple of days during your time in the region. There are also several museums that are worth visiting in addition to the many sights around the city.
Marbella and Estepona – Basically the Spanish Riviera on the Costa Del Sol, you could easily spend two weeks just enjoying the beach, water activities, shopping, resorts, and award-winning restaurants. We stayed in Estepona, so after every day trip, we would return back to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean. Not a bad way to end a busy day of sightseeing. Even if you can’t spend a couple of weeks in these resort towns, you should at least plan on a couple of days to enjoy the beautiful beaches and eat some fresh seafood.
Benahavís – With only a single road that leads to this town in the mountains, it is a food lovers paradise. Even if you don’t spend a full day in the town, it is certainly worth visiting if you are in the Marbella area. It is quintessential Spain with a truly relaxed atmosphere and some of the best restaurants and wine that we had during our time in Spain.
Ronda – The bridge that spans the canyon is worth seeing from both above as well as below. There is also the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain within the city and there is a unique and historical bullfight that takes place in Ronda once a year. While in the area, it is certainly worthwhile to visit one of the many vineyards and olive farms for a tasting. We spent a day in Ronda and felt that we were able to get a true sense of the city, but you could certainly spend more time if you have it available.
Tangiers, Morocco – Although not in Spain, we would highly recommend taking a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to see this historic city. Being at the crossroads from Africa into Europe, Tangiers is a fascinating city with a cultural blend that is unique to Northern Africa. We hired a private tour guide so that we had transportation to get outside of the city, but it certainly isn’t necessary. Although we only spent a single day in Morocco, we would recommend getting a hotel and at least spending 2 days if your travels allow.
Gibraltar – Just seeing the Rock of Gibraltar and the fortress is worth making this part of your travel plans. Given that it is part of the United Kingdom, walking the streets of Gibraltar will make you feel like you are walking a street somewhere in England with all of the pubs, British flags, and fish and chips vendors. A day in the city is enough to take the tram up to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar to see the amazing views as well as to walk through the city itself.
Seville – As the capital of Andalusia, it is certainly a highlight of any trip to Southern Spain. To truly get a sense of everything that this historic city has to offer, you will want to spend at least 3 days in Seville. With its historic cathedral, old town, Jewish quarter, and museums, there is much to see in the city. If you do drive to Seville, the narrow streets can be difficult to navigate. Be sure to enjoy some Iberico ham while you are in the city as it is truly delicious.
We certainly enjoyed our full two week adventure in Southern Spain and would highly recommend it to anyone traveling there. We visiting during November, which turned out to be ideal as far as temperatures go, but if you want to spend more time on the beach, then you should consider summer. If you do go during summer, expect the coast to be packed with visitors as many people from across Europe head to the beaches and resorts in the area.