So what does the City of Granada have to do with cave living you may well ask yourself ?
Well first of all Granada is home to the famous gypsy cave district of Sacromonte. Whilst secondly, Granada is the capital city within our province of Andalucia. And if that’s not enough, it’s one of the most visited cities in Spain and at just over an hour away from us, right on our doorstep 🙂
So, we made the decision to leave the underground world for a while and go explore Granada to find out what all the fuss was about.
However, as we are living on a budget, we needed to make the trip as inexpensive as possible and so started researching free things to do in Granada 🙂
And here’s what we ended up seeing and doing without harming our wallet …..
Free walking tours.
We first discovered the concept of free tours whilst visiting New York. A company was offering a variety of tours (both walking and cycling), guided by a local. The tour was free, if you enjoyed it, then you could choose to tip based on your experience. The idea was that the guide would provide a high level of service as this would influence how much they were tipped. They often pointed out little known nooks and crannies, provided a wealth of local knowledge and recommended places to eat and visit. We did a couple of these tours and had great experiences.
So once we had decided to visit Granada, we thought we would check to see if such a thing existed there … and low and behold we found Walk in Granada 🙂
They offered 3 very distinctive tours (provided in either English or Spanish), had good reviews and could be signed up for on-line. We opted for 2 of the tours (the 3rd wasn’t available during the days we were visiting). We chose the early evening Sacromonte tour (well we do live in a cave don’t you know).
and the following morning, the daily run historical tour.
We had a great experience, with the tours being well run and thought-out. The two different guides we had were both University graduates in English and tourism, local to Granada, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. We would thoroughly recommend taking advantage of these tours.
Free drinking water.
Even in September, It was hot work walking around the City, fortunately we received a great bit of advise from our guides during the above tours – all the fuentes (fountains) within Granada dispense free drinking water 🙂
This was great news, it was a hot couple of days during our visit and as there were fuentes all over the place. We just carried around our water bottles and topped up as and when required.
Not only did it save us money, but we didn’t have to keep trying to detour to find shops to buy water (and you know very well that if you go into a shop you always come out with more than you intended).
And the water here can do more than simply refresh you !
The ‘Fuente de aceituno’ which is behind the church at the top of Sacromonte is known as the fountain of youth. Legend goes that an olive tree growing there started producing lots of water, and people drank it and got younger !
Whilst in the gypsy quarter there is the ‘Fuente de la Amapola’, where apparently you can find true love.
The translation of the inscription on the fountain reads:
“How I would love to be the neighborhood fountain; for when you pass by and drink, I feel close to your lips”.
So there you have it …hydration, youth and love, and all for free 🙂
All that exploring was thirsty work and the free water wasn’t quite hitting the mark. So it was time to find a bar and enjoy a cold refreshing cerveza. Now here’s the best bit, the drinks here came with an added bonus … all drinks (except coffee) in the bars in Granada come with free tapas. Whilst this is actually the norm throughout Andalucia, in Granada they simply do it bigger and better.
Now here’s my secret tip – the size of the tapas doesn’t change with the size of the drink.
So order un caño or un tubo, rather than una jaffa and enjoy a different tapas dish every time you order another drink. Drink at the right place and there’s often no need to have an actual meal 😉
The best known tourist area for tapas is on Calle Navas, however, a Spanish friend of mine had recommended checking out the bars at Calle Elvira (just off Plaza Nueva).
We ended up in a bar on Calle Elvira called ‘Bodegas Castañeda’.They served excellent tapas and it had a far more local feel about it. Beware though … it was standing room only 😉
Free areas of the Alhambra.
When visiting Granada, the Alhambra is without a doubt the ‘must do’ attraction. The problem is that being the most visited monument in Spain, if you don’t plan ahead then you run the real risk of not being able to buy a ticket.
We had needed to book our tickets 4 weeks before our planned visit, and during our time at the Alhambra we encountered a number of people turning up only to find themselves disappointed to find no tickets available.
So what do you do if your can’t get a ticket ?
All is not lost, as there are parts of the Alhambra that can be visited for free.
Simply walk through the ‘Puerta de la Justicia’ and into the Alhambra.
The parts you can visit without tickets are the Palacio Carlos V (where the Emperor Carlos V decided to build his Roman-style palace) and Alhambra Museum.
You are also rewarded with alternative views of the Alcazaba as well as panoramic views of both the City and the Sacromonte cave district.
Other free Monuments we visited
Whilst there are many free monuments, museums, gardens and open spaces in Granada, we have chosen only to write about those we visited during this trip, all of which we think are well worth a look.
So here goes …
1. Corral del Carbon
This is right In the centre of Granada and is the oldest arab monument in Spain. It has a spectacular original Arab entrance and a simple interior courtyard. Apparently It is where the merchants who came to sell their goods in Granada (in the nearby Alcaicería silk market) would stay.
2. Casa de Zafra
This is described as one of the best preserved treasures of theAlbaicín district of Granada.
This 14th-century Spanish-Moorish dwelling today houses the Albaicín Visitor Centre.
It features Nazarid wall paintings and unbeatable views of the Alhambra.
How rich and powerful must the person who owned this have been to have such privileged views ?
3. Palacio de la Madraza
This was founded by King Nazarite Yusuf I in 1349 and was an important institution in Moorish Granada.
It is located in a privileged place in the city, next to the old main mosque (now home to the Cathedral) and the Alcaiceria, (Moorish bazaar).
What’s left of the original Moorish features is the mihrab.
This finely decorated prayer niche was restored in the 20th century. There are also various areas of decorated plaster work and a wooden dome covered with stucco lace work that belong to the original structure.
Free Street Entertainment.
Free street entertainment can be found all over Granada, with everything from living statues to music and flamenco.
Again it’s free, if you like what you see then simply reward them with a few coins.
Living statues are popular during the day, especially around the Cathedral.
Whilst in the early evenings, the Mirador de San Nicholas and Paseo de los Tristes seem to be the places to see live music and flamenco.
Free Scenic Viewpoints.
In our humble opinion, the best views of both the City and Alhambra can again be experienced for free.
Whilst there were many places to stop and soak in the views, the 2 absolutely ‘must experience’ view points are:
1. Mirador de San Nicholas
The Mirador de San Nicolas is a square opposite the Alhambra with an amazing view of the Alhambra, Generalife, the Sierra Nevada and the whole of Granada.
It is at the top of the Albaicín which is the old Arabic part of Granada.
Be warned though, it gets quite crowded at certain times of the day as almost everyone who visits Granada will go there, it’s especially busy at sunset and a popular place for enjoying free street entertainment.
2. Mirador San Miguel Alto
La Ermita de San Miguel Alto also wins our coveted prize of best viewpoints in Granada. Situated atop one of Granada’s northeastern hills (above Sacromonte), the tiny church offers views of the whole city, from the Albaicín neighborhood to the Alhambra fortress, and even beyond to the distant Sierra de Nevada mountains.
So there you have it, our guide to the best free things to do in Granada.
All it leaves us to say is … what are you waiting for ?
So … Who are one foot in the cave ?
We (Danny and Josie) have spent the last 10 years living and working in the Caribbean. In 2015 we decided we wanted to move closer to family and friends so bought a cave house in the Granada region of Andalucia, Spain. We moved there full time in January 2017. Now we write about our experiences of cave living and how we are adapting to life in Spain.
We also have a Facebook page full of pictures, experiences and information that we have found useful along the way. If it’s your thing, you can also follow us on Instagram 🙂
5 words related to this blog entry …
Pomegranate – La Granada.
Free – Gratis.
Guide – El/La Guía.
Entertainment – La Diversión.
Viewpoint – El Mirador.