Weekend Bus Trip to Granada

All About Granada

Granada is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in all of Spain, making it a must on any Iberian itinerary. The kingdom of Granada was established in the year 1238, when Moorish emir Ibn al-Ahmar conquered the land and developed a culturally rich society around the incredible Alhambra fortress and the royal city that flourished within its walls.

Since Isabel and Fernando, the Catholic Monarchs, banished the Moors from Spain and took over Granada in 1492, it has seen many cultural shifts. It’s gone from a city where Jews, Moors and Christians cohabited, to a strictly Catholic region. Later, Gypsies would create a community in the hills that surround the city, making it an important site in the development of flamenco music. Today, Granada has returned to its roots as Gypsy, Moorish and Spanish cultures live harmoniously side by side.

Granada by bus

Granada By Bus

The easiest and most scenic way to get to Granada from Madrid is by bus. When the terrain goes from dry plains to lunar-like hills and never-ending olive groves, you’ll know you’ve reached the southern region of Andalusia. Try to plan your trip so that you catch the sunset over the olive trees; just before the sun disappears it seems to set the trees ablaze with pink and orange flames. The view from the window seat is breathtaking.

You have two options when booking a bus from Madrid to Granada: premium or regular. The regular bus costs around 18 euros and takes you to Granada in about five and a half hours, with one stop along the way. The premium bus takes only four hours, and makes the journey incredibly comfortable with free Wifi, personal TV screens with tons of movie choices, and a free meal service with unlimited beverages, including alcohol. Though it is double the price of the regular bus, at only 38 euros it is often worth time saved and extra comfort.

What to Do in Granada

Visit the Alhambra and Generalife

You absolutely can’t go to Granada without visiting the world-renowned Alhambra and Generalife. Perched on a hill above the city, the red walls of the Alhambra fortress protect the incredible works of architecture that once housed the most important members of Al Andalus society.

Today, you can wander the grounds of both the palace and the Generalife gardens, where the intricate sculptures, overflowing flower beds and hundreds of fountains will give you the feeling of being in an an otherworldly oasis. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance as they sell out quickly, and if you visit between March and October, don’t miss a night tour of the Generalife.

Generalife in Granada

Take time for the Cathedral

Finished in 1561, the Cathedral of Granada fuses Renaissance and Baroque styles making it a stunning feat of architecture. The reason you can’t skip the cathedral has nothing to do with architecture, though. Make your way down to the chapel where you will find the tombs of Queen Isabel and King Fernando, the parents of modern Spain and Granada’s last conquerors.

Wander the Albayzin

Just across the main avenue from the cathedral where the Catholic Monarchs are entombed, you will find the whitewashed Moorish quarter. The Albayzin is made up of narrow cobblestone streets that wind up in a labyrinth to the top of a hill, providing various lookout points for fabulous views of Granada. The most popular viewpoint is the Mirador San Nicolas, where you can watch the sun set over the Alhambra, Granada and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains as Gypsies play guitar and sing in the background.

Alhambra, Granada

Don’t skip Sacromonte

Keep going past the Albayzin towards the caves of the Sacromonte, where the Gypsies of Granada once lived. Nowadays, you’ll find many creative residents painting, playing music, making jewelry and enjoying the gorgeous views of Granada and the Alhambra. Be sure to stop in the Sacromonte Museum before heading back to town to get a feel for the history of the area.

Indulge in free tapas

In Granada, whenever you order a drink you will be gifted with a free tapa, ranging from a piece of jamon on bread to a whole plate of prawns. Two of the best and most authentic tapas bars in Granada are Bodegas Castañeda, where the tapas are traditional Andalusian fare and the barmen are lively, and Los Diamantes where the young waiters treat you to piles of free, fresh seafood with your beer.

Granada cuisine

Face the music

As we’ve mentioned before, Granada has a fabulous music scene. Don’t miss a flamenco show at Peña la Platería where some of the country’s best dancers and singers regularly perform. For jazz and blues, head to Booga Club. Finally, if you love to dance the night away, Mae West is not only the hottest club in Granada, but one of the best in all of Andalusia.

Day Trips

Granada is a city nestled between mountains and sea, making the surrounding areas extremely geographically diverse. If you’re visiting for more than a few days, you must take a day trip to take advantage of Granada’s natural wonders.

Hit the slopes in the Sierra Nevada

If you visit in the winter and are looking to get on the slopes, you can easily get to the fabulous Sierra Nevada peaks by bus. The Autocares Bonal bus company will take you from the Granada bus station to the ski resort, where all gear is available for rental, in under an hour. A return ticket costs 9 euros.

Catch some rays in the Costa del Sol

Its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea makes Granada an excellent base for a beach vacation. Nerja is not only one of the most beautiful towns on the Costa del Sol, but also one of the easiest to reach from Granada. Grab an ALSA bus from the Granada bus station to get to the beach in two hours, for just under 20 euros round trip.

Get back to nature in the Alpujarras

For the best hiking in the region of Granada, head to the Alpujarras mountains. Not only are the hiking routes great, but they are also dotted with charming, whitewashed towns along the way. For about 12 euros round trip, an ALSA bus will get you to the town of Capileira in two hours. While you’re there, be sure to pick up some local chocolate and jamon serrano, and fuel up after a long hike with a typical plato alpujarreño of potatoes, ham, sausage and green peppers.

This post was written by Liz Carlson from Young Adventuress. After studying a semester in Salamanca, Spain, Liz grew in love with travel. Now, a few years later, Liz has visited more than 40 countries around the globe and is currently living in New Zealand.

Follow her adventures as she wanders, eats and photographs her way around the world on her blog, Instagram, Facebook & Twitter.