Are you visiting the magical capital city of the Costa del Sol? Though there is no shortage of things to do in Malaga, you’d be remiss to stay confined within the city limits. The region of Andalucia has some of the most beautiful cities in all of Spain. Granada is one such city. On a day trip from Malaga to Granada, you’ll be able to experience all of the highlights Granada has to offer, including the world-renowned Alhambra.
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Day Trip from Malaga to Granada
Getting from Malaga to Granda
There are a couple of different options when it comes to traveling from Malaga to Granada. The shortest way takes about an hour and twenty minutes and the cheapest costs roughly $10 USD. Depending on whether you’re short on time or traveling on a budget, you can decide which method of travel is best for you.
Taking the bus on a day trip from Malaga to Granada is the cheapest option with costs between $10-$14. Avanzo Grupo has service from Malaga to Granada four times per day and takes less than two hours.
Driving is by far the fastest option to travel between Malaga and Granada. This method takes only an hour and twenty minutes, but you will need to have your own vehicle. If you have a rental car, this may be a great option for you, as you can leave as early as you like and beat the crowds at the Alhambra.
The train is the most expensive and longest way to get from Malaga to Granada. This route is indirect and includes a stopover. The total journey by train takes about two hours and fifteen minutes. From Malaga Maria Zambrano station, take the train to Antequera-Santa Ana. From there, you can get on a train to Granada. Tickets for the train are as low as $20 USD, but that depends on which time and date you select. A more realistic price for a one-way ticket is around $55 USD. You can see how this gets pretty pricey if you’re traveling with a few people and need return tickets as well.
We recommend taking the bus, or, if you’ve got your own car, driving on a day trip from Malaga to Granada.
Is a Day Trip from Malaga to Granada Worth it?
Granada is a truly magical city. Its extensive Moorish heritage dates back over 7000 years. A day trip from Malaga to Granada is worth it even if you are only visiting the Alhambra, the last and finest Moorish palace in Andalucia.
But there is much more to Granada than Alhambra. Get lost in the Arab and Roma neighborhoods, explore ancient cathedrals, go shopping, taste your way through tapas bars, or see a Flamenco show.
Truthfully, Granada is worth much more than a day. But if a day is all you can spare, then a day trip from Malaga to Granada is well worth it.
How to Spend a Day in Granada
Explore the Alhambra
The world-famous Alhambra is among the most popular places to visit in all of Spain. Dating back to the late 800s, it was originally a small fortress on the site of ancient Roman ruins. The Alhambra as we know it today was finished in the 1300s for the Nasrids. The Nasrids ruled the the Emirate in the final hundred years of Muslim rule in Andalucia.
The palace served as a residence and summer retreat for the Muslim rulers of the region.
Following the Reconquista in the 1400s, Granada fell to Catholicism and the monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella. They were big fans of the palace and did extensive work to enhance it even more.
Top sites within the Alhambra include the Alcazaba, Charles V Palace, and of course, the Nasrid Palace. The Nasrid Palace is the tour de force of the Alhambra, truly showcasing the incredibly ornate Moorish architecture and design.
The Alhambra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1984.
Be sure to book your tickets as far in advance as possible.
Find Shade in the Generalife Gardens
If you thought the Alhambra was impressive, wait until you explore its stately grounds and Generalife gardens. These sprawling, lush gardens served as a summer escape for the Nasrid rulers.
Providing a perfect, shaded reprieve from the intense summer heat, the last of the Moorish sultans spent a lot of time here.
With tiered fountains, perfectly manicured topiaries, sprawling flowerbeds, and reflection pools, the Generalife gardens rival those of Versailles.
The Granada Cathedral is the second largest in Spain and fourth largest in the world. Needless to say, its magnitude is not exaggerated. A mishmash of Baroque and Renaissance architectural styles, this 16th-century cathedral dominates the historic center of Granada.
Similar to the Malaga Cathedral, the Granada Cathedral is also unfinished, missing a tower.
Aside from its obvious grandeur, highlights to admire in the Granada Cathedral include its stained glass windows, grand altar, and multiple side chapels.
Visitors can explore the cathedral Mondays thru Saturdays, so if you’re taking a day trip from Malaga to Granada on a Sunday, you’ll miss out. Of course, you can always admire its exterior regardless of the day.
It costs €5 to enter, which includes an audio guide.
A short walk from the Granada Cathedral is the Royal Chapel. This is where two of Spain’s most acclaimed monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, are interred. They commissioned the Royal Chapel to be built in order to have a befitting resting place in the early 16th century. Unfortunately, they died prior to completion and were temporarily buried elsewhere before their bodies were moved.
Their successors, Joanna of Castile and Philip I, are also buried here.
A wrought iron gate surrounds the stunning alabaster tomb. The tomb is merely for aesthetics. The infamous rulers are actually buried in in coffins in the crypt below.
Plaza de Bib Rambla
A great place to enjoy a bite to eat or an afternoon drink is Plaza de Bib Rambla. A gorgeous plaza near the Granada Cathedral, Plaza de Bib Rambla is replete with restaurants, bars, and boutique shops. It’s the perfect place for people-watching.
Find an outdoor table under the shade of the trees that line the square (during the spring and summer months, obviously) and take a break from all of the heavy sightseeing on your day trip from Malaga to Granada.
Discover Granada’s Arab Quarter
Granada’s Arab Quarter, Albayzín, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Following the Reconquista, this is where the remaining Moorish population settled. This neighborhood is nothing short of captivating, noted for its architecture and Moorish tiles.
The labyrinth of streets are reminiscent of a Medina, filled with tight alleyways and towering homes.
Paseo de los Tristes and Carrera del Darro are the two main areas to visit. You’ll find more tapas bars, small shops, cafes, and more. You may even stumble across a street performance or two.
Situated on a very steep hill, you can find one of the most popular viewpoints in Granada in the Albayzin – the Mirador San Nicolas. Don’t forget your camera – the views of the Alhambra from Mirador San Nicolas can’t be beat.
Get Your Souvenirs at the Alcaiceria
During Moorish rule, the Alcaiceria was Granada’s Grand Bazaar. It was here that merchants would sell their wares, mainly silk and spices, along a narrow maze of streets. Today, the area is but a single narrow alleyway filled with souvenir shops.
Though some of the shops are super kitschy and commercial, you can still find some great buys here. You can find gorgeous and authentic hand-painted Moorish ceramics as well as intricately carved wood items.
If you’re good at haggling (unlike me), you can talk the vendors down from the tourist prices that are listed.
Even if you don’t plan on purchasing anything, it’s still a fun and worthwhile area to walk around.
Get Lost in the Sacromonte Neighborhood
Another interesting neighborhood to explore, just east of Albayzin, is Sacromonte. Literally translating to ‘sacred mountain,’ Sacromonte is home to Granada’s Roma (gypsy) population.
The distinctive flavor of Sacromonte comes from its cave homes. You can see these for yourself, noting how no two caves are the same. The layout is determined by the terrain.
This is where the city’s best flamenco performances are held. If you are in Granada at night, try to book a night tour of Sacromonte. This may not be possible on a day trip from Malaga to Granada, but as I mentioned, Granada is worth much more than a day if you can swing it.
Visit The Bañuelo
The baths on Carrera del Darro are a stunning example of Arab baths, and a must-visit on your day trip from Malaga to Granada.
After the Reconquista, most of the Moorish bathhouses in the city were destroyed. The Catholic monarchs saw them as lewd and salacious, earning them a reputation similar to a brothel.
The baths on Carrera del Darro survived simply because they were located under a private home. Free to visit, these baths offer an exclusive look into an authentic hammam from the days of the Moors.
Pay special attention to the columns that hold up the inner arches. The columns here, similar to those at the Alcazaba in Malaga, are from ancient Roman times.
Depending on the time of day you visit, you can get some really interesting photographs, for yourself or for Instagram. The ceilings in each chamber are adorned with star-shaped holes that create mesmerizing light effects throughout.
Monasterio de San Jerónimo
This 16th century monastery was the first of its kind built following the Reconquista. Its construction began in 1496 but wasn’t finished until the 1500s.
In addition to the ornate and intricate details that are found on the exterior façade of the building, its courtyard is highly worth a visit. Filled with vibrant colors and the aromas of the many orange trees, it’s easy to lose track of time here. If you’re visiting on a day trip from Malaga to Granada, be sure to check your watch!
You can visit the interior as well, but be forewarned that on Sundays there is still a traditional mass held at 10am.
It costs €4 to enter. On Sundays, following mass, you can take a guided tour at 11am for €7.
One final monument to visit on your day trip from Malaga to Granada is the Granada Charterhouse. This luxurious monastery took over 300 years to complete!
It is one of Spain’s most acclaimed examples of Baroque architecture.
An outside courtyard is adorned with rows of Doric columns from the 1600s. Rooms leading off from this courtyard are decorated with pictures of martyrs who met their death fighting for what they believed in.
Where to Eat in Granada
There are plenty of delicious tapas bars, cafes, and restaurants to grab a bite to eat in Granada. Our personal favorites were Bar Avila on Veronica de la Virgen or Bar La Buena Vida on Almiceros. Bodega Legado Andalusi is a great option as well!
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