Last updated on September 25th, 2020 at 09:52 pm
If Granada, Spain, isn’t on your must-visit list yet, it should be.
My first visit to Granada was in February of 2015, and it was almost by accident.
You see, my husband and I were off on an adventure. We were heading across the big pond for our first 5-week stay in Europe. And although Granada was not on our radar at first, it’s where we decided to rent a house for a month.
With visions of brilliant sunshine and mild weather, we had initially planned on finding a place along the Costa Tropical of Spain. But instead, after seeing a few images of Granada, we changed course and decided to head there for our extended holiday instead.
After all, the forecasted temperatures still seemed mild in Granada, at least in comparison to our home state of Wisconsin. So what did we have to lose, right?
Why Did We Choose Granada?
Because the palace was calling my name.
It was an image that I saw of the Alhambra Palace, and the allure of visiting it that drew me to the idea of going to Granada. Not just for a day trip or a weekend, but an extended stay.
I wanted to bask in the view of that fantastic piece of Moorish architecture for weeks.
But that wasn’t the only reason.
Granada is more authentic and less touristy than other popular cities in Spain. And that will sound like a very contradictory statement once you realize that the Alhambra Palace is one of the most visited attractions in Spain and capped at 6600 visitors per day.
I did say 6600 visitors per day!
Which is a whole lot of people for a place I just said was “less touristy.”
The thing is, the Alhambra is a city within a city atop a fortress, so this palace has a huge “backyard.”
Aside from the wonders of the Alhambra itself, Granada has a certain energetic vibe to it. The city is rich in history and lively.
But what did we know? After all, before we went there, we hadn’t yet been there!
My entire criteria for choosing Granada consisted of 3 things:
- My instant love affair with the looks of the Alhambra
- The other historic sites, which also looked pretty great
- A climate that was warmer and sunnier than Wisconsin
But it wasn’t until we got there that the real benefits of visiting during the winter months became apparent to me.
Why Visit Granada In the Winter?
Before giving you my list of “10” reasons, let me interrupt for a moment to provide you with a weather report.
Before we decided on visiting Granada in February, not only did I research the average temperatures expected in Granada during February, but I also scoured the actual daily temps during February from previous years.
According to all of those sources, we could cheerfully expect the daytime temperature to be somewhere between 60 F and 70 F. The nighttime lows would admittedly be chilly with temps most likely reaching the low 40s F.
But what the heck, we’re from Wisconsin. Daytime February temps above 60 F? Sounded like paradise to me.
Weatherwise, that’s what was supposed to happen; hence, the first item on my list of “10” reasons why Granada is an excellent place to visit during the winter!
Wait. What? Snow In Granada?
The weather didn’t quite happen the way it was supposed to.
But anything can (and probably will happen) when you travel. So it’s important to be ready to adapt to that “anything” once it does happen.
But keep something else in mind.
It’s also important to turn that “anything” from an unexpected vacation disaster that you allow to completely ruin your entire holiday, into an unexpectedly fun situation that will keep you in stories and memories for years.
Reasons To Visit Granada During the Winter
Finally, here’s the list:
- Climate – The weather will be sunny and mild enough to spend lots of time outdoors, but it won’t be oppressively hot like during the summer months. Since Granada is a walking city, with some important areas up big hills, cooler daytime temperatures make the outdoor experience much more enjoyable than if you were visiting during a sweltering heatwave.
- Accommodations – Whether you plan to stay in a hotel or rent a house or apartment as we did, you’ll pay low season rates rather than lofty high season prices.
- Sierra Nevada – You can go skiing. The Sierra Nevada ski resort is only 31 kilometers from Granada, making it an easy day trip if you want to spend a day out on the slopes. And something cool – the altitude is high, and on clear days you can see all the over to the coast of Africa.
- Costa Tropical Beaches – You can hit the beach. While the city of Granada is not on the Mediterranean coast, it’s not far. The Costa Tropical of Spain is only about 70 kilometers from Granada, so you can make a day trip over to the beach if you’re looking for a day near sand and sea.
- Winter Festivals – Beginning with Christmas markets in November and December and continuing with the Granada Reconquest Festival, Three Kings Day, Carnaval, and Samana Santa, Spain loves its festivals and there are many during the winter months.
- Winter Light – The winter light is different. It casts a unique and charming glow on the historical buildings of the various quarters of the city, and most impressively on the Alhambra Palace buildings.
- Alhambra Palace – Speaking of the Alhambra, it will seem virtually empty during the winter compared to the tourist stampede during the summer months. Also, you can take a Skip-the-Line tour and experience no lines at all. But the beautiful thing is, you may not even need that. We chose to visit on a midweek day, and there was no line. Unbelievable!
- Sacramonte Abbey – You can visit the Sacramonte Abbey and hopefully also have no lines. But even better, there are hiking trails (and fabulous views over the city) in the Abbey region, and experiencing these during the winter, and cooler weather is essential.
- Albaicin Quarter – This is the old Arab quarter of the city, and it deserves some attention. But, it’s located up the hill (and that’s putting it mildly.) Nothing but hills and steps once you start messing with the Albaicin. So a nice chilly day is perfect for visiting this interesting quarter of the city. I lived in the Albaicin for the month we were in Granada.
- Hot Chocolate and Churros – A typical treat for this region of Spain. But who wants hot chocolate if it’s 100 degrees in the shade? No, better to enjoy this delicious combo during the dead of winter.
That’s my list of 10 reasons to visit Granada in the winter.
If that’s not enough to make you yearn for a visit there in the winter, then I’ve got one more for you.
And this might be my favorite – FREE TAPAS.
Yes, I’m serious.
Granada has something called a “free tapas tradition.”
How do you get your free tapas?
You order a drink in a bar, and they will serve you a free tapa to go with it. Order another drink, and you get another free tapa. Order another, and get another free tapa.
See how that works? It’s that simple.
All of a sudden, you’ve had dinner for the cost of a few drinks.
The tapas that you will get will vary from bar to bar, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find the tapas bars that have the best tapas.
And I promise you, you’ll be getting more than a bag of chips or a few olives for your snack. Some of the tapas plates are quite elaborate, especially when you’re on your second or third round.
There are several stories about why this tradition exists, and Granada is the last city to uphold this particular tradition.
Some say the tapas tradition dates back to the 13th century, and a king plied with copious amounts of wine and snacks to help him recover from an illness. After he recovered, he decided that he enjoyed the wine and snacks so much that he ordered the taverns to offer their guests the same.
I don’t know if that story is true or whether one of the others out there is more accurate.
What I do know, is that I didn’t quite believe it until I saw it. But it is true and the free tapas did appear.
So, if you like your snacks, I’m here to tell you that you’ll never go hungry in Granada!
Mary is the creator of Still en Route where she writes about all things travel, with a baby boomer twist. She’s been self-employed in the travel industry since 1984, and her goal is to inspire you to be more adventurous and learn how to fit more life into your lifestyle.