Discovering Granada, Spain: A Hidden Gem for Potential Expats

Granada is home to the ancient fortress that draws people from all over the world. Located in southern Spain, its history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes make it a must visit destination.

Granada is known for its iconic Alhambra palace and lively university scene; it is the perfect relocation spot for those dreaming of a Spanish adventure. However, despite its many charms, Granada has yet to become a hotspot for foreign residents.

We fell in love with the city and we’re excited to share it with you!

Watch Our Video About Granada Spain

Getting to Granada

Our journey to Granada began with a train ride from Seville. Reasonably priced at $50 per ticket, the nearly three-hour trip was affordable and incredibly comfortable compared to flying.

The train ride offered picturesque views of the Spanish countryside, making the time fly by. This smooth, scenic travel option was a wonderful introduction to Granada’s accessibility and charm.

The Allure of Granada

We felt right at home in Granada! Let’s dive in to what makes this city so special.

Small City Charm with Big City Amenities

Despite its size and population of around 230,000, Granada packs a punch. It balances the feel of a small community with the conveniences of a larger city. The presence of a university adds a youthful energy that we found particularly appealing.

Low Elevation

At an elevation of about 2,400 feet (730 meters), Granada offers the unique advantage of mountainous living, which we enjoyed. The city’s higher altitude provides breathtaking views and a pleasant climate, apart from the hottest summer months.

History and Culture

Granada’s history is visible in its most famous landmark, the Alhambra. This “Red Fortress” was built over 800 years ago by the Moors and remains the most visited monument in Spain, drawing around three million visitors each year.

We visited the Walls of Albaicin and took a long walk through the neighborhood of Albaicin and Sacromonte. We also stumbled upon Ermita de San Miguel Alto, a popular lookout.

During our stay we visited the famous Catedral de Granada. Queen Isabella ordered its construction in 1505, and it is considered a masterpiece of the Renaissance.  Besides the Alhambra, the city’s ancient neighborhoods like Albaicin and Sacromonte are rooted in history, with constructions dating back over a millennium.

Safety and Friendliness

The city seemed exceptionally safe. There were many single young women out by themselves and and groups of single women out exploring as well. Seeing the women out day and night by themselves solidified our feeling of safety.The welcoming and friendly locals also contributed to the city’s inclusive atmosphere.

Plenty of Green Space

If you enjoy parks and hiking, you’ll appreciate all the green spaces throughout the area. There are plenty of parks featuring free exercise equipment (Amelia even took advantage of riding a free stationary bike). We found several hiking trails accessible right from the city center so there’s no need for a car.

Affordable Living Options

Granada is generally more affordable than larger Spanish cities like Seville. We found that rental prices were quite reasonable; for instance, a furnished apartment in Albaicin could range from $500 to $1,500 monthly. Utilities and daily expenses are also lower than in more popular expat destinations.

Public Transportation and Walkability

The public transportation system includes buses and a light metro system that links significant parts of the town, making car-free living entirely feasible. The Metro Ligero (Light Metro)  runs north and south through Centro and stops at the train station.  Taxis and Uber were also widely available.

We had no problems walking around the city. Centro and other parts of the city are flat and the sidewalks are wide. However historic areas are hilly and crowded so walking wasn’t as easy but still doable. (You do need to pay more attention since the sidewalks are uneven in this area.)  We were able to walk almost everywhere within 15 to 20 minutes.

Food & Dining

We often cooked at home during our time here. The city has mercados and fruterías with a wide variety of fresh produce at affordable prices. We found ecotienda organic shop that sold specialty food items as well. Additionally, there are bulk stores and big-box supermarkets such as Superkedy, Carrefour Express, Mercadona, Mas, and Aldi.

There’s no shortage of good restaurants in Granada.  We found some new favorites, including Wild Food, Hicuri, Thali Indian, Hannigan, and Sons Irish Pub.

Outdoor dining is very popular, even in the cold (they have heaters).  Places were packed, and not just the tourist places.  Part of the culture is to take time to enjoy your meals and drinks with friends.

Shopping

Granada has its fair share of places to shop.  There is a pedestrian shopping area similar to Seville, consisting of chains and local stores, including vintage.  Calle Calderería Nueva is a street with local shops selling many Arab-inspired clothes and souvenirs.

Challenges of Living in Granada

Despite its many advantages, Granada comes with its own set of challenges.

Noise and Crowds

The city can be noisy outside of the pedestrian areas. There’s a lot of traffic, loud motorcycles and buses, and a lot fewer electrical vehicles compared to other cities in Spain.

Popular spots in the historic area including Alhambra, parts of Albaicin, and Centro are full of tourists. These areas were crowded and there were often very large tour groups blocking the walkways around the attractions. We visited in the low season and we felt overwhelmed by the amount of tourists. Imagine what it must be like in high season!

We stayed near Paseo de los Tristes which is the Walk of the Sad. It is a popular tourist area with incredible views of Alhambra. It’s also a popular spot to take selfies.

The area is wonderful to experience but tricky to naviagate. The road into Centro is Carrera del Darro. It is full of hotels and rentals, restaurants, and shops catering to tourists.

The road is really narrow and pedestrians gave to share the road with cars buses, cars, motorcycles. We were able to find an alternate route by going up the stairs and taking the back roads into Centro.

If you want to avoid crowds we recommend staying outside of the historic area.

Weather

Granada experiences chilly winters and hot summers. We visited in November and we were cold! We both had to buy some warmer clothes.

The air was quite dry and we drank a lot of water. The summers get very hot, over 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 34 degrees Celsius. You’ll also need sunscreen year round since the elevation is higher.

Final Thoughts

With its old-world charm and modern conveniences, Granada reminds us of Cuenca, another beloved expat haven in many ways. It offers a unique lifestyle that could be perfect during the milder seasons of spring and fall. However we wouldn’t want to live there full time due to the hot summers, cold winters, and the tourist season.

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Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!

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