Granada mostly attracts visitors due to it’s colonial architecture and partly because of it’s accessibility to travelers. Some people complain that it’s too much ‘built for tourists,’ whereas in León, there’s less coddling to those visiting. Honestly, I didn’t really get that vibe any more than any other place that’s common knowledge in Nicaragua.
The central square and Calle La Calzada are most definitely overflowing with tourists. It’s where most all of the accommodations and restaurants are. Still, I felt like every night we sat down to people watch and have a drink on La Calzada, there were plenty of locals getting drunk all around us too. It’s definitely touristy, but no more than I expected it to be.
What to do
Calle La Calzada. If you like people watching, don’t miss it. I love to sit outside with a beverage and just watch life happen around me. Luckily, so does Bryce. So, we spent a good amount of time sitting at various little restaurants all along Calle La Calzada sipping coffees or Nica Libres. Plenty of 2×1 drink deals, some good street performers, and vendors everywhere—some the slightly invasive kind that get in your face during your dinner.
Or rather, get in your boyfriend’s face and repeat over and over again while looking in your direction, “Por la chica bonita, por la chica bonita!” Guys, definitely get it worse.
Choco Museum. Super touristy but still kind of rad. At the least, go in and try some samples and just take a walk through the museum. There are very decent priced massages and spa treatments with a cacao theme and a nice pool area that you can gain daily access to for $6 if you aren’t a guest. Lots of cacao goodies—candies, body scrubs, tea, and yummy liqueurs!
Casa de Los Tres Mundos. It’s a cultural center that hosts events and has a few art galleries to check out. There were no events when we were there but the galleries, which doubled as studios, were worthwhile. There were even a few artists working in the studios to chat with and answer any questions. For 20 cordoba, why not?
Central Square. You probably couldn’t miss the central square if you tried. There’s the Cathedral de Granada (the iconic golden yellow cathedral), plenty of food stands, great people watching, and a couple rows of artists and vendors that are worth checking out if you’re in need of souvenirs. *Note, I didn’t go to the markets in Masaya and from what I can gather, the shopping in Granada and León definitely seem to suffice.
Luchas Libres Books. This little local bookstore had books in both English and Spanish. There were plenty of great selections about the revolution and Nicaraguan history. However, the prices were surprisingly high, like US prices high. Still worth a look though. It’s right off Calle La Calzada, just ask someone to point you in the right direction.
We’d hit the streets every day just to walk around. The colors and colonial architecture just never gets old. Definitely take a walk through the local markets as well. More for entertainment than for shopping but its an activity in itself just dodging buses, bicycles, and ladies with giant baskets on their heads.
Where to Eat and Drink
Ron Kon Rola. This place was a a great little find and had only been open for a month—that was in January. It’s a bar sitting on the second story on the edge of the central square in a golden yellow colonial style building. We walked in for sunset to Janis Joplin and an open patio looking out at the cathedral and central square. After learning that there was live music the following night, we revisited the spot and were not disappointed. In case you were wondering, angsty teens are the same everywhere, but in Nicaragua, they can get into the bars with no trouble.
Café de Los Suenos. I’m a sucker for cute cafes. This one is on point. The menu features yummy smoothies, both coffee and espresso options, and food that looked good but was a little splurgey for me. The wifi is good and there’s a fan for every table. This was my spot for working on blog posts and doing research while in Granada. Typically with a ginger, carrot, orange, turmeric, pineapple smoothie in hand. Yum!
Café & Charla. Decent little café with cheap breakfast and one outdoor table. The service was good, breakfast was fast, lunch was more slow, but everything was cheap. It was our go to if we wandered around too long and were nearing the point of hanger.
El Condor. The pastry shop a block west (I believe) from the central square. We got 2 decent pastries and four donut hole looking egg roll things (yes, they were sweet. Yes, there were vegetables in them…) and two instant coffees for like $2.25. Actually had a nice clean seating area too. Very simple, but a great cheap and consistent little stop off that we ended up revisiting.
El Palacio de los Pupusas. Super rustic, dollar pupusas, and some of the most prompt service I have received in my life. Who would have thought I’d find that in Central America? The guy who served us both nights we went was a gem; I saw this man run, like actually run from the kitchen to tables not wanting anyone to be waiting for anything. It was slightly hilarious but, I mean, I was impressed. After experiencing so much awful service, I really was stoked on this. Oh, and the pupusas were delicious as well.
Where to stay
We stayed in a hospedaje on Calle La Calzada. That’s the main street going from the central square to the lake and is full of restaurants, hostels, hospedajes, tour companies, and cafes. I’m not much for tours and super touristy areas but I actually loved staying on this street.
We stayed in two different hospedajes on Calle La Calzada, Posada Las Brisas and Café Ruiz.
Posada Las Brisas: $20 for a private with bathroom, fan, and some open-air communal space. The wifi was good, even in our room. And the room was more than what we expected for the price. It felt really clean and cared for.
Café Ruiz: $21 for a private with bathroom, fan, and lots of communal space. It seemed like a good mix of gringos and locals, too, which was a nice changeup from hostel life. They also offered free water and coffee. The wifi didn’t quite reach our room but was still fine enough.
Neither of the above had dorms, but both were definitely the kind of place to go if you have someone to split the bill with.
Our first time to Granada, we took a taxi from the airport in Managua straight to Granada for $20 for two of us. Definitely a little pricey but to not deal with a big city straight off a plane with a really long layover made it worth it. Plus, Managua’s layout for travelers is a pain in the ass. To avoid a taxi to Granada, we would have had to make our way from the airport to a bus station on the other side of town…by taxi. From what we heard, it was rare to not get screwed during these sort of travel connections. So, we avoided them by paying a little higher off the bat when traveling in or near the capital.
The second time around though, we caught a chicken bus from Rivas (after taking a bus from Playa Gigante to Rivas for 35 cordoba apiece) to Granada. This trip was also 35 cordoba apiece, we were able to sit down the whole ride, and the bus dropped off only about a ten-minute walk from the main square.
Have you been to Granada? What was your favorite part?