The first thing I notice about Granada is the colors. Every house is a bright hue, the sidewalks are paved in patterned tiles, and the roofs are orange with terracotta. Wrought iron railings swirl in front of buildings and glazed ceramics proclaim street names on every corner. I’ve traveled to this part of Nicaragua to take in these details and watch the horses and carriages go by, and I can’t wait to get a taste of life in this Central American city.

Things to Do in Granada, Nicaragua

Things to Do in Granada, Nicaragua

I’ve flown to Managua from El Salvador and taken a taxi to Granada, which is known for its Spanish colonial architecture and rich history. I have 3 days to discover all the things to do in Granada, and while there are plenty of day trips and attractions in the area—islands, lakes, and volcanoes to name a few—I want to spend my time getting to know this place at leisure. I’ve been on the road for weeks, and I’m looking forward to taking it easy here.

Horse and Carriage in Granada, Nicaragua

It’s also my birthday, so I’m treating myself to a stay at a gorgeous boutique hotel with a handful of rooms arranged around a central courtyard with a swimming pool. Stylish design and local decor abound, and as soon as I arrive I know it’s going to be difficult to tear myself away.

Tribal Hotel, Granada, Nicaragua

But Granada’s colors call, so I head out to explore the city. It’s easy to get around on foot, and the hotel is a few minutes’ walk from the cathedral and Parque Central. I head there first, taking in the colonial-era buildings that surround the leafy plaza and listening to the chatter of birds gathering at sunset. I get a papusa from one of the street vendors and sit watching the world go by. The flavors of corn, beans, and cheese welcome my taste buds to Granada in the same way the colors have greeted my eyes.

Cathedral in Granada, Nicaragua

As the sun goes down, a thin cup of moon appears in the sky as if to catch falling stars. I wander over to Calle La Calzada, the main pedestrianized street where bars and restaurants spill out into the night. It’s lively here, and everywhere I look I find a hidden courtyard begging me to explore.

Granada, Nicaragua

But I have one of my own. I head back to my hotel, where lanterns have transformed the courtyard into an Arabian Nights-meets-Central America scene. It’s beautiful, and I linger over a mojito as the heat of day fades into nighttime warmth.

Tribal Hotel, Granada, Nicaragua

I spend the next two days discovering more things to do in Granada. I start where any good trip starts: food. I head to the local Mercado Municipal market, which is comprised of a vast warren of covered stalls extending out onto the surrounding streets. Giant tubs of rice and beans beg me to plunge my hands in, and avocados as big as my head come in all shades of green. Soon scents of fish and chicken hit me, quickly followed by shouts of traders and sounds of music coming from loudspeakers. As I emerge into daylight, I find bushels of bananas and fresh herbs covered in sparkling drops of water.

Mercado Municipal, Granada, Nicaragua

Senses overwhelmed, I head up high to catch my breath. Granada has two church towers to climb, one in the cathedral and the other in the Iglesia La Merced. Climbing up to see the views is one of the most popular things to do in Granada.

View from Granada Cathedral, Nicaragua

Which makes sense, as both offer stunning vistas over the city, into the courtyards, and out to Nicaragua’s Mombacho Volcano. I go around each one several times to soak up the panoramas and absorb more of the colors.

Rooftops in Granada, Nicaragua

Up the street from Iglesia La Merced is the historic fort, Fortaleza La Polvora. Built by the Spanish in 1748, it’s an important landmark in Granada. Sadly, it’s closed indefinitely for repairs, but it’s still nice to see from the outside.

Fortaleza La Polvora, Granada, Nicaragua

Elsewhere in the city I discover everything from the old train station to the shoreline. Granada is on Lake Nicaragua, and there’s a beach and pier with a landscaped waterfront promenade running alongside. It’s peaceful down here away from the bustle of the city center, and the gardens are as lush as any I’ve seen on my trip.

Waterfront in Granada, Nicaragua

When I’m not sightseeing, one of my favorite things to do in Granada is eat. In addition to the aforementioned papusa, I have a great meal at The Garden Cafe. This stylish establishment is part restaurant, part shop, and all chic. I love the lending library, the courtyard, and the ambiance, and the food is everything I would expect from such a beautiful place.

Garden Cafe, Granada, Nicaragua

I spend the rest of my time in Granada exploring the streets. The colors give me energy even when the heat gets hot, and I wake up every morning at sunrise to see them before the light chases me into cool corners. I fall in love with this city and its brightness, and while there’s a lot more to do outside of it I can’t bring myself to leave.

Granada, Nicaragua

Until I have to, that is. I’m off to Panama for the last leg of my Central America trip, and it’s time to explore another of the region’s cities. As I leave, I take one last look at Granada’s colors. It’s been amazing to be among them for 3 days, and I’m going to carry them with me until I get back to London. I’ll get my next fix in Notting Hill, but I’ll still miss the hues here.

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Things to Do in Granada, Nicaragua

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