For thousands of years, Granada was home to the Phoenicians, Iberians, Romans, Muslims, and Christians. All these cultures , among many more, left a great legacy in this city. However, the most influential in Granada was the Nazari Kingdom. Emblematic spaces were built as the Alhambra and the Generalife, and inside them the Throne Room and the Palace and Patio de Los Leones. These Arabic influences are also reflected in the streets and houses of the city.
Let’s make a trip through the best Granada historical neighborhoods that will take you back in time.
The Albaicin – The oldest neighborhood in Granada
It is the famous Arab quarter of Granada and the oldest in the city. It is situated on the hill of the Alhambra and is surrounded by the Sacromonte, Elvira Street, and the scenic Darro River.
In order to discover this neighborhood, which resembles a city enclosed within Granada, you must know what its name means. Albaicin, a word derived from Arabic, means the falconers’ quarter but also by some historians only means neighborhood on a slope, something that the visitor will soon see is quite true.
History of the Albaicin – the best Granada historical neighborhood
This neighborhood was already a Muslim Court before the Alhambra was built.
The period of splendor and greatest expansion of the district took place during the Nasrid time period. More than thirty mosques were built during this period. In addition, the population reached record numbers: possibly more than 40,000 inhabitants. The layout of the streets corresponds to typical Muslim urban planning, with labyrinthine narrow streets and dead-end alleys.
During the Muslim Rule, luxurious walled villas were also built with a lush green space that served as both gardens and orchards. This type of traditional Albaicín dwelling is known as a “cármen”. Arab baths also proliferated in the Albaicín.
Unesco declared the Albaicín, together with the Alhambra, a World Heritage Site in 1984. In this way, its legacy can be protected for generations more to enjoy. For this reason the Albaicin is one of the best Granada historical neighborhoods.
What to do and points of interest
The most impressive thing about this neighborhood, apart from its small, narrow, sloping streets, is the views it offers of the Alhambra. No matter how far you wish to wander and explore, you will always find a scenic moment to appreciate stunning views of the city.
The Albaicin is one of the most visited quarters also for its museums, churches and viewpoints.
The most common points of interest are the Dar al-Horra Palace, the Puerta de Elvira, El Bañuelo, the Casa de Zafra, the Convent of Santa Isabel la Real and Nuestro Salvador Church.
For the best views, there are several viewpoints from which you can see different parts of the city.
The Mirador de San Miguel is the highest vantage point for most visitors. It is located near the neighborhood Sacromonte and from here you can see the whole city of Granada and also the Sierra Nevada, the highest mountain range in Spain.
From the viewpoint of Placeta de Carvajales or Mirador de la Churra, you can see the narrow, winding streets of the neighborhood. You can’t miss watching a lingering crimson sunset from the advantageous San Nicolas viewpoint!
The views, often seen at most times of the year, are stunning as the sunset’s colouration illuminates the Alhambra in deep reds and oranges; many find this a perfect way to end an evening.
Finally, walking down its most important squares and streets you will arrive at the Mirador de la Lona where you can see the views of the city at night and the illuminated Cathedral of Granada.
Discover the little corners of the best Granada historical neighborhood!
From this last viewpoint, going down Calle Cruz de Quiros, you will reach Calle Caldereria Nueva, where you will find all kinds of Arab restaurants and shops. You can enjoy a delicious Arab tea, taste their typical gastronomy, buy some souvenirs in some of their stalls or embrace an intricate henna tattoo.
How to get to the Albaicin
The easiest way to get to the Albaicín is to use the minibusses (lines C31, C32 and C34) that connect the center of Granada with the old Arab quarter. However, our recommendation is to meander through the lanes of the Albaicin, walking towards the Carrera del Darro. You can discover its labyrinthine streets and take a pleasant stroll near the river.
The Realejo – The Jewish neighborhood in Granada
From the first day you go to Granada, this could easily become one of your favorite neighborhoods, and even more so if you are a food lover. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Granada where the Jewish population lived during the Nazari period.
History of the Realejo
To understand the origins of the Realejo we must consider the period of Muslim occupation around 700 years ago when the Jews who lived in the city grouped their homes and businesses around an area that came to be called ¨Granada of the Jews¨.
The Realejo became the Jewish quarter of Granada until the reconquest of the city in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs decreed the expulsion of the Jewish people from the city. It was then that the Realejo began to take on the appearance it has today.
What to do and points of interest
If you are going to visit the Realejo, we recommend that you explore it around lunchtime as it is famously one of the main tapas areas of Granada. Because of the wide range of restaurants and bars in its streets, it is one of the most touristic places in the city and therefore one of the best Granada historical neighborhoods.
After enjoying its gastronomy, you can take the opportunity to visit the Campo del Príncipe and contemplate the Cristo de Los Favores. You can also visit the Santo Domingo Church and learn more about its history at the Casa de Los Tiros Museum. Admission is free for European residents but still not too expensive for all others
Street art in one of the best Granada historical neighborhoods
Walking along Calle Molinos from the center of Granada towards Carmen de Benalua you will discover impressive street art by the artist Raúl Ruiz, well known in Spain by the nickname ¨El niño de las pinturas¨.
How to get to the Realejo
If you have visited the Alhambra in the morning and want to complete your walk to the city center, the best route we recommend is down to the Realejo quarter.
As it is a hillside neighborhood there are many stairs and your walk will be more pleasant on the way down. Moreover, you will be able to enjoy the bright white houses from abovef at every step. You will also have easy access to the most beautiful streets in the area: Plegadero Alto and Cruz de Piedra del Realejo.
Another more comfortable alternative from the center is to take the C30, C32, and C35 buses which go to Realejo.
The Sacromonte – The flamenco neighborhood in Granada
If the previous two neighborhoods have impressed you, this one is a must-visit area. A place with slight variations from our previously explored areas, though similarly with more rich history behind it.
History of the Sacromonte
The Sacromonte neighborhood originated at the beginning of the 16th century when the Jewish and Muslim population left Granada after the expulsion decree signed by the Catholic Monarchs. This decree drastically reduced the population overnight.
The city reacted to this, allowing settlement of gypsie populations in the upper part of the Albaicín, in the Sacromonte quarter.
Thus, humble people, artists, and bohemians were living in this neighborhood. They built houses in the rock and this gave rise to the Sacromonte caves. Ypu can visit them nowadays and enjoy a flamenco show. You can book here your tickets.
What to do and points of interest
One of the main tourist attractions is the Caves of Sacromonte. The gypsies constructed dwellings several centuries ago. Nowadays we can see that in the Cuevas del Sacromonte Museum. These caves are spacious, white, and adorned with shiny copper pots.
Nowadays, many of the Sacromonte caves host flamenco shows. They are located close to the road and are easily accessible. The most popular are the Cueva de María la Canastera or the Cueva de La Rocío.
Witnessing a live zambra in the caves of Sacromonte is an unmissable activity in one of the best Granada historical neighborhoods.
How to get to the Sacromonte – best Granada historical neighborhood
The Sacromonte neighborhood is located on the outskirts of the city center of Granada. The best option is to go up by bus taking lines 31, 32, and 35. After exploring the outskirts, definitely consider taking a walk along the Carrera del Darro enjoying a spectacular view of the Alhambra.
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