Tag Archives: neighbourhoods

Granada Neighbourhoods

The ancient city of Granada in the South of Spain lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains to its east, and overlooking the fertile plain to its west, to which it owed its early prosperity. Between the eleventh century and its final conquest by the Christians in 1492 it was the most important Muslim city in Spain, and the layout of the central part of modern Granada, and the unique character of its principal neighbourhoods, still owes a lot to this period of its history.

View of the Alhambra from the San Nicolas Lookout

Granada’s most famous landmark, the Alhambra, dominates the city centre from its perch on a rocky outcrop above the deep, narrow valley of the River Darro. On the other side of the valley, on hills only a little less lofty than the Alhambra, are the neighbourhoods of the Albaicín and Sacramonte.

Where the river emerges from between the hills you can find the city’s central square, the Plaza Nueva, or New Square, so named because it was the first to be built by the Christians after the reconquest. Built over the River Darro, which runs in a culvert underneath, it’s a wide, pleasant square lined with shops and cafes, as well as the historic court house. To the south and east is the neighbourhood of Realejo-San Matias, and to the south and west that of el Centro.


Moroccan Market in the Albaicín

The Albaicín neighbourhood is one of the oldest parts of the city, and is made up of a network of steep, winding streets and small squares, many with wonderful views of the famous palace fortress, with the Sierra Nevada in the background beyond. Best known of the miradores, or lookouts, is San Nicolas, and it’s a great place to come in the evening for a drink, look across to the Alhambra, and if you’re lucky, to hear some Flamenco or Spanish guitar.

After the reconquest it became the Muslim quarter of the city, but with the expulsion or conversion of Muslims by the Catholic Kings it gradually became depopulated, and before long moneyed Christians began to move in, demolishing the small houses and building what became known as Carmenes or grand houses with gardens or orchards. The mosques were demolished and replaced with churches, although remnants of the original buildings can still be glimpsed, as in the Church of San Salvador. Another feature of muslim architecture that can still be found dotted around the area is the aljibes, underground cisterns built for the storage of water.

Today, there is a distinctly North African feel to the lower Albaicín with tearooms and small shops selling Moroccan goods. In 2003 the upper Albaicín became home to the Main Mosque of Granada, the first in the city since 1492.

The Albaicín is, above all, a neighbourhood for wandering slowly through narrow streets, taking pleasure in hidden corners and the scents from the many gardens; peeping into Carmenes; and enjoying the spectacular views from its terraces and miradores.


Flamenco Caves in Sacromonte

Beyond the Albaicín is what is surely Granada’s most picturesque neighbourhood, the Sacramonte, named for the 17th century abbey at the top of the Valparaíso hill, which is well worth the trouble of a visit. It’s known as the gypsy neighbourhood, and is notable for the whitewashed cave houses built into the hill, and for being the best place in the city for Flamenco.

Realejo-San Matias

The Realejo is the old Jewish quarter of the city, and like the Albaicín on the other side of the Alhambra, has many steep, labyrinthine streets, with whitewashed houses and Carmenes. The most famous of these, the Carmen de los Martires, is open to the public and enjoys lovely views over the plains, the city and Sierra Nevada. Go up to the Campo del Principe for the bars and restaurants, and walk back down past the Casa de los Tiros, the Antigua Capitania and the Convent of the Mercadarias to San Matias street, another place with lots of places to eat and drink.

El Centro

To the southwest of Plaza Nueva is El Centro, the main commercial centre. Just off the Gran Via you can find the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel, both built in the 16th century as part of the process of Christianization of the city. Nearby is San Agustin, the main food market, and the Alcaicería, once the Arab silk market, but now mainly lined with souvenir shops. Behind these is the Plaza Bib-Rambla, a grand open square with a central fountain called the Gigantes, colonnades, bars and restaurants. Although it has undergone many changes, there has been a public space here since early Nasrid times, which has been used for markets, bullfights, fairs and autos-da-fé.

View from Granada Studio Terrace in the Plaza Nueva

Seville Neighbourhoods

It’s well known that Seville has the largest preserved old centre in Europe, and that this is part of what gives the city its unique charm and fascination. It’s less well known that its different neighbourhoods (barrios) all have their own special character too.

El Centro, the Centre, is the commercial heart of the city around the famous pedestrianised shopping streets of Sierpes and Tetuan, and the four squares – Plaza del Duque and Campana at their north end, and Plazas Nueva and San Francisco at the south. It’s the most modernised part of the city (this isn’t all bad – have a look at the Metropol Parasol, Seville’s newest iconic building), but still includes El Salvador church, the City Hall and the Fine Arts Museum among many other fine buildings.

The Barrio Santa Cruz is famous for the picturesque squares and narrow streets that once made up the Jewish quarter of the city. The modern neighbourhood also includes the main monumental area, with the Alcázar Royal Palace, The Archive of the Indies, and the Cathedral and the Giralda tower. For the best views of the Santa Cruz and Arenal climb to the top of the Giralda tower.

El Arenal, is the area between the Avenida de la Constitución and the river, and gets its name from the Maestranza bullring – or more exactly from the yellow sand in the arena (arena is Spanish for sand). Less touristy than its neighbour it still boasts some impressive monuments, such as the Torre del Oro (Gold Tower) and the Ataranazas, the mediaeval shipyards, as well as a pleasant riverside walk. There are lots of very good tapas bars, too.

San Vicente is the residential neighbourhood between the Guadalquivir River and the Alameda de Hercules, which is the largest open space in the old centre and one of its main nightspots. The area also includes a number of monasteries and convents and the famous Basilica del Gran Poder.

La Macarena is the least touristy part of the city, and is regarded by many as its most authentic neighbourhood, and most representative of the lives of ordinary Sevillanos. Visit calle Feria and its market for a taste. Also go and see the Macarena Basilica, and the gate and old walls of the city.

Although not technically part of the historic centre, the neighbourhood of Triana, on the right bank of the river, is almost as old, and was once the sailors’ and gypsy quarter. It’s the traditional home of ceramics and flamenco in the city, and many famous performers and bullfighters were born there. Calle Betis has lots of bars and nightclubs, and a great view across the river to the centre.

You can search for a holiday apartment by neighbourhood on veoapartment.com where you will find a short video showing the essence of each barrio, a list of things to see and do and some recommendations for tapas bars in the area. All of our apartments are within easy walking distance of the important monuments, as the historic centre of Seville is comparatively small – so the choice of neighbourhood is more a question of personal preference as to the kind of surroundings you’d like to enjoy during your stay.