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Granada | El Realejo

To the south and southeast of the Alhambra Palace, on the slope of the hill dropping down to the River Genil, is the district of El Realejo, one of Granada’s most important historic neighbourhoods. In mediaeval times, until the conquest of the city by the Christians, it was the Jewish quarter of the city, and was known as “Granada of the Jews”. Originally this was outside the city walls, and reached by passing through the Torres Bermejas, an impressive group of towers that protected one of the gates of the Moorish period. After the expulsion of the Jews and Moslems it was given the name El Realejo, the Royal quarter, and although it still retains much of its original street layout, its character owes much to later rebuilding of the city.

View from Carmen terrace looking over the Realejo.

View from the Almanzor Alta Carmen terrace overlooking the Realejo.

From the Plaza Nueva a walk up the steep street of Cuesta Gomérez takes you through the Puertas de las Granadas towards the palace and the upper Realejo, but its worthwhile to make a short detour up Almanzor Alta street, and with the walls of the fortress looming above you take in the views of the Albaicin and the city centre.

From there walk past the Torres Bermejas into the Realejo proper. It’s an area of picturesque narrow streets and lots of busy bars and restaurants, especially around the Campo del Principe (Field of the Prince), the main square in the centre of the neighbourhood. It is said to have come by its name because a prince died there after falling off his horse. Stop here for a drink or a bite to eat while you absorb the atmosphere.

A little further on is one of Granada’s gems, the Carmen of the Martyrs. This was the site of the first Christian hermitage in Granada, named in commemoration of the Christians who had languished or perished in Moorish jails. In the 19th century it was rebuilt as a small palace, and surrounded with gardens in various styles and a small lake. It’s a place to visit for its tranquil beauty and views of the Alhambra.

Make your way back to the city centre along the main street, the Calle de Santiago (which becomes calle Pavaneras in its lower part), which will take you past many of the grandest buildings in the neighbourhood, including a number of religious foundations, such as the Convents of Santiago and the Carmelitas, and palaces like the Casa de los Tiros, or the Casa Arabe Girones, which is unusual in preserving a Moorish house in its interior, and is worth visiting for that alone.

For a perfect base for visiting this and other parts of Granada, have a look at our apartments in Almanzor Alta and Cuesta Gomérez.

Granada | What else to do in Granada

It’s been a long, wet winter, but at last Spring seems to be just around the corner. This is the best time to come to the south of Spain, and to one of its most popular destinations, the city of Granada at the foot of the Sierra Nevada.

You will of course be paying a visit to the Alhambra, the magnificent palace fortress of the Moorish kings, and to the Generalife (top tip – have a drink on the terrace of the Parador hotel looking across to the Generalife), but what are you going to do for the rest of your stay?

albaicin markets

First option is to make your way up through the Moroccan market into the Albaicin, the old Arab quarter of the city with its picturesque steep, narrow streets to the San Nicholas Mirador for a view across the valley of the River Darro to the Alhambra and the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada beyond. It’s also worth walking up the river valley from Plaza Nueva, the classic Spanish square in the heart of the city. It still looks like the mountain stream it was, but now with houses perched on its high banks below the steep hill of the Alhambra. Going further brings you into the Sacramonte neighbourhood, famous for its gypsy community, cave houses and flamenco night-life (nowadays mostly for tourists, but still an unmissable experience).

On the other side of the Alhambra is the old Jewish quarter of the Realejo, now a busy neighbourhood of bars and restaurants. Between the Realejo and the Alhambra you can find the Carmen de los Martires, one of Granada’s less well known gems. Carmenes (houses with walled gardens) are typical of Granada, and there are quite a few of them, often now functioning as hotels and restaurants rather than private houses, but Los Martires is the grandest, with several acres of gardens laid out around a 19th century country house.

carmen terraceview from our Carmen Terrace 2 apartment in Granada

At the foot of the Realejo, as you get back to the centre is the Corral del Carbón, originally built as a coal warehouse way back in the Moorish period, but adapted in the 16th century for theatrical performances (these courtyard theatres are roughly contemporary with Shakespeare and the birthplace of Spanish theatre). Pay your respects at the Royal Chapel and Cathedral, then take a walk along the Alcaicería, once the Moorish silk market, but now mainly little souvenir and artesan shops, but still with a Morroccan feel to it.

Behind the Cathedral is the Plaza Bib-Rambla, Granada’s largest public square, and an important commercial space since mediaeval times, and also the location of bullfights and autos-da-fé. Nowadays it has many cafés and restaurants in the colonnades around it, and in the centre is the Fountain of the Giants, added in the 19th century. From here, take a walk up through the Bib-Rambla neighbourhood to the San Jeronimo monastery. Built in the period following the Reconquista, it’s a calm and peaceful oasis with its two cloisters full of orange trees and magnificent altarpiece. It’s also the burial place of El Gran Capitán, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, who led the Spanish forces that conquered Granada.

Finally, for something completely different, pay a visit to Granada’s famous science park. The interactive displays and exhibits are child-friendly and great fun as well as fascinating, dealing with everything from the birth of the universe to the diversity of life.

For more information about Granada, and some great holiday apartment rentals visit our website.

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.

Albaicín

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.

Sacramonte

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