an insider’s guide to getting lost in granada {el albaicín}

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What better way to see everything than to let yourself get lost in a new city? By ditching the guidebook, you’ll find tons of hidden gems that you might have missed had your nose been stuck in a map all day! Plus, it’s a great way to meet locals. In a place like Granada, where the Andaluz people are so warm and welcoming, you’re likely to make a new friend by stopping to ask for directions. Hey, they may even invite you de marcha along with them!

I’ve put together a little guide of my favorite neighborhoods to get lost in my querida Granada. This will be the start of a new series where I’ll post my guide to a new area once every few weeks.  Each of these places offers unique activities, art, restaurants and watering holes; you really can’t go wrong.

 El Albaicín

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One of the most enchanting things about Granada is that it synthesizes so many seemingly conflicting elements. It’s an hour from the bright Mediterranean waters to the south, and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada to the east. It is a representation of Catholic Spain, dedicating endless landmarks to the kings that expelled both Moors and Jews, but it also represents a revival of the Granada of the past; where many religions and peoples lived in harmony. A stone’s throw from the very cathedral where the Reyes Católicos are buried, you’ll find a hub for the colorful culture they thought they drove out of this city in 1492.

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Start at the base of the hill off of Calle Elvira, where you’ll smell the mint tea and incense wafting out of the many cafés, and know you’re in the right place. The streets are lined with colorful fabrics and tapestries, glittering lanterns, handmade stained-glass tea cups and endless treasures. Be sure to pop in for a te marroquí and traditional Moroccan tapas at my great friend’s tetería, Dar Ziryab on Calle Calderería Nueva. You’ll be treated like family, and feel like you’ve been transported to Morocco. Your senses will be overwhelmed with the pleasures that surround you.

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On your way to the top, follow your curiosity. Wander down the tiny side streets that smell of wisteria, and keep an eye out for the small wonders that are hidden all around you. El Albaicín is filled with love notes and poetry scribbled on the cracked white walls. For an artist, writer or photographer, it promises endless inspiration.

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There’s beauty around every corner, be it a pop of bright flowers hanging over a white wall, or an open patio offering a rare glimpse into the private lives of the Andaluz. No matter what you see, you’ll feel like you’re in a different world. The enchanting sights, and the sound of spanish guitar that is always echoing down the cobblestone paths, will make you stop and pinch yourself.

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If the base of the Albaicín represents the Moors of Al-Andalus past, the top is all about the fabled gitano, romanticized by Cervantes, Mérimée and my beloved Lorca. The gypsy culture is still alive in Granada, though nowhere near as visible as the days when these men haunted Andalucía. If you’re lucky, you may find a small band of gypsy men de toque y palma under the late afternoon sun.

 The real jewel here is, of course, the Mirador San Nicolás. The plaza offers the perfect ending to a long day of wandering and sensory overload. Pick up a bottle of Rioja, find a seat on the stone ledge, and enjoy enjoy the sounds of the city while you watch the sun fall over Granada and her Alhambra. Reflect on the art, the mix of cultures, the love letters, the colors and the history that you’ve seen in this little barrio and let the wonder wash over you.

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22 Comments on “an insider’s guide to getting lost in granada {el albaicín}

    • Thanks, Spons! Hope it was enough to coerce you into a trip to Granada 🙂 xoxo

  1. This is wonderful, some of my favorite spots in Sevilla are places that I just happened upon while getting lost and wandering around different areas of the city. Its such a great way to really get to know a place!

  2. When I was studying in Granada I loved getting lost in El Albaicín. There was something just so incredibly enchanting about it. You hit on everything I love about it in this post. I really like that it’s connected directly to the some of the busy main streets of Granada because it provides you with such a sudden change of environment.

    • I think that’s one of my favorite aspects, too. Your senses and mind are just completely overloaded. It’s rare to find a place so enchanting that also causes you to think and reflect so much. I constantly find myself daydreaming about wandering those winding streets 🙂

  3. I’ve spent a lot of time in Spain, but Granada is one of those cities that I’ve still never had the pleasure to visit. Thanks for the tips. Your pictures are seriously beautiful!

    • Thanks so much! I hope you make it to Granada one day soon 🙂

  4. I love this, so many people think that the contents of a guidebook is all a city has to offer which is unfortunate, wandering off and discovering places unmentioned by your tour guide or book is what real traveling is. Thanks for this post! I’ve never travelled to Andalucia and now you’ve really got me wanting to plan a trip!

    • Thanks, Careese! I totally agree, wandering and finding things that make YOU excited is so much better than just following a path someone else has already carved out. I hope you do make a trip! What regions did you request for NALCAP? x

  5. These pictures are fantastic. What editing software do you use?

    Oh and the commentary is equally as good of course! I must explore this side of Granada in more depth…

    • Thanks so much, Josh! I’m verrry much a photography amateur, but I usually shoot in manual or aperture priority so I can control how the film comes out, then bump up the lighting and contrast with Picasa. Hope that helps 🙂

      Oh, please do go exploring! And take lots of photos so I can live vicariously through you…I am missing mi querida Graná more than ever these days.

  6. Pingback: simple pleasures in the eternal city | nowhere to go but everywhere

  7. Getting lost is definitely one of the best ways to discover a new city! Granada looks awesome, great photos 🙂

  8. Perfect pictures! Loved reading this. I am currently deciding where to study abroad for a year, Granada or Barcelona.. Any advice for a 20 year old who just wants to get lost in everything around her?? Xo

    • Granada! Absolutely. Barcelona is just lovely, and very easy to travel from, but if you get a chance to live in a city with as much charm as Granada you must take it. The pueblos of Andalucía are such untouched gems, you will never tire of losing yourself in the olive groves. Xx

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