Arriving in Granada
The warren of the narrow alleys of the Albaicin (Muslim quarter) of Granada invites anyone to aimlessly wander and explore this picturesque part of the city. We had arrived in the afternoon for a four-night stay in the Spanish town to finally tick off the Alhambra from our long list of desired places to visit with Jerome. The Albaicin was conveniently located near to our Airbnb apartment and seemed like the perfect place to get a feel for the layout of the city. With its many viewpoints dotted throughout the quarter we were bound to get not only some incredible views but also might be lucky to enjoy the sunset over the rooftops.
Transported to the Souks of Marrakesh
Reaching the steep Calle Calderia, a short walk from our apartment in the late afternoon, we felt immediately transported from Spain to Morocco. One of the attractions of the Alabicin quarter, are the many artisan and handicraft shops and the teterias (Moroccan tearooms). Woven carpets covered the walls, lanterns and leather goods spilled onto the cobbled alleys, and to top it off the men outside the shops tried to hassle you into buying something, just like in the souk of Marrakesh! This might be intimidating to many that have never experienced this kind of behaviour before. Our tip, avoid staring too much at the wares, politely say “no Gracias” and they will leave you alone, especially if you really are not interested in purchasing a souvenir. Instead try to take in the atmosphere of another culture without leaving Europe.
Exploring the Albaicin
The fun of exploring the Albaicin is to choose your route randomly, take a turn wherever takes your fancy, with no real destination in mind. We let Jerome decide where to turn, kids will easily be happy to see it as an adventure. The lowering Autumn sun turned the white washed houses into glowing rooftops against the deep blue sky. Balconies were lovingly decorated with plants and cacti, the blossoms of bougainvillea spilled over the high walls and added a colourful touch to the otherwise simple facades. Cats rested lazily on balconies and walls adding a spotting game to our walk with Jerome the cat lover. Every now and then we were able to glimpse a view into the river valley below. The cobbled stones in places had been laid in a design to create ornaments on the lanes and squares, Jerome discovered stars and flowers and even some animal shapes.
Advice for Parents
While these stony alleyways are a pretty sight, they would prove difficulty to use pushchairs, also the steep inclines mean that there are steps every now and again that add to the annoyance of many parents to navigate the Albaicin and Granada’s back lanes and cobbled paths in general. My advice for parents, think carefully about bringing a pushchair to the city and consider instead a baby carrier, sling or backpack.
Spectacular Views of the Alhambra
After our aimless wanders for about 20 minutes we reached the first viewpoint. In awe we gazed at the fortified structure of the Alhambra on the hillside opposite to the Albaicin. It truly looked like a castle from a fairytale, the white building of the Generalife (garden) set further away to the left and to top it off the snow capped Sierra Nevada Mountains behind radiated in the setting sun light and the moon shone above the spectacular panorama. The views more than make up for the strenuous hill climb especially in the heat of the day. To cool off, you can always splash yourself from the cool mountain water that runs all the way from the Sierra Nevada and surfaces at one of the many fountains and wells that have been laid throughout the town by the Moors hundreds of years ago.
The Mezquita Mayor
Strolling higher, we eventually arrived at the Mirador Sant Nicholas, one of the major view points in the Albaicin and therefore crowded with a throng of people enjoying the magnificent views of the Alhambra. Right next to the viewpoint we stumbled onto the largest Mosque in Granada, the Mezquita Mayor. Sadly we were too late to actually visit the inside of the mosque, the ceiling of the entrance enticed me and I am sure it must be a stunning place of worship to explore. The gardens, out front, are a great example of an Arabic garden with a star shaped fountain and the tiles on the walls surrounding the flowerbeds.
Perfect Spot for Watching the Sunset
Leaving the crowds behind we strolled towards the western side of the Albaicin to search for a lookout place to watch the sunset. The streets were laid with a golden carpet and the walls had turned orange from the light of the lowering sun. At Mirador de la Lona we found the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Beside us there was only a small group of locals that shared the same idea. The town below was already in darkness, the sun was just visible above the Sierra Tejada Mountains. Taking a seat on the wall we watched the spectacle of the golden hour take place before us.
Dinner at Puerta de Syria
As soon as the sun had set we could feel the chill in the autumn air increase – although earlier it felt like summer – and so we walked down the hill to find a restaurant for dinner. Puerta de Syria with its plush pillows turned out to be a little gem of a restaurant. Not only was it our first time dipping into Syrian cuisine, it was exceptionally good value for money and the food was delicious. Not Spanish but in this multicultural melting pot perhaps an appropriate place to eat.
Our Plans for the Next Day
Tired but happy we returned to our cosy apartment for a few rounds of card games before retiring to bed. Our aimless wanders through the Albaicin at sunset were definitely a great start to our travels in Granada. For the next day we had planned a stroll through the old town with visits to the Cathedral and the Fundacion Rodriguez Acosta, an artists residence that deserves recognition by a larger audience with its unusual architecture and warren of underground caves and tunnels. Read more in my following posts.
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