Granada — They Said We’d Be Mugged in the Albaicin

GRANviewThis is the view from our apartment terrace in the Albaicin (Albayzin) quarter of Granada.  It was a bit of a trick getting there, dragging luggage for several blocks up narrow cobble stone streets to a tiny apartment designed for backpackers about 50 years younger than we are.  But the view!!!  Looking out on the Alhambra made it worth the climb and the very narrow bed.

granalbai4

When we mentioned we were staying in the Albaicin, people told us ‘that is dangerous.’  ‘You are likely to be mugged at knife point.’  Even Rick Steves indicated he only went to the area sans wallet and with 30 Euro in his pocket to see the Flamenco shows.  But the view!!!!  It did make us slightly nervous, but then we heard bad things about Macarena in Seville and we had loved living there well outside tourist hell.

The Albaicin is a charming place with cobble stone streets and whitewashed houses nestled in terraces down the slopes to the Darro River.  This is  the street approaching our apartment.

granalbaiourstreetThe Albaicin (Albayzin) began as a Moorish medieval quarter near the Alhambra with over 30 mosques. During the Moorish rule of Granada it was the most densely populated part of the city.  After Muslims were driven from Spain it was taken over by wealthy Christians and the mosques were leveled and churches build on their ruins.  It later became the gypsy quarter of Granada.  It has a reputation of being dodgy but because of the spectacular views and charm is also experiencing a real estate boom.   We were a bit nervous after being told how dangerous it was, but opted for the view anyway.  This is another view from our terrace.granalbaiterview2

After  arriving at our apartment, I set out to lay in breakfast supplies.  This is the street view on the way down the other side of the hill on my way to find the store.  There are few shops in this area.

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One of our neighbors down the hill.

GrandogGroceries were available in a tiny bodega in a cave carved into the hill.  Pickings were slim but I did find milk for our coffee, orange juice and bread and cheese to go with the lovely bottle of wine provided by our landlord.  Our landlord came up with a bit of sugar so we didn’t have to buy a 5 pound sack for two mornings of coffee.
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No cat shortage in the Albaicin.

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Later we walked back down the hill to a bar to get a drink before heading for dinner.  Some of the inhabitants manage to get a car up into this area and there were quite a few bikes, but taxis don’t attempt it and the bus and taxi stops are blocks from the apartment.

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This bar is set in a cave carved into the hillside which is true of many of the homes and shops in the Albaicin.  We sat on the terrace sipping vino tinto since it was a beautiful day but I took a peek at the inside of the cave bar.
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After a drink we headed downhill further to a Morocan restaurant.  The food was good but the waiter understood neither English nor much Spanish and we ended up with whatever they had rather than what we ordered.  When they  didn’t have things on the menu, he just said ‘si’ and brought something else.
granmoroc

The next morning we walked to the Alhambra.  This meant walking down the hills of the Albaicin to the river Darro and then crossing the river and taking a path up through the Generalife Gardens and the back way to the entrance.  I had purchased tickets to the Alhambra weeks ago (and then they were sold out until 1 pm) and retrieved them from an ATM in Seville so we were all set with tickets.  It was a lovely day and a lovely walk although even though my shoes are well cushioned, the cobblestones are tough on the feet after a mile or two. After the rainy times in Seville and Ronda, we were lucky with clear, sunny and  yet not hot weather in Granada.
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Here is a view of the Albaicin from one of the many balconies of the Alhambra.  Our apartment and terrace are somewhere in the middle of this picture.

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The mountains at dusk on the way back from the Alhambra near our apartment.  Did I mention the views?

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That night we just wandered the narrow streets until we came to a square with a nice little cafe and had fried mixed fish and enjoyed a lovely little band by my favorite kind of simple fountain.
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We had to return through the dark alleys where we had been assured we would get mugged at knife point.

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And after a long stretch of spooky meandering we turned the corner and found ourselves behind a  group of a couple dozen 80 year old Italian tourists being led down our street by a tour guide.  10:30 in the scary streets of the Albaicin and the place was full of tourists being bussed in to go to Flamenco shows or walk down the evocative and very very dangerous streets.  We couldn’t help but laugh.
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We loved this place.  It was beautiful, with great food and the best views we have had on the trip.  Here is the view from our terrace on our last night before heading to Madrid.

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9 Responses to Granada — They Said We’d Be Mugged in the Albaicin

  1. Sarah says:

    There is a sense of real adventure in your travels – great stuff!

  2. Raegan says:

    Oh Janet

    We loved the Albaicin, it was the only place on our trip to Europe where it rained (our tip was 29 day). My travel umbrella (bought specifically for the trip) washed up in the river

  3. granadablogg says:

    Your post made me very happy because I lived in the Albaicin for many years with no problem and I am sick of people who have never been there saying that the Albaicin is dangerous even though the official statistics shaow that it is actually safer than other areas.
    This is my page about the Albaicin.
    http://granadablog.net/?p=1026
    The restaurant you went to was the Meknes Rama.
    Info here.
    http://granadamap.com/mrahma/
    That square you were in with the musicians was Plaza de Fatima.
    (they have a good fried fish restaurant there called the Ladrillo)
    That hill you are walking up is called Cuesta de los Chinos.
    (hill of the little stones)

    • Janet says:

      Thanks for the information — we were just wandering around discovering the area and so didn’t know the names of places. I wish we had had another day or two for Granada; our two nights was way too short.

  4. Janet says:

    PS apparently the Albaicin has some of the highest housing costs in Granada because of its fabulous views of the Alhambra another indicator that its dangerousness is rather overstated. We did love the place even with a bed that was about 45 inches wide for the two of us.

  5. Pingback: Ronda — The Most Romantic Town in Spain | JANET TRAVELS

  6. Dede says:

    Dear Janet-

    What apartment did you stay in and how did you find it? It looks fantastic!

    Thanks

    Dede

  7. Pam Fricke says:

    I’m traveling to Sevilla and Granada in 2 weeks. I’ve bought my Alhambra ticket on line and was curious how and where you picked up your ticket in Sevilla. I’d like to take care of that before I get to Granada and not have to worry about it once I arrive there.

    • Janet says:

      When we did this the tickets were available through a bank that had automatic bank machines that also vended tickets all over Spain. We got our Alhambra tickets from such a machine in Seville; we just put in our credit card, it recognized it and spit out our tickets. I believe that the ticketing process has changed though since we did it; we didn’t do it through ticketmaster. So I think you will need to find out from them how it works. Maybe posting the question in the Granada forum on Trip Advisor as well as the Spain forum on Rick Steves will unearth someone who went recently and tell you how to do it.

      Happy travels
      j

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