A maze of narrow, twisting cobblestone lanes and medieval Moorish architecture draws Granada visitors to the Albaicín like an ancient magnet pulling up a regional past full of magnificent mosques and cathedrals, 11th-century Arab baths, fortified citadels and elaborate royal palaces. It’s now a charming historic quarter with lively cafes, streetside violinists and the Plaza Larga flower market spilling buckets of pinks, purples and poppy-red blooms from iron balconies and tiny shops all over town.
Hidden Nasrid palaces dot the Albaicín, but are mostly overshadowed by the world-famous Alhambra palace and citadel on Sabika Hill, which is open to the public. The entire Albaicín quarter is a World Heritage Site, including historic Carrera del Darrostreet running along the River Darro with colourful tapas cafes, quaint parks, picturesque bridges, and the famous House 31, home to Arab baths once belonging to the Mosque of the Walnut Tree. The 16th-century Church of San Salvador complex showcases a merging of cultures, with horseshoe arches and an elaborate Arabic-style dome, built on top of a former mosque.
The Spanish province of Granada sits in eastern Andalusia on the Iberian Peninsula, and its capital city with the same name is less than two hours by train or bus from the international airport in Malaga, or travellers can reach the Albaicín by taking a taxi or direct bus from Plaza Nueva. Rental cars are available at the airport or the city centre, and the main roadways within the Albaicín are Carrera del Darro, Cuesta del Chapiz and Calle Elvira.
The past permeates the present in the Albaicín, and its lingering impact is everywhere due to the dominant Moorish architecture. The Zirid Monarchs set up court in the 11th century, and remnants include parts of the old gates of El Arco de las Pesas, Monaita and Elvira. Other historical reminders include various “alijibes”, which are large drinking water cisterns once used for public fountains and in traditional Albaicín homes known as “cármenes”.