Beyond the Alhambra Moorish Granada
21 April, 2017
The Alhambra is Granada’s landmark par excellence – no one disputes that. That’s where we usually fix our gaze, be it from one of the viewpoints or cármenes thronging the Albaicín quarter, or when scouting its interior and being carried away by the marvels it holds, particularly the gorgeous ornamentation of its Nasrid palaces. While the Alhambra is the iconic symbol of the Moorish presence in the city, it is not the only vestige in Granada that points to its rich cultural heritage. The following routes are designed to encourage you to venture along some of the city’s streets in search of the Moorish footprint, which has survived the passage of time.
Route 1. The Albaicín
Separated from the Alhambra by the river Darro, and one of the best vantage points from which to view that monument, the Albaicín quarter reveals traces of its Arab past wherever you wander. Its narrow, winding streets, where you are certain to get lost in search of the famous San Nicolás viewpoint, contain traces which clearly reflect what was once the Medina of Granada. The cisterns, tasked with storing and distributing water throughout the city, which you will come across all over the Albaicín, are the first signs of the quarter’s Moorish legacy. Our first stop on this itinerary is the Carrera del Darro, opposite Cadí Bridge, the site of a small gem known as El Bañuelo. These 11th-century Arab baths are made up of three rooms which still preserve their original vaulting with octagonal and star-shaped skylights, as well as columns with Roman, Visigoth and caliphal capitals.
Just a stone’s throw from El Bañuelo, in the Portería de la Concepción, stands the Casa de Zafra, regarded as one of the finest examples of Nasrid domestic architecture. Built in the 14th century and now reconditioned as the Centro de Interpretación del Albaicín, its interior still features remains of the original murals.
Linking up with the Carrera del Darro again and continuing along the Paseo de los Tristes as far as Calle Horno de Oro you will come across the Casa Horno de Oro, built in the late-15th century. Yet another example of the architectural harmony associated with these homes, characterised by a rectangular patio with a cistern, with the rooms arranged around the lower side of it. The next stop on our tour is the road to Sacromonte, up the hill known as Cuesta del Chapiz, the site of the Casa del Chapiz, a Moorish house now converted into the School of Arabic Studies, the gardens of which afford magnificent views of the Alhambra.
Further up the Cuesta del Chapiz you come to Plaza del Salvador, where the High Mosque of the Albaicín once stood, the site of which is now taken up by the Church of El Salvador. Built in Mudéjar style, preserved in its interior is what was once the patio of ablutions of the former mosque, accessed from Calle Panaderos. A prominent feature of this peaceful backwater are the white-painted horseshoe arches, which stand out against the greenery of the lemon trees adorning the patio.
Having got this far, we recommend you take the opportunity to visit a classic landmark – the Mirador de San Nicolás (San Nicolás viewpoint). Enjoy the amazing views of the Alhambra, take a selfie for posterity and recoup your strength for the last stop on this itinerary, Dar-al-Horra Palace. Built in the 15th century on the site of a former, 11th-century Zirid palace, this was the retreat of the sultana Aisha and mother of Boabdil, the last king of Granada. This palace encapsulates the essence of Nasrid palaces, comprising a central patio with a water well around which the rooms are arranged, as are two porticoes along the shorter sides. Noteworthy is the north portico, boasting a viewing platform with splendid vistas of the Cerro de San Cristóbal.
We recommend rounding off the itinerary by having a cup of tea in one of the numerous tea shops studding the Calle Calderería Nueva. You will be forgiven if you get transported to some Arab city as you stroll along this street.
Route 2. “New Granada”
The neighbourhood known as Nueva Granada is laid out around Granada Cathedral, built on the site of the former High Mosque. The route starts at the Corral del Carbón, once a hostel for merchants which comprised an area for depositing their wares, rooms for resting in and stables for tethering their horses. From there we head to the Alcaicería, the former silk exchange, which still bears some resemblance to an Arab souq, despite having been gutted by fire in 1843 and rebuilt in romantic, neo-Arab style. It has now been reconditioned mainly as a venue for selling souvenirs of Granada.
Book your Vueling to Granada and venture along its streets in search of the city’s Moorish past.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
21 April, 2017