Granada originated in this Moorish neighbourhood whose name means ‘the falcon keepers’ quarter’ (al-bayyāzīn). It was built in the 11th century around the Alcazaba Cadima that the Zirid dynasty constructed on a hill bathed by the Darro River. Although the Alcazaba no longer exists, there is an urban labyrinth of steep and narrow cobblestone streets where it is easy to get lost among the cármenes (typical Granada villas with a garden courtyard in the middle), old water tanks and fragrant jasmines. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, Albaicín has a number of treasures and legends, but all of its roads lead to the Mirador de San Nicolás lookout, which boasts one of the best sunsets facing the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada.
The neighbourhood, which currently has 8,300 residents, has always had its own identity, separate from the rest of the city that it overlooks. This is perhaps because it was originally the home of Muslims who later remained isolated between the Christian conquest of Granada in 1492 and their definitive expulsion in 1609. As a result, many of the churches and carmen villas in the neighbourhood were built on the former sites of Nasrid palaces and mosques.
Lower Albaicín features Carrera del Darro—known by many as the most beautiful street in the world—, which begins at the lively Plaza Nueva and runs along the Darro River to the bohemian Paseo de los Tristes, the only street in Granada whose name does not appear on maps (it is officially referred to as Paseo del Padre Manjón). On the edge of the river we come across El Bañuelo, an 11th century hammam and the oldest in Granada, and the Renaissance-style Castril Palace, which currently houses the Granada Archaeology Museum and its mysterious legend. We then reach Paseo de los Tristes, which has a tapas and street music vibe that contrasts starkly with its melancholic nickname dating back to the 19th century, when funeral processions made their way to a nearby cemetery. Continuing through lower Albaicín but further northwest, we come across Puerta de Elvira, the original gate to the old Moorish city from the nearby Medina Elvira, which was an important city in the region until Medina Garnata was built.
The heart of what is known as the upper Albaicín Alto can be found at Plaza Larga, a lively and narrow square that invites visitors to stop for some tapas or Middle Eastern sweets. From here, we recommend exploring the winding streets and discovering a few of the neighbourhood attractions, such as the aforementioned Mirador de San Nicolás lookout, the modern Great Mosque (the first to be built in Granada since 1492), the old water tanks dating back to the Moorish era, Palace of Dar Al-Horra (which belonged to the Boabdil’s mother) and the old Moorish Chapiz house. Even the picturesque street names, such as María de la Miel, Aljibe de la Vieja and Placeta del Cristo de las Azucenas, give tourists an interesting pastime since many are tied to famous legends.