The city’s old Jewish quarter is an eclectic and multicultural district with a long, rich history. Jews lived here well before the 8th century arrival of the Moors, who called this area Garnata al-Yahud (Granada of the Jews). Centuries later, when the Catholic Monarchs ordered the expulsion of all the Sephardi Jews from the Iberian Peninsula following the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, the neighbourhood remained virtually uninhabited for a period of time and it was renamed Realejo. This is when the district, which still features the typical steep streets with steps of Jewish quarters, lost most of its synagogues and Jewish remains, which became the sites of churches and small Christian palaces. This melting pot of cultures and civilisations has shaped Realejo into a picturesque area with a unique personality that its ‘greñúos’—the name given to its 17,000 residents in reference to the curly hair of past Sephardi inhabitants—are very proud of.
The heart of the neighbourhood is Plaza del Campo del Príncipe, a lively square known for its tapas and the place where the Nasrid dynasty held celebrations and public events. It owes its name and current appearance to the Catholic Monarchs, who in 1497 widened the square and renamed it in honour of the recent marriage of their son John, Prince of Asturias, to Margaret of Austria. Realejo’s visitors must make three wishes to the famous image of Cristo de los Favores (Christ of Favours) that has stood in the middle of the square since 1682, when the ‘greñúos’ decided to relocate the statue of Christ that had been built thanks to donations from local residents.
Realejo houses a number of tourist attractions that represent Granada’s overlapping cultures throughout history. One example is the Monastery of San Francisco, which was built in 1507 on the former site of a mosque and of which little remains today. Another example is the statue of the wise Jew from Granada Yehuda Ibn Tibon, located just a few steps from Plaza de Isabel La Católica. The renowned Casa de los Tiros, a gorgeous 16th century building with a fortified tower, belonged to the Granada-Venegas family, descendants of noble Nasrids who were forced to renounce their origins—and surnames—and convert to Christianity after Granada was conquered. Cuesta del Realejo is an example of a typical street with steps of a Jewish quarter, and just a stone’s throw away is the Church of Santo Domingo, where the sessions of the Tribunal of the Holy Inquisition were held. The top of Mauror Hill has been watched over for centuries by the Torres Bermejas, a defensive bastion that may be older than the Alhambra, from the era of the Zirid dynasty. These are a few examples of how history can be seen with every step in the beautiful contrasts of Realejo, which also has two of the loveliest carmen villas in Granada at the top of the hill: the Rodríguez-Acosta Foundation and Carmen de los Mártires.