To visit Granada is fantastic, but to live there is a truly special experience. I am proud to be able to say I lived in Granada for nearly 5 years. Now I live in the UK but the plan is to go back to Granada and buy a house when I can afford one. So yes, I may be waiting for some time!
But that day will come, I’m sure.
During my time in Granada I lived in 4 different ‘barios’ and drank/danced/screwed in many others. So I think it’s fair to say I know a thing or two about where to stay in Granada. Lots of readers get in touch asking about this and I always end up responding with bespoke 300-word emails. Therefore I figured it was about time I wrote a proper and up-to-date post about where to stay or live in Granada. Not that I don’t enjoy receiving emails of course…
Where to Stay in Granada: By neighbourbood
Firstly, Granada city centre is relatively small. Everything is within walking distance and you can hop on and off the LAC bus easily, so it’s nothing like deciding where to stay in Barcelona or London. The inner city barios are more fun and slightly more expensive, whereas the outer city barios, as you might guess, are cheaper and quieter. I’ve already written a guide about the best places to live in Granada as a student, but this guide is meant for everyone.
The Inner City Barios
El centro, el albaicin and el realejo are the most popular neighbourhoods in Granada. Incidentally, these are my favourites too. So let’s go over these first!
Granada’s city centre is the highest in demand for tourist accommodation or rooms to rent. All of the main tourist attractions, including the Alhambra Palace, are within walking distance. There is ample choice of bars and quality restaurants to choose from and you won’t have to spend a fortune on late-night taxis either.
However, by staying in Granada centre your experience might lack in authenticity a bit. It can also get annoyingly loud at night with noisy drunks stumbling home from Booga Club or El Vogue in the night (guilty).
Camino de Ronda and Camino Arabial – the longest and busiest streets in downtown Granada – are arguably barios of their own but are generally considered as part of the centre. The simplest way to determine whether an area is central or not is by checking the postcode and/or looking on Google Maps. 18001-18005 are the most central areas.
Christened Albayzín by the Moors, this is easily Granada’s oldest and most iconic barrio. It was expertly built on the hillside facing The Alhambra and contains a myriad of winding, maze-like passageways. It’s said that the Moors built the Albaicin like this so they could quickly escape their enemies. These days it just makes things confusing, though it’s also pretty fun if you’re in no rush and don’t mind getting lost.
Despite the Moors’ extradition from Granada following la reconquista in the late 15th century, El Albaicin still smacks of the Moorish era. Many aljibes (Moorish wells) and evidence of the irrigation system can be still be seen in the sloped streets. It’s quite incredible, actually. Sometimes, you can look around and not see a scrap of evidence pertaining to the 21st century; instead you get a window into what life was like for the Moors all those centuries ago.
You can’t beat the view in El Albaicin. If not from your room or terrace then through the cracks in the wall somewhere along your street, you can always see the Alhambra looming. On a sunny day during winter or early spring, the picture is completed with the snowcapped Sierra Nevada glinting in the background. Get up to the Mirador de San Nicolas in the heart of the Albaicin for the best vista.
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For an unbeatable combination of urban culture, history and top quality restaurants, look no further than El Realejo. By day, you can explore this street art adorned bario (graffiti artist El Niño de las Pinturas is El Realejo’s famous resident), discover the old Jewish district or kick back in the buzzing Campo Principe with a round or 3 of tubos y tapas (beers and pub grub).
There are small art galleries, quirky shops and museums hiding down side streets in el Realejo. You can easily lose an afternoon exploring here.
For nights out, you can’t go wrong in el Realejo. I would recommend San Matias 30 (C/ San Matias 30) and Colagallo (C/ Molinos 28), where you can get free sweets and a premium cocktail for as little as €4, but not before you’ve sunk a Guinness or 2 at Paddy’s Irish Pub (Santa Escolastica, 15). My favourite bar-restaurant, Casa Lopez Correa, is in El Realejo too. I couldn’t recommend this highly enough. Lopez not only serves up locally brewed IPA beer and Italian-Spanish-English infused tapas, but is buzzing on a Friday night and even does intercambios (opportunities to meet people speaking either Spanish or English) on a Monday.
There are many rooms to rent in El Realejo and the average cost is around €230/month. A night at a hostel (I recommend hostelVITA) will set you back about €15.
The Outer City Barios
Staying or living in outer city suburbs like La Chana, Bola de Oro and El Zaidin will require more walking to get to the city centre, but will also mean less noise and lower prices. It’s easier if you have a bike to get from A to B, but Granada’s bus system is very efficient and these barios are well-connected.
Bola de Oro
I lived on the edge of Bola de Oro for a few months and loved it. The surrounding area is beautiful (think leafy pedestrianised zones, fountains, a river, brilliant views of the Sierra Nevada etc.) and it is much quieter than the centre.
There are no noisy scooters zooming past or drunks stumbling home in the early hours, unless of course you are liable to stumble home drunk in the early hours yourself. Then you may end up stumbling for quite some time, since Bola de Oro is about a 30-minute sober walk from the centre.
El Zaidin is not actually that interesting from a visitor’s perspective, unless you like science or football. Parque de las Ciencias – Granada’s science park – is located here, as is Granada CF’s home stadium which fills up every other weekend for a high-profile La Liga match. Outside the stadium there are some nice tapas bars but nothing to write home about. However, one of the best restaurants in Granada – il Gondoliere – is also in El Zaidin, and that should not be missed.
Rent here is fairly cheap and there is definitely an authentic ‘Granadino’ vibe to the place that you don’t get in the centre.
La Chana and La Cartuja
If you’re fresh out of Uni and would like to live with Spanish students then La Chana or La Cartuja are ideal for you. These barios are located close to the main university campus and are packed with student digs. Rooms here are the cheapest in Granada, with some available for as little as €150/month. As places to stay they’re not so ideal because of their distance from the centre.
You can’t go wrong with tapas in La Chana. Bars such as El Nido del Buo or Mariano El Pescador offer up enormous portions with a beer or glass of wine for €2. Seriously, two tapas and you’re done.
Yes, that’s right, you could – if you really wanted – live or stay in a cave in Granada. Many houses in the traditional Gitano bario have caves carved into them. In the higher reaches of el Albaicin, above Sacromonte, there are a number of abandoned caves, where an eclectic group of people are living. They form a modern gypsy community of international travellers, hippies and refugees. They stay here for days, weeks, even months on end. Some stay indefinitely.
There are never more than about 50 people living in these caves. As you might have guessed, there are no landlords or contracts involved; if you want to stay here, you just need to introduce yourself (in Spanish) and hope there is space. The facilities are generally basic but most have electricity, either from solar panels or grids wired from outside. Running water and outhouse-style toilets are often shared, so if you want to live in a cave for a while you better be prepared to make sacrifices!
This post by Expert Vagabond shows some amazing images of Granada’s modern gypsy community. Kudos to him for staying the night with the community. In 5 years I never did that!
So where should you stay in Granada?
Wherever you stay in Granada I can promise you’ll have a great time. For the most authentic experience, El Albaicin is your best bet. However, if you don’t fancy trekking up steep hills 2-3 times a day, then you’re better off somewhere else.
El Realejo is culturally diverse with incredible nightlife and restaurants. El Centro boasts this too, but is busier and easy to get lost in (even when sober). If you want to stay somewhere more chilled, head to the outskirts (or live in a cave!), but be prepared to either walk a lot or spend money on buses/taxis.
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Thanks for reading and enjoy Granada! 🙂