Exploring Sacromonte in Granada

Even in the city centre you can escape to a tranquil idyll - at least, you can when you visit Granada. Perched above the most colourful and vibrant neighbourhood, you will find an ancient abbey built over catacombs - and it all comes with unmeasurable views too. Want to see?  Then come and explore Sacromonte with us...

Camino del Sacromonte

Romantic Granada

A romantic break in Spain is incomplete without a visit to Granada. Andalucia has its other attractions, but Granada has it all when it comes to romance. Not just the obvious attraction of the Alhambra Palace either.

Time spent together strolling the narrow streets of Sacromonte, hearing the strum of a guitar, and the daytime autumn sun still strong, warming your back as you walk. As with the remainder of the city, there's plenty to discover too.

museo

Bus it

Whether you stay in the Granada or just want to see Sacromonte as part of a day's sightseeing, then start at the bottom. Head for Plaza Nueva and catch the small red C2 bus to the top, which will take you right outside Sacromote Abbey, and on the way you can spot and take a mental note of all the things you wish to see on the walk down. It costs just €1.20 per person. (The C1 won't go all the way but will take you through the Albaycin.)

Sacromonte Abbey

Founded back in 1600, the abbey was originally built on a Roman mine. We had read about the famous Lead Books, and were keen to see inside the abbey, as well as the area surrounding it. Today for €4 you can join in the guided tour  - ours started at 11am. It was only in Spanish, and no photos are allowed. 

We arrived at the abbey just on time, as the bells pealed 11 across the valley. Entering through the large doors we were ushered towards a wooden, carved bench in the cloisters, where the sound of trickling water and birds were the only noises to be heard. A small group joined us as the morning sun began to steal away the shade, and after a few minuted the guide signalled for us to join her as she led us into the first room. She showed us various rooms containing various objet d'art as summarised thus:

Room 1 - Display cases including reproductions of the famous lead books and translations of them.

Room 2 - Belgian tapestries, Papal and Royal decrees, paintings of various Bishops.

Room 3 - Robes, a heavily ornate gold altarpiece, and paintings including Gerard David's La Vorgen de la Rosa.

Room 4 - Various books, including one dating back 1000 years. and the show-stopper, an original  Goya - Francisco Saavedra. This was actually stolen from here in the eighties amongst other valuable treasures, but was returned in '91.

Abbey

Catacombs

Then we went underground, below the abbey, down to the catacombs. This is where the Lead Books were discovered. First we passed through the chapel of San Cecilio, where we learned of the yearly Romeria which takes place on the first Sunday of February.

We admired the gold alterpiece and the saints and apostles set in relief. The guide also pointed out the symbol which I assumed was the Star of David, and had seen everywhere so far on our visit to Sacromonte Abbey, being prevalent on everything from plasterwork to the wooden benches we had sat on earlier as we waited for the tour to start. It's actually the Seal of Solomon, and they differ in that the Star of David has triangles which overlap, and the latter triangles which intertwine. Easy to spot once you know the difference! 

The catacombs contain the relics of various saints, including the ovens where they supposedly burned - all a bit grisly. They lead to a couple of small Capillas or chapels, and eventually back up to the startling daylight, which was quite welcome. The tour lasts about an hour. 

Catacomb gate

Downhill

Before meandering downhill, we stopped to drink in the view from the top - it's superb, and totally makes up for the fact that photos are prohibited inside the abbey. Admire the city spread out below, the Alhambra Palace and Generalife gardens up on the left, the Albaycin to the right. 

Look closely and see the modern cavemen living a free and easy life tucked into the hillside opposite, a small hippy community occupying some natural caves. They certainly have a spectacular backyard. Then down we went, along the tree lined track into Sacromonte, and the Gypsy community of Granada. 

View from Sacromonte

Gypsy life

The first couple of houses you will pass on the way down are heavily decorated, and you can decide whether or not they're worth a photograph, as the owner is usually standing outside with a collection tin, whilst languidly peeling an apple and waiting for someone just like you! 

The area is inhabited these days by a bohemian and eclectic mix of folk, although it was once the Gitano stronghold of Granada. Carefully decorated houses, little restaurants and cafés, and plenty of tourist souvenir shops are the order of today. There's an Ethnological Museum of Gypsy Women to explore on the way down, to your right, and this provides an inside into Gypsy life. 

Gitano house

Flamenco

There are signs of music everywhere you turn in Sacromonte. Here's an article detailing where to go to see the best shows. Look out for Luthier workshops  - guitar makers  - and notice the signs of music as well as the sounds as you stroll through Sacromonte. A guitar hung over a door, castanets from a window, look closely. You'll soon be tapping your own feet, itching to return to Sacromonte, and the sights and sounds of Granada.

 

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