SACROMONTE Granada

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Why visit Sacromonte?

Located right next to the Albaicin quarter and across the valley from the Alhambra, the Sacromonte neighborhood is known for being the cultural center of the gypsy community in Granada. For centuries, outsiders who were not welcome within the city walls came to this hillside where they dug out holes and created their own refuge. It’s in these whitewashed caves where artistic passion was cultivated and Zambra Flamenco was born. Today, visiting Sacromonte is one of the best things to do in Granada. And witnessing a flamenco performance in one of its many caves is an absolute must.

Traditional cave houses in the Sacromonte, Granada
Traditional cave houses in the Sacromonte

History of Granada's Sacromonte

In the 16th century, following the Christian reconquest of Granada, Muslims and Jews were expelled from the city. Some of them sought refuge outside the city walls and began to settle in the Sacromonte neighborhood. There they were able to continue their lives, since being outside the walls meant that they were also outside of administrative and ecclesiastical control.

Those same fanatical laws from the beginning of the 16th century that expelled Jews and Muslims also dictated repressive measures against the Gypsies. They were forbidden, among other things, to continue their traditional nomadism. This forced them to settle in a fixed place and many of them settled in Sacromonte.

The marginal Sacromonte community with limited resources began to carve caves in the stone of the hillside to use as houses. The interiors and facades were whitewashed with lime. This tradition continues to the present day. The white houses of Sacromonte are still one of the most characteristic features of the neighborhood.

Typical white houses in the Sacromonte neighborhood of Granada, Spain
Typical white houses in the Sacromonte neighborhood

Since the 18th century, Gypsies have made up the majority of the inhabitants of the neighborhood and have contributed to the international fame of the caves.

In the 1960s, heavy flooding forced the evacuation of Sacromonte. The inhabitants were offered new housing. Not all of them accepted but many did.

Today, Sacromonte has 600 inhabitants. Although some caves are still used as private homes, most are used as flamenco halls, bars and restaurants.

LEGEND OF THE BARRANCO DE LOS NEGROS (RAVINE OF THE BLACKS)

Sacromonte is a neighborhood where legends abound. The most famous is probably the Legend of the Barranco de los Negros, which speaks of the origin of Sacromonte and gives the name to the ravine in the heart of the neighborhood.

After the Reconquest of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs, many Moorish nobles went into exile in Africa. But these nobles feared being robbed on the way by "salteadores" (groups of renegade soldiers of the Christian army). Thinking that the exile was only temporary and that they would one day return to Granada, they decided to hide their fortunes in the olive groves of the Valparaíso Mountain (what we know today as Sacromonte).

Before leaving Granada, the nobles also freed many of their African (black) slaves because it was too expensive to make such a long journey with a large entourage.

Caves carved out of the rock in the Sacromonte neighborhood, Granada - Andalusia
Caves carved out of the rock in Sacromonte

Some of the slaves that stayed behind had heard from their masters about burying their wealth on Mount Valparaiso. Now that they were free but had no work, they decided to go up the mountain in search of the treasures.

These former slaves began to excavate the slopes of the ravine. It is not known if they ever found anything. But since they were also homeless they needed a place to sleep. And as the hallows in the hillside that they dug became larger and larger, these caves eventually became houses.

According to legend, this is how the Sacromonte neighborhood was born.

What to See in Sacromonte

CAVES

Cueva del Curro (Curro's cave) in Sacromonte, Granada
Cueva del Curro in Sacromonte

To this day, Sacromonte is composed of caves carved out of the rock. Although some are still homes, most offer flamenco shows or have been transformed into bars and restaurants.

Strolling through the neighborhood you will find gypsies offering a visit to their caves for 1 or 2€. Although not a bad option, the best place to see caves and learn about the neighborhood is the Museo de las Cuevas del Sacromonte.

MUSEUM OF THE SACROMONTE CAVES

Interior of a cave at the Museum of the Sacromonte Caves, Granada
Museum of the Sacromonte Caves

The Museo de las Cuevas del Sacromonte (entrance: 5€) is located in the Barranco de los Negros, in the heart of the neighborhood. It is an ethnographic museum that preserves 11 caves in their original state.

The museum explains the history and way of life of the inhabitants of Sacromonte and the natural environment of the Darro River Valley.

The Sacromonte Caves Museum also has a privileged viewpoint overlooking the Alhambra, the city and the Darro River Valley.

SACROMONTE ABBEY

Fountain and orange trees in the patio of the Sacromonte Abbey (Abadía del Sacromonte) in Granada - Andalucía
Patio in the Sacromonte Abbey

The Abadía del Sacromonte (entrance fee: 5 €) was built in the 17th century on the highest point of Sacromonte. It is located on the site where in 1595, the remains of St. Cecilio, the patron saint of Granada, were found.

Today, it’s possible to visit the church and the cloister of the Abbey. There is also a museum that contains works of great artistic value such as the original manuscript of the Treatise on Medicine by Averroes and a world map by Ptolemy. Other highlights are its collection of Baroque paintings, religious sculptures, tapestries from Brussels and the only painting by Goya in Granada.

Next to the Abbey you can also visit the holy caves. These are the catacombs where the remains of St. Cecilius were found. It’s possible to walk through underground passages where several chapels are preserved.

LOOKOUTS

Gorgeous views of the Alhambra from Sacromonte, Granada
Views of the Alhambra from Sacromonte

Sacromonte boasts a variety of lookouts with great views of the Alhambra, the city and the Darro River Valley. All of these spots can be enjoyed in peace and quiet, without the crowds of the famous Mirador de San Nicolas in the Albaicin.

Some of the best viewpoints are the Mirador de la Vereda de Enmedio (also known as Mirador Mario Maya after the famous gypsy dancer who began his career here), the Mirador del Museo de las Cuevas del Sacromonte and the Mirador de la Abadía del Sacromonte.

Right on the border between the Albaicín and Sacromonte, another viewpoint that offers spectacular views over the entire city is the Mirador de San Miguel Alto.

Flamenco in Sacromonte

MOORISH ZAMBRA & GYPSY ZAMBRA

The Sacromonte district of Granada is considered to be one of the birthplaces of flamenco. Granada's flamenco tradition has its origins in "zambras". The word "zambra" comes from the Arabic "zumra." Originally it referred to a Moorish party that was full of energy with the focus being on dancing.

Over time, the gypsies of Sacromonte adapted this tradition from their Moorish neighbors. Gradually they began to use the word zambra to refer to the flamenco party and dance used to celebrate their wedding ceremonies. And so the gypsy zambra was born.

In the 17th century, the zambra was banned by the Inquisition but it continued to be practiced in secret. This tradition did not become famous until the 20th and 21st centuries when dancers such as Carmen Amaya and Lola Flores gained wide spread fame.

Zambra flamenca show in Granada, Spain
Zambra flamenca show

Today, Sacromonte is full of caves that host flamenco shows. The word zambra is now used to refer to both this type of caves and the dance itself.

Although the caves that offer flamenco shows in Sacromonte are very touristy, they are still a must-see. Enjoying a flamenco zambra show in a Sacromonte cave is a unique experience, the result of the cultural mix that took place in the neighborhood for centuries.

Below are some of the most famous zambras (flamenco cave venues) in Sacromonte.

LA CUEVA DE LA ROCÍO

La Cueva de la Rocío was founded by Andres Maya Fajardo and Rocio Fernandez Bustamante in 1951, becoming one of the first gypsy zambras in Sacromonte. To this day, it is still owned by the Maya family, one of the most important in the flamenco world. They offer a flamenco show characterized by its authenticity and are proud to preserve and share the tradition.

Its large open-air terrace stands out, offering spectacular views of the Alhambra and the Generalife. It also has a separate restaurant where you can dine before or after the show.

La Cueva de la Rocio has been visited by members of the Spanish royal family, Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama.

ZAMBRA MARÍA LA CANASTERA

Zambra María la Canastera is another of the most typical caves of Sacromonte. It was founded by María Cortés Heredia more than 50 years ago. María began dancing as a child under the artistic name "La Canastera", which she received from her father, a basket weaver by profession. At the age of 16 she traveled to Barcelona to perform at the Ibero-American Exposition.

Today, daily zambra shows are held in what was once the living room of the house where spectators get a very intimate and up close experience.

In addition to the daily flamenco show, Zambra María la Canastera also houses a museum with photos and objects from María's life as a professional flamenco artist, as well as rooms preserved in their original state.

It has been visited by celebrities such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Ingrid Berman. It was also visited by Anthony Bourdain in his travel show Parts Unknown.

VENTA EL GALLO

Gypsy zambra show in Venta el Gallo, Sacromonte - Granada
Gypsy zambra show in Venta el Gallo

Venta el Gallo (also known as Casa Juanito) was founded in 1977 by Juan Heredia, "Juanillo". Son of the legendary bailaora Antonia "la Gallina" and famous guitarist, he also stands out for his support of Sacromonte as a cultural and artistic neighborhood.

Today Venta el Gallo offers a show of zambra granadina in the rustic atmosphere of a traditional cave, with white walls full of decorative objects.

LOS TARANTOS CAVE

Cueva los Tarantos is one of the most renowned gypsy cave houses in Sacromonte. This traditional establishment opened its doors in 1972 and is famous for the purity and passion of its shows.

In addition to the daily flamenco show, they also offer flamenco courses, cave rentals and guided tours of the neighborhood.

Festivales Celebrated in the Sacromonte

PILGRIMAGE OF SAN CECILIO

The Pilgrimage of San Cecilio is a very popular festival that has been celebrated since the end of the 16th century. It was then when the remains of San Cecilio were discovered in the place where the Sacromonte Abbey stands today.

This pilgrimage to Sacromonte takes place on the first Sunday of February. After the pilgrimage and mass, it is tradition to visit the catacombs of San Cecilio, patron saint of the city, located next to the Sacromonte Abbey.

But the celebration does not end there. Thousands of people occupy the esplanade next to the abbey and the party lasts all day. The singing and dancing are accompanied by the typical food of this festivity: habas and salaíllas (beans and salted bread).

SACROMONTE FESTIVAL

The first weekend of September the Fiestas Populares del Sacromonte are celebrated. In addition to live music, food and other cultural activities, there is also a costume parade that takes place on Sunday.

How to Get to Sacromonte

Although the Sacromonte neighborhood is located on the outskirts of Granada, it is very easy to get there on foot. To give you an idea, from Plaza Nueva it is about a 15-20 minute walk to Sacromonte.

To get there walking from Plaza Nueva, follow the Carrera del Darro, which runs along the banks of the Darro River and becomes the Paseo de los Tristes in the last stretch. Then go up the Cuesta del Chapiz until you reach the Camino del Sacromonte. Turn right and this is where the neighborhood begins.

But if you want to save energy after a long day visiting the Alhambra and going up and down the slopes of the Albaicín, it is also possible to get to Sacromonte by city bus.

The minibus line C34 makes a circular route through the Albaicín and Sacromonte neighborhoods. During the day, there is a bus every 20 minutes.

Although the lines C31 and C32 do not go into the Sacromonte, it is possible to use them to get closer to the neighborhood. In that case, get off at the stop at Cuesta del Chapiz and continue on foot from there.

All these bus lines leave from Plaza Nueva and make several stops along the Carrera del Darro. A ticket costs approximately 1,40€. For more information on bus schedules and exact itinerary visit the Transportes Rober website.

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