Granada is best known for the stunning palaces of the Alhambra… And rightly so too. They’re incredible! But if you’re looking for a good reason to stay in Granada beyond a day trip to the Alhambra, look to the hillside neighbourhoods of Albayzin and Sacromonte. It’s in these historic neighbourhoods that you’ll find Granada’s cave houses. And as we explain further below, enjoying flamenco in one of the cave houses here is a top travel highlight. You can even stay in one!
Cave dwelling in Albayzin and Sacromonte
Spain’s Andalusia region is full of picturesque whitewashed villages and neighbourhoods. What makes Albayzin and Sacromonte stand out are the buildings that have literally been carved out of the hillsides. They are effectively caves but they’re also homes, bars and restaurants. And being carved from the hillside, each is completely unique!
Looking at these pictures below, these caves aren’t like the sort of caves that would spring to mind…
In the summer, the cave houses have the advantage of cooler temperatures. And I’m assuming that as they’re built into the hillside, this provides great insulation to keep heat in. I was in Granada in June so I can vouch for the welcoming coolness of the caves I visited. As they use less energy, they’re environmentally friendly too!
Staying in a cave house
Stretching back to the moorish period (possibly even further than that!), cave dwelling is no new thing. But this is easy to forget when so many of the cave houses here have all the modern conveniences you’d expect of any house. That includes electricity and running water. Many have also had extensions built onto them. So you can find multi-story, block-fronted cave houses complete with terraces! I found one such cave house in Albayzin on airbnb, which I stayed in. My room was in part of the extension built so felt like any other house. However, the kitchen, lounge and a couple of other rooms were in the cave. They were lovely and cool places to escape the hot summer heat too!
Not strictly a cave feature but definitely a feature of staying in the hillside is that you get glorious views. Here’s mine…
A history of cave dwelling at the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte
As well as being an unusual feature of the city, the cave houses tell a different Granada tale to that of the Alhambra. In Sacromonte, which is as famous for its flamenco as it is for its cave houses, the two are linked by the people who lived here. Whereas various ruling sultans made their mark on the Alhambra, it’s the peasant farm workers (primarily gypsy and moorish communities) that made their mark on the hillsides by making them their home. There’s no better place to learn about the history of both cave houses and flamenco in the region than the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte.
Information is available in English and Spanish so you can learn about the history of cave dwelling on a self-guided tour. The museum also provides a good opportunity to see how people typically lived in them – but without all the mod cons! It offers a fantastic insight into the history of the region and how the creation of flamenco came about. I’d thoroughly recommend visiting. More information on visiting the museum is at the bottom of this post.
Even if you’re not staying in a cave house, you can experience a little of their uniqueness by heading up to the higher parts of Albayzin and strolling through Sacromonte. There are also plenty of opportunities to go inside one. Seeing a flamenco show is a good example of how to do that.
Flamenco in Granada’s cave houses
Sacromonte is home to several flamenco caves where you can watch a flamenco performance on most nights. Although there are countless opportunities to enjoy flamenco in Granada, I really loved heading into what is effectively a large cave made into a restaurant, bar and flamenco theatre.
I picked up a schedule of flamenco performances and bought a ticket from one of the flamenco schools (the Escuela Carmen de las Cuevas) but you can also find out about performances and get tickets online at flamencotickets.com/granada-flamenco-shows.
Visiting the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte
The museum is located up a hill in Sacromonte. When I visited, the main path up to the museum was closed for maintenance but there were plenty of signs pointing us to the right direction. There is a bus that you can take (no. 35) from Plaza Nueva that will take you into Sacromonte but you’ll still need to walk uphill a bit. If you can though, it’s worth walking into Sacromonte so you get more of a feel for this historic and cave-filled neighbourhood. You do also get spectacular views of the city as well as to the ravine and hills.
The main street in Sacromonte is Calle Santo Sepulcro del Sacromonte (you can see it on the Google map below) but it’s generally referred to as Camino del Sacromonte. You’ll have to walk along this street for a bit before you see the first signs pointing you to the turn-off for the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte. This street is also where you’ll find the main flamenco bars and caves so it’s a handy one to know!
Tickets: Standard admission is €5
Opening hours: daily from 10.00am to 6.00pm during winter (15 October to 14 March) and from 10.00am to 8.00pm during summer (15 March to 14 October)
You can find out more information about visiting the museum by going to: sacromontegranada.com