Something you might not know about Granada is that it has the most amazing street art. Granada, you see, is home to Raúl Ruiz otherwise known as El Niño de las Pinturas (it means child of the paintings) His depictions are powerful in a way that only street art can be. Messages of protest are common alongside his own interpretations of the greats, one of his most famous pieces is ‘The Thinker’ originally by Auguste Rodin. When you consider that the incredible detail in his work is all done with a spray can - not a paint brush in sight - it's even more amazing to look at!
A street art and graffiti tour of Granada
Mikey has been running a free graffiti tour of Granada from the Oasis Hostel in the Albaycin for the last few years. They run from the Oasis Youth Hostel on certain days (check out his Facebook page) If you’re thinking of exploring El Niño’s work without a guide that’s perfectly possible but why would you - making new friends is part of why you’re travelling isn’t it? The people this tour attracts will likely have interests in common with you – street art and seeking out a different side to the city, this plus Mikey’s amusing anecdotes and knowledge really do make for a fabulous afternoon.
Most of the pieces are scattered throughout the Realjo district of Granada. Sadly, the Council has forced artists to cover up their work in recent years, but interestingly shops and businesses have commissioned the graffiti artists to paint their shutters instead. This means it’s well worth a walk around the old Jewish quarter of the city when the shops are closed. Art adorns all sorts of establishments from tattoo parlours to Veterinary Practices!
A large, lemon coloured, building sits on the corner of Calle Molinos. An enormous long eared owl peers down at you, and next to it a calm looking woman in a yellow hijab has her head bent as if in prayer. This is the old home of El Niño.
Also, make sure you also take a wander up to Joe Strummer Plaza (seriously!) This small triangular square was named after lead singer of The Clash and an older El Niño mural of the musician is just about still visible near the steps to the placeta. El Niño de las Pinturas’ work has been spotted as far afield as Venezuela. *Adds Venezuela's street art to the bucket list*
Colegio Santo Domingo has some of the most impressive street art we’ve seen, the walls that surround the school are covered in incredible colourful murals depicting everything from cartoon animals, mountains and Louis Armstrong, to cherubs, birds and libraries, it’s fascinating!
We were told that these murals were commissioned and worked on by El Niño’s friends from all over Spain and as far afield as Portugal. The art was created recently and changes regularly.
Graffiti and street art turns to natural beauty
Then came our hike up through Sacramento. The hike creates a transition from a graffiti tour to a tour of natural beauty. This is the Spain of old photos and stories; steep, cobbled streets and white washed buildings with the sound of flamenco guitar drifting on the wind. Here you will find the most authentic Flamenco shows and bars with the most amazing views of the Alhambra from their terraces. Mike pointed out a night club, you can dance and drink on the terrace looking out at The Alhambra, or head down underground for a rave in a cave!
There are 300 or so cave homes in this area, we even found one on Airbnb and it was an absolute bargain! These incredible houses are built into the side of the hills and stay a constant, comfortable 18 degrees all year round, despite the 40+ degrees summers and the snowy winters Granada is famous for.
The hike up to what became one of our favourite spots in Granada – Mirador de San Miguel Alto was a beautiful one, there are no café’s or bar’s up here, just a ruined church and people, lots of people from all walks of life who have also braved the climb, or who just pop across from their cave retreats to watch the show.
If you live anywhere populous where you can watch the sunset you’ll recognise the atmosphere straight away – it’s the same warm, ancient feeling of community, joy and a sort of shared spirit, wherever you go in the World - from Aberystwyth to Auckland.
If you can recommend a graffiti tour or any amazing street art that we could add to our bucket list we would love to hear about them, so just leave a comment below!