Like every paradise, the Albayzín is fragile, very fragile. For this reason, it is important to discover the district’s streets, squares, heritage and people with care. Because, without any doubt, it is a gift to find nowadays, in Southern Europe, such a unique district that is so faithful to its 3,000-year history.
The setting of the district is idyllic. Listen to the chime of bells while passing through the narrow streets blooming with geraniums and vine. Breathe and smell the perfumes and listen to the birds singing while an artisan performs the job his father, and his grandfather before, taught him when he was a child. Children also come and go as they play. They speak different languages with their parents while running around the traditional palaces of the district where palms and cypresses grow, decorating the blue sky.
However, this idyllic atmosphere can be disturbed: the suitcase wheels of the last tourist arrived at the district make an unbearable noise on the restored cobbles of the street. The tourist is lost so he screams to call the rest of his flock: twenty noisy visitors who interrupt the peaceful afternoon of residents relaxing by their front door. The residents observe how the tourists leave a trail of plastic bags, cans and papers. It is not just one group. According to the Spanish Alliance for Excellency in Tourism, Granada is the Spanish city most subject to overtourism. Moreover, according to the newspapers, half of the flats destined for tourists in the district are illegal.
This district’s two extremes overlap and coexist, and could jeopardize the delicate balance of the Albayzín.

Few corners of the world have been able to escape globalisation, which has its disadvantages but also its advantages.”

The efforts to maintain this balance are not something new. As far back as the seventies, the residents were already demanding the authorities to take action to protect the district. Years and decades later, it seems that everything remains the same, possibly worse. Perhaps this is where the success of the city lies: the struggle between the passion of the residents and the misuse and abuse of its visitors.

Without the resident community, the district would have disappeared long ago. The Albayzín is at risk of being turned into a theme park, an ordinary tourist attraction that tries in vain to be what it once was. However, the city would never be the same without tourism. Few corners of the world have been able to escape globalisation, which has its disadvantages but also its advantages. According to Rita, the last resident of the viewpoint called Mirador de San Nicolás, her house is “harassed” by restaurants overlooking the Alhambra. Miguel Carrascosa also agrees with her. He is another resident of the Albayzín, the author of numerous books and researches on the district and the longest serving Director of the Andalusia UNESCO Centre.

Gustavo Gómez

The Albayzín’s tourism challenges