Family of Four Taking Flight to Financial Independence

Albaicin: What Is It Like To Live In A UNESCO World Heritage Site?

What Is It Like To Live In A UNESCO World Heritage Site?  As many of you know we currently live in the Albaicin neighborhood of Granada, Spain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Albaicin neighborhood of Granada, Spain.

First, how did we end up here?  We retired early (FIREd ... Financial Independence Retire Early) in April 2021, and we obtained our Non-Lucrative Visas to Spain.  We arrived in Granada, Spain in April 2021 in our Albaicin neighborhood.  Want to know more?  Check out our About Us.

What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?  

From their website, “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.  This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural a heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.”

The UNESCO website is pretty fantastic so definitely dive in if you want to know more.

Do you live near any UNESCO sites?  Are you a big traveller?  Which ones have you travelled to?  Or do you want to travel to?

UNESCO sites vary greatly from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Brazil’s Historic Town of Ouro Preto, to Norway’s Urnes Stave Church.  These are just three random examples, but the list really goes on and on.  Their website has a great map feature and lists locations by country (and more).  Check it out.  If you are a history buff, traveller, educator, caregiver, or just naturally curious about the world, I don’t think you will be disappointed to learn more about UNESCO sites.

We are from the United States so out of curiosity I wanted to see what was listed.  Right now there are 11 cultural sites, 12 natural sites (not a surprise considering there are so many great National Parks!), and 1 mixed site.  We are from Texas, and there is currently one UNESCO site in Texas: San Antonio Missions.  What sites are near where you live or where you are from?

Why is our neighborhood (Albaicin) a UNESCO site?

The Alhambra, Generalife, and our neighborhood, the Albaicin are all declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

View of the Albaicin from the Alhambra (Granada, Spain).

“The Alhambra, with its continuous occupation over time, is currently the only preserved palatine city of the Islamic period. It constitutes the best example of Nasrid art in its architecture and decorative aspects. The Generalife Garden and its vegetable farms represent one of the few medieval areas of agricultural productivity.”

(Quote taken from the UNESCO website).

Alhambra’s Nasrid Palace (Granada, Spain).

Generalife (Granada, Spain)

“The residential district of the Albayzín, which constitutes the origin of the City of Granada, is a rich legacy of Moorish town planning and architecture in which Nasrid buildings and constructions of Christian tradition coexist harmoniously. Much of its significance lies in the medieval town plan with its narrow streets and small squares and in the relatively modest houses in Moorish and Andalusian style that line them. There are, however, some more imposing reminders of its past prosperity. It is nowadays one of the best illustrations of Moorish town planning, enriched with the Christian contributions of the Spanish Renaissance and Baroque period to the Islamic design of the streets.”

(Quote taken from the UNESCO website).

I am not going to go in-depth into the historical significance of the Albaicin because we are still learning so much on a daily basis in Granada, but I will share our current experience of living in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

View of the Albaicin from the Alhambra (Granada, Spain).

What is it like to live in a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

A small town within a city.

One of our goals when we moved to Granada was to live somewhere completely unlike where we have lived previously (as a family of four that would be Houston and the suburbs of Houston).  Yes, one can argue probably anywhere in Spain could accomplish this goal, but our neighborhood is uniquely different from the rest of Granada. It feels like a small (ancient!) town within a bigger city.

When we walk down the hill to the center of town it feels much like a big (European) city.  We do love the center of town also, but the Albaicin definitely has a different aura.  We went from most of our more recent time being in the suburbs of Houston (where everyone needs a car) to the Albaicin where most roads or streets are too small for car access, and our walks are often like navigating a labyrinth.  Our feet are our main mode of transportation taking us up and down the hills and passageways.

Walking in Granada’s Center.

We are becoming frequent locals in our small town, the Albaicin, such as at our farmer’s market, panadería, organic shop, favorite tapas restaurant, pizza shop, office supply shop, tourist shops on the little Moroccan street and more.

Farmers Market in Plaza Larga in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Panadería María in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

col & flower in the Albaicin (Granada Spain).

Tapas at Meson El Yunque in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Pizzería La Esquinita Argentina in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Little Moroccan Street (Calle Calderería Nueva) in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Everything is close together in the Albaicin like a small town.  Depending on the temperatures, people leave their windows and doors open.  From our apartment, we can hear our neighbors chatting and walking by and musicians in our small plaza or from the rooftops.

The most social one in the family, our daughter, knows nearly all the neighborhood cats, and she easily makes friends with the neighbors by chatting across the rooftops.

Local cats socializing in their doorways in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

I would never think of myself as one to embrace a small town with glee, but it is hard to not fall for the UNESCO neighborhood of the Albaicin.

The streets tell a story with every step (and climb ...and descend) you take.

Another one of our goals was to leave Houston for a walking city / city with public transportation.  We wanted to leave the car life and freeway life behind.

Walking in our neighborhood, the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

The historic Albaicin is the perfect walking neighborhood.  In fact, it is probably much easier to walk than to use any other mode of transportation since most of the walkways are not open to cars.  The walkways are also a mix of (for the most part) not so even pebbles and cobble stones.  Some may see that as a negative, but I think it adds to the charm of the Albaicin.

We are in the middle of the Albaicin or hill.  For the most part we can’t leave the house without ascending or descending at some point.  Not only are we in a little walking town within a bigger walking city, but we are getting even more exercise with the hills and steps.  We wanted to incorporate walking into our daily lives.  It is better for the environment and better for us.  Walking also makes it much easier to be able to explore and be a part of the community versus traveling everywhere by car.

Stairs in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

More stairs in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Every step we take in the Albaicin, the streets tell us a new story.  We get to experience a musician, watch an artist painting, hear visitors from France or Germany, and discover new stories when we wander down a street we haven’t explored yet.

Painter in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Wandering through a live art and history museum.

As many of you know, I am an early retired art educator.

One of my favorite places is to be surrounded by art, whether that is an art museum or art murals (and everything in between).  But living in the Albaicin takes that up a notch.  If feels like (and we are!) roaming the streets of (our streets!) a live art and history museum.

From the ancient walls, architecture, to the street design, pebbled walkways, cisterns, churches, doorways, and details, there is always something new to see and discover in the Albaicin.

Arco de las Pesas in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Architecture in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Walkways in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Pebbled walkways in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Church San Miguel Bajo in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Mezquita Mayor de Granada (Mosque in the Albaicin / Granada, Spain).

Door in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Moorish details in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

As much as I love art museums and other art destinations, we are grateful to be able to experience the live art and history museum in our everyday life in the Albaicin.

Experiencing history through your own daily life.

Which brings me to my next point; I love to learn about history through art (not so surprising given what I mention above!).  As much as I love books, learning about history through textbooks or books isn’t the most ideal (or only) experience for me or the kids (or Erik or anyone for that matter!).

One reason we wanted a nomadic life of slow travel was to immerse locally and experience history in person.

We are able to integrate history into our day to day life.  The history of Granada and the Albaicin is very layered, but it is nice to observe little bits of history just walking through our neighborhood.

Aljibes (Arab Cisterns) in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

El Bañuelo in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Palacio de Dar al-Horra in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

Not only do we pass and learn more about historic sites on daily walks, but it is also easy to seek out new sites to visit just in our neighborhood.  We love learning about the history of those that came before us in the Albaicin.  We will continue to supplement what we learn about through books and more research, but living in the Albaicin truly helps bring the history of Granada to life.

Max Moreau was an artist that spent his time living and creating in the Albaicin.  The Casa Museo Max Moreau is in our neighborhood (Granada, Spain).   

Casa Museo Max Moreau (Granada, Spain)

Creating our own story in the UNESCO World Heritage Site streets of the Albaicin.

We are enjoying creating our own story within the streets and neighborhood of the Albaicin; we are able to layer our own history on top of the already complicated history yesteryear.

Our story includes everything from daily errands, to exploring historic sites, strolling along new streets (and getting lost), meeting new friends for tapas, watching the kids play and explore, showing visitors our neighborhood, and soon … walking the kids to and from school (and more).  Our interactions and experiences may range from small (running errands) to bigger milestones (their first day of school in Spain), but they will all pull together to create our own story.

Our kids playing in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

I am guessing our story has at least some similarities to the people that came before us.  Sure they didn’t have our modern conveniences of learning to navigate the streets with GPS, and family expectations and responsibilities may have been different… But I bet they also walked to and from with different errands, gathered with friends, and watched their own kids playing in the same or similar streets.


When we first arrived in April 2021, our neighborhood was still very quiet due to Covid-19 and restrictions (including restricting visitors from outside of Spain).  By June some of the Covid-19 restrictions ended, and we started seeing (and continue to see) small and large group walking tours in our neighborhood.

Now on the one hand, if you live here, I can see how you may see that as a negative.  (For the most part, they seem to all wear masks and haven’t really blocked walkways).  But on the other hand, I think it is a good sign for the economy.  And what a unique experience to live somewhere that people actually pay to tour your neighborhood!

Our home in the Albaicin (Granada, Spain).

What do you think?  Would you live in a UNESCO World Heritage Site?  Where do you live now?  What is it like? Do you have any UNESCO World Heritage Sites on your list of places to visit?  Comment below, or contact us at

Read Erik’s latest post here on Quality Time In Early Retirement.  We are working towards updating and improving our About Us and Start Here pages.  Check them out!  You can also follow our adventure on Instagram.

Want to take flight to your own FI (financial independence) or FIRE (financial independence retire early) journey? Read how we can help here.


Quality Time In Early Retirement

One of the most difficult things about our move to Granada, Spain was leaving our family (my parents and Tara’s parents) back in Texas.  It was a blessing to have all four of them be a part of our daily lives, and there is no doubt in my mind that we would not have been able to reach our financial goals as quickly as we did without them and their support.

They were always there for us and (and most importantly) the kids.  I know our kids have and will continue to benefit greatly from the relationships they have formed with their grandparents.  Each one is unique, yet equally important as the rest.

That being said, one of the things that we were confident about was that even though we wouldn’t get to see our loved ones as often, when we do get to see them it will be for weeks if not months at a time.  Since we are early retired now we don’t have to plan our vacations in one week increments (which is typical for US employees).  And our guests can visit for weeks or even months at a time, and we can give them our full attention each and everyday that they are here (early retired!).  (Note, the biggest area currently affecting travel is the kids will be in school this year).

We recently put this idea of having more quality time during visits with our loved ones to the test when my parents (Erik’s parents) came to visit us for a month.

Walking in the Albaicin (our neighborhood) during my parent’s visit to Granada, Spain.

How was our month of quality time?

What Did We Do?

We were able to do so much that it would be next to impossible to list everything in one post.  We will go over some highlights of our month together.

Monasterio Cartuja in Granada, Spain.


We didn’t have the ideal space for them in our current apartment, but they definitely wanted to live like locals as close to us as possible in our historic UNESCO site neighborhood, the Albaicin.  Since they were able to stay for a month, from a financial perspective this was a huge perk since they were able to get a monthly discount from Airbnb.  We helped them find a place near us in the Albaicin.  They paid 850 euros total or about 28 euros per day during their trip.  They had a 1 bedroom / 1 bathroom with a living room, full kitchen, AC, washer, and access to a (shared) roof deck.  (Read Tara’s latest post here on What To Look For In An Airbnb?).

Having their own space allowed for them to be able to host the kids for sleepovers.  Sleepovers were a fan favorite for everyone when we lived back in Texas, and it turns out they are pretty great in Spain too.  This gave the kids one on one time with their grandparents in a unique setting where the kids were able to take them through the neighborhood in the evening and show them around.  Their evening strolls would often lead to ice cream or other treats, and that just made the experience even better.


Having my parents here also forced us out of our regular routine (cooking a lot at home).  We went out for tapas multiple times per week.  We tried different places in the neighborhood, and each was great in its own way. However, over the course of their visit we became regulars at Meson El Yunque.  Tara found it because my Mom really wanted to try sangria (apparently locals don’t drink it much … mainly tourists).  Not only did the sangria (look how huge it is!) not disappoint, but the tapas and staff are fantastic.  We frequented this place too many times to count and will definitely continue to be regulars.

Sangria from Meson El Yunque (Granada, Spain).

Tapas at El Ladrillo Charico Restaurante (Granada, Spain).

Tapas at Meson El Yunque (Granada, Spain).

The experience of having tapas was something we all enjoyed doing together, and it gave my parents a new experience.  Tapas are complimentary in Granada, and with each round of drinks you get more.  We would often order 12 - 14 drinks total (6 people total) and our bill would only be around €30 total (and our bellies would be full!). That would be next to impossible back home in the US.  (Drinks are typically around €2 each in Granada … give or take.  The giant sangria is slightly more around €3.)

Mosto (“wine” for kids) and tapas at Meson El Yunque (Granada, Spain).

Nerja, Spain and Frigilina, Spain

We knew we wanted to do a beach trip with my parents.  You can’t pass that up if you live in the South of Spain! We took a beach trip to Nerja, Spain (and a day trip from there to Frigiliana), and it was well worth it.  It was probably my Mom’s favorite part of the trip (not including seeing us of course!).  Read more about our trip here … Travel: Early Retirement and Nerja, Spain

Nerja, Spain

Frigiliana, Spain

Great anniversary for my parents with a day trip to Frigiliana, Spain.

Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada, Spain

One reason why we chose to live in Granada was because of the easy access Sierra Nevada.  We didn’t explore Sierra Nevada prior to my parent’s visit, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to check it out with them (and cool off for the day in the higher elevation and mountain air).  There are many places to explore within and around Sierra Nevada, but we thought an easy start would be to explore the summer activities at the ski resort and main town (at the ski resort).  We were able to do the kids activities (including the Russian Sled). gondola, check out the ski lifts, enjoy lunch, and the pool.  Tara will give a full recap in a future post.  Maybe the next post!?


Ahhh, the Alhambra.  This is the biggest and most important site in Granada.  And boy is it a wonder to experience. Tara actually took my parents there for the day so they didn’t feel rushed by the kids.

They saw all of the sites, but maybe not every inch of the gardens because there is really so much to see.  

They picked a day that it was slightly cooler (and they lucked out, it was cooler in the morning!).  And they got timed tickets for early AM to avoid the heat and crowds.  We recommend getting your tickets online, and don’t forget your passport / proper identification (your tickets are digitally tied to your identification).  They started with the Nasrid Palace (which we recommend starting with since it is timed ticket).  Then they explored the Alcazaba, the gardens on the way to Generalife, and finally the Generalife.  We previously visited the Palace of Charles V on a different day so they didn’t stop in this one.  The photos really speak for themselves as far as the history and beauty of the Alhambra.  Tara started reading about the history of Granada and the Alhambra so that will help us learn even more on future visits.

Some additional helpful information for visiting the Alhambra.  If you are used to walking (and don’t have mobility issues), the walk up to the Alhambra from Plaza Nueva isn’t too bad.  It doesn’t take too long either.  We will say the hill is very steep going up to the Alhambra, but it is not as long as a walk as we experienced in Malága to visit their Alcazaba.  You can also catch a bus or taxi in Plaza Nueva to go to the Alhambra.  Like mentioned above, depending on the time of year (and crowds), you may want to get your timed tickets for early in the day (they also have night visits that we haven’t experienced yet).  We recommend you visit the Nasrid Palace first (timed ticket). Note, you need to possibly show your tickets and have your passports scanned at the Nasrid Palace, Alcazaba, and the Generalife.  We only typically had to show our tickets at the first stop.  After the Nasrid Palace you can explore Palace of Charles V for free (or come another day).  You can visit a small (but wonderful) Museum of the Alhambra on the first floor for free too.  Their Fine Arts Museum is on the second floor for a minimal cost.  If you have more time in Granada, we recommend you visit the Palace of Charles V on a separate day (including the two museums inside).

Details at the Alhambra’s Nasrid Palace (Granada, Spain).

Alhambra (Nasrid Palace) in Granada, Spain.

Next, you are near the Alcazaba so head over to this site.  If you are able, be sure to head to the very top of the Alcazaba and get a great view of all of Granada including our neighborhood, the Albaicin.

Alcazaba at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

Once you finish the Alcazaba you may want to regroup with a drink or snack outside.  You can get a great view of the Albaicin while you rest before your hike up to the Generalife (summer home!).  On your walk up to the Generalife, you may run across ancient bath houses (if they are open).  Be sure to go in!  No extra charge.  There are also outstanding gardens along your walk to the Generalife.  It’s hard to beat the impressiveness of the Nasrid Palace, but the gardens at the Generalife may be our second favorite.  Once you are finished, I recommend just walking back down the hill to Plaza Nueva.  There are also places to catch a bus if you need a break from walking.

Generalife Gardens at the Alhambra (Granada, Spain).

Generalife at the Alhambra (Granada, Spain).

Granada’s Sites

It would be almost impossible to list everything our tour guide (Tara) showed us / my parents on their trip.  We stayed busy almost every day with at least one adventure (a few days we took breaks, or the girls went shopping). Some of our adventures we had already done before they arrived, and some were new to all of us.  There are really so many things to see and do in Granada.  It was quite easy to plan a daily adventure (in fact, we’ve been here since April, and we still haven’t seen all the major sites even though we keep very busy with our adventures).  Here is a list of only some of the things we were able to do with my parents:

-Granada Cathedral

-Monasterio Cartuja

-Basílica de San Juan de Dios

-Archaeological Museum of Granada 

-Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte

-Parque de las Ciencias 

I’ll share a photo from each place (or two), but one (or two!) photo(s) definitely doesn’t do it justice.  Come visit Granada, and see for yourself!

Granada’s Cathedral (Granada, Spain)

Monasterio Cartuja (Granada, Spain)

Monasterio Cartuja (Granada, Spain)

Basílica de San Juan de Dios (Granada, Spain)

Archeological Museum of Granada (Spain)

Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte (Granada, Spain)

Parque de las Ciencias in Granada, Spain.

A sloth at Parque de las Ciencias (Biodome) in Granada, Spain.


Another must see in Granada is going to a flamenco show.  We were excited to do our first flamenco show with my parents during their visit.  Tara wanted to go to a show for her birthday, and the show definitely didn’t disappoint.  A friend recommended Jardines de Zoraya in our neighborhood.  We chose the 8 pm show because of the kids.  There are two different time options, and there is an option to do the show with or without dinner.  This time we chose without dinner, but from what we saw on the website the food does look great.  We chose to do some tapas before the show instead.  The musicians and dancers were amazing, and we were thankful my parents could experience it with us.  We look forward to another show and taking future guests to a show! 

Jardines de Zoraya (Granada, Spain)

Jardines de Zoraya (Granada, Spain)


The three girls (my Mom, Tara, our daughter) did several shopping or even just looking days on their own; I think the males (in our family at least) have much less patience for this.  It also gave us a day to just hang out and rest. Some of their favorite spots included the street we call Jorge’s street (named after Sadie’s toy wooden snake she bought in a tourist shop on this street) also called the little Moroccan Street, wandering around the center, and El Corte Inglés.  My Mom got a lot of souvenirs for back home; they also did back to school shopping; and finally, Tara got a lot of ideas for Christmas.

Shopping day in Granada, Spain.  Yes, we got some new hats!

Lights in all of the Moroccan tourist shops in Granada, Spain.

Shopping day in Granada, Spain’s Center.

We didn’t explore Sierra Nevada Shopping Mall until after they left, but I am sure it will be on the list for their next visit.

Being far away from family (or even friends) is definitely not ideal, but it also changes your perspective on quality time when you are able to see each other.  Our next experience with this idea of spending large chunks of quality time with our family and friends will come durning Christmas time when we go to visit Tara’s sister and her family for a little over 3 weeks.

Arco de las Pesas in Granada, Spain.

What do you think?  What is quality family time to you?  If you are early retired and living the more nomad or travel lifestyle, what is your time like with your family?  Comment below or reach out to us at

Check out Tara’s latest post here: What To Look For In An Airbnb?

Want to join us on your own FI (financial independence) or FIRE (financial independence retire early) journey?  We can help.  You can reach out to us here.


(Tara also helped fill in details and photos.)