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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.

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1 comment

  1. What an incredible place to live! Thanks for sharing your experiences in such an interesting time. We spent 3 weeks in Spain back in 2019 and it was only enough time for us to know there was so much more to see.

    Looking forward to following your story!