The study-abroad Erasmus programme is a cultural phenomenon. Any European student who has participated in it will almost certainly agree with that. The rewards are plentiful, from absorbing a new culture and learning a language as it is spoken locally, to meeting like-minded students from other countries and making lifelong friends.
The popularity of the programme is such that it has even gone on to become the inspired subject of movies such as the French film L’Auberge espagnole (well worth a watch) and the documentary Erasmus 24 7.
And the most popular choice of destination? Granada! (of course). In the 2012-13 academic year, The University of Granada recieved exactly 1,959 Erasmus students – a figure which can only have increased year on year as the phenomenon continues to grow.
That’s a lot of students that need to be housed then. Luckily there are hundreds of properties and rooms within them available for rent in Granada – particularly at this time of year. There aren’t too many jobs going but accommodation in Granada is something that there is an awful lot of it would seem!
I receive a lot of emails from soon-to-be Erasmus students who are looking for an ideal place to live. The criteria is usually pretty similar: somewhere fairly central, cheap, characterful and quiet but close to a lively ‘going-out’ area.
My response is usually pretty similar too: el Realejo, el Albaicín, Pedro Antonio or el centro – and in that order of suitability. Here’s why:
There really is no better area to live in, if the above criteria is more or less what you’re looking for. It is very close to the centre; the going rate for rooms is generally 200-300€ (cheap-reasonable); there are lots of charming shops, pretty squares and quirky characters hanging around; the feel of the place is very local and there are plenty of great tapas bars and pubs to engage in what students do best: drinking.
But wait! There is more!
El Realejo is also home to the majority of Granada legend El Niño de las Pinturas‘ eye-catching graffiti works, which combine with historic buildings to create a curious blend of modernity and antiquity. At the end of the far-reaching Calle Molinos – itself dotted with the artist’s work – there is a large wall covered in impressive scribblings, although most of these are now slowly fading or peeling away. Carry on though and you’ll soon come across Plaza Joe Strummer, where a mural of the man himself can be found. It makes for an interesting tour of discovery.
Additionally, the language school that is affiliated with the University – El Centro de Lenguas Modernas – is located in el Realejo. There are two buildings, one a beautiful ‘Carmen’ type structure and the other is practically a royal palace. This is convenient if you intend to take classes while you are in Granada.
Make no mistake about it – the tumbling Albaícin is Granada’s most iconic and hitorical bario, and to live there is pretty special. While wandering the narrow streets and alleyways it is easy to imagine how life used to be for the Moors who resided in the city for the best part of 700 years, before being extradited by the conquering Christians at the end of the fifteenth century. The ancient irrigation system is still in place (although not used!) and Moorish wells – called aljibes – which were used to transport potable water, are scattered throughout the neighbourhood.
The view of the looming Alhambra through the gaps in the walls makes it all the more magical; as though you are trying to find your way to the meca at the centre of a labyrinth. It really is something else.
Many of the buildings have undergone restoration but it is impossible to tell the chic from the shabby just by standing outside. Some are as good as palaces on the inside; others would have squatters turning their nose up in disgust.
However, it isn’t exactly practical for getting in and out of. It is, as you may have guessed, built entirely on a slope, so you’ll need to be in shape if you’re intent on living at the top! It is not ideal for cycling, driving, shopping or anyone who gets lost easily.
Rent can be anywhere between 150 and 350€ per month and the centre is about 10 minutes’ walking distance (depending on how far up you are).
This one is for the party-lover. The area of Granada that never sleeps, students flood the long and narrow Calle Pedro Antonio de Alarcón on a nightly basis, pouring in and out of the cervecerías and tapas bars that line both flanks. Great for a night out out, but not so great for those who’d like to live somewhere quiet but ‘close to somewhere fun’. It is well situated though, with a number of supermarkets, a handful of gyms and a large commerical shopping centre all closeby. It is also a well connected area, since it runs parallel with Camino de Ronda, one of the city’s main intersections.
The average rent round here is fairly cheap – about 150-250€ per month – but what you see is what you get really. There is no let up in the partying and nothing quirky or particularly interesting about this part of town.
If you hate walking, like noise and busy places, want to be as well-connected as possible and don’t mind paying slightly more than average (250-350€ per month), then live in the centre. You’ll have everything on your doorstep, and probably love it.
However, you may get sick of the hustle and bustle eventually and not really glean a sense of what ‘living in Granada‘ is all about. If, on the other hand, you spend all your free time (which you’ll have rather a lot of) in other areas then this shouldn’t be a problem.
How to find Apartments in Granada
Personally, I have always found that the best sites for finding apartments are (in order of preference) Idealista, Easy Piso and Loquo.
Alternatively, you may want to ask in pubs and bars for personal recommendations. There are always plenty of advertisements with contact details stuck to the walls in the street too.