In Granada there are many streets, restaurants, homes and even hotels with the name Carmen de….. Often I´m asked What is the difference between a palace and a carmen? or what is a Mirador?what is a Carmen?
A Casa Carmen is defined as a house in Granada that has a garden with grape vines and fruit trees and a high wall that separates it from the street. The word comes from the Arab word karm meaning vine. In Granada this word meant a rustic house with these specific characteristics. An home for leisure but practical at the same time. It is not a kitchen garden or an ornamental garden but a perfect combination of the two. The fruit trees bring colour, shade and fragrance to the garden but also have the practical bear fruit.
Typical trees that can be found as well as the grape vines are pomegranate, lemon, orange, apricot, plum, peach, pear and apple trees. There are many scented flowers in the garden of a Carmen, jasmine, roses, carnations, honeysuckle, heavily scented stock flowers or tuberose. The carmen is not a luxury home, but a home with a good size practical garden space. Other produce that can often be found in the Carmen are Lettuce, broad beans, spinach, strawberries or spring onions. Enough produce to supply the family living there.
Often the outdoor space is on two or three different levels. There are ponds, fountains or water channels through the gardens, the movement of the water between the different levels creating a comforting sound. In Granada many Carmens have views of the Alhambra palace.
There are many Carmens in the city. Far too many for to explain in detail in this piece but I will do my best to give you a better idea of the traditional Carmen buildings that are so characteristic in Granada that are situated opposite the beautiful Alhambra palace. The city itself is sometime referred to as the City of Carmenes, for the same reason the football ground of Granada F.C is named Los Carmenes.
People visiting Granada usually experience a Carmen as they dine at one of the restaurants in the Albaicin quarter, near to the Mirador San Nicolas. Below the mirador there are three all together, the Carmen de las Tomasas, the Carmen Mirador de Aixa and the Carmen de Aben Humeya. (pictured below) All three places serve traditional Granada dishes and offer outdoor as well as indoor tables. They are good quality restaurants boasting magical views over to the Red Castle with the Sierra Nevada in the background. Also nearby is the Carmen Mirador de Morayma where legends has it that the Princess Morayma lived locked away by with her husband Boabdil, the last king of Granada all those hundreds of years ago. This restaurant is of a similar style as the others.
There is also the Carmen del Agua, Casa de Vinos which serves fondue and is run by an Argentinian owner, a slightly more economical option, but of course, it does get pretty busy, so book ahead. The address is Aljibe de Trillo, 7. The best way to get to any of these restaurants is on the red mini bus which leaves from Gran Via and get off at the stop close to Mirador de San Nicolas or by taxi.
On the other side, of the Alhambra palace, just up from the Cuesta Gomerez, close to the Hotel Alhambra Palace is the Carmen de San Miguel, this restaurant serves Granada cuisine in a modern take on local cuisine. The building offers views over the city which lies below its large balcony. In 1945-6 this carmen was the dwelling of Mijáil Ivánovich Glinka, a Russian composer. Along this part of the road is the Carmen de la Alcubilla del Caracol a 3 star hotel, equipped with a library and a classic Carmen garden, with just a few rooms, it makes it a peaceful spot to spend a few days opposite the Albaicin and close to the Alhambra Palace.
There are several Carmenes in Granada which are only opened for special events or weddings. The obvious one that springs to mind is Carmen de los Martires the largest Carmen (according to surface area) The garden is open to the public from 10am each day. You can catch the bus 31 from Gran Vía, which leaves you at the stop right at the gate. The building on site is closed unless there is a wedding or event.
From the beautiful gardens here you have views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, of the city and of the Alhambra palace. However the Carmen has an gruesome past, the clue is in it´s name! Isabel the Catholic Queen ordered a Hermitage to be built to remember the Christian martyrs that perished here, hence the name of Carmen of the Martyrs that still remains today. There are several pits which are still visible, they were dug out around the year 1240 when Muhammad Iben Alhamar was ruler of the Nasrid dynasty. These large cavities, measuring around 8 metres in depth and 7 metres across were for storing salt or for bread, for use in the nearby Alhambra palace. Other sources point that the use was for Christian captives around 1500. In 1573 the Count of Tendilla founded a convent on the site called Carmelitas Descalzos which was later destroyed in 1842. Saint John or San Juan de la Cruz who was the prior of the convent then planted a Cedar tree which is still there today.
There are also hotels that are set in Carmenes. 2 good examples are Carmen del Cobertizo and the Carmen de Santa Ines both hotels conserve the traditional feel of a typical Granada Carmen and are boutique style hotels.
Alongside the River Darro located just below the Alhambra palace is the Carmen de los Chapiteles this Carmen can be hired for events, christenings and weddings and it literally just below the Alhambra itself. I was lucky enough to go to a wedding there a few years ago and really enjoyed the day we spent there. This Carmen was the property of the Great Capitan Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba who was admired by the generation of conquistadors in the 1500´s and also trained Charles V in military tactics. He is buried in the Monastery of San Jeronimo in Granada along with his wife, Doña Maria de Manrique.
The Carmen de Quinta Alegre on the Avenida Cervantes is also available to hire from the local authorities in Granada for weddings but not usually open to the public,. Designed in the 1920´s the gardens can be accessed via a cobbled staircase on the left or by following the road around the palace on the right. The garden is on three terraces on different levels and covers a vast space. The gardens are opened at 10am each day and it is free to go in. There are routes set up by Tourist information that take you around these gardens and others, more information at this link: Routes around Granada
The majority of Carmens are private residences and cannot be seen by the general public. An example is the Carmen de la Media Luna on the Cuesta de San Gregorio in the Albaizin area. Also the Carmen de SantaEngracia was a private Carmen home next to the river Darro and below the Alhambra palace, it is in an abandoned state, bought in 2000 by the Alhambra Patronato organisation, this will be reconditioned as a visitors centre. Read my post related to this here: Carmen de Santa Engracia – Hotel below the Alhambra
At the Mirador de San Nicolas you´ll find the Carmen de Apperley named after the English watercolour painter George Owen Wynne Apperley , born on the Isle of Wight. He lived in Granada for almost 20 years, 1914 til 1933. He was friendly with Granada painters José María Rodríguez Acosta y López Mezquita. This Carmen is walked by thousands of tourists each day, you hardly notice the door on your way up the steps to the Mirador de San Nicolas. Another private residence is the Carmen de las Tres Estrellas (three stars) takes it´s name from the three green enamel stars on the entrance archway visible as you walk past. There is a distinctive Moorish influence to this particular building, it is on Calle de la Estrella in the Albayzin district.
When working on this article I actually found information on 80 different Carmenes in Granada and didn´t actually finish all the research. So this piece is just a small sample of these idyllic homes. The Carmen de Bella Vista next to the old Hotel Washington Irving was bought by the Patronato of the Alhambra in 2006 for 10,57 million euros. I am assured that it is possible to visit but cannot see any information at the moment (If I find details I will update) A well known Carmen is the Carmen de los Catalanes this was a private home but was bought by the Alhambra and can now be visited. There are dungeons on the site where Christians were tortured at the hands of the moors when the Nazaries ruled in Al Andalus.
The Carmen de los Cipreses a private house on the Cuesta de San Gregorio. This Carmen was the setting for many talks between Andalusian poets and artists in the time of Angel Ganivet. (who I have a related post about: A Granada Philosopher ) I must mention the Carmen de la Antequeruela, where Manuel de Falla the famous musician lived, it was his home. It is now a Museum at Calle Antequeruela Alta, it is open from 10am – 2pm (closed Mon) .
Carmen de la Victoria is a private university residence since 1945 located on the Cuesta de Chapiz, here professors who are invited to Granada for conferences or events can stay here. The University may use it for private events or conferences. (picture above)
The Carmen de la Fundación Rodríguez Acosta is named after the artist José María Rodríguez Acosta who lived and painted here. You can visit this Carmen from Wed to Sunday from 10.15h – 2pm Find it located on the Callejon Nino Rollo 8. Inside there is an art gallery and you can see the gardens too. This Carmen boasts a well stocked library and is often offered to artists for accommodation or exhibits. Another Museum Carmen is Carmen de los Geranios Max Moreau a Belgian painter owned this Carmen and left it to Granada Town Hall in 1992 after his death. You can visit the Museum Max Moreau from 10.30-1.30pm (Closed Sunday & Mondays) at Camino Nuevo San Nicolas, not far from Plaza Larga in the Albaicin.
Private garden tours can be arranged in and around Granada if you are particularly interested in Gardens or Horticulture.
Send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org we can organize a route specific to your tastes and interests.