Granada is a paradoxical city where grit and grandiosity often sit side by side. Most people come here to see the Alhambra, but the city also hides a surrealistic street art scene. Drawing on cultural traditions first fostered by Andalucían poet, Federico Lorca, and abstract expressionist painter, José Guerrero, Granada’s street artists aren’t typical scribble-and-run graffiteros. On the contrary, their thoughtful and whimsical murals overlaid with clever, sometimes witty aphorisms written in Spanish are – in the view of many locals – more of an inspiration than an eyesore. They also play a key role in keeping Granada innovative and edgy.

Street art by Raúl Ruiz at Cuesta Escoriaza, Granada. Image by Brendan Sainsbury / Lonely Planet

Street art by Raúl Ruiz, Calle Molinos. Image by Brendan Sainsbury / Lonely Planet

Granada’s most ubiquitous street artist is Raúl Ruiz better known as El Niño de las Pinturas whose instantly recognizable murals brighten streets, walls and businesses all around the city. The biggest concentration is in the Realejo quarter.

Another distinctive picture by Raúl Ruiz, Calle Vistillas de los Ángeles. Image by Brendan Sainsbury / Lonely Planet

The Realejo was Granada’s erstwhile Jewish neighbourhood. Today it is a jumble of whitewashed houses and quiet terraced gardens surrounded by high walls. The walls make good canvases for street art.

Street artist Raúl Ruiz's depiction of Rodin's The Thinker. Image by Brendan Sainsbury / Lonely Planet

El Niño de las Pintura’s paintings are often characterized by their highly stylized lettering that spells out poignant poetic stanzas. ‘Cansado de no encontrar respuestas, decidí cambiar mis preguntas’ (Tired of not finding answers, I decided to change my questions) is written underneath this study of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker (Calle Molinos).

Raúl Ruiz's Mural of Joe Strummer. Image by Brendan Sainsbury / Lonely Planet

In 2013, Granada named a small plaza in the Realejo quarter after Joe Strummer of English band The Clash, a long-time admirer of the city and a regular visitor in the 1980s and '90s. El Niño de las Pinturas quickly embellished Placeta Joe Strummer with a spray-painted mural of the musician wearing his trademark punk sneer (corner Calle Vistillas de los Ángeles & Cuesta Escoriaza).

Bar Ízaro's painted exterior. Image by Brendan Sainsbury / Lonely Planet

Some businesses actively encourage street art. This painting on Bar Ízaro (Calle de Elvira 125) can be found at the end of Calle Elvira, Granada’s famous tapas bar street. Inscribed above the mural are the words, ‘El mundo es oscuro, ilumina su parte’ (The world is dark, light up your part).

Shutter art, Calle Molinos. Image by Brendan Sainsbury / Lonely Planet

You have to get up early to see some of Granada’s best art which is emblazoned on the shutters of various shops and businesses.

A range of styles by the Colegio de Santo Domingo de Guzman. Image by Brendan Sainsbury / Lonely Planet

This wall by the Colegio de Santo Domingo de Guzman (Cuesta de Caidero) in the Realejo has become an artistic free-for-all.

Brendan Sainsbury is a Granada-lover and Flamenco addict who has contributed to four Lonely Planet Spain guidebooks. He has also written Lonely Planet guidebooks to Cuba, Italy, Peru and Seattle.

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