The Palacio de los Olvidados in Granada, Spain, is a museum that contains a strange combination of Jewish artefacts, torture devices, and instruments of death. It’s also the venue for regular flamenco shows, which are held in the hall on the lower floor. If you want to visit the museum during the day and it will only cost you €6, attending a flamenco show at the Palacio de los Olvidados will cost you around €18.
How to Find the Palacio de los Olvidados
It’s not hard to find the Palacio de los Olvidados. If you go to the Plaza Nueva (main tourist area) and walk past the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Andalucia (High Court of Andalusia) you will find a river on the right-hand side of the path and will see the Alhambra high on the hills above the river. It’s just a case of following the path for a few meters. When you see a tapas bar called La Fontana. Stop. Look up the street to the side of the bar and you will see the museum.
La Fontana is quite a nice bar. When you’ve finished looking around the museum, it may be a good idea to go there. After you’ve seen some the evil contraptions the human mind is capable of coming up with, and have received a better understanding of how they work and the dreadful things they can do to living flesh, you may feel the need for a stiff drink.
Inside the Palacio de los Olvidados
Palacio de los Olvidados has several floors and there is no lift, so it’s probably not the best option for anyone who has difficulties climbing stairs. Nor is it a good option for anyone who is unusually squeamish because some of the artefacts are quite nasty and although some of the devices intended to cause harm are very simple in nature, others are more imaginative.
One of the simplest “tools” on display is a two-man saw that was used to cut people in half. First, they were strung up by their feet, upside down, with their legs apart, then the saw was placed between their legs and the sawing commenced. For the poor victims, it would have been a horrific way to die.
El Toro de Phalaris (Bull of Phalaris) is a good example of one the more adventurous devices visitors can see at Palacio de los Olvidados. It’s a hollow metal bull with a door on the side. The condemned were placed inside, the door was closed and a small fire was lit underneath the bull, turning it into a form of oven. The nostrils of the bull contain holes and, due to the acoustic design of the bull, the sound of the screaming from within apparently sounded similar to the bellow of a bull. This dreadful device is native to Greece and sometimes called the Brazen Bull. Palacio de los Olvidados contains plenty of other devices that are equally nasty and make the guillotine displayed on the ground floor seem like quite a merciful method of execution.
Although almost a whole floor is filled with Jewish artefacts, it has to be said these more mundane items are in the minority. However, there are some well-preserved religious texts and scrolls, along with items of furniture and other objects that were used in places of worship and in Jewish homes, including a kit that was used for performing circumcisions and could be said to be a fitting inclusion for a museum that primarily focuses on instruments of torture.
My Opinion of Palacio de los Olvidados
I rarely go to museums and I’m not really sure why I chose to go to this one but, overall, I found it quite a depressing experience. The last museum I went to was in the Netherlands. It was situated in an old concentration camp near Den Bosch (Kamp Vucht). By the time I left, I was feeling pretty low. I felt the same when I walked out of Palacio de los Olvidados. Granada is a truly beautiful city. A few years ago I asked a Spanish friend it was a nice place to visit. She said, “It’s magical.” I think so as well. During the few weeks I’ve been living here Granada has become one of my favourite places in Spain, but there is nothing magical about any of the nasty artefacts displayed inside the Palacio de los Olvidados. However, everything is well presented and all of the artefacts are accompanied by a description, written in Spanish and English. There are toilets on the ground floor and some more a couple of floors up. One of the top floors also has a terraced area where you can get a good view of the Alhambra. It also has a gallows. The one is very beautiful, the other macabre.