It is very easy to fall in love with Alhambra and its story. Like Washington Irving said “For my part, I gave myself up, during my sojourn in the Alhambra, to all the romantic and fabulous traditions connected with the pile. I lived in the midst of an Arabian tale, and shut my eyes, as much as possible, to everything that called me back to every-day life; and if there is any country in Europe where one can do so, it is in poor, wild, legendary, proud-spirited, romantic Spain; where the old magnificent barbaric spirit still contends against the utilitarianism of modern civilization”. Washington Irving was an American writer and US ambassador in Spain. He was very passionate with Alhambra and spent 3 months in the palace where he was inspired to write his “Tales of Alhambra”.
It is fair to say we liked Alhambra a lot, the views, the gardens and the design details are breathtaking. The monumental Complex is divided into four areas: Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Partal and Generalife. Be aware that there is specific access time slot to visit Nasrid Palaces and Generalife. You will need at least a day to visit Alhambra.
We visited Alhambra in August so it was very hot (not very wise of us), during daytime temperature can reach 35º to 37º. It is almost compulsory to bring walking shoes, you are going to walk a lot and it is worth it.
The worst part of Alhambra was the queues. We arrived at 10.00 am, after the big hike to get to the entrance, there was already a queue of 40 meters. It didn’t look too much, but we had to wait nearly 2 hours, under the hot Spanish sun, without shades and a very slow queue. Things were a bit disorganized. When it was our time to buy the tickets there were only two left (yes the last two!), for the Nasrid palace, and it was at 7 p.m. For the Generalife we got tickets at 2 p.m, so we were very lucky. Do yourself a favor and buy your tickets online. Don’t risk being left out nor waiting hours in the queue. The tickets cost 14€, and they only accept cash in the ticket office. Alhambra is immersed in history and architectonic details, it would have been great doing a guided tour so we could have them explained to us. Maybe next time 🙂
Alhambra means “the red one” because of the reddish tones of the castle. It is surrounded by mountains and forest, giving it a fantastic setting. The construction of the palace and fortress started with Muhammad I al-Ahmar in 1238, along the years was added palaces and gardens. Only in 1492, the Alhambra was surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs.
Alhambra is especially known for its architecture: 13 towers, column arcades, fountains with running water, Arab inscriptions imprinted in the walls, tile mosaics, and carved stucco work. We had already gone to Cordoba’s Mosque so we were expecting the WOW factor of the mosque with its columns and highness. In Alhambra it is a different kind of awesomeness, the WOW factor is found in the small details. This is what makes Alhambra striking.
Generalife (“the architect garden”) was constructed to be the recreation area of the Sultans and Kings of Granada. Surrounded by fantastic gardens and fountains with water everywhere. Generalife is impressive for isn’t gardens and different fountains and polls, water is everywhere connected with water channels running through the floor and stairs. One of the most striking features is the Patio of Acequia and its stunning view from the royal chambers. Tip: Remember that you have an entry hour.
Construction complex of three palaces built in different periods: Mexuar Palace, Comares Palace, Palace of the lions. While walking through the different palaces you will find wonderful tiles with diverse patterns and colors, carved stucco walls and ceilings, Arabic calligraphy of poetry and Koranic text in the walls. The patios are fantastic with white marble and different pools and fountains. The most striking is the Patio de Arraynes and Patio de los leons. It is impressive to see the connections between the fountains and their irrigation system. Tip: don’t forget that you have a scheduled time to visit.
City of Granada
Our first impression of Granada wasn’t very pleasant. It has almost no parking and is very difficult to drive, making it very difficult to visit. And we didn’t feel the same vibe of Malaga or Cordoba. And on top of it, the first night we ate very badly and they overcharged us. On the upside the historical part of the city is charming. Besides Alhambra and Albayzin you can visit the grand cathedral and walk through the different shopping streets.
One of the oldest parts in the Alhambra and the military area of the complex. With many towers and a garden. It wasn’t very impressive compared to the rest of Alhambra and compared with other Alcazaba, particularly Malaga´s Alcazaba. The best part of the Alcazaba is Torre de la Vela which has a stunning view of the city of Granada.
Palacio de D. Carlos V
Inside the palace, you will find the museum of Alhambra, a museum of fine arts and temporary exhibitions. It has a different style from the rest (built after the Reconquista), the palace walls have large sculpted rectangular stones that poke out of the façade. Indoors you can find a columned arcade surrounding an open patio.
Albayzín is the old Arab quarter, the streets are very narrow and small, with typical houses with a strong Moorish influence. It was classified World Heritage site along with Alhambra. It is a cool experience exploring the different streets and drinking tea in the Moorish tea houses and restaurants. Don´t miss the Calderería street which has plenty of craft shops.
Mirador of San Nicolas
Since our visit to the Nasrid Palaces was only at 7 p.m we had time to view the Mirador and the small church of San Nicolas. From the Mirador you can glance at all the majestic of Alhambra and the city of Granada. It is quite a climb to get there, but it is worth it. Probably the best angle to see Alhambra from afar.