Visit the Alhambra

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Visit the Alhambra

Listed as the eighth wonder of the world and the main attraction for visiting the city, the Alhambra in Granada is a monumental complex of old palaces, gardens and fortresses, with great cultural, historical and artistic importance.

Rooms with colored mosaics, cursive and Kufic writing, exteriors with jets of water and careful vegetation, ornate ceilings, towers with passageways, cylindrical columns, muqarnas vaults and windows with views of Granada. But above all, spaces full of historical moments.

What do you need to know to visit the Alhambra?

Here are some information that you will probably like to know:

Brief history of the Alhambra

It is not uncommon for many travelers to think that the Alhambra is located outside of Granada, and it is not. The entire monumental complex of the Alhambra and the Generalife are located on the Colina de la Sabika, one of the highest points in the city and accessible on foot from it. The aim was to find a strategic place of defense and with visibility of the entire city.

Etymologically speaking, “Alhambra” means “Red Castle” (al-Qal’a al-hamra) and owes its name to the sober wall that surrounds the entire monument, which acts as a fortress and does not allow one to imagine the beauty and splendor of its hornamentados and ornate rooms and interior gardens.

The first data on record are in the 9th century, when Sawwar ben Hamdun had to take refuge in the Alcazaba and repair it due to the civil struggles that lashed the Caliphate of Cordoba, to which Granada belonged.

Later, this enclosure began to expand and become populated, and the first Zirid monarchs established their residence in what we now know as Albaicín.

Although a military fortress as such it was not until the 13th century, with the arrival of the first Nasrid monarch, Mohamed ben Al-Hamar. This fact marked the beginning of its heyday.

He made some improvements, such as building the Torre de la Vela or raising water from the Darro River. Later, Mohamed II (1273-1302) and Mohamed III (1302-1309) built the Mosque on which the current Church of Santa María was built.

But it is not until the time of Yusuf I (1333-1353) and Mohamed V (1353-1391) when most of the constructions of the Alhambra are carried out that have reached today.

Some of these latest improvements are the reform of the Alcazaba and the palaces, the expansion of the walled enclosure, the towers and their decoration, the Puerta de la Justicia, the construction of the Baths and the Comares Room, the Sala de la Barca, the Patio de los Leones and its annexes …

Of the Nasrid kings after these, almost nothing is preserved.

And finally, from the time of the Catholic Monarchs, the most notable and at the same time controversial was the demolition of part of the monument to build the Palace of Carlos V. The rooms of the Emperor and the Peinador de la Peinador were also created. Queen.

As of the 18th century, unfortunately the abandonment of the conservation of the Alhambra stands out. Even part of the fortress was blown up during the French rule.

It was not until the nineteenth century when its repair, restoration and conservation began, which remains to this day and has made it possible for it to be today one of the most visited monuments in Spain, Europe and the world.

Currently it is visited by almost 3 million people a year, it is a Site of cultural interest and historical heritage of Spain.

And you, are you going to visit the Alhambra?

Rooms and spaces of the Alhambra

The Alhambra is not only the fortress itself, but also a monumental complex of different rooms, patios, gardens, towers … each with a different function and history. So the ideal is to visit the Alhambra in its entirety, that is, with the entrance to Los Palacios and the Generalife.

If you can also visit the Alhambra with a guide, you will be able to obtain more information and get more out of your tourist journey through Nasrid history.

Below we detail which are the spaces and rooms of the Alhambra:

Nasrid Palaces

It is perhaps the most striking and surprising part of the visit, since the beauty of the Nasrid Palaces is unique in the world. It consists of:

  • Mexuar
  • Royal Palace
  • Golden Room
  • Patio of the Golden Room
  • Oratory
  • Patio de los Arrayanes
  • Comares Palace
  • Comares Tower
  • Barca room
  • Ambassadors Room
  • Palace of the Lions
  • Court of the Lions
  • Room of the Mocárabes
  • Hall of the Abencerrajes
  • The harem
  • Hall of the Kings
  • Two Sisters Room
  • Ajimeces Room
  • Daraxa viewpoint
  • Daraxa Gardens
  • Carlos V rooms
  • Queen’s Dresser
  • Patio de la Reja
  • Alhambra Baths

towers

Numerous towers are in the Alhambra and all with names that are surely familiar to you:

  • Tower of the Rauda
  • Ladies Tower
  • Minrab Tower
  • Tower of the peaks
  • Cadí Tower
  • Captive Tower
  • Tower of the Infantas
  • Cape of the Race Tower
  • Water tower
  • Tower of the Seven Floors

The Partal

They are gardens in the upper part of the Alhambra, the Jardines de El Partal. Etymologically it means portico, and refers to the remains of the residence of Sultan Muhammad III.

The Partal was the main area of ​​the Alhambra at the beginning of the Nasrid dynasty, but later it was in the background when the Palace of Comares was built.

Alcazaba

The Alcazaba was the military zone and defense and surveillance center of the Alhambra.

Together with the Torres Bermejas, it is the oldest construction in the enclosure, dating from the Caliphate era in the 11th century.

The most important part built and enlarged is due to Muhammad I and his successor Muhammad II.

Surely the spaces located inside the Alcazaba of the Alhambra are well known to you, right?

  • Terrace of the Tower of the Cube
  • Adarve
  • Gardens of the Adarves
  • Main Square
  • Tower of Arms
  • Hidalgos Tower
  • Powder Tower
  • Torre de la Vela
  • Plaza de los Aljibes

Generalife

The Generalife was the place of recreation and rest for the Granada kings, and consists of a villa with gardens located on Cerro del Sol, in the northern part of the Alhambra and in a slightly higher area.

The Generalife was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco and its construction we owe to King Muhammed III, in the 14th century.

To visit the Generalife you can buy both the entrance to the Alhambra and the Generalife (€ 14), and the entrance to the gardens, which includes access to the gardens and palaces of the Generalife, the Partal and the Alcazaba (€ 7). You can also buy the night ticket to only the Generalife (€ 5).

Palace of Carlos V and outdoor areas

When you go to visit the Alhambra, you will be struck by the fact that this palace with a completely Renaissance façade and some Baroque decorative elements is located in the middle of the Nasrid monument.

How is this possible?

What happened was that on the occasion of the wedding of King Carlos V, the project of a palace was commissioned to the architect Pedro Machuca, who began the works in 1533, after some years of disagreement about its design and location.

After the Moorish rebellion of the Alpujarras in 1572, the works came to a standstill, and it was not until 1958, when the architect Leopoldo Torres Balbás completed the works.

And so it has remained until today, like a brushstroke of Renaissance art in the middle of the Nasrid city, fortress and palace.

Therefore, the Palace of Carlos V is located outside the Alhambra Palaces, and its entrance is free. So when you come to visit the Alhambra, we encourage you to take a walk here and enter to see its spectacular circular patio in the center, with a unique style.

Other areas of the Alhambra

Other spaces found within the Alhambra enclosure are:

  • San Francisco Convent: of Nasrid origin and built by Muhammad III, donated to the Franciscans and demolished the following year, it is currently used as tourist accommodation, belonging to the Network of National Tourism Paradores. The Catholic Monarchs were buried here until the construction of the Royal Chapel of Granada.
  • Church of Santa María de la Encarnación de la Alhambra: built from the 16th century onwards, it highlights its altar of baroque art flanked by Solomonic columns, as well as the image of the Virgen de las Angustias

Curiosities of the Alhambra

It is not surprising that a place as historical and important as this has hundreds of anecdotes, curiosities and data that are worth highlighting.

Do you want to know some of them?

  • The Alhambra has served as a film setting on numerous occasions, such as the Isabel and Carlos Rey Emperador series or the Tadeo Jones film 2.
  • Did you know that in the Alhambra there are about 10 thousand inscriptions of poems, sentences, texts from the Koran and ejaculations?
  • As is customary in the Granada area, throughout history it has suffered numerous earthquakes, which is why its walls are made of rammed earth and its columns have a sheet of lead at the base.
  • As a result of the different social classes that coexisted in it, several routes were traced, both for the sultan and for the bureaucrats and the service.
  • The sultans used to observe the courtyards and gardens seated, since they said that from that position the vision was different.
  • In the Alhambra Museum you can find two vases that are considered the summit of Arab ceramics, as they are preserved whole.
  • It is said that Carlos V lost interest in Granada, so the Palace with his name was left unfinished.
  • On the other hand, it was believed that the Palace of Carlos V was built by destroying a large part of the Alhambra, but the reality is that there do not seem to have been any major constructions here.
  • Since the monument is one of the most visited in Spain and is a Unesco World Heritage Site, its annual visits should be restricted to less than 3 million tourists a year.

What else do you want to know to visit the Alhambra? Do not hesitate to continue visiting our blog to keep up to date with tourism in Granada.

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