Our mouth’s agape, our eyes wide open, these were our literal reactions as we toured the magnificent Alhambra in Granada. Both a fortress and a palace complex, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the apogee of Islamic architecture in Europe, and a wonderful testament to artistry of the Moors.
Our tour of 13th-14th century landmark, allowed us to visit four mains parts: (From West to East) The fortress or ‘Alcazaba’, Palace of Charles V, the Nasrid Palaces, and the Generalife. Also the old Muslim quarter of Albaicín (Albayzín). This blog is going to detail all our wonderful experiences
This is the oldest section of the Alhambra, built by the founder of the Nasrid Dynasty Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar. It was built for defence purposes and Torre de Vela watchtower provided a look-out for the invading Christians. The fortress was made out the surrounding claystones which contain iron oxide compounds, pertaining to it’s red colour- hence the name Alhambra meaning “the Red One” in Arabic.
Palace of Charles V
This is the prominent Christian influence with the Alhambra. A palace built for the Emperor Charles V in renaissance style, started in the 16th century but was never fully completed. The focal point of this building is the Romanesque two-tiered circular patio, it’s an inspiring site where you can indulge in the stillness of the courtyard and gaze at the cumulus clouds above through the circle opening; you feel like a Roman general.
The Nasrid Palaces
Decorated with mathematical precision, devotion towards God and grandeur are the best way to describe the ‘The Palacio Nazaríes’ (as in Spanish); they are the centrepiece of the Alhambra and a must see for everyone. These network of palaces were built by successive Sultans during the Nasrid dynasty and they contain intricate ornaments of Islamic calligraphy, symmetry, geometry and architecture, all well-preserved.
In the Palace of Comares we were enamoured by the Court of the Myrtles’ reflective pool and awed by the Lion’s Palace gold arches and marble floor; the most opulent in Alhambra. It’s not just a show of wealth, there is a palpable sense of peace in these palaces, the ubiquitous inscriptions and use of water to symbolise purity signifies the complete devotion towards God.
Generalife is furthest east and uphill from Alhambra, and used to be the Sultan’s summer palace and country estate. It’s an enchanting maze of luscious gardens and patios, our favourite was Patio de la Acequia- utterly pristine and beautiful. At it’s vantage point uphill, there are many great vistas of Granada to indulge in from Generalife; it’s an absolute must to visit.
No trip to Alhambra would be complete without visiting Albaicín- the old Muslim quarter. Albaicín cluster of white houses can be viewed from the terraces of the Alhambra. When in Albaicín meander around the narrow winding streets, and the try the fantastic local cuisine. However, the highlight of Albaicín is Mirador de San Nicolás. This viewpoint allows you to see the whole extent of Alhambra in it’s grandeur, perched on Sabika Hill this palace is framed by the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains in the backdrop- the definition of picturesque.
We hope we have convinced you enough! You need to visit Alhambra in Granada at least once I your lifetime. We have already decided to go again
Tour price – General admission into Alhambra is around 14€ (additional 7€ for Generalife)
Guided tours are around the 30€ mark and above.
Additional information can be found on the official website.
We did a tour from Seville of Alhambra and Albaicín via Get Your Guide, where we got pick up and dropped by coach – for £90