On the Sabika hill is the palatine city, called Al-hambra, which means “Red Castle” (redness of its exterior walls). Nowadays the Alhambra Palace in Granada is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a symbol of Spain’s and Europe’s culture. The number of visits to the Alhambra Palace sky rocketed years ago and reached a whooping two million people per year.
Visitors guide- La Alhambra in Granada
The Alhambra Palace in the city of Granada was: a palace, citadel, and fortress. Over time it was home to the Nazaries Sultans, high ranked public servants, court gestors and high ranked soldiers until the mid XIV century, coinciding with the sultans of Yusuf I and the second reign of Muhammad V.
The city had been growing ever since with ramparts and into different neighborhoods up until the Reconquista in the XV century. In 1492 the Catholic Kings established the Royal Palace in the area, conducting intense reparations done majorly by Moor artisans.
Furthermore, in 1526, the grandson of the Catholic Kings – Emperor Carlos V, decided to give the Palace his name while visiting the Alhambra Palace after his wedding with Isabel of Portugal along with some other buildings symbolizing the victory of Islam.
We should point out that in the XIX century, the Napoleon occupation was one of the most negative periods the Alhambra Palace has ever lived through. It suffered a lot of damages in 1812 when the French troops tested their weaponry before retreating.
- Time: You should plan your trip according to the time length of the itinerary. It is about three and a half kilometers lasting for about three hours.
- Visit early if possible
- Bring water with you
- Also, the palaces only have room for about 300 people. Each entry of the monument indicates a 30-minute period where you can only access the Nazarie Palaces.
La Alhambra from outside
This is probably one of the things not to miss and it is free! Best to be enjoyed from the Albaicin visitors guide.
A complex on the high plateau, the Cerro del Sol, which overlooks the town to the South-east . It includes the superb palace of Granada’s Moorish kings, which was built principally under the Nasrite rulers Yusuf I (1333-54) and Mohammed V (1354-91). Massive towers and gates surround the palace complex emphasizing its fortress-like character; there are also ring walls and the remains of the Alcazaba.
The latter was built by Mohammed V in 1238 in a shimmering red stone, which led to the description ‘Calat Alhambra (red castle).
The Alhambra architectural style
The complex is divided into three areas (characteristic of Arab palaces), the rooms of each of which are grouped around a central courtyard (patio): Mexuar (department from the administration of justice and all public interests); Diwân (official palace with throne room); and Harim (private room)
The Alhambra palace is famous above for its superb interior decoration, which has given its name to an entire style, the Alhambra style‘. Essentially this style involves two-dimensional surface ornamentation covering whole areas of walls, the space between arches etc. The realistic dimensional representation, especially of people is ab sent.
There are stuccuo arabesques and filigree lines. Texts from the Koran and eulogies to Mohammed V, as well as the Nasrite slogan Allah alone will conquer’, in tall Kufic characters and in the rounded, flowing Naskhi script, are worked into a whole network of decorative ornamentation.
There are a seemingly endless interaction of forms reminiscent of oriental carpets, including tendrils, rosettes, palmettes, leaf and star patterns, and lozenge patterns.
The latter were also called sebka decoration and were very popular during the Almohaden era (see the Giralda in Seville).
Columns themselves serve only rarely as supports. Pedestals, plinths and dados are covered in tiles. One of the palace’s exceptional features are the massive so-called stalactite domes.
Patio de los Arrayanes or Patio de los Mirtos.
Two rows of arcades line the long pool in the middle of the Court of Myrtles. At the end stands the battlemented Torre de Comares (150 ft. high), which contains the throne room, the Sala de Embajadores, the most sumptuous room in the palace. Before this there is a smaller reception room the Sala de Barca (the Hall of Mercy or of Blessing), c. 130 sq. ft., c. 60 ft. high and decorated extremely lavishly. Crowned by a cedar dome, a masterpiece of Arab carving, and with a fine artesonado in cedar.
The Jardines del Partal
Partal is the Arabic for ‘portal’. The partal is located on the Eastern. side. The gardens are surrounded by a wall. In the garden the Torre de las Damas, a tower with a loggia, opens on to a rectangular pond. The complex has many fortress towers, including: the Torre del Mihrab, near which there is a small early 14C mosque and a subterra- nean passage; the battlemented Torre de los Picos; the Torre del Candil; the Torre de la Cautiva, the Captive’s Tower, decorated under YusufI, with stucco and stalactite work, fine flagstones and a superb ceiling; the Torre de las Infantas, which is late 14C with splendid chambers; and to the East the Torre del Agua with the aqueduct.
Patio de los leones
The most splendid part of the palace is the Patio de los Leones (the Court of Lions) with the hareme. Building began here in 1378 under Mohammed V. 124 delicate marble columns support the surrounding two enchanting pavilions ornamented exceedingly fine stalactite decorations. Between the pavilions is the Lion Fountain, whose 12 marble lions support the fountain basin. An Arab poem by Ibn Zamrak, engraved around the edge of the basin extols the beauty of the court, which was formerly enhanced by shady palms.
Other beautiful chambers in la Alhambra
The Sala de los Reyes (or Sala del Tribunal) has a row of seven alcoves roofed by semicircular domes. Stalactite arches connect successive rooms, three of which contain pictures painted on leather.
The Sala de los Abencerrages hasa beautiful stalactite dome with interesting carvings on the doors, particularly finely carved capitals and a twelve-sided marble fountain. The room was named after a powerful noble family. To the North is the Sala de las dos Hermanas, another very beautiful room, which takes its name from two large, twin marble slabs in the floor. The water in the central fountain flows to the Lion Fountain. It has the largest honeycomb dome of its kind, with some 5,000 cells. Above the azulejo wall decoration there is an Arab poem in homage to the sultan, again by Ibn Zamrak, Mohammed V’s vizier.
Behind the Sala de las dos Hermanas, there the Sala de los Ajimeces, so named after its twin windows. This room also leads to the charming little oriel Mirador de Daraxa (from ‘dar Aischa’-Aischa was the young, favourite wife of the Prophet), also known as ‘Mirador de Lindaraja’. The black, yellow and white paving is particularly fine. Large arched windows give a clear view into the Jardin de Daraxa, with its cypresses, lemon and orange trees, hedges and the large 17C fountain in the middle.
The Generalife has lower & upper gardens, the palace, water stairs, a canal patio, rosebay promenade and the Sultan’s Cypress Patio. They were built to be the place of rest for the Granada Kings when they wanted a break from official palace duties. In its gardens, you can find beautiful fountains, water tanks and irrigation canals that showcases the hydraulic work that was put in. These gardens offer a stunning view of the Albayzin and Sacromonte. The Alcazaba is the fortress that protects the Alhambra Palace. It is the most ancient part of the Alhambra that was built in the XIII century during the reign of the Nazarie Sultan Alhamar. He was rejected from the north of Andalucia so he decided to settle in Granada. Today, there is not much left of the fortress but the nice thing to do, whilst you visit the Alhambra, is to go up this fortress to enjoy the beautiful views of all the other palaces, the Generalife, the Carlos V Palace and the old Albaizyn neighborhood with the background of Sierra Nevada.
The Torre de la Vella
is one of the highest towers, in which the Christians, after taking over the city, hung a bell at its top calling it “la vela”. They used it to announce victories over the Moors. It was a symbol of Christianity by excellence.
From the top of the tower, you can see the other lookout of the city, the San Nicolas lookout, situated on top of Granada´s old neighborhood hill.
Palace of Charles V
On the Southern side of the alcázar. It is probable the most beautiful Renaissance building in Spain, even if its massive square proportions (210 ft. by 210 ft. and 57 ft. high) are incongruous beside the neighbouring Moorish buildings. The Italian-educated Pedro Machuca of Toledo designed the palace in 1526. It was never completed. The lower parts of the building are heavily rusticated in a style reminiscent of Florentine palaces; the upper has windows and pilasters.