Nestled high upon a hill overlooking the city of Granada and snow capped Sierra Nevada is one of Spain's most iconic monuments—the Alhambra Palace. This Moorish palace and fortress, built in the 13th century, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture anywhere in Europe.
Alhambra Palace is a grand fortress palace complex which has been captivating visitors for centuries with its unique blend of Islamic, Renaissance, and Gothic architecture.
Alhambra in Spain stands as a testament to the rich history and heritage of the region and is one of the most unique tourist destinations in all of Europe.
Short History and Heritage of Alhambra
The Alhambra was originally constructed during the mid-13th century by nasrid rulers as a fortress, palaces, and citadel. It served as their home until they were driven out in 1492 by Spanish forces led by Ferdinand and Isabella.
The palace complex fell into disrepair over the following centuries and suffered considerable damage due to earthquakes and other natural disasters. In 1828 it was declared a national monument and underwent extensive restoration work over the following decades.
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Highlights of Alhambra Palace
If you're a traveler looking for something extraordinary, the Alhambra Palace in Granada should definitely be on your list of must-see destinations.
This Alhambra Fortress boasts architecturally stunning sites that will leave you captivated and transported to another world. It's home to many treasures like its Nasrid Palaces that include Palacio de los Leones, Patio de los Arrayanes, and Comares palace plus its picturesque gardens with long paths lined by cypress trees - making every sight even more breathtaking.
Discover all the glory that this historical landmark has to offer: explore its evocative courtyards, enjoy intricate stucco decoration, marvel at colorful arabic calligraphy ... The beauty of Alhambra Palace awaits! Let’s explore some of the highlights of Alhambra Palace!
The Nasrid Palaces
The Nasrid Palaces are some of the oldest parts of Alhambra Palace. These palaces were built during the 13th century by Muhammad V and Yusuf I and they are made up of several palaces.
This area is known for its colorful mosaics, intricately-decorated ceilings with ornate carvings, painted walls, and plaster carved decorations that feature both geometric patterns as well as Arabic calligraphy from religious texts.
The Nasrid Palaces also includes two courtyards—the Courtyard of Myrtles and the Courtyard of Lions—that are filled with orange trees, elaborate fountains and pools.
The Mexuar is the oldest part of the Nasrid Palaces and an integral piece of the guided tour.
Also referred to as Maswar, derived from an Arabic term for the meeting point of a Council of Ministers, it consists of four main sections of buildings – two separate courtyards, a Council Hall, and a Cuarto Dorado courtyard that serves as a passageway between the Mexuar and Comares Palace.
All components are aligned from west to east along a single axis. A visit to the grandiose Mexuar definitely offers invaluable insight into who lived there and how life was conducted 700 years ago.
Sala del Mexuar (Council Hall)
The Sala del Mexuar, or Council Hall, is one of the oldest parts of the Palaces of the Alhambra. Originally known as the Majlis al-Qu'ūd in Arabic and located at the east side of the Patio de Machuca, this hall served as a throne hall and audience chamber for the ruling sultan up until today.
The Sala del Mexuar has been significantly altered over time through various rule changes, yet its original design still echoes Middle Eastern throne halls from centuries before - an unusual reflection amongst other Andalusi architecture in existence today.
The main entrance to the Sala del Mexuar is accessible through decorated archways, leading to an elongated rectangular space covered by a vaulted wooden ceiling with intricate geometric motifs.
After the Christian conquest in 1499, this ceiling was brought to life with beautiful paintings and gilding featuring ornamental motifs celebrating heraldic emblems of the Catholic Monarchs and other figures.
Additionally, a central window was transformed into a small balcony with benches and double arched windows, allowing visitors to enjoy stunning views onto the vibrant city below.
The Cuarto Dorado is a secluded courtyard located to the east of the Council Hall. It is composed of a portico at the north side and Comares Façade at the south, with two doors that allows access to Comares Palace.
The Comares Façade stands out due to its intricate design and vibrant colors. Its extraordinary architecture serves as an iconic landmark for tourists and locals alike visiting Granada's Royal House offering a unique glimpse into royalty's past.
Comares Palace, or Palacio de Comares, was the official royal residence of the Spanish kings of the Nasrid dynasty. Being situated at the high part of the Alhambra complex, Comares Palace boasts numerous expansive rooms that encircle its iconic Patio de los Arrayanes.
Spectacular galleries and porticoes greet guests in the Hall of the Boat to its North and the Hall of Ambassadors in Comares' Tower; offering a captivating view of Darro River valley below.
Powerfully crafted to amaze visitors, Comares Palace decoration is said to be a vision ordered by King Yusuf I; although it seems his son, Mohammed V, finalized this masterpiece through inscriptions.
Patio de los Arrayanes (Court of Myrtles)
Patio de los Arrayanes, also known as Patio de los Mirtos, is a stunning courtyard enclosed by white white marble and framed by graceful arcades.
Within the courtyard lie two fountains which feed a picturesque pond, perfect for capturing a stunning reflection of the Patio de los Arrayanes facade on its placid surface. Inscriptions throughout the Patio are predominantly praises to God, adding another intricate layer of beauty to this remarkable space.
On clear days, the parapet above the Patio de los Arrayanes northern gallery can be seen reflected in the pool, providing visitors with an awe-inspiring photo opportunity they won't soon forget.
The Palacio de los Leones (Lions’ Patio)
The Palacio de los Leones is marvelously striking and a thriving testament to the glorious past of Alhambra Palace. Built during the reign of Muhammad V, this captivating courtyard features twelve white marble lions lining the fountain's perimeter while white marble columns stretch across its length.
This impressive site acted as the backdrop for numerous royal receptions over centuries, and was meant to symbolize strength, power, and leadership - powerful symbolism resonating through all ages.
Undoubtedly an iconic feature, no trip to the palace is complete without a visit to the Patio de los Leones.
Sala de Dos Hermanas (Hall of the Two Sisters)
The Hall of the Two Sisters lies on the north side of the Court of Lions within the Alhambra palace, and was once used to provide lodging for its female inhabitants.
This particular room encompasses some of the best tile work and stucco decoration within all of the Alhambra—a quality reflected in its grand honeycomb dome, most remarkable muqarnas domes in Islamic art, crafted with thousands of decorative elements. The Hall takes its name from two large white marble slabs that can be found in its floor, both identical in size.
Discover the breathtaking Mirador de Lindaraja - a small, private theater of sorts located in the north section of Sala de Dos Hermanas. From its double-arched windows you can marvel at spectacular views that extend across majestic gardens below.
Sala de los Abencerrajes
The Sala de los Abencerrajes is situated on the south side of the Court of Lions, in front of the Room of Two Sisters. It is famous for the tragic legend that tells that this room was named for the Abencerrajes knights, who were allegedly beheaded in this hall.
To this day, a rust stain remains on the marble base as purported evidence of their fate. Sala de los Abencerrajes is covered by a stunning muqarnas vault ceiling, with lantern cupola shaped as an eight-pointed star - thought to represent celestial heavens.
The square room also has alcoves on its sides featuring intricate arches and columns and painted ceilings.
Sala de los Reyes, or 'Hall of Kings'
The Sala de los Reyes is an iconic space within the Palace of the Lions, located in Granada, Spain. It is a large rectangular hall measuring 30 meters in length, divided into three square-shaped bedrooms with muqarnas domes that protrude from the roof.
These three false vaults contain paintings on leather with a secular iconography influenced by Christian Gothic art. The Sala de los Reyes was used for rest and gathering, as well as festive performances. It is a remarkable example of Nasrid architecture, blending Christian and Muslim design elements to create an exquisite atmosphere.
Salón de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors)
Salón de los Embajadores is located on the north side of the Court of the Myrtles within the Comares Tower, the largest room in Alhambra. Sala de la Barca, a wide rectangular hallway, provides access to Salón de los Embajadores which was used as a throne room and audience chamber for the sultan.
Salón de los Embajadores boasts ornate walls with tile and stucco decorations that culminates with an elaborate domed ceiling made up of 8017 interlocking wooden pieces that symbolize seven heavens. Hall of the Ambassadors serves as a stunning example of Islamic art and architecture that can captivate any visitor.
Palacio de Carlo V
The Palacio de Carlo V is a magnificent example of Italian High Renaissance architecture that took nearly two centuries to complete. Begun construction in 1527 and only completed in 1923, it stands within the grounds of the glorious Alhambra Palace complex, located in Granada, Southern Spain.
This exquisite palace houses multiple museums including the Alhambra Museum on its ground floor and the Fine Arts Museum of Granada on its upper floor - providing great insight into both local and international artistry.
Visiting this iconic structure is an experience unlike any other, ensuring visitors can appreciate the grandeur of Renaissance architecture as well as admire some fine works of art.
The Alcazaba (Alhambra Fortress)
The ancient fortification of Alcazaba has been a part of the Alhambra Palaces complex for over a millennium now. Located in Granada, the Alcazaba was strategically constructed and fortified during the 9th century to protect against potential threats.
It has gone by many names over its existence such as Elvira Fortress, Granada Castle or qa’lat al-hambra which translates to 'red castle'.
The Alcazaba Fortress features walls that are up to 15 feet thick at some points and there are several watchtowers scattered throughout the complex that offer stunning views across Granada cityscape below.
The Generalife Gardens
This tranquil series of gardens provides respite from your explorations with its lush vegetation including cypresses, pine trees and fruit trees. The Generalife Gardens is a breathtaking wonder located in Granada, Spain.
It is known for its elaborate gardens consisting of cypress trees and terraces filled with fragrant flowers. Visitors can indulge in the grandeur of the lush landscape while being serenaded by fountains that embody the tranquil ambiance.
Onlookers of all ages are enthralled by the intricately designed gardens which hold over 500 years of history and were once owned by the wealthy Nasrid Dynasty.
This beloved attraction reflects an undeniable connection between man and nature, making it an unforgettable experience for each individual who visits.
Partal Palace and Gardens
Partal Palace and Gardens is a centuries-old palatial structure that is located inside the northern Alhambra fortress complex. Built in the early 14th century, Partal Palace and Gardens is said to be the oldest surviving palatial structure in the entire Alhambra.
Partal Gardens are also known as Jardines del Partal and it covers the entire area between Rauda's exit to the esplanade where Ladies Tower stands. During the medieval Arab period, there were many buildings in Partal Palace and Gardens that belonged to key magnates who lived close to the Royal Palace.
Notably, Ladies Tower that is managed by Partal Palace and Gardens is one of those few remainders of this heritage which have survived through thousands of years.
Tipp: Planning Your Visit
Visiting hours for Alhambra Complex vary depending on the time of year so be sure to check ahead before planning your visit. Tickets must also be purchased ahead of time as entrance is limited due to conservation efforts at this popular tourist destination.
Additionally, there are guided tours available if you would like an expert guide to accompany you on your exploration of this beautiful site.
Where exactly is Alhambra Palace located?
Alhambra is located on top of the al-Sabika hill, on the Darro River left bank, west of the Spanish city of Granada, and in front of the Albaicin and Alcazaba neighborhoods.
How do I get to Alhambra in Granada?
If you're looking to get to the Alhambra Palace without a lot of fuss, taking public transport is probably your best bet. You can catch either of the red minibuses, C30 or C32, from Isabel Católica Square (Columbus monument) every 8-12 minutes. The last stop for C30 is the 'Alhambra - Generalife 2' bus stop, but be aware that C32 continues towards Albaicín so make sure you don't miss your stop.
If you choose to go by car instead, there is a big parking lot opposite the palace which you can access via Ronda Sur (N-323 and A44) and Granada's bypass road. There are also designated parking spots for buses and caravans should you need them.
The Pavilion Main Entrance and the Gate of Justice (Puerta de la Justicia) are the two main gates to the Alhambra Granada. For visitors without a ticket, use the Pavilion Main Entrance; for those with tickets, use the Gate of Justice Entrance(Puerta de la Justicia).
How big is Alhambra Palace?
Alhambra Granada complex covers an impressive approximately 105 square meters of land, inside of Alhambra including several palaces with countless rooms and gardens within them, making it one of the most impressive examples of Moorish art and architecture in Europe.
How much does it cost to visit Alhambra Palace complex?
Visiting the Alhambra Granada, Spain can be done quite affordably. The entry fee for the General Alhambra Granada Entrance is about 14 euros, which includes admission to the Nasrid Palaces, the Generalife, and Alcazaba.
For visitors wishing to see only parts of the Alhambra complex or limited attractions, there is an option to purchase access to just the Generalife Gardens and Alcazaba at a cost of 7 euros.
In addition, other tickets are available, the prices of which vary between 5 euros and 23 euros. To buy a ticket visit: Tickets Alhambra. There are also many interesting parts like public baths and gates of the Alhambra which can be explored for free.
How much time do I need to visit Alhambra?
Planning a visit to Alhambra can seem like a daunting task due to its popularity as a tourist destination. To make sure you get the most out of your visit and explore all it has to offer, plan for at least 3 hours.
Various kinds of tickets are available that allow access in the morning, afternoon or night, depending on how travelers wish to experience the monument. Ensure you purchase the appropriate ticket before embarking on your journey.
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