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Visit Alhambra Palace

The Alhambra Palace in Andalucia is the most famous and the most visited monument in Spain. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Alhambra was built by various caliphs of the Nasrid dynasty who wanted to create something which counteracted the reality of their waning power. The Alhambra was their idea of paradise on Earth. It is a stunningly beautiful complex of Arabic buildings and gardens on the edge of the town of Granada.

In 2007 the Alhambra was voted fourth in the top twelve 'Treasures of Spain' national TV and radio competition.

Explore the Alhambra Palace and Generalife

Spain This Way comment: The Alhambra Palace and Generalife are incredibly beautiful and a highlight of a visit to Spain. It is very popular though and you need to book ahead to be sure to be able to visit.

Alhambra Palace

The Alhambra Palace began life as a fortress, a palace and a small city and the fortress dates back to the 9th century. The fortress, or Alcazar, was enlarged in the 13th century with the addition of its great towers. During this period when the Nasrid people ruled the fortifications were also built and a wall and towers were built all around its perimeter.

The Alcazaba is close to the entrance of the Alhambra. It is topped by the Torre de la Vela where the cross and banner of St James were erected after victory over the Moors. Boabdil, the leader of the Moors at the time, wept at the sight and was famously told by his mother "Do not weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man"

The Nasrid palaces date back to the 14th century and most work was completed by three main Sultans, Isma'il, Yusuf I and his son Muhammed V. There are three main palaces, the Mexuar, Comares and Lions.

The Mexuar has a large audience hall which is accessed via two courtyards, the Court of the Mosque and the Court of the Machuca. It was built for Isma'il in the early 14th century though later transformed by Muhammed V and then converted into a Christian chapel in the 16th century.

The Palace of Comares was built during the reign of Yusuf I and became the main residence of the sultan and his family. The Court of the Myrtles, named after the myrtle bushes growing in the courtyard was at the heart of palace life and the other rooms radiate out from here. It is a beautiful Moorish style patio with a long pool of perfectly still water surrounded by arcades whose arches are topped with beautiful, intricate details.

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The Chamber of Comares, the Gate of Justice and the Baths are some of the other key parts of this palace to see during your visit. The Salon de Embajadores was the throne room of the palace and is covered in tiled decoration and has a ceiling representing the seven heavens of the Muslims.

In the second half of the fourteenth century Muhammed V carried out some major alterations to the Alhambra and many of the rooms were decorated or redecorated and it is to this period we owe the most beautiful of the decorations.

The Palace of the Lions was created as a less traditional structure and surrounds two main dwelling areas. The Court of Lions, the Hall of the Abencerrages, the Hall of the Kings, the Hall of the Two Sisters and the Ajimecas Gallery and the Lindaraja Balcony are all to be found in the Palace of the Lions.

The Court of Lions (Patio de los Leones) is the most beautiful in the Alhambra and was the harem for the palace. Surrounded by beautiful arcades with marble columns there is a fountain with stone lions in the centre. Some of the palace's best rooms open onto this patio.

Court of Lions in the Alhambra Palace

The Hall of the Abencerrajes is one of the rooms opening onto the Patio de los Leones and has a simply stunning ceiling. The room has a grisly history though as here Abu'l-Hasan murdered sixteen princes of a rival family whose chief had fallen in love with his favourite daughter.

The Palacio del Partal is the oldest palace in the Alhambra but now all that remains is another patio with a large rectangular pool of still water - so important to Moorish garden design- and an arched pavilion with beautiful slender arches. Also in the Alhambra are the beautiful gardens scattered throughout the grounds.

The apartments of Washington Irving can be visited. He lived here whilst writing his book 'the Tales of the Alhambra'. This book led to the Alhambra being declared a national monument, its decline halted, and decades of careful renovation of the palace followed.

The Palace of Carlos V is an excellent example of Renaissance architecture but rather at odds with the delicate Moorish architecture in the rest of the Alhambra. Inside is the Museo de Bellas Artes and the Museo de la Alhambra. The Museo de la Alhambra holds lots of items found during the renovation of the palace and the star attraction is the Alhambra vase which is a vase which stands one and a half meters tall and glazed a lovely bule and gold with gazelles decorating it.

The Generalife

The Generalife served as a garden and recreational estate for the palace and sits outside the walls to the east of the Alhambra. A visit to the Generalife is included in the entry ticket and it is very beautiful with its Moorish gardens featuring long water rills full of fountains and long flower beds.Indeed the name Generalife means "garden of the architect". The Generalife has a number of orchards and terraces and great views of both the Alhambra and the city.

The palace was built between the 12th and 14th century and the Royal Chamber has some particularly fine plasterwork

Generalife

It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the Alhambra Palace to the Generalife.

The Alhambra is open every day except for 25 December and 1 January. From 1 April to mid October it is open from 08.30 to 20.00 and from mid October to 31 March from 08.30 to 18.00. It is strongly recommended that you order your tickets on line before going as tickets sell out especially during the summer months.

Where to visit nearby?

The Alhambra is on the edge of the town of Granada which is rather disappointing given the number of visitors who come here every year. Non the less it has a few sights of interest.

Guadix is a fascinating troglodyte town where many of its inhabitants still live underground.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Granada guide and the Andalucia guide.

See also: 

Photos of Alhambra Palace

Click any picture to start the gallery

  • carving
  • ceiling
  • courtyard
  • courtyard1
  • double-column-arches
  • fountain
  • garden
  • garden1
  • gardens1
  • generalife
  • moorish-baths
  • mural

Map of Alhambra Palace and places to visit

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Alhambra Palace places to visit

Granada

Granada

Granada is the home of the fabulous Alhambra and Genaralife. These should be on everyone's bucketlist!

Granada guide
Guadix

Guadix

Guadix is a city with a troglodyte area near to Granada. It is fascinating to visit and many are still lived in.

Guadix guide
Nerja Caves

Nerja Caves

The Caves of Nerja is a huge cave system and home to the largest stalagmite in the world.

Nerja Caves guide
Zuheros

Zuheros

Zuheros is one of the pretty 'white villages' of Andalucia. The ruins of the Castle of Zuheros are in the village.

Zuheros guide

...or see all our recommended places to visit in Andalucia

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