Talking about the Alhambra and Granada is like talking about heaven and earth, one could not exist without the other. Authentic jewel of the country and World Patrimony, the Alhambra constitutes that door to the past towards a magical epoch that lives in the present. Palace, fortress, monument… It is a great sum of the parts that presents us with an absolutely incomparable historical-cultural amalgam.
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What is Alhambra of Granada? Origins
Although uncertain, the origins of the name “Alhambra” have been reduced to three possible ones:
It could refer to its reddish construction materials, which make its walls acquire this colour under the sunlight.
It could also be because the fortress was originally built at night, under the light of torches. Even some chronicles speak of a play on words with the name of its builder, “Alhamar”, who would place her as his wife, “La Roja”.
Regardless of the origin of its name, the Alhambra remains a symbol of the glorious Hispanic-Arabic era that has given Granada a unique identity during the fall of the centuries to the present day.
It is impossible to speak of the whole of this monument without highlighting the different parts that make up its magnitude. The Alhambra is Alcazaba, Alcázar and Medina or, what is the same thing, fort, palace and a small city.
Its date of birth is uncertain – there is evidence that dates back to the 9th century – it is not until the 13th century that people begin to speak of it as the residence of the sultans. In continuous development, the Alhambra became part of the Christian Court after the surrender of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs in the fifteenth century. They added to its set military barracks, shelters for citizens of high postín, a church and a Franciscan monastery.
However, if anything finishes shaping the final set, it is the palace that Charles V had built later in its interior. The monarch, after getting married in Seville, ordered its uprising based on Roman architecture as opposed to the Mudejar art that surrounds it. It is then when the Alhambra acquires practically its definitive image.
Already in the eighteenth and part of the nineteenth century, the monument lived a dark period where it was practically abandoned. It is the destination of people of low social class and military settlements. It even served as a fortress for the Napoleonic troops who ended up flying several towers, some of them in their entirety.
Fortunately, in 1870 it was declared a National Monument, a category that it would not abandon until now. Its most damaged parts were rebuilt and a special protection of the architectural complex was begun. Thanks to it, today we can contemplate each one of the spaces that compose it, being by own right creditors of our deepest admiration in its global set.
The central palace has an atypical shape where its horizontal extension is prioritized over the vertical. It seems to be divided into several parts, and that is indeed how it is. Each room has its own identity. The first are the Mexuar and the Palacio de Comares. Inside we find a large number of rooms, an elevated tower and an incredible portico that gives access to the Throne Room, the largest dependency of the Alhambra. Seven imposing arches receive us resting on columns decorated with passages engraved from the Koran in their capitals. Also, in its courtyard, we will find the accesses to the Royal Baths, with thermal baths of clear Roman inspiration as far as their disposition is concerned. This dependency had the function of focusing the representative tasks of the governors, as well as to serve for the private rest of the own sovereign.
Next, the Palace of the Lions, also known as “harem”, is undoubtedly one of the jewels of the Alhambra. Built by Mohamed V, it contains the private rooms of the royal family. It is the point at which forms in construction lose their most rigid geometry and Arab art reaches the highest levels of fantasy and sensitivity. A whole spectacle of light and crystalline waters, undoubtedly influenced by the friendship of the Sultan himself with Pedro I “The Cruel”, of Christian origin and beliefs.
Unifying everything in harmony, two incredible patios, key points to give meaning to the palace itself. On the one hand, we find the Arrayanes Palace – with a white marble floor – it owes its name to the hedges that flank it, also with white flowers. In the center, a majestic central pond composes a unique pictorial frame for the great number of rooms that accompany its route, in the known as Patio de Comares.
On the other hand, the majestic Patio of the Lions, where you can see the famous twelve sculptures of these felines arranged in a circle in the courtyard of rectangular layout, which now give name to the whole of the Palace of the Lions, called Palace of the Riyād al-Sa’īd “Palace of the Happy Garden” in its early days. Each lion is a fountain dispenser with a large dodecagonal cup resting on top of them. The mug has the carving of a poem by Ibn Zamrak on its edges. The floors of the courtyard are made of marble in which, without a doubt, it is one of the images to remember of the Alhambra.
Outside the Nasrid Palaces, in the main enclosure, the Alcazaba was the old access to the Alhambra. It presents us with an imposing military aspect where the Wine Gate – XV century – the Weapons Tower, the Sailing Tower, the Homage Tower, the Cube Tower, the Broken Tower and the Powder Tower stand out, open to the public on special occasions during the Space of the Month. From the highest points of the Alcazaba you can admire the set of towers of the Alhambra Alta such as those of Mihrab, the Picos, the Candil, the Captive – with a rich decoration -, the Tower of the Infantas and the Tower of Water.
In the easternmost part is the Generalife Palace. Although much more modest than the central one, it offers us beautiful gardens and a water show between its ditch and its fountains that will make it worth our while to cross its incomparable walk surrounded by cypresses to reach it.
And all of the above is just a brushstroke of the secrets that the true pride of Granada keeps. A historical jewel that so many kings possessed… And that is now within our reach: The Alhambra.
Location and How to get there
The monumental complex of the Alhambra and the Generalife is distributed over an extensive space. There are different ways to get to the Alhambra, which is located on the Sabika hill, depending on which area you want to access. By public transport the urban bus C30 (Plaza de Isabel la Católica – Alhambra and Generalife) leaves the Access Pavilion to the monument, where the ticket offices are.
On foot from Puerta Real, crossing the magnificent Alhambra Forest after climbing the Cuesta de Gomérez, the route takes about 30 minutes, with an unevenness of about 10 meters, to the box office of the Alhambra and the Generalife. Without forgetting the climb from the end of the Paseo de los Tristes, along the Cuesta de Los Chinos is undoubtedly a fantastic route that leads almost to the Entrance Pavilion.
You can also reach the Calle Real de la Alhambra, within the walled enclosure to visit the area of the Palacio de Carlos V, with its corresponding museums and temporary exhibitions, the church of Santa María de la Alhambra and the Parador de San Francisco through the Puerta de la Justicia or the Puerta de los Carros.
In a private vehicle, the most comfortable way is by the A-395, and take exit 5-A in the direction of Alhambra, walk along the Avenida de Santa María de la Alhambra and park in one of the car parks set up for visitors.
The Day Visiting Schedule of the General Visit, both for the General Visit tickets and the Generalife Gardens and Palace Visit, is:
From 1 April to 14 October every day of the week from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
From 15 October to 31 March every day of the week from 8:30 to 18:00 hours.
The opening hours of the Night Visit of the General Visit, both for the General Visit tickets and the Visit of the Gardens and Palace of the Generalife, is:
From 1 April to 14 October, Tuesday to Saturday from 22:00 to 23:30 (with ticket office hours from 21:00 to 22:45).
From 15 October to 31 March on Fridays and Saturdays from 20:00 to 21:30 (from 19:00 to 20:45).
The Night Visit to the Generalife Gardens and Palace is from 1 April to 31 May and from 1 September to 14 October from Tuesday to Saturday from 22:00 to 23:30 (with ticket office hours from 21:00 to 22:45).
And from 15 October to 14 November on Fridays and Saturdays from 20:00 to 21:30 (with ticket office hours from 19:00 to 20:45).
The Night Visit to the Generalife Gardens and Palace does not take place from 15 November to 31 March.
The new booking and ticketing platform for the Alhambra and Generalife monuments has been in operation since 1 October 2017. You can buy them here.
Would you like to take a guided tour of the Alhambra? If you want to discover all the most relevant information while visiting the monument or you plan to visit it together with friends, family and colleagues, choose guided tours. We have also made them and they are a great experience. Get your tickets here.