Nestled in the Hill of Sarika fortress lies a tale of the Arabian Nights, battles and lost kingdoms, of great beauty ... It is perhaps the beginning of a story of the largest Muslim monuments. But to say this is not only to honor what the Alhambra represents: An ode to power, the human feat, to the sublime. A place where mathematics becomes beauty, where the whisper of water elevates us beyond where the legend is surpassed by reality ... the legacy of ancestors who filled us with art, knowledge and culture. The Alhambra is for me, the representation of paradise on earth. Not only were these kings wise, they knew how to live on earth all earthly pleasures that the "infidels" they were banned ;) It was a place that you would go with tears down your face (like the king moro they had to surrender and was left with mourn only) of you know that you are part forever ... Note: You should know that the audioguides are great, I recommend that you buy one for your tour. Be sure to go without hurry so that you can spend plenty of time and go at whatever pace you like, listening to stories, legends, listening to background music that relates to every building. It is a priceless experience to visit the Alhambra.
The Palacio de los Leones of Mohamed V is the jewel of the crown of the Alhambra! As you step across the threshold of the Patio de los Arrayanes, leaving the Palacio de Comares, you understand that you have crossed the frontier to another world, another period, another lifestyle.
Designed and conceived by Mohamed V, this place reminds us of peaceful times, where beauty, the calm, and serenity reigned over defence, the battles and the intimidation. The relation between the Sultan and King Pedro I of Castile was the starting point for this sumptuous building, it was an attempt at making a greater one than the beautiful Christian Alcazar palace in Seville, King Mohamed embarked on a "colossal battle" to get the palace of palaces. The battle was now taking place in the field of culture, art and architecture!
In every room you can notice the hand of Moorish and Christian craftsmen, smartly mixed with the Muslim precepts and imposing the geometry and beauty of the Greek canon of perfection. It is curious that the columns of the Patio de los Leones were built with the same canons as the Parthenon... or that the domes from the Hall of the Abencerrajes and Dos Hermanas are based on Pythagoras' theorem.
This palace was converted into the pinnacle of Nasrid architecture, but it does owe much to the Christian palace of Seville. The change of mentality and the tranquillity that breathed at that time in the kingdom of Granada can be felt in its mixed styles, the oriental touch, in the feeling of living on heaven on earth.
It is impossible not to feel like a sultan or a queen when you walk in each one of its corners. The Palacio de los Leones became the official residence leaving the Comares and the Mexuar for other purposes.
Water, fountains, gardens, dreamy bedrooms, legends and above of all an incredible commitment to beauty is what one finds here. Another corner to dream, enjoy, to never forget.
Sometimes, when I feel a little down, I look at pictures of these places and a smile immediately comes to my face and I feel good ;-)
In a visit to the Alhambra, when you think you have seen it all, you are suddenly immersed by its best preserved secret: the hall of the muqarnas, with the incredible stalactites giving way to the Patio de los Leones. A slightly evocative name, don’t be deceived, as the architecture is so stunning that it confuses the senses.
Suddenly, an ethereal sensation invades the place, the light plays with space and all references are lost. An exquisite space of incalculable beauty and architecture that has never been reproduced.
While you contemplate it, you feel like putting down some pillows and lying down to admire such beauty, feeling like a legendary Moorish princess ;)
In the oasis of stone palm trees, with the pale sound of water, the heat abruptly leaves. We are now in front of what perhaps is one of the most beautiful, famous and enigmatic fountains in the world.Without a doubt, one of my favourite spots ;)
Its disturbing figure dominates the entire sky of Granada with the Torre de Vela as standard and with a clear declaration of intent: La Alcazaba marked the beginning of the city in the Alhambra in the 13th century.
It is the oldest part, everything started there: La Medina, with more than 5.000 people living there, different shops, houses, warehouses and the later palaces so impressive today.
The structure and design definitely indicate that it is a military fortress and that it had defensive purposes. One day, the sultan Mohamed I, arriving from North Africa, decided to look for a site that was well protected and at the same time functional, where he could see the entire territory of Granada. With the natural defence of the hill of Sarika, la Alcazaba started to take the shape as a new town in the Kingdom of Granada.
From the highest part, one can spot the perfect remains of the design of the Medina and the military neighbourhood, as well as the most impressive images of the fertile plain of Granada, the Nasrid Palaces and the Palace of Carlos V.
The famous bell of the tower was put up in the period of the Catholic Kings and was used as a reminder of the conquest.
That's the Alhambra, first a fortress, then a palatino city and now an amazing place for everyone. The best views, without a doubt, from the San Nicolás gazebo.
If I only had one day in Granada, I would definitely go to the Alhambra. The price for adults is around €14.00, but it's best to play it safe and get your ticket online as you can choose the time of your visit (daytime is best to enjoy the sunshine, the evening is best for the sunset, and the night visit is a unique way to see the palace lit up at night). We bought our tickets for the palaces at 18.30 so we were lucky to see it all in the last light of the afternoon - people told me that the night visit leaves a bit to be desired with regard to the lighting. The views, especially of the Albayzin, are amazing. Check out my photos!
The Corral del Carbón (Courtyard of Coal) is one of the many wonders of Granada. Built at the beginning of the 14th century, this Nazari granary is the only building of its type left entirely preserved in Spain and Europe. At the time it housed traders and was used for the storage of cereals auctioned at the time.
It is located very close to the Cathedral, in a parallel street to that of Reyes Católicos. It has a beautiful arched horseshoe facade and a central courtyard with a column in the centre. It has three floors and you can currently visit it for free from Monday to Friday between 9 am and 7 pm and on Saturday and Sunday between 10 am and 2 pm.
La puerta de Elvira (Elvira Gate), also known in Granada as the Elvira Arch, is located in the historic city centre of Granada, to be more precise in the Plaza del Triunfo (Triumph Square).
It stands out because the famous Elvira Street begins right behind it, which gave way to the ancient kings when they came in the old city of Granada. Of Arab origin, it is believed that its primary function was to provide access to the city, being defensive; it became the main entrance to Granada. It dates back to the 11th century, and was rebuilt in the 14th. Historians say it was the connection between the Medina and the neighbourhood of Alcazaba.
There are various gates into the city, but two of them stand out in particular, the Justice one and the one known as Puerta del Vino (wine gate). Its importance lies in the fact that it is the oldest of all gates and dates back to the period of Mohamed, creator of the Alcazaba during the 13th century.
Today it has the same purpose as it did when it was created: main access to La Medina. It is the only direct gate one can find in the city, since it does not have any defensive purpose and therefore does not have any hidden corners.
The strange name comes from the fact that in the 16th century, the inhabitants of the Medina used it as a place where they would store wine for later use and be exempt from taxes ;-)
A place like the Alhambra had to have a whole series of legends, myths, tales that exaggerate the spell it propagates. In the Hall of Abencerrages we find various reasons to why it is one of the most magical rooms of the monumental complex.
Apparently, a number of important families ve had the Sultan's favour used to live in La Medina, one of them was the house of the Abencerrages. When another Palatino family decided to end this royal sympathy, word was spread that one of the main members had a secret relation with the Sultan's favourite (a deeply rooted legend in the Generalife, we will run into it again in the Patio de los Cipreses), as a result, 36 of the warring Abencerrages were beheaded and all Sultan's favours stopped.
The room was named after them because the legend goes beyond this and indicates that the small and harmonious fountain in the middle of the room still has some reddish marks of innocent blood after the brutal punishment. It is true; some parts of the fountain do have a reddish colour making this legend "more believable" ;-)
Located in the impressive and indescribable Lions Palace, the surprising part of this room is not the legend. Take your time, start looking up and you will discover pure magic. One of the masterworks of the Alhambra is the dome of muqarnas that magically surround this this room.
A perfect eight pointed star that converges in eight other tubes of muqarnas. Phew! How perfect and beautiful is this place, despite its “macabre” legend of impossible vengeance. What impresses most is that this dome like the one which is found later in the twin Sala de Dos Hermanas is based on Pythagorean Theorem. I personally don't know what impresses me the most, the legend or this feat of engineering, although above all I love the magic.
Despite what everyone believes, Muslim art does have or allow representations of human figures and you can see for yourself in the Kings' Room of the Palacio de los Leones.
The name comes from the painting found in the central arch where ten people are represented in a cordial meeting, dressed in typical clothes of the Nasrid period, although during other periods, they were taken for judges and the hall was called "the Justice". The entire room is decorated with a wooden frames, plastering, muqarnas, and once again, the lights play with us and our senses.
This place may be the most surprising of all since it is almost impossible to admire paintings of human-beings in a Muslim building. Take your time and enjoy this discovery. The sensation this room leaves you with is that of being in a Christian medieval palace, in which the arch is decorated with a fresco or mural painting typical of these places.
The Kings' Room was a place to rest and gather, structured around a large lobby more than 30 meters long, it served as a stage for various receptions and festive shows. We are faced with the “alter-ego” of the Salón de Embajadores (Ambassadors' Room) in the Palacio de Comares. But in this case the atmosphere is more festive, more relaxed with representations of gentlemen and ladies.
Really curious and more curious I wonder is how the paintings are still intact today! Take your time and enjoy one of the most surprising yet least expected rooms to be found in the Alhambra!
You have various options from where to enter the small city of the Alhambra. One of them, which is extremely interesting, is to head up the Gomérez slope (which can be done by bus), arrive at the Puerta de las Granadas and enjoy a pleasant stroll between the elm and chestnut trees and the lush vegetation until you get to the Puerta de la Justicia.
If you prefer a quick visit, to get acquainted or just want to enjoy a nice walk, the entrance to the Alhambra from this point is recommended. Now if what you want to do visit the Nasrid Palaces and you have an arranged time, it would be better to enter at the box office being that it is quite a trek to the Puerta de la Justicia.
The magnificent and superb Torre de la Justicia (Justice Tower) receives us proudly, she’s conscious of the treasures she’s amassed and "sticks her chest out". Standing since the 13th century, it was one of the bastions of the city of the Alhambra that was surrounded by 37 towers, built over 150 years. The Alhambra was started by the Sultan Mohamed as he wanted to build a fortress to protect his dynasty: the Nasrid.
It is curious to observe once again (if you have already visited the rest of the complex) the overlapping Muslim and Christian symbols. If you enter for the first time from this gate, be prepared to see this constant juxtaposition appearing throughout the visit. On one side, the open hand symbolizing the five precepts of the Koran, on the other, the Muslim key and as a counterpoint the Madonna and her child. It is here that one realizes everything has its place and nothing is exclusive, like the two faces of a coin ;-)
The Alhambra has a number of legends, myths and stories that are typical in a place of this size. One of the most famous is the Legend of the Puerta de la Justicia (known as the Law in Muslim times). It states that the day the open hand and the key that crowns every arch of the Tower touch, will be the day the Alhambra crumbles. This legend has to do with its solid construction that they assured even a 100.000 man army could not demolish.
I love those stories, they make the imagination soar. And if like me, the Puerta de la Justicia is the end of the visit to the Alhambra, it is a beautiful way to finish what has been one of the most amazing and captivating visits of all my travels!
It will always reserve special place in my heart! Alhambra forever ;-)
Warning: this entrance is free of charge but gives no right to visit the palace complex! I recommend booking your ticket on the phone or the internet, you will save a lot of time skipping long queues and scheduling conflicts. All the access points are well connected to the bus network.
One of the entrances to access the church Virgen de la Cabeza is up some stairs, the vegetation is as lush as the peoples park. In the middle of the hill there is a staircase and a fountain tells us of the antiquity of this place, because on this hill stood the ruins of an ancient Muslim fortress. A cross presides over a tiered fountain of typical Arab construction, covered with moss and ferns and flanked by tall trees which gives it mystery and a somewhat gloomy note.
At the back of the Harem, in the space that makes up the Sala de Dos Hermanas, one finds a small room with such an abundance of ornaments, muqarnas and tiles it’s considered the epitome of “Nasrid Baroque".
Also known as the Lindajar gazebo (a name that I personally like very much), adapted to English from al-'Ayn Dar Aisa, is "eyes of Aisa's house" as it was exposed to the outdoors. Today what Aisa’s (The Sultan’s favourite) eyes see is the charming garden named after her.
The small garden is cosy, also called “de los Naranjos" (oranges) or "de los Mármoles" (marbles). Its marble fountain stands out, of course, decorated with great poetry. In actual fact, this patio is not from the Nasrid period but the later Christian one, since it was created with the building of the Rooms for Carlos V, expanding what they called the "Old Palace". From here, begins the journey to the Peinador de la Reina (Queens Hairdresser) and the rooms where Washington Irving wrote his "Tales of the Alhambra".
A stunning little spot where once again the sound of water, quietness and rich Moor styled ornamental beauty are combined. One of the best preserved secrets in the Palacio de los Leones.
The Sala de Dos Hermanas (Hall of Two Sisters) is not named after any legend or myth ;-) In this case, it comes from the two marble flagstones separated by the small gutter of water coming from a small fountain that disappears into the Patio de los Leones.
This is where the spouses and favourites of the Sultan used to live, which is why the Harem was formed, it is the second residence inside the Palacio de los Leones. It is known that the mother of Boabdil lived there with her children before being repudiated by Muley Hacén. Its interior boasts another great dome that surprises us in this hall. It also has some of the most beautiful tiling found in the complex.
Pythagoras and his formulas also inspired this place. It is a fact that the Muslims knew how to take advantage of all Greek culture, as in the Palacio de Leones everything reminds us of the canons of ancient Greek beauty.
At the end of the hall there is another of those little hidden corners, impossible to forget and that return to fantasies and tales of the 1001 nights: the gazebo on the grounds of Lindajara or Daraza. As you can see its one surprise after another!