Alhambra, Granada – 9/1/2019

Alhambra receives more than 2 1/2 million visitors a year and is Spain’s most popular attraction.  Alhambra was a complex which contained houses, schools, baths, palaces and gardens, all enclosed by impregnable walls and defensive towers.  Today  all that remains to visit at Alhambra is the Alcazaba, Nasrid Palace, Carlos V Palace and the General Life area. Alhambra’s construction was begun by the first Nasrid King, Mohammed ibn al-Ahmar in 1238.

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While I had pre-booked tickets a few days prior, I didn’t open the tickets until we were lined up for the Nasrid Palace for our allotted time, only to discover we had to go the ticket office to collect them.  Unfortunately the ticket office was a long walk, about 15 minutes up and down hill and we only just made our allotted time.  Turns out if you buy discounted tickets, ones for seniors or children, you have to take your passports to collect them.  What a pain!

Nasrid Palace

The Nasrid Palace is amazing, its filled with endless, intricately decorated halls, arches, patios with fountains, cupolas and windows, incorporating materials ranging from wood, plaster, tiles and marble.  Although it was started by the first Nasrid King, Mohammed I, it was primarily constructed by the kings Yusuf (1334 – 54) and his son, Mohammed (1354 – 91) 

Here are just a few of the beautiful doorways found throughout the Nasrid palace, with their exquisite decorations.

The attention to detail throughout the palace is amazing, especially on the ceilings, around the windows and on the walls.

The Nazrid Palace is divided into three sections, the first is the Mexuar which was used for business, government and palace administration.  The second was a series of state rooms and the final section was used exclusively by the King and his family and only his most trusted servants were allowed in, many of them eunuchs.  Each of these sections of the palace are further divided into halls, rooms and patios, it seems endless.

One of the first patios you come to in the Nasrid Palace is the Court of the Myrtles, although it has had many names throughout time.  Its current name is derived from the Myrtle bushes that surround the central pond.

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Another interesting room is the Hall of the Abencerrajes, named after the abencerrajes knights that are believed to have been beheaded there.  Some believe a rust stain at the bottom of a fountain, is in fact the blood from the knights.

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My favourite section was most definitely the patio of lions, which was part of the private section of the Sultan.  Its name is derived from the 12 marble lions supporting the fountain basin.  Some believe that the choice of 12 lions signifies either the 12 months or the signs of the zodiac.  At the base of the basin is a carved poem written by Ibn Zamrak, however you can’t get near the fountain, so you can’t really see it.  The patio was constructed by Mohammed V and its appearance resembles that of a Christian cloister.  The gallery is supported by 124 marble columns all finely decorated.

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One of the most beautiful ceilings was in a room off of the Patio of the Lions and is in a star shape, the detail is unbelievable.  

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You can see the ceiling from the inside above and how it appears on the outside below

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From the Patio of the Lions you enter the Hall of the Kings.  There are three domed ceilings which are covered in leather and have paintings on them.  The middle painting is of the first ten Nasrid Kings (except the usupers (wrongly kinged) Ismail I and Mohammed VI) and the other two are of hunting and romantic scenes.  It is believed that the paintings are Christian and from either the reign of Mohammed VII (1395-1410) or Yusuf III (1410-1424).

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Alcazaba

The oldest part of Alhambra is the alcazaba, started by the first Nasrid king, Mohammed I,  who used it as a royal residence, as did Mohammed II, while the palace was being constructed. Mohammed I expanded the original castle adding ramparts and towers.  After the palace was constructed the castle was only used for military purposes. The alcazaba was taken over by the Christians after the reconquist, but was abandoned until the late 19th to early 20th century when restoration began.

Within the Alcazaba are a series of ruined buildings, that once provided the services for those who lived in the fortress. 

We left behind the Alcazaba to visit our final stop in Alhambra, the Generalife.  To reach the Generalife you have to follow a pathway through gardens, past towers and through another ticket checkpoint.  But it is a pleasant journey.

The Generalife

The Generalife is situated on the Cerro del Sol (Hill of the Sun) and it was the summer palace of the Nasrid kings.  The Generalife was originally located outside the walls of Alhambra and lacked direct communication with it.  The first set of gardens in the Generalife is called the Lower Gardens.

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In 1921 the state acquired the Generalife and it was decided to create a park that joined Alhambra to it.  The park was built in three consecutive phases.  The first stage created a a labyrinth style garden with arches of roses and cypress and incorporated fountains and was started in 1931.  Phase 2 was started in 1951 and created a Muslim garden with cypresses and a pergola with a view to Alhambra and the city.  The final stage in 1952 was an open air theater for festivals of music and dance.

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The next section of the gardens is called the Patio of the Irrigation Ditch, not a romantic sounding name is it?  This patios garden varied according to the current tastes in society, it currently has myrtle bushes, orange trees, cypresses and rosebuds.   On one side of the garden is 18 arches which lead to a lower garden, while the other side leads to the upper garden.

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The next section of garden, ‘The Court of the Sultana’s Cypress Tree’ has a very interesting story behind it.  The patio itself is pretty ordinary, a central pond with a stone fountain containing a face on one side of the bowl and is surrounded by myrtle hedge.  The court is named after old cypress trees that were on the verandah.  Legend has it that Boabdil’s wife used to meet a knight of the Abencerrajes family at one of the cypress trees.  The affair led to the death of 16 knights who had their throat’s slit in the Hall of the Abencerrajes in the Nasrid Palace.

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Leaving behind the Generalife you get your final glimpses of the towers of Alhambra.

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Tourist Information for Alhambra

TIPS: I highly recommend booking your tickets before going to Alhambra as they often sell out, particularly in Summer.  We visited in January and there wasn’t a lot of choices of time to choose from.  Check your tickets if you buy them online.  If you buy a discounted ticket for a child or over 65 you will need to go to the ticket office with a passport to prove the age.  Allow plenty of time to get to the Nasrid Palace as you are given an allotted time and if you aren’t within the hour of the time you won’t be allowed in.

Opening Hours:

Daytime general visit

  • 1st April to 14th October │ Monday to Sunday: 8:30 am to 8 pm
  • 15th October to 31st March │ Monday to Sunday: 8:30 am to 6 pm

 Visit to the Gardens

  • 1st April to 14th October │ Monday to Sunday: 8:30 am to 8 pm
  • 15th October to 31st March │ Monday to Sunday: 8:30 am to 6 pm

Evening visit to the Nasrid Palaces

  • 1st April to 14th October │ Tuesdays to Saturdays: 10 pm to 11.30 pm
  • 15th October to 31st March │ Fridays and Saturdays: 8 pm to 9.30 pm

Evening visit to the Gardens and Palace of the Generalife

  • 1st March to 31st May │ Tuesdays to Saturdays: 10 pm to 11.30 pm
  • 1st September to 14th October │ Tuesdays to Saturdays: 10 pm to 11.30 pm
  • From 15th October to 14th November │ Fridays and Saturdays: 8 pm to  9.30 pm
  • Closed: 25th December, 1st January

Price:

  • Daytime visit – Adults: €14 │ Children under 12: Free │ Children 12 – 15 years: €8 │ Senior citizens 65+ €9 │ Euro < 26 and Euro < 30 Card holders: €9 │ People with disabilities > 33%: €8
  • Evening visit to the Nasrid Palaces – Adults: €8 │ Euro < 26 and Euro < 30 Card holders: €6 │ Children under 12: Free
  • Evening visit to the Gardens – Adults: €5 │ Children under 12: Free │ Euro < 26 and Euro < 30 Card holders: €4
  • Visit the Gardens, the Alcazaba fortress and Generalife – Adults: €7 │ Children under 12: Free │ Euro < 26 and Euro < 30 Card holders: €6

https://www.alhambradegranada.org/en/

 

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