The Alhambra is a treasure of Islamic architecture that Sultan Alhamar, founder of the Nasrid dynasty, ordered to be built on Sabika Hill in the mid-13th century as a military building to protect himself from his enemies. It later became the royal residence and court of Granada until 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs completed the Reconquest of Spain and the Alhambra passed into Christian hands.
The Alcazaba is a military building where the army resided to defend the perimeter. It is believed that the Alcazaba was first built on the remains of an ancient castle.
It comprises the western end of the palatine city and is the most outstanding part of it if we contemplate it from any viewpoint in Granada.
Plaza de Armas
The Plaza de Armas, which was the original entrance to the Alcazaba, is situated at the end of a paved slope. It consisted of a group of buildings where different services were provided to the inhabitants of the fortress.
Tower of the Armas
Located on the north wall, the Torre de las Armas (Tower of Arms ) gave access to the Alcazaba complex from the area of the River Darro. In this way the Nasrid palace was connected to the Albaicín neighbourhood by means of an elevated bridge known as the Bridge of the Tableros.
La Vela Tower
It is named after "La Vela", the bell that the Christians rang in this place to celebrate the end of the Reconquest in 1492. For this reason it is also known as the Bell Tower, which tolls every 2nd of January to commemorate the victory of the Catholic Monarchs.
Garden of the Ramparts
This is one of the corners of the Alhambra in Granada that you will like the most when you see it because from its balcony you will be able to contemplate wonderful views of the Sierra Nevada, the Torres Bermejas, the Vega and the city, so you can't miss it! You will find it at the entrance of the Alcazaba.
The Palace of Charles V
It is located next to the Nasrid palaces and is one of the finest Renaissance works to be found outside Italy. Emperor Charles V ordered it to be built in the 16th century so that he could enjoy Granada and its Alhambra, for which he had a real fascination.
Admission to the palace is free and it is well worth a visit because it is unique in its style. It is notable for its circular courtyard in the centre of this square building, which demonstrates a high level of knowledge of Roman imperial architecture. If you take a guided tour of the Alhambra, the guide will make a compulsory stop here.
The Palace of Charles V also houses the Alhambra Museum (dedicated to Hispano-Muslim and Nasrid art) and the Museum of Fine Arts (most of whose works come from convents and monasteries such as La Merced, La Cartuja and San Francisco, among many others).
The Nasrid Palaces
The Nasrid Palaces were the residence of the kings of Granada. They are made up of three separate buildings known as the Mexuar (audience area), the palace of Comares (the king's official house) and the palace of the Lions (the harem and dwelling of the royal family).
The Nasrid Palaces are the most visited part and one of the ones I liked the most, together with the Generalife. Here you will find beautiful spaces such as the Hall of Ambassadors (the symbolic centre of Nasrid power), the Hall of the Abencerrajes (the king's bedchamber), the Hall of the Kings (the sultan's council room) or the Courtyard of the Lions (an allegory of paradise).
Note the delicate epigraphic inscriptions in classical Arabic carved in plaster or wood that are scattered on the walls and ceilings of the Alhambra.
The hall of the Mexuar is the first area we find on entering the Nasrid Palaces and the oldest of the three buildings. It was here that the sultan dispensed justice, held audiences and held meetings of the council of ministers.
The Palace of Comares
The Palace of Comares was the official residence of the sultan and the site of the Nasrid throne room. As you can see, its decoration stands out for its richness, as both wanted to astound visitors with the power of their dynasty, and they succeeded, don't you think?
The Palace of the Lions
Within the Nasrid Palaces, this building was the abode of the royal family and the sultan's harem. If you are looking for the famous Patio de los Leones that you have seen countless times in photographs, take out your camera because it is here.
The secretaries of the Islamic court used this room to note down and execute the sultan's rulings. It is known as the Golden Room because of the beautiful wooden ceiling that covers this room, whose original decoration belonged to the time of Mohammed V.
Hall of the Abencerrajes
On the south side of the Patio de los Leones you will see the Sala de los Abencerrajes (Hall of the Abencerrajes), which was apparently the sultan's bedchamber.
In this room of the Alhambra in Granada you will be struck by the spectacular dome that decorates the ceiling, but don't lose sight of the fountain in the centre because it has a somewhat disturbing story. Ask your guide to tell you about it because you will be amazed!
Hall of the Kings
To the east of the Patio de los Leones is the Hall of the Kings, the longest room in the Harem, so called because of the painting on the vault of the central alcove, which is thought to represent the first ten kings of the Nasrid dynasty.
Given the size of this room in the Alhambra in Granada, it seems that it was used for receptions and parties or as a summer room to rest and escape the heat.
Hall of the Two Sisters
This room was originally created to serve as the sultan's new mexuar, although it is better known as the residence of Sultana Aisha, the mother of Boabdil (the last king of Granada), when she was repudiated by her husband Muley Hacén.
Corridor and Hall of Charles V
Emperor Charles V was always in love with the Alhambra in Granada, which is why he ordered to build his quarters and an office from which to direct his empire.
Did you know that the writer Washington Irving also stayed here during his visit to Granada in the 19th century? This palace must have inspired so many stories...
El Partal is an area that houses the remains of the former residence of King Muhammad III. In this area you can still see the palace El Partal with a portico with five arches, a beautiful central pool and the famous Torre de las Damas, which dates back to the 14th century and is one of the oldest buildings in the Alhambra. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful parts of the visit.
Calle Real Alta - The Medina
In the upper part of the Alhambra is the Medina, a residential, administrative and religious area with shops, public baths and mosques where the civil servants, nobles and craftsmen who provided for the needs of the palatine city lived. Its main streets were Calle Real Baja, Calle Real Alta and Calle de Ronda.
Today the old convent of San Francisco is preserved here, which has been converted into a Parador Nacional de turismo.
The Generalife was the summer villa of the Nasrid kings located on the Cerro del Sol and one of the few surviving almunias from the medieval period in the whole of Al-Andalus.
Its gardens were designed for the rest and recreation of the sultans of Granada. They were filled with ornamental orchards, vegetable gardens and perfectly manicured courtyards.
When the sultans of Granada wanted to escape for a while from the formalities of the court, they would go to the Generalife Palace, a place designed for relaxation and rest. This is another of the most beautiful areas of the Alhambra in Granada where you will want to take photos and videos.
The gardens of the Partal
The gardens of El Partal are a fantastic place for a stroll during a visit to the Alhambra in Granada. They extend from the exit of the Rauda to the Torre de las Damas. In the past, the gardens surrounding the royal palaces and the residences of the Nasrid nobility were located in the same place.
Royal Cemetery or La Rauda
Located between the Nasrid palaces and the palace of Charles V, La Rauda is the only cemetery in the monumental complex that remains today. It was destined for the Nasrid royal family but today remains empty as Boabdil, the last king of Granada, moved all the tombs to a village in the mountains.
Tickets for the Alhambra
The mythical Alhambra is one of the most beautiful monuments in Spain and every year it breaks visitor records.
You can imagine that to see such a place it is advisable to buy tickets to the Alhambra in Granada online and at least a month or two in advance of your trip if you do not want to run the risk of running out of them and having to queue endlessly at the ticket office to try to get them at the last minute. In Hellotickets you can compare prices, schedules and availability of tickets and guided tours.
How much do tickets cost?
I recommend you to take a look at the tickets to the Alhambra in Granada in Hellotickets because there are several options and prices are quite tight, between 30 and 40 euros approximately.
Organize your visit to the Alhambra
You will get more out of a monument with so much history and so much art if you visit it with a guide on a guided tour because he will explain anecdotes, secrets and details that you probably do not know and that if you see it on your own would probably go unnoticed.
How to get to the Alhambra
There are several options to get to the Alhambra in Granada.
- By bus: The monument is served by several urban bus lines such as the C30, the C32 and the C35.
- By car: Cars enter via the Ronda Sur (A-395). Take the Granada ring road (N-323/ A-44) towards the south (Motril). When you have skirted the city you will see the direction Alhambra (Ronda Sur) to the car park of the monument where you can park your car.
- Walking: Leaving the Plaza Nueva take the slope of Gomérez. When you reach the Puerta de las Granadas, turn left and continue to the Puerta de la Justicia, which serves as the entrance to the Alhambra.
How long does it take to walk around the Alhambra?
About 3 hours with a 30 minute queue at the entrance.
Other interesting places around the Alhambra: the viewpoint of San Nicolás
You may not know it but the sunset at the Alhambra in Granada is considered to be the most beautiful in Spain. It is best seen from the San Nicolás viewpoint in the Albaicín district.
From here you will have the best panoramic view of the monument with the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop. It is magical!
Isabel's Traveller Tip
During the visit you will walk a distance of about 3.5 km in total. Remember to wear comfortable shoes!