Each person that presided over the Alhambra made their mark. And as you journey through the various buildings and gardens, you are able to appreciate just that. We have more information on visiting the Alhambra here but for a sneak peek at what awaits you inside the Alhambra, you’ve come to the right place!
Inside the Alhambra
Magical to see from a distance, it’s even more breathtaking once you get inside. It’s also incredibly varied too with medieval ruins and a renaissance palace (Palace of Charles V) complete with a circular patio that makes me think of an amphitheatre. And then there are the spectacular Nasrid Palaces. Rich in Islamic art and architectural features, they are easily the highlight of my visit.
Beyond the various buildings and monuments, there are beautiful gardens and paths connecting it all. And as much as you’ll want to take in the detail and feel of the place, there are also some incredible views you can enjoy of Granada and beyond too.
There are various routes you can do to see the Alhambra. As I had a couple of hours before my entry time to the Nasrid Palaces, I headed to the Alcazaba first before then checking out the Palace of Charles V and then onto the Nasrid Palaces before heading to the Generalife gardens. Here are some of my snapshots…
The Alcazaba is a fortress and one of the oldest parts of the Alhambra. It’s also where it all began. When the Nasrid Kingdom was established in Granada, Muhammad I, the then Sultan of Granada, commissioned the Alcazaba’s renovation and added three new towers including the Watchtower. It was also the royal residence whilst the palaces (now referred to as the Nasrid Palaces) were built. After they were completed, the Alcazaba returned to being a military fortress. Long after the Nasrid Kingdom fell, the Alcazaba was also used as a prison!
Visitors are free to visit much of the Alcazaba including its walls and towers. You can also get a better sense of what the fortress would have been like as somewhere to live in the Plaza de Armas. Only ruins remain of the buildings that were there but you you can see the outlines of rooms and imagine what it might have been like as a small neighbourhood. The Watchtower and several of the terraces here are also some worth visiting for spectacular views of Granada.
Palace of Charles V
The Palace of Charles V was a later addition to the Alhambra and built when Moorish rule was over… The Islamic style of architecture was out and the Renaissance was back in! Although the building is square, inside you’ll find a huge circular courtyard, which was pretty progressive for those times. I think the palace is always going to have a hard time competing with the Nasrid Palaces for wow factor but this certainly makes the building more interesting. And it’s a treat for photographers too.
But as impressive as a renaissance palace can be, you can totally see why the tourist masses that come to the Alhambra every day can’t help but be drawn to the intricate and decorative flourishes of the Nasrid Palaces… Each was built during the Nasrid Dynasty, they comprise three palaces: Comares Palace, Palace of the Lions and Mexuar Palace. From the Dynasty, Muhammad V had the biggest influence over what you see now of the palaces.
Each served a different purpose with the Comares Palace being the official King’s residence. The Mexuar Palace is the first palace you’ll enter and served as the public reception hall of the Alhambra. The Palace of the Lions contained the private quarters of the palace.
As we noted in our visiting the Alhambra guide, when buying tickets for the Alhambra, make sure it includes the Nasrid Palaces if you want to visit it. And if you do, when buying your ticket, you’ll need to choose a time slot. You must make sure you’re in the queue for the entrance for the palaces in time for your time slot.
The Patio of the Lions, which is part of the Palace of the Lions is pictured at the top of this post. Here are some more from the Nasrid Palaces…
Generalife and gardens
The Generalife was built as a summer retreat for the sultan and his family. It’s a short walk up from the Alhambra and features some really beautiful gardens. One of the things I love most about wandering around the Alhambra and Generalife is that it’s clear that as much thought went into the outdoor spaces as the indoor spaces. The gardens are very well looked after and were positively lush and blooming when I visited. Welcoming places for a spot of reflection, they’re also fun too with arched hedges and water fountains aplenty. There is even water running down the rails of a series of stone steps at the Generalife!
As with Islamic gardens in general, water is a big theme. I’ve also just learned (from Wikipedia) that it’s traditional for Islamic gardens to be built as reminders of paradise. These certainly feel like that!