Exploring the grounds of Alhambra
Alhambra is a palace and a fortress built during the mid-14th century for the last Muslim Emirs in Spain and its court, of the Nasrid dynasty.. After the Moors were driven out of Spain in 1492 (Same time as Columbus sailed the ocean blue), the Christians continued to use it as a palace.
Palaces back in the day were built as whole cities that house markets, shops, and homes. However, currently, outside of where royalty lived, the rest are just ruins.
Surrounded in luscious greens with breathtaking views.
Unlike others, we started at the end with the Generalife, summer palace and country estate of Granada’s royalty.
I didn’t think I could be nearly this impressed with a garden but with each step, the next part was more glamorous than the last.
We continued to just wander around the grounds, getting lost until it was our allotted time slot for the Nasrid Palaces.
We had 4 hours to enjoy ourselves during the visit and sometimes taking a nap on top of the world is what is needed.
And yes I rock Mizunos wherever I go, because I never know when I’ll feel like running 😉
My mom hasn’t perfected her photo taking skills, so all my shots with Tony might be a little (okay a lot) crooked. I guess we can’t all be as talented as me 😉
Now it took me a while to remember what the circular structure below is. It is not another Plaza de Torros (bullring), but instead is the Palace of Charles V. He wished to establish his residence close to the Alhambra palaces. Although the Catholic Monarchs had already altered some rooms of the Alhambra after the conquest of the city in 1492, Charles V intended to construct a permanent residence befitting an emperor.
As we walked around the structures of what remains I was amazed by the beautifully carved ceilings.
The Alcazaba, a fortress, is the oldest part of the Alhambra. It is thought that before it was built and before the Muslims arrived to Granada, there were already several constructions in the same area dating back to the 9th century. It is believed that it was then built by Sawwar ben Hamdun during the fights between Muslims and muwalladins [Christians who converted to the Islam and lived among the Muslims].
One of the towers, Torre De La Vela, gave some of the most amazing views of Granada if you get past the stair hike to the top.
Alhambra wasn’t built in one time, nor planned so trying to organize yourself on a point to point tour isn’t really worth it unless you’re following a tour group; however, your visit to the Nazaries Palaces is schedule at a specific 30 minute interval. Don’t miss it, because you will lose out on the jewel of Alhambra.
The royal palace consists of three sections: royal offices, ceremonial rooms, and private quarters.
The walls are jaw-dropping with carved wood ceilings, stucco “stalactites,” ceramic tiles, molded-plaster walls, and filigree windows from top to bottom. The colors red (blood), blue (heaven), green (oasis), and gold (wealth) as suggested by the Qur’an.
To be honest? As I walked around I pictured myself on a rich rug smoking a hookah as the walls are covered in rich fabrics from around the world. None of the rooms are furnished but you can let your imagination run wild.
The first building you enter is Court of Myrtles (Patio de los Arrayanes). Moors loved their patios as open-air courtyards in the palace feature fountains with bubbling water like a desert oasis, the Quran’s symbol of heaven. Women, who rarely went out, stayed in touch with nature here. One theory is that the jealous men even with all the women they can maintain (as Quran suggests) kept wooden screens that allowed the cloistered women to look out without being clearly seen. The other theory is that the upstairs was for winter use, and the cooler ground level was for the hotter summer. My personal bet? Jealous men.
The next grand building is The Hall of the Ambassadors (Gran Salón de Embajadores) where you would meet the sultan.
What I heard from a nearby tour, the writing are scripts from the Quran repeated over and over again. Muslims avoided making images of living creatures — that was God’s work. But they could carve decorative religious messages. One phrase — “only Allah is victorious” — is repeated 9,000 times throughout the palace.
It was also here that Columbus made his pitch to Isabel and Ferdinand to finance a sea voyage to Asia.
The final building is the Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) where 600 years ago, only the royal family and their servants could enter.
The fountain, a gift from a Jewish leader celebrating good relations with the sultan, has 12 lions that represent the 12 tribes of Israel. During Moorish times, the fountain functioned as a clock, with a different lion spouting water each hour. Conquering Christians disassembled the fountain to see how it worked, and it’s never worked since.
The Hall of the Kings (Sala de los Reyes) is probably my favorite part of the whole palace. I love staring up into the enchanting ceilings.
Although our ticket to enter was at a specific time we were free to take our time in the palaces and then wander a little more around the grounds and get a photo of all three of us taken!
TIPS FOR VISITING THE ALHAMABRA
- Book your ticket in advance. Tickets sell out and are limited! If you want to avoid paying a hefty fee for going through a guide, buy your ticket in advance. I brought mine a month in advance and already the time slots of the Palaces were limited. I wanted to start with the palaces but only time available for a party of 3 was 1:30. If you know which days you’re going to be in Granada, get your tickets and bring the credit card you ordered with you if you used Ticketmaster There are machines to the side that are easy to use and avoids a long wait time.
- You can walk or take a bus from the city center. The walk is a long, uphill walk in potentially hot sun. Once you get to Alhambra, there will be lots of walking in side the grounds. The bus ride is 1.20 Euro. You can decide what you prefer. I personally am more into downhill walks and uphill buses.
- Examine your ticket for your allotted time. Your Alhambra ticket is good for 4 hours and 30 minutes of that at a very specific time is allotted to the Palaces. Don’t miss it. As we sat there and waited for our shift, we watched many disappointed faces who were not allowed in because they missed their scheduled time. Being old, being young, being confused, or any other excuse in the world, won’t let you inside.
- Take your time – Certain parts of the Generalife, and the towers, you can only enter once so make sure you take in everything with whoever you’re traveling with because there is no reentry. Tony and I ran into the tower without my mother and we couldn’t go with her when she was ready.
- Get a written guide – You can share it, and sometimes I really wish I knew what I was looking at without having to eavesdrop on tours or goggling my photos after the fact. It costs extra but I think knowing more things about this enchanting palace is worth it.