After The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, The Alhambra of Granada is the most visited monument in Spain. According to official statistics, the complex received 2,474,231 visitors in the year 2015. If you have not yet visited it, we offer you some information about its history, features of the site, as well as our Alhambra Ticket Service so you are not left without a ticket.
Brief History of La Alhambra
Even in Roman times, the hill of La Sabika, where the complex currently sits, housed some type of building, however this was destroyed as the next settlers (Visigoths and Muslims) preferred to develop the city in an area currently called Albaicín. Under the domain of The Caliphate of Cordoba, between the 9th and 11th centuries, an Alcazaba was built right in front of the current Alhambra of Granada.
When The Caliphate of Cordoba was replaced by the Taifa Kingdom and the capital of the era was replaced by Granada, The Alcazaba of Albaicin became the royal headquarters. During the following two centuries, until the arrival of the Nasrid Dynasty in 1238, the city was developed around the old Alcazaba. It was the actual founder of the Nasrid Sultanate, Al-Ahmar, who decided to reconstruct the ruins established upon the hill of La Sabika and settle there.
During the 13th and 14th century the main palaces, walls and towers were built. During the 15th century, due to the progress of Christians and the increase in Muslim population, some remodelling was carried out to reinforce the complex until Boabdil (Muhammad XII) handed over Granada to the Catholic Monarchs.
Under Christian domain, changes in the fortress continued. The Catholic Monarchs carried out restorations such as The Convent of San Francisco, currently a parador and previously a noble house. Despite these changes, the Nasrid heritage was preserved and the complex became one of the royal headquarters of the new Christian kingdom.
Nevertheless, it was with Charles V when a major change was carried out: in 1526 the construction of the Palace of Charles V was initiated in a Renaissance style. Later on, during the 17th century and above the Mosque, the Church of Santa María was constructed, leaving however the bath of the previous Mosque untouched.
During the rest of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty, the maintenance of the whole complex was looked after, especially due to the interest it raised across borders. It wasn’t until the arrival in 1700 of the Bourbon dynasty that The Alhambra was forsaken and, what is even worse, was nearly demolished during the French occupation.
Fortunately, during the 20th century, with the international recognition of the whole complex as World Heritage Site in 1984, this Andalusian city recovered its glory.
Alhambra of Granada: general description
Its length of more than 740 metres and its width up to 180 metres house three large areas: the Alcazaba, the fortress or ancient Alcazar, several religious palaces and buildings, patios and gardens. All of these buildings are surrounded by a great wall with 23 towers, amongst which we highlight the Tower of Comares, the Tower of El Homenaje (keep tower) and the Tower of Arms. All of these can be contemplated from the city of Granada, both from the neighbourhood of Albaicin and from lower areas such as El Paseo de los Tristes.
In addition, we must add to the walled complex the Gardens of Generalife, located opposite one of the entrances to The Alhambra and as ancient as the fortress itself.
The Alhambra of Granada: interesting sites
The Alcazaba or ancient Alcazar is one of the most ancient areas and has the highest amount of towers, as well as boasting the best views over the valleys of Albaicin and El Darro.
As far as Nasrid palaces are concerned, it is one of the most interesting artistic gems in the world and it is divided into: two big palaces (Comares and Los Leones); several patios such as Los Arrayanes or Fuente de Los Leones, and rooms such as La Barca or Los Reyes. In is noteworthy that in this area of the Alhambra of Granada the highest number of inscriptions from the Koran can be found engraved on walls and ceilings. The Comares Palace, in fact, boasts more than 3,000.
Palace of Charles V
Another interesting palace, to the south of the Palace of Comares, is the Palace of Charles V. Built in a classical Latin style with Doric and Ionic columns, it is home to the Museum and its circular patio has been a site where very important cultural and music events have taken place.
The gardens also have an artistic interest and inside the walled area the main ones are the Gardens of El Partal, which surround the ancient headquarters of the Sultan Yusuf III. These gardens also boast patios, inscriptions, pathways and rooms where you can roam around and get to know the Nasrid art. Not far from here is the bath of the ancient Mosque, real example of the high skill of the Muslim architects.
Last but not least, outside the walls are the Generalife Gardens, a small city where Muslim royalty would go to relax which has its own palace and preserves symbolic sites such as Patios de la Acequia and Patios del Ciprés de la Sultana or Jardines Altos, from where you can contemplate breathtaking views of The Alhambra and Granada itself.
This is the end of the summary of the most interesting sites of this grand monument. Via our website you can also book tickets for The Alhambra.
However we do not want to end our recommendation here because the city itself features other attractions which we have summarised below.
What to do in Granada
There is nobody like Federico García Lorca to discover the city of Granada. This is the reason why many visitors go to the Museum House dedicated to the poet and located in La Huerta de San Vicente, family residence from 1926 to 1936. The Museum House is divided into two areas: the lounge area, where you can get to know how Lorca and his family lived, the exhibition area, which includes small plastic works of Alberti or Dali.
Another area of the city which you should visit is Albaicin, the most ancient neighbourhood of the city, with many steep streets and white walled houses. Additionally there are some lookout points such as San Nicolás, where you can take the best panoramic photographs of the Andalusian monument.
To the east of Albaicin there is another renowned neighbourhood, one which gave Lorca inspiration and material especially for his poetry: El Sacromonte o Barrio Gitano. Thanks to its universality two museums were built here: Cuevas del Sacromonte and Museo Etnológico de la Mujer Gitana.
Going back to the historical centre of the city, in the lower part of Albaicin, we must highlight El Paseo de los Tristes, a much frequented area and which has many leisure establishments to offer. During Semana Santa (Easter) this boulevard forms part of the route of the brotherhood processions, such as Cristo de los Gitanos. During the event the procession stops in this street so that traditional singers can interpret a saeta (sacred song) which will give you goosebumps.
If you follow this street towards the west, you will find Arabic Baths El Bañuelo, Plaza Santa Ana and surroundings, which are ideal for tapas, until you reach the Cathedral of Granada.
Last but not least, you must not forget to try the local gastronomy. Prices are very affordable and the quality of the products is unbeatable. We would like to recommend El Jamón de Trevélez (local cured ham) and “spoon dishes” such as Olla de San Antón (type of local meat stew) or traditional broad beans with cured ham (habas con jamón).
This is now the end of our small tourist guide of Granada. Do not forget that we offer our Alhambra Ticket Service so you can book them online.