There isn't much I can add to all that has been said about this magnum opus of Muslim rule in Spain. It's one of those places that you just have to visit at least once in your lifetime. I've been lucky enough to visit it three times and I'm still waiting to go back for a fourth and snap some more photos. I tried going last August, but it's almost impossible to go in the high season if you don't reserve tickets well ahead of time. And anyways, the summertime heat and groups of tourists make me prefer to visit in the spring or fall.
The sentence that might best describe Granada is "There is no greater misfortune than being blind in Granada" and the trendiest touristic slogan comes from the ex-USA president Bill Clinton, declaring that the sunset from Albaicín is the loveliest in the world.
I recommend visiting the Alhambra early in the morning and going in the late afternoon to see the sunset from the Mirador de San Nicolás in Albaicín then continuing on to Sacromonte, the neighbourhood of the cave-houses and the art of "zambra", the music and dance of Arabic origin which is typical there.
The Albaicín preserves much of the original urban physiognomy like various other medieval constructions. The three elements possess a complementary value to the whole and succeed in creating a unique and universal significance.
Albaicín was the Court of the Zirid monarchs in the 11th century; it is considered the last Arab stronghold before they were completely expelled from Granada.
Today Albaicin is a suburb of the city from where one can see the Alhambra, in which still remains parts of the Moorish wall as well as different doors such as Puerta Elvira or even an Almohad Mansion.
Although the ascent might be a little harsh, it is worth walking the Paseo de los Tristes (The Path of the Sad) until the higher part of Albaicín. A magical neighbourhood, full of mystery, almost a village in the middle of the mountains which looks upon the Alhambra and the snow-capped mountains.
And in the higher area there is the view of Saint Nicolás. A raised area at the feet of a church from where there is a magnificent view of the Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada in the background. Additionally, the craftsmen of the area take it as an opportunity to offer all sorts of craft (necklaces, earrings, rings, ashtrays, puppets and a great variety of products) because every visitor to Granada has to go up there. They are not annoying nor insisting so the charm of the place is preserved, they even contribute to it.
Dusk at the Mirador is one of the best sensations one can have in Granada.
The descent through the narrow streets and alleys of the Albaicín until arriving at Elvira Street is wonderful. And the last stretch, La Calle de Calderería Nueva, better known as Tea-Shop Road, is the perfect place to sit down and have a tea with Arabic sweets, and rest after the walk.
It is one of the best walks I’ve ever taken and I will never tire of it. A small cobbled street beside a river (almost dry), with typical ducks and cats, with unmistakable marks that reveal the age of this special place.
The Cathedral of Granada, although it is not as spectacular as other cathedrals in Spain like the one in Burgos, Toledo or León, is an essential monument if you to get to know this beautiful city.
Built a little later than those Gothic cathedrals in Castile, the one in Granada is the best example of Renaissance religious architecture we have in Spain. With the domes, its gilds Baroque´s and the everlasting restoration works (it is always covered with scaffoldings) it is an authentic myth to be able to see all the frames restored, all the altarpieces uncovered, all the doors open...
It seems as if I speak with bitterness; it is actually not the case. I think this cathedral has a special something, maybe because it is surrounded by dozens of craft stands and some beautiful gardens and great tapas bars... Maybe... But it is without a doubt a place to get lost, to sightsee, to think and to meditate in the lively Granada.
The Sierra Nevada ski resort, only 30min. from Granada, is a shocking change from the tropical coast only a few miles south. The snow is fresh until mid-May and the resort boasts a whopping 105km of slopes and a difference in altitude over 1200meters. It's a great place to work off those tapas you over indulged in in Granada! There's a great official ski school for novices (I'd suggest Carlos and Paquillo as instructors) and a lovely restaurant, one of Europe's highest, to have a nice meal afterwards!
There are slopes for all levels and a truly incredible amount of different courses to run. Also, as a nice change from an increasing trend in many ski resorts, snowboarders and skiers are mixed up, with no separate course for either and no problems either. Once you arrive at the ski station, there is a place to rent equipment (both for skiers and snowboarders), lifts, and a restaurant offering some delicious barbeque. In short, we had a blast skiing at Sierra Nevada!
It has been barely a month since I could visit the Alhambra, for the second time in just a year and as the traveller Joxu tells in his experience, it is definitely worth visiting the Gardens of Generalife. It is one of the most romantic places in Granada, and although the greatest protagonist is the Palacio del Generalife, it is the colours and the smell of the flowers that makes you feel intoxicated, as well as the sound of the water.
The visit can be done in approximately an hour and a half, and the board of the Alhambra recommends that you visit the Generalife last, not because it is less important, but more so for the order of the tour. Although it all depends on the time you will enter the Nasrid Palaces.
During our last visit we enjoyed the Generalife first and we liked it more than on the previous occasion. Not to be missed on the tour: la Alumnia del Generalife, los jardines nuevos (The new gardens), Palacio del Generalife (Genralife Palace), Patio de la Acequia (The Canal patio), el Mirador (The Viewpoint), the Sala Regia (The Regal sala), Torre de Ismaíl (Ismail's Tower), Patio del Ciprés de la Sultana (The Sultana's cypress courtyard), Jardines Altos (Upper Gardens) and Escalera del Agua (Water Staircase), and the Mirador Romántico (The romantic viewpoint).
Mariano "Chorrojumo" Fernandez, born God knows when and died in 1906, self-proclaimed "King of the Gypsies," idealized prototype of the gypsy patriarch, king of clan brawls, offering nothing more than his own persona, profiting from the character he managed to create, told 19th century travelers the romantic stories of Alhambra.
If it was located in any another place, if you didn’t visit it after the Nasrid Palace, if it did not enforce one culture upon another... I don't know, that’s a lot of ifs for the only Renaissance palace in our country. I think it does not get the recognition it really deserves and is always a "guest star" of the Alhambra.
It is true that after seeing the splendour of the Palatino Nasrid city, with its oriental architecture and its exquisiteness... bumping into the "rustic" Palacio de Carlos V is like realizing the tale of the thousand and one nights has come to an end.
But forget about everything we have seen before and let’s try to enjoy a Renaissance palace with an accentuated Roman impact. During my visit I was surprised at the set that Pedro Machuca (the architect who devised this place), managed to realize between the tough squared exterior made of hard albeit elegant shapes and the undulating interior, made from open spaces and sets of columns. It really is squaring the circle!
When looking at the Alhambra from the famous viewpoint of San Nicolás, one is grateful for the presence of this palace giving something special to the complex. It is true that to build it some areas of the Muslim palaces were demolished or changed, but... Today none of that remains and what we can see is a Renaissance palace unique to Spain. Sometimes it is used for shows and in the interior there are two museums that stand out: the Museum of the Alhambra and the Fine Arts Museum of Granada.
You walk absorbed by the alleys of Albaicín. The target imposes its power and silence is king in the hour of the siesta. You keep on walking, without a goal, enjoying architecture, the charm of the neighbourhood and suddenly, bang! An explosion of colours, life, noises, but most of all aromas, a mix of spices. You have arrived at Calle Calderería Nueva, better known as the Calle de las Teterías (Tea-rooms street) of Granada.
A curious street, since it is more of a short alley, little of the old Calderería remains and of course not much is new despite its name. But all this does not matter; the hard part is to decide which tea-room or which shop to enter. A place for the senses, to be carried away at the rhythm of the street, by the numerous young people and not so young that pass through the tea-rooms. In short, a street that fascinates.
The Palacio de los Leones of Mohamed V is the jewel of the crown of the Alhambra! As you step across the threshold of the Patio de los Arrayanes, leaving the Palacio de Comares, you understand that you have crossed the frontier to another world, another period, another lifestyle.
Designed and conceived by Mohamed V, this place reminds us of peaceful times, where beauty, the calm, and serenity reigned over defence, the battles and the intimidation. The relation between the Sultan and King Pedro I of Castile was the starting point for this sumptuous building, it was an attempt at making a greater one than the beautiful Christian Alcazar palace in Seville, King Mohamed embarked on a "colossal battle" to get the palace of palaces. The battle was now taking place in the field of culture, art and architecture!
In every room you can notice the hand of Moorish and Christian craftsmen, smartly mixed with the Muslim precepts and imposing the geometry and beauty of the Greek canon of perfection. It is curious that the columns of the Patio de los Leones were built with the same canons as the Parthenon... or that the domes from the Hall of the Abencerrajes and Dos Hermanas are based on Pythagoras' theorem.
This palace was converted into the pinnacle of Nasrid architecture, but it does owe much to the Christian palace of Seville. The change of mentality and the tranquillity that breathed at that time in the kingdom of Granada can be felt in its mixed styles, the oriental touch, in the feeling of living on heaven on earth.
It is impossible not to feel like a sultan or a queen when you walk in each one of its corners. The Palacio de los Leones became the official residence leaving the Comares and the Mexuar for other purposes.
Water, fountains, gardens, dreamy bedrooms, legends and above of all an incredible commitment to beauty is what one finds here. Another corner to dream, enjoy, to never forget.
Sometimes, when I feel a little down, I look at pictures of these places and a smile immediately comes to my face and I feel good ;-)
In a visit to the Alhambra, when you think you have seen it all, you are suddenly immersed by its best preserved secret: the hall of the muqarnas, with the incredible stalactites giving way to the Patio de los Leones. A slightly evocative name, don’t be deceived, as the architecture is so stunning that it confuses the senses.
Suddenly, an ethereal sensation invades the place, the light plays with space and all references are lost. An exquisite space of incalculable beauty and architecture that has never been reproduced.
While you contemplate it, you feel like putting down some pillows and lying down to admire such beauty, feeling like a legendary Moorish princess ;)
In the oasis of stone palm trees, with the pale sound of water, the heat abruptly leaves. We are now in front of what perhaps is one of the most beautiful, famous and enigmatic fountains in the world.Without a doubt, one of my favourite spots ;)
The whole area near the Cathedral of Granada is now called la Alcaicería. It is made up of beautiful streets full of craft, spice and incense stands. It reminds one of an Arab bazaar, and it used to be one actually, where silk used to be made and sold. Alcaicería literally means "Cesar's house" or "belonging to Cesar" in recognition of Emperor Justinian who granted the Moors permission to sell silk.
Traditionally, these bazaars were located in the centre of the city, with taverns where traders could stay, and with gates in all entrances to avoid looting and that would close at night. A few vigilantes patrolled the alleyways within the bazaar. During the night of July 19th 1843, there was a fire in one of the stores were they made matches in Mesones street and the entire original bazaar was reduced to ashes. Soon afterwards, it was rebuilt but the bazaar would never become as important as it was.
Now this market is for hippies, tourists looking for a souvenir and art lovers. To me, one of the most beautiful markets in Spain, do not miss out on going there one or two hours, chatting, buying, snooping and bargaining.
Fancy something after the silence in the Cathedral! Just enough time to make some space in your stomach for the next tapas.
Granada is the city where I was born and where I have always lived until six years ago when I moved to Barcelona to work as a designer.
Now, every time I go back to Granada to visit my family, I feel the charm of Granada invades me and fills me with melancholy.
I decided to take a picture of the Alhambra as the most representative symbol of the magic of my city. I didn't want to take it from where everyone else does, but from a small viewpoint: the Mirador de San Cristobal in upper Albaicín. To take pictures, I waited the whole afternoon until it got dark.
The Monastery of La Cartuja is a religious building decorated in a Baroque style (17th century). The church has three entry doors, one for the faithful and two others that, communicating with the cloister, were for the monks and the lay brothers and sisters. It is an option when you visit Granada, but I would recommend it only if you are really interested in religious buildings and if you have spare time.
A place to rest, reflect, read, think, walk ... you'll forget that you're in a city. If you enjoy wonderful views, then don't even think about it: get yourself here. The sound of water splashing in the fountain, the bird song, the gentle noise of the wind caressing the leaves of the trees ... you can just close your eyes and listen, feeling that bond between man and nature. This garden was built in the nineteenth century, and it is known as "Campo de los Cautivos" (field of captives) because Christian captives were imprisoned here to work on the construction of palaces and royal projects. You can't leave Granada without seeing these beautiful gardens. Admission is free, but its environmental value is priceless.
The final gift from the visit to the Alhambra is the Palaces and the Gardens of the Generalife. We had various surprises entering and learning about a unique culture and way of thinking. From a legacy that is now a World Heritage site.
In the Generalife one can rest, relax and enjoy on the one hand: the sound of the water, and on the other the incredible aromas of the plants, fruits and the orchard that surrounds the entire estate; as well as the amazing views to the city and to the Nasrid Palaces.
It is a joy to walk quietly through each patio of this oasis, how comforting it is to get to know the myths and legends of forbidden love... In such a "realist and materialist" society like ours, delving into corners like this fills you with hope ;-) as well helping to disconnect completely.
The Generalife is not ostentatious; it is a simple, quiet and peaceful place. It is a place to relax, to forget day to day life and to rest with your family. Sometimes it looks more like an Andalusian farmhouse than a palace.
I do not recall how much time I spent walking, enjoying the Patio de la Acequia (Canal), the Cypress Courtyard, amazed by its fountains, canals and water staircase, it helps soothe the high summer temperatures. Suddenly, at that moment, the heat dissipates and you forget to even take pictures. Moving water is a constant in the whole Alhambra, something very important in terms of purity in Muslim rituals.
A poetical and romantic place, I still have something pending, to visit at night. It must be a unique experience to walk there on a summer night, surrounded by the freshness of the fountains and the smell of the flowers ;-).
I love the view of this "casa blanca" from the trail taken once you leave the gardens of the Yusuf’s Palace, stop momentarily and take a snapshot, your vision will not be disappointed!
Take your time and enjoy every single corner, lattice, room. Feel the overwhelming power of the light play, the pleasant sound of the water. Delight in the marvellous reflections of the stagnant water because you are in front of the only complete medieval Arab Palatino (Royal residence) building still perfectly preserved today.
Declared UNESCO World Heritage with the rest of the Alhambra, the Nasrid Palaces are the start of the visit. Be careful! I highly recommend scheduling a time and buying tickets online if you do not want to have the unpleasant surprise of endless lines or signs saying there are no tickets available!
I recommend getting up early, being the first ones to get in (I did at 8.30 am) as then you will be able to go at your own rhythm and be one step ahead of the enormous crowd of people, despite there being "limited" access. Come with comfortable shoes, water and something to eat because time goes by without you even noticing and once you are done visiting you will need to charge the batteries!
The Palatino buildings consist of the Mexuar, where the public administration and state offices used to be; the Palacio de Comares, official residence and the Palacio de los Leones, private area where you find the harem.
We are faced with an excellent plan of spaces and uses, as well as one of the best evolutions of tastes and architectural eras of Arab art.
Did you know for example that the Palacio de los Leones (Lions' Palace), one of the most admired, was due to the interesting friendship between Mohamed V and the Castilian King Pedro I? Well, these types of surprises are around every corner.
Prepare your eyes, let yourself go and enjoy the beauty of these Palatino buildings. They say that when you go to Florence one suffers from Stendhal, I would not know what kind of illness this place causes, but it is definitely no syndrome, but more a glimpse of paradise ;-) I love this concept of paradise on earth!
Better than reading on, come here and feel for yourself the timeless beauty of these Palatino buildings, unique in the world. Advice: the best views, apart from the viewpoint of San Nicolás, are the one from the Patio de la Acequia in the Generalife.