The Alhambra

Welcome back !

Today sees us at the most famous of all Granada, and perhaps Spain’s landmarks, the Alhambra.

For those who have not visited it I should perhaps start by introducing it. It is both a palace and fortress complex and one of the most famous and well-preserved monuments of Islamic architecture in the world, in addition to containing notable examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture. 

Overlooking the Alcazaba

The complex was begun in 1238 by Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar, the first Nasrid emir and founder of the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim state of Al-Andalus. 

Initially designed as a military zone, the Alhambra became the royal residence and court of Granada in the mid-13th century after the establishment of the Nasrid Kingdom and the construction of the first palace by the founding king Mohammed ibn Yusuf Ben Nasr, better known as Alhamar. 

Throughout the XIII, XIV and XV centuries, the fortress became a citadel of high walls and defensive towers, which housed two main areas: the military zone or Alcazaba the barracks of the royal guard – and the medina or palatine city, where the famous Nasrid Palaces lie.

The monumental complex also has an independent palace in front of the Alhambra, surrounded by orchards and gardens – The Generalife.

We met up with our guide Nacho again who started our tour at the top of the Alcazaba which gave us great views over the Palace and the surrounding area.

View from the top

The Alhambra remained an important Islamic site for centuries but after the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella, known as the Catholic Monarchs, and the palaces were partially altered. In 1526, Charles V commissioned a new Renaissance-style palace in direct juxtaposition with the Nasrid palaces, but it was left uncompleted in the early 17th century.

Unfortunately the Alhambra was then allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, with its buildings being occupied by squatters for 60 years. The Alhambra was only rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon I, whose troops had also destroyed parts of the site.

The rediscoverers were first British intellectuals and then American and Northern European travellers. The most influential of these of was the American Washington Irvine whose book Tales of the Alhambra in 1832 brought international attention to the site. 

Renaissance style courtyard at the Alhambra

Today, some 200 years later, great efforts have been made to restore the Alhambra to its former glory and whilst the whole of the Alhambra is an amazing complex it is the Nasrid Palaces which are the most breathtaking. They are comprised of three palaces: the Mexuar, the Palace of Comares, and the Palace of the Lions.

The Mexuar is the smallest of the Nasrid Palaces and is known for its simple but elegant architecture. The room is decorated with beautiful stucco work, tiles, and arches.

A simple doorway in the Mexuar

The largest of the Nasrid Palaces is the Palace of Comares. This is also the most impressive of the Palaces, and is also known for its stunning architecture. It’s most famous room in the Palacio de Comares is the Salón de Embajadores, which was used for receiving foreign dignitaries.

View of the Palacio de Comares
Wall detail

The Palace of the Lions is where Nasrid art achieved its greatest degree of magnificence and it is a truly spectacular place to visit.

The palace comprises a central patio surrounded by several galleries with columns in the way a Christian cloister would be. From the central patio you can then access the different halls of the Palace.

The Columns surrounding the patio
Looking through to the fountain
Beautiful doorway and arch
Patio view

There are so many beautiful rooms it was hard to keep track of them all ! But we were very fortunate to arrive in one of them at the time the light hits a Christian stained glass window which casts wonderful colours on the wall. It seems it only happens very infrequently.

The art of good timing…
Amazing ceiling details

After leaving the Nasrid Palaces we toured the final area of the Alhambra – the Generalife. The Generalife became a leisure summer place for the kings of Granada when they wanted to get away from the official affairs of the palace.  Generalife roughly translates to Garden of Artist.

Heading to the Summer Place
Arches and flowers
Views from a walkway
Garden fountains

As you can see from my few photos, the gardens are spectacular and well worth a visit.

And so we concluded our tour of the Alhambra – it’s a truly magical place and you should definitely try to visit if you can.

Heading back down to our hotel we stopped for a a few drinks and some paella for lunch before our 25th Wedding Anniversary dinner. As nothing really opens before 2000, we needed sustenance to see us through to our reservation at 2100 🙂

Ready for dinner !