Granada is located at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Andalusia South of Spain, it was the seat of the Moorish Kingdom for over 700 years. The streets of Granada are packed with tea stalls, bohemian cafes and Flamenco clubs. Granada has a rich cultural heritage, and enjoys a peaceful co-existence among many cultures. It has been widely admired for its architecture, music, and is well known for it’s monumental complex, the Alhambra. The city of Granada is unfortunately often overlooked by visitors. Most spend only a day, and more than 2 million descend on one single site – The impressive UNESCO World Heritage listed – The Alhambra. The Spanish have maintained and preserved the existence of many medieval Muslim palaces and gardens in Granada.
The ancient Arab quarter of Albaicín, located on the foothills of the marvelous Alhambra is often overlooked by tourists. It is one of the unique neighbourhoods in Granada. The Albaicín is a historic and a charming quarter and it weaves around the river Darro, and overlooks the monumental complex of the Alhambra. The cafes and restaurants located along the Albaicín quarter are an ideal backdrop to admire the views of the Alhambra and the lively neighbourhood. The influence and integration of Islamic architecture and culture is beautifully depicted in the Albaicín quarter. The best way to experience this charming neighbourhood is by walking along the narrow cobblestoned streets while passing by some of the historical buildings. In this way, one may experience the life of this Hispanao – Muslim neighbourhood.
The gypsy quarter of Sacromonte located on the hills of Granada is another charming quarter. The Abadía del Sacromonte, an Abbey located on the top of the hill provides a panoramic views of the city. The walk towards Sacromonte is very steep and windy and takes 15 minutes from the Albaicín quarter. The strenuous effort is rewarded with breathtaking views of the city and the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges.
The monumental complex of the Alhambra and the Generalife situated atop Sabika Hill is Heritage Listed, and one of the world’s most visited site. There are three different ways to access the monument: by public transport, taxi or on foot following the historic pedestrian route from the city centre. This path runs through the lush green Alhambra woods. Washington Irving, native writer from New York was perhaps the first person to bring the Alhambra to the world. The council of Alhambra has paid a tribute to the writer by dedicating a statue of his image inside the Alhambra walls and is only accessible by foot.
Alhambra means “the red one” in Arabic and was built by the Nasrid dynasty. They were the last Muslims to rule over the Iberian Peninsula,and turned over their possession, the Alhambra, over to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. The Alhambra palace complex extends over 100,000 square meters, and is built adjacent to another city and Granada was protected by a surrounding wall. There are three important areas you will want to visit once inside the monumental compound of the Alhambra; the Alcazaba, Nasrid Palace and the Generalife.
On the western part of the Alhambra complex lies the Alcazaba, which housed the military district and the living quarters of the troops who provided immediate defence to the sultan and the palace. It’s one of the oldest parts of the Alhambra, and there are numerous watch towers in this complex . Torre del Homenaje is the highest tower in Alhambra and offers the best panoramic and visually delight with views of the Alhambra and also Granada. A famous Mexican Poet Francisco de Icaza who fell in love in Granada said “… there’s nothing worse than being a blind man in Granada”. The conspicuous historical significance and ancient surroundings of the Alhambra will unequivocally evoke the past. The tranquil surroundings above the walls of the Alhambra away from the hectic city life of Granada will unquestionably transform you back into the history of the complex.
The Nasrid Palaces
The Nasrid Palaces are located in a single complex inside the Alhambra and can also be viewed from the Albaicín quarter. Built on steep hill, there are three independent areas in the palace complex; the Palacio del Mexuar, the Palacio de Comares and the Palacio de los Leones. These palaces are independent of each other but are connected with each other as they were commissioned by different Nasrid sultans. Behind the interior rooms lie fragile works of elegant architecture and ingenious decoration. The Hispano – Muslim architectural design is represented in every corner of this palace; an open air courtyard with elaborate fountains and ponds equipped with a source of water to maintain perfect architectural harmony. The most remarkable of the palaces is the Palacio de los Leones. A central fountain in the courtyard, consisting of twelve lions from which water pours and are exquisitely crafted. One of my favourite courtyards is the Palacio de Comares, an architectural marvel with supreme works of Islamic art, structured around a large rectangular courtyard to provide a perfect harmony between the walls of the palace and nature. Inside the central area of Palacio de Comares lies Patio de los Arrayanes, an open air courtyard equipped with a rectangular pond in the middle and delicately trimmed hedge alongside the pond.
The Generalife or market garden situated outside the walled compound is surrounded by gardens which are still being cultivated using traditional agricultural techniques passed down from generations since the 14th century until today. This is where the sultans came to rest and has various courtyards leading to the palace rooms. It feels rural and tranquil as the path leads through various orchards, ornaments trees and shrubs. The romantic gardens offer breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
It is recommended to start the tour of the Alhambra through the Puerta de la Justicia as the ticket counter and the information desk are located outside the gates. I highly recommend buying the tickets as much as 2 months in advance, as the tickets to Nasrid Palaces are limited and can sell in minutes. The tickets go on sale midnight (Spain time). You will need to buy the Alhambra general ticket which costs €14.00 and the visit includes Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces and Generalife. You will also need to select a time to visit the palace and strictly adhere to the specific time slot you have picked and if you miss the time slot, you won’t be allowed to access the palace. It takes 20 minutes to reach the Nasrid Palaces from the ticket counter. If you are unable to get the tickets, do keep trying as they always update the available spots online after midnight (Spain time). I strongly suggest checking the availability of the tickets first and then planning your trip to Granada. The other visits such as Alcazaba and Generalife can be visited at your leisure in any order. The tickets can be purchased on the Alhambra official website https://tickets.alhambra-patronato.es/en/tickets-alhambra-general/
Wishing my followers a very Happy New Year and a fantastic year ahead.