If you ever plan a trip to Spain, make sure you visit Granada…and if you come to Granada, make sure that you get a chance to tour the Alhambra.
At the top of the largest tower of the Alhambra, with the Sierra Nevada mountains chilling (seriously, they are great to ski) in the background.
The Alhambra palace was originally a Muslim military fortress that dates back to the 9th century. Sitting at a high point in Granada, it served as an ideal central look out point to all of the openings in the Sierra Nevada mountain line. “Alhambra,” meaning “red” in Arabic, is called so because of the red clay and stone that makes up its walls. Starting in the 13th century, the Alhambra was adapted to house Mohammed ben Al-Hamar a Muslim king of the Nasrid dynasty.
As the Alhambra was handed down from king to king, it grew to be much grander than just a military fortress. Inside everything is decorated, with grand rooms, ornate Arabic writing and water flowing throughout. Though the palace has been through many hands, it displays a unique blending of personal and cultural tastes. Nearly each king watched the palace through repairs, additions or demolitions–including the Catholic monarchs who took over in the 15th century.
Eventually, this impressive landmark was abandoned in the 18th century, but has since been restored to become THE most popular monument in Spain.
Tips to Making the Best out of Your Visit
- Go in the off season, or buy tickets in advance. The Alhambra has a cap on how many people it lets inside its grand arch every day, if you are traveling in spring or summer, it is recommended that you buy in advance.
- Parts of the palace are free to roam, such as the gardens nearby the Generalife. If you book tickets in advance, come up to 2 hours in ahead of your scheduled time to explore and make it to the palace exhibits on time. If you do not enter within the hour of your allotted time you will not be permitted to enter due to limited space; this is especially true in the Nasrid section of the palace.
- If Granada is cold, the inside of the Alhambra will be at least five degrees cooler. All that stone and marble flooring makes it pretty drafty, and hot water is no longer pumped beneath the floors as it was in the Alhambra’s glory days.
- Take time to hear the stories of the palace and look at everything. Guided tours can be wonderful but they are usually a hit or miss. I recommend investing in the audio tour and listening as you please. The hustle and bustle of some tours can cause you to give up some of your time absorbing everything in exchange for being inundated with the palace’s many stories.