It can be found on the Sabikah Hill in Granada: the Alhambra. A Moorish city castle that is several hundred years old. It consists of the Alcazaba, the Nasrid Palaces, the Generalife, the Partal and a large area with a library, an auditorium, monuments, fountains and gardens. In total, the complex is 740 metres long and in some places up to 180 metres wide.
The beginnings of the Alhambra date back to the year 900 AD. At that time there already was a small castle on the hill. But it was not until the reign of Muhammad I Al-Ahmar between 1237 and 1273 that the castle developed into the fortress we know today. Al-Ahmar, who founded his own dynasty (Nasrids), commissioned the first works to extend the castle in 1238. Between 1333 and 1354 Al-Ahmar's successor Yusuf I ordered the construction of the Palacio de Comares. Under Muhammad V the decoration of the Palacio de Comares was completed between 1354 and 1391. The last sultan of the Nasrid dynasty, Muhammad XII Boabdil, ruled from 1487 to 1492, before the Catholic kings ended the reign of the Moors in the course of the »Reconquista«.
But the fortress was also extended under the Catholic kings. It was Carlos V, for example, who commissioned the construction of an imperial Renaissance palace between 1520 and 1558. In 1829, the American writer Washington Irving travelled to Granada, where he was inspired to write the book »Tales of the Alhambra«. In 1870 the Alhambra was first declared a National Monument and in 1984 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Generalife.
It is 12h. We first pass the entrance to the Alhambra. We bought the tickets online to make sure we could see all the monuments because only a certain number of tickets are sold per day. Behind the entrance area, which is marked as »Pabellón de Acceso«, we go directly left, pass the »Puerta de Siete Suelos« and the archaeological excavations of the »Palacio de Abencerrajes« to the next exit. The Alhambra is divided into numerous areas with different entrances and exits where your ticket is scanned. Behind the exit, we turn to the left where we find the »Palacio Carlos V.«. Directly behind this monument there are the Nasrid Palaces. To enter them we first need to wait in a queue of people. When buying the ticket online you are able to choose the time of entering the Nasrid Palaces. Our tour starts at 12.30h. That is why it makes sense to be there about ten minutes in advance.
TOUR THROUGH THE NASRID PALACES
Then we may enter the palaces. After the entrance area, we pass the »Torre de Comares« and the »Patio de Arrayanes«, the »Baños de Comares« and numerous halls up to the entrance area of the »Partal«. While we walk the palaces, we can admire the filigree construction. The Partal has lush and colourful gardens and artificial ponds. This area also houses the Palace of Yusuf III and the »Torre de los Picos«, the »Torre de la Cautiva« and the »Torre de las Infantas«. The tour through the Nasrid Palaces and the Partal takes about 1.5 hours.
TOUR THROUGH THE GENERALIFE
After having reached the exit of the Nasrid palaces, we look around a little before going back the same way we came – passing the excavation site of the »Palacio de Abencerrajas« and the alley next to the »Puerta de Siete Suelos« up to the entrance area where we entered the Alhambra. However, we do not leave the Alhambra, but turn left here to the »Palace Generalife«. Back then it was the summer residence for the Nasrid sultans and surrounded by a large, colourful, Moorish garden. In the inner courtyard of the palace (Patio de la Acequía) there is again a big pond. Through a door, we get into the former living area of the Sultan and from there, through a staircase, to the upper gardens, from where we go back to the entrance area of the Alhambra.
A tour through the Alhambra and the Generalife is suitable for the whole family. The total duration of the tour is about three hours. If required, you can also be guided through the whole complex. However, this is not necessary. You can also download the Alhambra app for smartphones (only in Spanish stores). The app includes an audioguide which tells you everything you need to know about the Alhambra. Moreover you can get an audioguide when entering the monuments. (Editor/Photos/Video: Michael Trampert – Source: Alhambra)