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The Alhambra of Granada

World Heritage of Monumental Beauty


The Alhambra Palace

The Alhambra was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984. Its name comes from the redish clay used on the building of its walls (in Arabic, («qa’lat al-Hamra’» means Red Castle). The complex, whose visit requires at least three hours, is located on the Sabika hill, next to the Darro river. It is mainly made up of the Generalife Gardens, the Nasrid Palaces and the Alcazaba, all of them of Arab construction, and the Carlos V Palace and the Church of Santa María, of Christian construction.

alhambra panoramic view at sunset against snowy mountains of Sierra Nevada spain

The origins of the Alhambra date back to the 9th century, when the capital of Granada moved from Elvira to the Albayzín. But it would be at the beginning of the 13th century when Al-Ahmar, founder of the Nasrid Dynasty, who decided to start the reconstruction of the ancient Roman ruins and thus begin the Alhambra that we know today. His successor, Mohamed II, finished the walled compound. In the 14th century, with the reigns of Yusuf and Mohamed V, the Alhambra will acquire its monumental and precious appearance that we know today. Yusuf built the nucleus of the Comares Palace, with the great tower that projects over the city. The inner enclosure of the Palace housed the sultan’s throne, located under the cover that represents the concept of the universe of Allah. In addition, this monarch enriched the enclosure with monumental access gates, such as that of the Arms (main entrance to the Alhambra) or the Gate of Justice.

Mohamed V, reformed the Comares palace, adding the spectacular façade of the patio of the Cuarto Dorado. He also built the innovative Patio of the Lions, leaving aside the palace model existing up to that moment and creating a new model of a quadripartite structure inspired by the eastern models of Islam.

Granada, capital of the Nasrid kingdom, begins its period of commercial expansion. Its population is increased as a consequence of the Christian conquest, giving rise to new neighborhoods and modifications of infrastructure and defensive walls. In 1492 the Alhambra was established as a Royal House. The Emperor Carlos V demolishes part of the architectural complex to build the Palace that bears his name in 1526, along with other Renaissance-style buildings, such as the Peinador de la Reina or the rooms of the Emperor.

The Alhambra was abandoned in the 18th century. During the French domination, part of the fortress was blown up and its repair, restoration and conservation did not begin until the 19th century, and it is still maintained.

The Alhambra is an unsurpassed example of how light and water offer important decorative effects to architecture. A careful choice of materials makes its ornamentation change according to the incidence of light. The water works as a mirror reflecting the architecture and decorative elements, contributing to a feeling of peace. Furthermore, in combination with the light, it creates illusory compositions and softens the horizontal architecture, as can be seen in the Patio de los Arrayanes.


To visit the Alhambra, a must see in Granada, is to visit one of the most significant historical places in Spain. This Unesco World Heritage Site is, without doubt, of paramount importance in southern Spain. Our recommendations to most travelers is to book in advance. The Alhambra has many visitors and considering the restricted numbers allowed per day due to conservation regulations, early booking is the safest choice for anyone.

1. Buy your Alhambra tickets and plan your visit in advance. During the busiest periods you should book at least 3 months in advance. Buy the tickets on line and print them out to avoid queuing at the ticket office. When doing so you will have to select the time to enter the Nasrid Palaces. The tickets are nominative and sold for a specific date and time restriction. Please be on time!!

2. Carry your photo ID with you during your visit, which must correspond with the name on the ticket, as you will have to show it several times through the visit with your ticket when entering the different areas of the tour.

3. To cover everything, you need a whole morning or afternoon. As there is much to see and visit, it is better to do it at a slow pace to make the most of it. Therefore, if your travel schedule permits, consider devoting a whole day to it. But if your time is short, make sure at least to visit the Nasrid Palaces, the most popular of the whole complex as they evoke the heritage and Muslim history of Granada.

4. We suggested taking a guided tour or if not, take your guide book with you, as there is not much informative signage throughout the complex and a lot to learn about the history, art and the beauty of the Alhambra.

5. Children under 12 years of age can enter for free, but you have to select a ticket for them when buying your own tickets. Having a ticket is a guarantee for any incident that may occur at the monument. For children under 3, you can ask for the ticket in the ticket office. No booking required.

6. The Alhambra is about 20 to 30-minute walk from the city center. It is fairly steep climb so pace yourself. It is just 900 meters from Art Chapiz short term Apartments through La Cuesta de los Chinos, a beautiful walk up the hill through the Alhambra and Generalife forest. You can also take the Alhambra bus (routes C30 or C32) up to the main entrance (Alhambra-Generalife) from the city center, Isabel La Catolica Square, living every 8-12 minutes. C32 route also connects the Alhambra with the Albaicin and Art Chapiz holiday rental apartments, right off Peso de la Harina bus stop. You can take the C32 bus right by the apartments and be at the Alhambra-Generalife entrance in 10-15 minutes. Check the bus schedule at Cuesta del Chapiz-Peso de la Harina bus stop.

7. Space of the month is a special program run by the Council of the Alhambra that allows visitors to see new areas of the Alhambra, usually closed to the general public. Each month they select one space and it can be accessed with the general ticket.

8. The Alhambra can be visited all year round. It can get very hot in the peak summer months of July and August, for which, early morning visits are recommended.

9. The night visit is an extraordinary experience. The light inside the palaces at night better reflects the beauty of the stucco and wood work. Keep in mind though, that not all the areas that are accessible during the day are open for the night visit. Also, the use of camera tripods are not allowed in the premises.

10. Make sure you take water with you and even a snack, there are many spectacular places to rest (you will need to), relax and eat, admiring the views of the surrounding Albaicin district, Sacromonte quarter or the far but majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains.

What are the Nasrid Palaces?

The Nasrid Palaces was the residence of sultans of Granada, a set of palaces and courtyards built at different times: Patio de los Leones, Salón del Trono, Patio y Cuarto Dorado, Palacio de Comares, Patio de los Arrayanes, The Mexuar, Court of the Myrtles, the Ambassadors’ Room. etc.

alhambra the court of the myrtles water fountain feed main pond in the back

What is the Alcazaba?

It is the oldest part of the Alhambra, fortified military enclosure with towers and surveillance posts where the soldiers lived: the famous Torre de la Vela with stunning views of Granada and the Albaicin, Torre Quebrada, Torre del Homenaje, Torre de la Polvora, Torre del Cubo, etc.

alhambra alcazaba tower with granada in the background

What is the Generalife?

The Generalife is country estate with beautiful gardens used by the Sultans of Granada as a place of rest and summer residence. It includes the Jardines Bajos, Patio del Cipres de la Sultana, Escalera del Agua, Mirador Romántico, Patio de la Acequia, Viewpoint of Ismail, etc.

alhambra Generalife garden seen through muslim arches