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What to see at the Alhambra Palace

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

10 min read

What to see at the Alhambra Palace

Dimitri B.

The Alhambra is a treasure of Islamic architecture that Sultan Alhamar, founder of the Nasrid dynasty, ordered to build in the mid-13th century on the Sabika hill as a military building to protect himself from his enemies. It later became the royal residence and court of Granada until 1492, when the Catholic Monarchs completed the Reconquest of Spain and the Alhambra passed into Christian hands.

Whether you have the entries to the Alhambra: to tour it on your own or join one of the guided tours of the Alhambra:, take note of what you can't miss:

1. The Alcazaba

View of the Alhambra | ©William Juten de Vasconcellos
View of the Alhambra | ©William Juten de Vasconcellos

It is a building of military character where the army resided to defend the perimeter. It is believed that the first to be built was the Alcazaba on the remains of an ancient castle.

It comprises the western end of the palatine city and is the most outstanding part of it if we contemplate it from any viewpoint in Granada.

2. Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas | ©Roberto Chamoso G - Wikipedia
Plaza de Armas | ©Roberto Chamoso G - Wikipedia

At the end of a cobblestone slope is located the Plaza de Armas, which was the original entrance to the Alcazaba. It consisted of a group of buildings where different services were provided to the inhabitants of the fortress.

3. Tower of the Weapons

View of the towers of the Alhambra
View of the towers of the Alhambra
image|url=https://res.cloudinary.com/hello-tickets/image/upload/v1624523792/post_images/granada-212/Qu%C3%A9%20ver%20en%20la%20Alhambra/dimitry-b-Hrk7xP26IiM-unsplash.jpg|caption=View of the towers of the Alhambra ©Dimitry B:::

Located on the north wall, the Torre de las Armas gave access to the Alcazaba complex from the area of the Darro River. In this way the Nasrid palace communicated with the Albaicín neighborhood by means of an elevated bridge known as Puente de Los Tableros.

4. Torre de la Vela

Detail of the Alhambra | ©Victor He
Detail of the Alhambra | ©Victor He

It receives its name from "La Vela", the bell that the Christians rang in this place to celebrate the end of the Reconquest in 1492. For this reason it is also known as Torre de la Campana, which tolls every January 2nd to commemorate the victory of the Catholic Monarchs.

5. Garden of the Adarves (Jardín de los Adarves)

Alhambra | © Jorge Fernández Salas
Alhambra | © Jorge Fernández Salas

This is one of the corners of the Alhambra in Granada that you will like the most when you see it because from its balcony you will be able to contemplate wonderful views of the Sierra Nevada, the Torres Bermejas, the Vega and the city. So you can't miss it! You will find it at the entrance of the Alcazaba.

6. The Palace of Charles V

Facade Charles V Palace © © Ingo Mehling - Own work - Wikipedia
Facade Charles V Palace © © Ingo Mehling - Own work - Wikipedia
:

It is located next to the Nasrid palaces and is one of the finest Renaissance works to be found outside Italy. Emperor Charles V ordered to build it in the sixteenth century in order to enjoy Granada and its Alhambra, for which he felt a real fascination.

Admission to the palace is free and it is worth a visit because it is unique in its style. It stands out for its circular courtyard in the center of this square building, which demonstrates a high knowledge of Roman imperial architecture. If you take a guided tour of the Alhambra:, the guide will make a mandatory stop here.

In addition, the Palace of Charles V houses the Alhambra Museum (dedicated to Hispano-Muslim and Nasrid art) and the Museum of Fine Arts (whose works come mostly from convents and monasteries such as La Merced, La Cartuja or San Francisco, among many others).

7. The Nasrid Palaces

Palacios Nazaríes | ©Tuxyso - Wikipedia
Palacios Nazaríes | ©Tuxyso - Wikipedia

The Nasrid Palaces were the buildings where the kings of Granada resided. They are composed of three independent buildings known as the Mexuar (audience area), the palace of Comares (official house of the king) and the Palace of the Lions (the harem and the abode of the royal family).

The Nazaríes Palaces are the most visited part and one of the ones I liked the most along with the Generalife. Here you will find such beautiful spaces as the hall of Ambassadors (the symbolic center of Nasrid power), the hall of the Abencerrajes (the king's bedroom), the hall of the Kings (the sultan's council room) or the courtyard of the Lions (an allegory of paradise).

Note the delicate epigraphic inscriptions in classical Arabic carved in plaster or wood that are scattered on the walls and ceilings of the Alhambra.

The Mexuar

The hall of the Mexuar is the first area that we find when we enter the Nasrid Palaces and the oldest building of the three. In this place was where the sultan would impart justice, held hearings or met the council of ministers.

The Comares Palace

The Palace of Comares was the official residence of the sultan and the site of the Nasrid throne room. As you can see, its decoration stands out for its richness, as both wanted to astonish visitors with the power of their dynasty, and they succeeded, don't you think?

The Palace of the Lions

Within the Nasrid Palaces, this building corresponded to the abode of the royal family and the harem of the sultan. If you are looking for the famous Patio de los Leones that you have seen countless times in photographs, take out your camera because it is here.

8. Golden Room

Patio of the Palace of Charles V | ©Ra-smit - Own work - Wikipedia
Patio of the Palace of Charles V | ©Ra-smit - Own work - Wikipedia
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The secretaries of the Islamic court used this room to write down and execute the rulings of the sultan. It is known as the Golden Room because of the beautiful wooden ceiling that covers this room, whose original decoration belonged to the time of Mohammed V.

9. Hall of the Abencerrajes

Patio de los leones | ©José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro - Own work - Wikipedia
Patio de los leones | ©José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro - Own work - Wikipedia
:

On the south side of the Patio de los Leones you will see the Hall of the Abencerrajes, which apparently was the sultan's bedchamber.

In this room of the Alhambra in Granada you will be struck by the spectacular dome that decorates the ceiling but do not lose sight of the fountain in the center because it has a somewhat disturbing story. Ask your guide to tell it to you because you will hallucinate!

10. Hall of the Kings

Patio de los leones | ©José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro - Own work - Wikipedia
Patio de los leones | ©José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro - Own work - Wikipedia
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To the east of the Patio of the Lions is located the Room of the Kings, the longest of the Harem named after the painting that appears on the vault of the central alcove, which is believed to represent the first ten kings of the Nasrid dynasty.

Given the dimensions of this room in the Alhambra of Granada, it seems that it was used for receptions and parties or as a summer room to rest and escape the heat.

11. Hall of the two Sisters

The Alhambra, Granada | ©Jebulon - Own work - Wikipedia
The Alhambra, Granada | ©Jebulon - Own work - Wikipedia
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Originally, this room was created to serve as the Sultan's new mexuar although it is better known for being the residence of Sultana Aisha, the mother of Boabdil (last king of Granada), when she was repudiated by her husband Muley Hacén.

12. Corridor and Hall of Carlos V

Torre de la cautiva | ©Alfaguara56 - Own work - Wikipedia
Torre de la cautiva | ©Alfaguara56 - Own work - Wikipedia
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The emperor Charles V was always in love with the Alhambra in Granada so he ordered to build here his quarters and an office from which to direct his empire.

Did you know that the writer Washington Irving also stayed here during his visit to Granada in the 19th century? How many stories this palace must have inspired?

13. El Partal

El Partal | ©From Jim Gordon - originally posted to Flickr
El Partal | ©From Jim Gordon - originally posted to Flickr

El Partal is an area that houses the remains of the former residence of King Muhammad III. In this area you can still see the palace El Partal with a portico with five arches, a beautiful central pool and the famous Torre de las Damas, which dates from the 14th century and is one of the oldest buildings in the Alhambra. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful parts of the visit.

14. Calle Real Alta - La Medina

Torre de las Infantas | ©De Pattiz - Own work - Wikipedia
Torre de las Infantas | ©De Pattiz - Own work - Wikipedia
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In the upper part of the Alhambra is located the Medina, a residential, administrative and religious area equipped with stores, public baths and mosques where lived the officials, nobles and artisans who covered the needs of the palatine city. Its main streets were Calle Real Baja, Calle Real Alta and Calle de Ronda.

Today the old convent of San Francisco is preserved here, which has been converted into a Parador Nacional de turismo.

15. Generalife Garden

Gardines of the Generalife | ©Michal Osmenda - Own work - Wikipedia
Gardines of the Generalife | ©Michal Osmenda - Own work - Wikipedia
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The Generalife was the summer villa of the Nasrid kings located on the Cerro del Sol and one of the few almunias that have survived from medieval times in all of Al-Andalus.

Its gardens were conceived for the rest and recreation of the sultans of Granada. They were filled with ornamental orchards, vegetable gardens and perfectly manicured courtyards.

16. Generalife Palace

Far view of the Generalife | ©Aida M. - Own work - Wikipedia
Far view of the Generalife | ©Aida M. - Own work - Wikipedia
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When the sultans of Granada wanted to escape for a while from the formalities of the court they would go to the Palacio del Generalife, a place designed for relaxation and rest. This is another of the most beautiful spaces of the Alhambra in Granada where you will surely want to take pictures and videos galore.

17. The gardens of the Partal

El Partal | ©Mihael Grmek - Own work - Wikipedia
El Partal | ©Mihael Grmek - Own work - Wikipedia

The gardens of El Partal are a fantastic place to stroll around during a visit to the Alhambra in Granada. They extend from the exit of the Rauda to the Torre de las Damas. In the past, the gardens surrounding the royal palaces and the residences of the Nasrid nobility were located in this same place.

18. Royal Cemetery or La Rauda

Puerta de las Granadasl | ©Harvey Barrison - Own work - Wikipedia
Puerta de las Granadasl | ©Harvey Barrison - Own work - Wikipedia
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Located between the Nasrid palaces and the palace of Charles V, la Rauda is the only cemetery of the monumental complex that remains today. It was intended for the Nasrid royal family but today remains empty as Boabdil, the last king of Granada, moved all the tombs to a village in the mountains.


Tickets for the Alhambra

The Alhambra of Granada ©Jorge Fernandez Salas
The Alhambra of Granada ©Jorge Fernandez Salas

The mythical Alhambra is one of the most beautiful monuments in Spain that every year breaks visitor records.

You can imagine that to see a place like this the best thing to do is to get the tickets to the Alhambra in Granada online and at least a month or two in advance of your trip if you do not want to run the risk of running out of them and having to queue endlessly at the ticket office to try to get them at the last minute. In Hellotickets: you can compare prices, schedules and availability of tickets and guided tours.

How much do tickets cost?

I recommend you take a look at the tickets to the Alhambra in Granada in Hellotickets because there are several options and the prices are quite tight, between 30 and 40 euros approximately.

Compare tickets and tours for the Alhambra.

Organize your visit to the Alhambra.

View from arched window | ©Petr Slovacek
View from arched window | ©Petr Slovacek

A monument with so much history and so much art as this you will get more out of it if you visit it with a guide because he will explain anecdotes, secrets and details that you probably do not know and that if you see it on your own would probably go unnoticed.

How to get to the Alhambra

There are several options to climb the Alhambra in Granada.

  • By bus: Several city bus lines arrive at the monument, such as the C30, the C32 and the C35.
  • By car: Cars enter through the Ronda Sur (A-395). Go to the Granada ring road (N-323/ A-44) heading south (Motril). When you have skirted the city you will see the direction Alhambra (Ronda Sur) to the parking lot of the monument where you can park your car.
  • Walking: Leaving the Plaza Nueva take the slope of Gomérez. When you reach the Puerta de las Granadas, turn left and continue to the Puerta de la Justicia, which serves as the entrance to the Alhambra.

How long does it take to tour the Alhambra.

About 3 hours with a 30 minute queue at the entrance.

Compare tickets and tours for the Alhambra.

Other interesting places around: the viewpoint of San Nicolas.

You may not know it but the sunset at the Alhambra in Granada is considered the most beautiful in Spain. The best view is from the San Nicolás viewpoint in the Albaicín neighborhood.

From here you will have the best panoramic view of the monument with the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop - it's magical!

Isabel's Traveller Tip

During the visit you will walk a distance of about 3.5 km in total, so remember to wear comfortable shoes!