Deriving its name from an Arabic word, meaning “the red“, Granada’s Alhambra is a mystic beauty of an Arabian palace. The palace is situated on a hill, which overlooks the city. Alhambra’s name comes from the reddish tint that is clearly visible on the stones that were used to build the palace. Its perfection in everything from architecture to symmetry is alluring even to the momentary passerby. Amazingly, the palace has survived through the ages from its days of glory when the Moors ruled Spain to its present-state in nearly unblemished condition. If one were to take the tourists and visitors out, then one you could almost imagine the Moorish lifestyle before them. The gardens, water canals, and fountains have been preserved in recent years by the Spanish government and add to its appeal and realness.
History and Background
Through the years Alhambra, and the area that it was built on, has been used as a fortress, palace, shelter, and most recently a museum. Originally constructed around the year 890, the Alhambra began as a fortress. Later Moorish kings used it as a palace. Eventually, it was abandoned for many years until the Spanish began to use it again as a royal palace or castle in the 16th Century.
When one walks through the Alhambra, you will notice the many different influences from the different periods when rulers added on. The Moor fortress still stands, but it is only the beginning of the grounds. There is also a Spanish palace there. And of course the most famous area where the Arabian palace is complete with hamams, places for worship, and excerpts from the Quran, the Alhambra has all the features of a true Arabian palace.
Facts about the Alhambra
1.) Its name is derived from an Arabic word meaning in feminine form meaning “the red”. The name refers to the reddish tent of the blocks used to build it.
2.) The Alhambra was not build all at once so many of the buildings are not built in unison.
3.) The Alhambra was abandoned for many years and at one point was the home of homeless people and gypsy communities.
5.) Contrary to popular belief, the Alhambra is not just one building. The name refers to the entire area of construction built on the hill. This includes, a 9th century Arabian Citadel (Alcazaba), 14th Century Moorish Palaces, a 16th Century Spanish Palace, Generalife (a Moorish villa dating to the 14th Century), and other relics.
6.) The Alhambra has been set in several books and movies including Paulo Coelho’s famous novel The Alchemist.
7.) Many of the Alhambra’s works are carved completely by hand out of stucco and other materials.
8.) The Alhambra area covers over 1,500,000 square feet.
Getting to the Alhambra
You can take a vehicle or bus up the main road, but I walked. There is a nice trail that follows the Darro river (or Río Darro). It starts near the Albaicín neighborhood of Granada and runs up to the entrance of the entrance. You can find it by walking through Plaza Nueva and continuing towards the Alhambra with the River at your right.
Cost of Tickets to Alhambra
When I visited the Alhambra, it cost around 13€ (as of 2014). You can purchase different packages with audio-guides, tours, or with admittance to less buildings, but the ticket that I purchased covered the costs of all entrances. With that, I got to see the Spanish Palace, church, citadel, and Arabian Palace. Just a reminder that on your ticket you should have a specific entrance time to the Arabian palace as there is high demand to see it. (In my opinion that Arabian palace is what you pay for if you cannot tell from the pictures.)
It is important to note that there are only a limited number of tickets to the Alhambra palace. If you don’t purchase it in advance, then there is a small chance that you will not be able to get a ticket to enter. I did not buy in advance and just showed up early, but when I finally got my ticket the counter said that there were only 65 left to sell. I arrived around 9-10am. Keep in mind that there are also night tickets as well.
A good travel hack for Granada is that you can purchase your tickets to the Alhambra from any Caixa bank, assuming there are still tickets available. Check to ensure that this is still a valid process as it could save you some time waiting in line.