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  13. Spain: Granada, Andalusia –...

Set in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Andalusia is one of Spain's most popular tourist attractions

Our plan for the day was to tour the Alhambra, a large palace and fortress complex that sits high on a hill high above the old city of Granada. It is one, if not the most visited tourist site in the whole of Spain. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the inspiration for many songs and stories.

The Alhambra translates from Arabic as “The Red One”, was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 AD on the remains of Roman fortifications, and was then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered to Renaissance tastes. In 1526 Charles IV commissioned a new Renaissance palace, which was ultimately never completed due to Morisco rebellions in Granada.

From our hotel, it was 25 minutes to the Alhambra, a walk that took us up cobbled streets and through the park that sits outside the palace walls. I had bought tickets for myself and Karen to do the full 3-hour tour, but I had decided not to drag Jack and Emily screaming and kicking along with us. They were still able to do the parts of the palace that are open to the general public, which was probably enough for them.

Whilst we were milling around outside Alhambra, getting a sense of where to head, we were approached by a friendly local chap who was happy to give us directions. He then wanted to clean our shoes – I had on sandals and everyone else had trainers. I let him do mine and he had a half-hearted attempt to do Jack’s. He wanted to charge $10 each for this and got nasty – so I paid him $10 and left. Experiences like that can add sourness to the day!

The tour started at the main gate and was divided into four sections.

The renaissance palace is typical of its age and is large and rectangular. On the inside, it is constructed around a central courtyard – which is massive. All the rooms lead off this courtyard, with a double-storey of cloisters to protect those travelling from room to room from the hot summer sun. The courtyard had been turned into an auditorium for events run here throughout the summer months.

The Alhmabra
The Renaissance palace inside the Alhambra
Inside the Renaissance palace of the Alhmabra - now a concert venue

The next stop was the Nasrid Palaces built by the Moorish Emirs, which was what we were most looking forward to. The decorative designs on the walls and tiles were exquisite. There were numerous delicately carved, symmetrical designs carved into the plasterwork throughout the palace. Originally, these carvings would have been coloured, but the passage of time has seen these fade, but nonetheless this work was still beautiful. Sadly, some of the carvings had been damaged by people of Granda who the occupied palace when the Moors and Spanish royalty left. During this time there was much damage but surprisingly, and luckily for us, a lot of the original work survived and is now preserved by the City of Grenada who owns the palaces and grounds. We passed from one room to another and were amazed at the size and scale of the palaces. The most spectacular of all are the residences of the Emirs and their families; especially the harems.

Views across to the surrounding hills from the Alhambra
A tower and gardens of the Alhambra
Peak through the bushes
Entering the palace at the Alhambra
Inside a reception room within the Emir's palace
Exquisite Arabic script carvings
Beautiful tile work inside the Emir's palace
The artwork inside the Alhambra is stunning
Private courtyard with beautiful carvings and tiles
The Emir's family private courtyard
Delicated ceiling artwork
Beautfiul scalloped designs on a wall
Intricate designs etched in plaster
The arches in the colonnades around this courtyard were amazing
The decorations above this door were stunning
The most delicate carvings on the ceiling
Light passing through a stained glass window on the ceiling reflects on the wall
The stained glass ceiling
The artist Washnigton Irving (author of the 'Headless Horseman') visited here
A courtyard inside the Emir's Palace
The grounds of the Alhambra

After the tour of the palaces, we moved on to the Alcazaba, which is the oldest part of the complex. Its tall walls and imposing towers provided protection from potential invaders and was an impressive vantage point to see any approaching armies for miles around. The main tower is the highest point in the Alhambra and gave us the most spectacular views across the city below.

The Alcazaba
The fort tower - an ideal viewpoint to see any oncoming enemy

The final destination of the tour was the Palacio de Generalife, which was the summer palace and country estate of the Nasrid rulers of the Emirate of Granada. It was a little walk from the main palaces, which took us through a series of spectacular gardens. The palace itself was humble compared to the grandeur of the main palaces of the complex but it had an amazing feeling of peace within it. At the start of the tour we thought 3 hours may be too long, but there was so much to see and the time just flew by. We had an amazing guide who bought the history and culture alive at every turn.

The gardens of the Palacio de Generalife
View from Palacio de Generalife across to the Alhambra
The gardens of the Generalife
Looking back up at the Alhambra from Granada

About The Alhambra

 

Address:C. Real de la Alhambra, s/n, 18009 Granada
Website:https://www.alhambra-patronato.es/visitar
Telephone:T: +34 958 02 79 71
Hours:
October 15 to March 31
Daytime: 08:30 to 18:00  Evening: 20:00 to 21:30
April 1 to October 14: 
Daytime: 08:30 to 20:00   Evening: 22:00 to 23:30
Fees – Museum
Day visit: €14:00 Night visit: € 8:00. Visiting just the gardens/Generalife Palace is costs less. 

Getting to Granada

If you want to fly to Granada airport, you need to catch an international flight to Barcelona or Madrid and then a domestic flight to Granada. There are many more flights to Málaga so many people fly to Málaga and then catch a bus or hire a car

It is best to use public transport to get to Granada. The bus is faster than the train. Buses leave from Málaga bus station and arrive at Granada bus station. The journey takes between 90 minutes (11.56€) and 120 minutes (13.86€). The price of a return ticket is double the price of a one-way ticket so there is no saving in buying a return.

Remember that the only point in having a car in the centre of Granada is for going on excursions. Once you are in the centre of Granada you can walk everywhere or get a taxi. Parking your car in a public car park will normally cost at least 25 euros per day but a new car park has opened which costs 40 euros per week.

The Spanish road network has improved a lot in the last 20 years and there are good roads to all other Spanish cities. It takes about 5 hours to Madrid, 11 hours to Barcelona, 90 minutes to Málaga

Best time to visit Granada

The best time to visit Granada is in May and June as well as September and October. From May to June, temperatures are cool, flowers are fully bloomed and some of the city’s biggest cultural events fill up the calendar. Though summer in Spain may sound like a romantic idea, Granada’s position in the southern tip of Europe yields daily temps in the 80s and 90s during July and August, making for a potentially uncomfortable getaway. Winter is an option for those seeking off-peak deals, but with the nearby skiing available at the Sierra Nevada Mountains, prices may vary depending on where you’re staying. In addition to May and June, September and October are also ideal times to visit. These months boast temperatures similar to those seen in spring but come nightfall, temperatures from October onward get cooler and cooler. 

Where to stay in Granada

1. HOTEL PALACIO DE SANTA PAULA

An upscale option for your stay in Granada is the Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula, Autograph Collection is on Granada’s Gran Vía, a main street through the historic centre. It occupies the former 14th-century Casa Morisco, and 16th-century Santa Paula Convent, with its impressive cloister.

The hotel is a protected building, which retains features from the past, mixed with luxury modern facilities. It has a gym, sauna and Turkish bath.

2. HOTEL CASA 1800 GRANADA

Ideally located in the Albaicin district of Granada, Hotel Casa 1800 Granada is located a few steps from San Juan de Dios Museum, 350 feet from Albaicin and 1,300 feet from Granada Cathedral. With a shared lounge, the 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi.

Popular points of interest near Hotel Casa 1800 Granada include Paseo de los Tristes, Alhambra and Generalife and Basilica de San Juan de Dios.

3. ECO HOSTEL & CO-WORKING

ECO Hostel & Coworking is not just accommodation, it´s an experience. A place made by and for travellers and families. Designed for digital nomads and adventurers who want to socialize and enjoy the vibes of a hostel but with spacious, cool rooms and private areas to rest, enjoy or work. Big common areas with plenty of different options to spend your time in a funky and relaxing environment making it easy to connect with travellers, combining ECO-friendly accommodation and social hostel atmosphere ECO Hostel & Coworking is located in a beautiful 1900 Modernist building completely renovated but preserving the essence and soul of the house. An Andalusian jewel that has 4 floors: on the ground floor is the front desk, a cafeteria, a patio and a beautiful Coworking space.

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