Alhambra – palace, gardens, photos
The Alhambra is an impressive architectural and park complex, which includes ancient palaces, a fortress and gardens of Muslim rulers and is considered to be the highest achievement of Moorish architects in Western Europe. The Alhambra is now a museum of Islamic art and culture, which is visited annually from around the world.
The Alhambra is located on top of a rocky plateau in the eastern Sierra Nevada.
The name “Alhambra” literally translates from Arabic as “red castle.” Some attribute it to the color of the sun-dried clay from which the palaces were built; others believe the name came from the “red flames of torches” that illuminated the castle during the years of construction.
History of the Alhambra
The development of the Alhambra is connected with the Muslim conquerors of the Iberian Peninsula who came to the territory of southern Spain in the 8th century. During the reign of the Muslim Nasrid dynasty (1230-1492), Granada became the capital of the Moorish possessions on the territory of Spain – the Emirate of Granada.
Moorish emirs wished to create a piece of paradise on the conquered lands of sunny Spain – so among the shady gardens of Granada emerged the Alhambra, which became the residence of emirs-conquerors. At that time the extensive complex, enclosed by fortress walls with towers, included mosques, houses, baths, gardens, warehouses, a cemetery. The palaces of the Alhambra, mainly dating from the 14th century, are extant today.
The Alhambra Gardens
The Alhambra’s beautiful gardens, patios and terraces with fountains, cascades, canals and ponds, with many fine arches, vaults, columns or patterned carved windows, are a harmonious combination of the interior decoration. All this splendor is decorated with fanciful Arabic ligatures, vegetal ornaments, colorful mosaics, ceramic tiles, carved patterns on wood and stone.
Water and light play an important role in the overall composition of the Alhambra. Water sparkles with splashes of fountains, gurgles in the channels and friskily flows in the cascades, filling the reservoirs. All this on a vast area surrounded by fragrant orange trees, cypress alleys and flowerbeds.
Water from the Sierra Nevada mountain slopes filled the canals and fountains of the Alhambra and was the element the Moors valued most. Fountains, streams and waterfalls are no less a characteristic part of architecture for the Arabs than columns were for the Greeks. It is no coincidence that the inscription on the fountain in the Lion’s Courtyard says: “Look at the water and look at the reservoir, and you will not be able to decide whether the water is calm or the marble is flowing.
The road to the Alhambra from Granada follows the slope of the Cuesta de Gomérez through a park area extending from the Pomegranate Gate to the Gate of Justice, which was in Moorish times the main entrance to the Alhambra residence.
The great arches of the horseshoe-shaped gate bear inscriptions in Arabic script: “Praise God. There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet. There is no other authority but God’s.”
The architecture of the Alhambra
The Alhambra is a complex of courtyards, rooms, passages and towers, each of which had its original purpose and features. The very names of many of them are eloquent: “Myrtle courtyard”, decorated with evergreen myrtle trellises.
The “Two Sisters’ Hall” gets its name from two huge slabs of white marble built into the floor. The tiling and stucco decoration of the Hall of Two Sisters may be the most beautiful in the entire Alhambra. The honeycomb-shaped dome is the largest of the Arab stalactite vaults, comprising some 5,000 cells.
“The Court of the Lions” is so named because of the fountain around which the statues of the twelve predators are frozen.
The Chamber of Ambassadors was created for court celebrations of official ceremonies. The dome of this room is decorated with a star pattern that twinkles in the high altitude.
Of particular interest are the many towers of the Alhambra, with decorated lobbies, pools and beautiful views of the surroundings from the tops of the towers. The easternmost part of the Alhambra Palace is occupied by the Torre de las Damas, a defensive tower with an adjoining vaulted hall, a swimming pool and a small mosque.
In sharp contrast to the rest of the architecture of the ensemble is a later structure – the Palace of Carlos V, built in the Alhambra in the 16th century by order of King Charles V of Rome. The square structure hides a circular courtyard with an Ionic colonnade on the upper floor and Tuscan columns on the lower. At present the palace is a concert venue for music and dance performances. The interior of the Palace of Carlos V houses the Alhambra Archaeological Museum and the Granada Museum of Fine Arts.
Tickets to the Alhambra are sold for one of the following periods: morning, afternoon or evening. You must come strictly in the specified period.
The Alhambra’s opening hours are from 8.30 am to 2 pm, from 2 pm to 6 pm, from 8 pm to 9.30 pm in winter, from October 15 to March 14; from 8.30 am to 2 pm, from 2 pm to 8 pm, from 10 pm to 11.30 pm in summer.
The cost of a general ticket for the Alhambra – 14 Euros Children 12-15 years old – 8 Euros Children under 12 years old are free of charge Adults from 65 years old and retired people EU – 9 Euros Disabled people – 8 Euros Evening admission – 8 Euros
Guided tour – €55.
Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office (cash) and terminals (bank cards) at the entrance. Tickets are valid only on the day of purchase, so come to get tickets is better with a reserve.
We advise you to buy tickets in advance at the Tienda de la Alhambra store in Granada or by calling La Caixa bank phone: 902 88 80 01 for Spain or +34 958 926 031 for calls from abroad.
The average length of the route through the Alhambra complex is 3.5 km. It will take at least 3 hours to see all the sights comfortably.
If you are going to the south of Spain, be sure to visit the Alhambra, a priceless legacy of the Moorish past. We will help you organize interesting individual or group excursions to the most unforgettable and unique places of the country.
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Tags: granada, andalucía, alhambra, tours, unesco, architecture, history, gardens, self-guided tour, fountains
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