The alhambra is one of spain's and europe's most important sights and should not be missed during your trip to andalusia. The UNESCO world heritage site towers proudly over granada and can also be admired and photographed from other parts of the city.
Especially from the opposite neighborhood albaicin, which is also located on another hill above the old town of granada, you will get an insane view of the alhambra. Even with the mighty and often snow-capped mountains of the sierra nevada in the background.
The castle area is not exactly small at 13 hectares, so take plenty of time for your visit. The most important information about the alhambra, such as history, individual areas, opening hours and much more, we have compiled in this article.
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Alhambra – history and importance
To give you a first insight into the castle, we tell you briefly and crisply the most important facts about the history and significance of the alhambra.
As with most important buildings in andalusia, you will immediately notice the typical arabic architecture of the alhambra. No miracle! Although the hill was inhabited in pre-roman times, the first part of the castle was built by the moors after they conquered the iberian peninsula in the 7th century. Conquered from north africa in the sixteenth century.
It is believed that the name "alhambra" has its roots in the arabic term qasr al-hamrā' ("the red palace"). What sounds absolutely logical by the reddish coloring of the wall stones.
During the caliphate of cordoba the castle was rebuilt in the 9th century. Century for the first time documentary mentioned and in the following centuries further developed.
But it was not until the first nasrid king mohammed I. In the 13. When the alhambra first moved to granada from jaen in the sixteenth century, it was first used as a seat of power. Only from this moment the reddish walls began to blossom properly.
The king had the watchtower and the tower of honor built, secured the water supply from the darro river, and began the masonry work, which was completed by his descendants mohammed II. And mohammed III. Were continued. In addition, in the 14. In the seventeenth century, a public bath and a mosque.
However, as we know and admire the alhambra today, we have jusuf I. And mohammed V. To the kings: they built it in the 14th century. Century the gate of the justice (puerta de la justicia), the comares palace, the barque hall, the lion court and decorated the walls and towers.
In addition, there are buildings of the catholic monarchs, after they had been. The palace of charles V is one of the monuments of the reconquest of spain in the sixteenth century., the imperial chambers and the dressing room of the kings.
The history of the alhambra has a lot to offer and also a few years on the humpback.
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What to see in the alhambra?
As you can probably already imagine, the alhambra is quite large and consists of several buildings and gardens worth seeing.
Some of them you can visit freely, others require an entrance ticket. The following are the most interesting buildings of the alhambra.
The nazarite palaces
Although mohammed I. Who was the founder of the nasrid dynasty and the first muslim ruler to move to the alhambra, the nasrid palaces were not restored until his descendants, mohammed V. And jusuf I. Built.
The comares palace with its tower and throne room, which was the official residence of the king, the lion palace, where his harem was located, the myrtle court with its large rectangular water basin and the mexuar, the administrative wing.
The nasrid palaces are the heart of the alhambra and probably the most beautiful buildings, full of arabesques, beautiful decorations and artistic water and gardens.
The visit is absolutely worthwhile, but you need the special ticket for the nazarite palaces, which is valid only for certain times. More info in our article about alhambra tickets.
The palace of carl V.
Charles the fifth's palace after the catholic monarchs took over, it was not until 1527 that the emperor of the same name commissioned. Unfortunately, a part of the nasrid palaces had to be used, which the habsburg emperor had demolished in order to build his renaissance palace in the alhambra.
Unfortunately, due to lack of money, the palace was never finished and got a roof only in 1929. By the way, the emperor never lived there. A complete success therefore!
The building itself has an imposing circular courtyard with a diameter of 31 meters and a two-story columned gallery.
Inside the palace is the museum of the alhambra and also the museo de bellas artes de granada, the museum of fine arts.
The alcazaba in the alhambra
The alcazaba is the name of the bulwark of the alhambra, i.E. The outer walls and towers that served as a defense. Together with the red towers (torres bermejas) they form the oldest part of the alhambra, which has been in use since the 9th century. Century exists.
The alcazaba includes the armory square, which was the original entrance to the alcazaba, the armory tower, which stands on the northern wall of the fortress, the nearly 27 meter high watchtower and the gardens on the fortress wall (jardines de los adarves).
The generalife palace
The generalife palace was the summer palace of the kings and stands on the slopes of the cerro del sol. From there you can enjoy a magnificent view over the valley and the rivers genil and darro.
The generalife was built in the 13th century. In the 14th century still before the comares palace (official seat of the ruler inside the alhambra). The building is separated from the alhambra by a ravine and was not officially part of the fortified city, serving strictly as a retreat for the kings.
Most tickets to the alhambra also include a visit to the generalife, which you can reach with a relaxing walk under cypress trees.
The beautiful alhambra gardens
Throughout the area of the alhambra there are various gardens that can be visited and invite you to take a breather. All are beautifully manicured, with green hedges, mediterranean plants, water pools and fountains that make up typical spanish-arabic gardens.
The most beautiful gardens of the alhambra are the comares courtyard with its long water basin and green myrtle bushes, the gardens along the fortress wall, the daraxa gardens with their cypress and orange trees and the terraced partal gardens.
Alhambra opening hours
The alhambra opens daily at 8:30 a.M., with the ticket office opening as early as 8:00 a.M. Only in winter, that is from 15. October until 14. March, the site closes again already at 18:00, while in summer it closes only at 20:00.
For the nasrid palaces, the gardens and the generalife there are also evening visits on offer, as they are artfully illuminated at late hours and the temperatures are also more pleasant (especially in summer).
For evening visits to the nasrid palaces, generalife and gardens, the following hours apply:
Alhambra entrance fees & tickets
There are several tickets you can buy for your visit to the alhambra. Depending on the time of day you want to go in and which parts of the complex you want to see.
Important note: tickets for the alhambra are often booked up weeks in advance. Therefore better buy the right ticket in time!
All tickets can be ordered online and picked up on site. For more info on prices and different ticket options, check out our dedicated article: buying alhambra tickets – the best prices and tips for booking
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Hotels in the alhambra
You would like to experience living like one of the moorish rulers in the alhambra? Go! There is a top hotel inside the fortress and another one right outside. You can book both hotels easily on the internet.
Parador de granada
This 4-star hotel is located in the middle of the alhambra and is housed in a 15th century monastery. Century accommodated. It has a typical enclosed garden with fountain, elegantly and traditionally furnished rooms and a typical andalusian restaurant.
Alhambra palace hotel
This hotel also has 4 stars, but is located just outside the walls of the alhambra. Nevertheless, from its windows you have a wonderful view over granada, since it is also located on the sabikah hill, just like the alhambra.
The hotel is furnished and decorated in a typical andalusian-moorish style, with arabic elements and modern rooms. On the roof terrace you can relax in the evening and enjoy a glass of wine with a view to the sierra nevada.
Helpful alhambra tips
For a visit to the alhambra you should bring time in any case. The area is large and there is a lot to see, so you should take at least half a day off.
We also recommend comfortable shoes, one or two large water bottles and maybe something to nibble on. The few bars and restaurants around the alhambra have hefty prices.
Inside the individual buildings, however, eating and drinking is prohibited. So make yourself comfortable outside in the shade of a cypress tree.
Location of the alhambra in granada
The alhambra is located on the sabikah hill, which is in the middle of the old town of granada. It is quite steep, but if you are fit and not physically limited, you can do it without any problems.
The castle walls are surrounded by a well-kept, always green forest, which makes the walk quite pleasant despite the incline.
The entrance to the alhambra can be reached on foot, by car, or by public transportation. The way to the alhambra is very easy and we will now explain all three possibilities in more detail.
On foot: only one footpath leads from the plaza nueva in the old town over the cuesta de gomerez through the forest directly to the entrance of the castle. Duration: ca. 20 minutes.
By car: depending on where you are coming from, there are different roads to reach the alhambra by car. From malaga, sevilla, montril or jaen you should take the A-44. The exit to the alhambra is quite extensively signposted.
By public transport: the red minibuses of lines C3 and C4 will take you to the main entrance of the alhambra every 5 minutes. An easily accessible stop is, for example, plaza isabel la catolica, just a few meters from the great cathedral.
The ticket costs 1,20 € and is bought on board. Within 10 minutes you will be at the top.
Parking in the alhambra
The alhambra has a guarded parking lot with about 500 parking spaces for cars, buses and caravans. The cost for one hour is 2,70 euro, for 3 hours 6,20 euro and for a whole day, which means a maximum of 10 hours, 18,40 euro.
Above all, we think the parking prices for several hours really keep within limits, although it is spain's most famous sight.
How much is going on in the alhambra?
No ifs, ands or buts, the alhambra is a hive of activity all day long. However, the whole castle complex is so huge that the numerous visitors are distributed relatively well. Only inside the buildings it gets a bit confusing and sometimes even narrower.
However, this is not a reason to abandon the visit. The alhambra is just beautiful and not without reason so popular. Also for us it is one of the greatest highlights we have seen in andalusia!
Do you have any further questions about the alhambra or have you been there yourself and have any further tips?? Feel free to write your thoughts in the comments. We are looking forward to it!
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