Day 107 - Alhambra, The Crown Jewel of Granada

Granada, but more specifically, Alhambra, has been on our travel bucket list for quite some time, and today we finally had a chance to visit this architectural beauty. 

The Drive to Granada

Our house is about 60 miles from Granada, but would you believe that there is also a town here called Alhama de Granada, which should not be confused with the Alhambra in Granada!  I made the mistake of telling my dad that they are the same as he was putting the address in his GPS, and we had said we will follow him.  Alas we all ended up taking a specially scenic route, which lasted twice as long but was absolutely gorgeous! 


A brief history:  

It was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-11th 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. Alhambra’s Islamic palaces, as we know them today, were built for the last Muslim emirs in Spain and the court of the Nasrid dynasty. After the conquest of Granada by the Reyes Católicos (“Catholic Monarchs”) in 1492, some portions were used by Christian rulers.

You can read about the history to your hearts content here.  

One last thing: The name, Alhambra, refers to the reddish walls of the castle as "Al-Hamra" in arabic means Red.  I will let the pictures inspire you and tickle your wanderlust fancy. 

Generalife Gardens 

Before arriving at the Generalife, you walk through some truely magnificent gardens.

The Gardens of Generalife are luscious and full of colorful flowers. 


Pronounced 'Heh-nah-rah-lee-fah', it is a structure that was built in the 13th century but has been modified through out the years.  "In the Generalife there is no kind of decorative excess or points of interest in its architecture. Unlike the Alhambra, all the buildings of the Generalife are quite solid, but in general poor and simple. This indicates an intimate and peaceful atmosphere that the kings were looking for when they retired to these gardens to rest. There are only some decorative motifs of plasterwork, which are not very varied, but are exquisitely fine and tasteful." Read more here.

After the Generalife, we walked through the grounds, saw a few of the smaller sights and then arrived at Alcazaba. 


The Alcazaba, a fortress, is the oldest part of the Alhambra.  Read more about the history of Alcazaba here.  You can definitely tell this was a strong hold by the looks of it.  The walls are tall and fortified, and you have a great view over the land (you could definitely spot the enemy if there were any trying to get close)! 

There really isn't much else to Alcazaba, other than the impressive watch towers and the awesome views they provide. 

We could not see the Nasrid Palaces until 10:30 PM (yes getting tickets for Alhambra is not easy, even at this time of year when the majority of tourists have left Spain). We decided to head into the Old town and enjoy some dinner and Flamenco Dancing.  The drive took a little over 30 minutes, even though it was only a few kilometers as the bird flies.  Driving in Granada is a bit crazy and frustrating, the streets of the old town are too small for cars (even though the GPS tries to take you on them), and in the end you have to drive all the way around town for what should be a short trip.  Oh, and did I mention the lack of parking in the old town?  On the plus side, this allowed our kids to take a quick nap and be in great moods for dinner and seeing the Nasrid Palaces.

Flamenco Dancing

Wow! I never imagined that Flamenco dancing could be so intense and so filled with passion. We had read excellent reviews about the Jardines de Zoraya, and I can now confirm that both dinner and show are amazing at this restaurant. 

The staff was also remarkably nice and accommodating, which made the experience a thousand times better. 

If you are looking for a place in Granada to see Flamenco dancing, we strongly recommend this spot.  You do not need to have dinner, you have the option of just paying for the show, which also includes a drink.  Check out their website to find out more. 

Nasrid Palaces At Night

There was something amazing about seeing the Nasrid Palaces at night.  Maybe it was the lighting, maybe it was the moon that could be seen in the court yards, or maybe it was just that sense of being invited into someone's "house" after the visitors have gone home.  Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of people walking around, but it was still a small crowd compared to the long line we saw waiting to get inside in the afternoon. 

I was blown away by all the details in the designs. The walls and the ceilings are so incredibly designed, built, and of course masterfully reparied in many parts.  You can read more about the history here.  Go ahead, feast your eyes upon the beauty of Nasrid Palaces. 

Granada at Night

One of the advantages of visiting the Nasrid Palaces at night was having the opportunity to see Granada lit up from above.  Lucky us! 

We had a remarkable day at Granada and Alhambra.  If you have never visited, I hope these pictures gave you a sense of walking along side us.