Things to do in Granada, Spain: Tour the Alhambra Palace
If you’re in traveling to Spain and looking for things to do in Granada, get to the Alhambra palace as soon as possible! Alhambra, meaning “the red one” is a palace and fortress architectural complex in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. It is one of Spain’s most popular tourist attractions and it’s easy to see why it is one of the most popular things to do in Granada! Its breathtaking design and deep history make Alhambra the thing to do in Granada.
The Alhambra Palace History & Main Structures
Alhambra is perched against a backdrop of Sierra Nevada mountain peaks and is quite a sight for sore eyes. Moorish poets described the fortress as “a pearl set in emeralds” because of how the striking, pearlish coloring sets it apart from the woods and gardens surrounding it. Alameda de la Alhambra, the park surrounding the palace, is overgrown with wildflowers and grass in the springtime. Flowers and oranges were planted centuries ago by the Moors and the dense elm trees were brought by the Duke of Wellington in the early 1800s. In the park, you can hear the song of nightingales and the sound of water running from the fountains.
The main structures of Alhambra include Plaza de Nazaríes (the Royal Complex), Palacio Árabe (the Arab Palace), Patio de los Leones, (the Court of the Lions), Sala de los Abencerrajes (the Hall of the Abencerrages), and Gineralife (the Garden of Arif). The castle is notably huge. Each room opens out into a central court and connects to one another through narrow passages.
The Emotional Beauty of the Alhambra Palace
The expanse of Alhambra’s grounds is pretty unbelievable. The amazing gardens and beautiful architecture might even make you feel a little overwhelmed! The court is truly a sight to see with massive columns, fountains, reflective pools, open air, and sunlight. The Fountain of the Lions is located in the center of the Patio de los Leones. A huge basin sits on twelve lion statues made of white marble. Just being there gives you a feeling of serenity.
Walking through Alhambra’s fortress, you’re witnessing a magically unique encounter of Muslim and Christian civilizations. The upper part of the stucco walls in the fortress is inscribed with Arabic poems praising the palace. The inscriptions are distorted into geometrical patterns and designs. Mosaics paneling the lower portion of the walls are sensational, to say the least, with complex mathematical patterns. The ceilings are elemented with muqarnas, a type of Islamic geometric ornamenting. While making your way through Alhambra, you can almost imagine what it was like being there centuries ago. Don’t be alarmed if you feel heavy emotions or a sense of spirituality while you’re there. You might even shed a tear!
Guided Tours at Alhambra, Granada
You can buy tickets for a guided tour of Alhambra or go rogue with the La Alhambra Official Guide app on your smartphone. The audio guides will help you get an idea of what you’re looking at throughout the fortress. If you do a guided tour, make sure to buy your tickets in advance as touring Alhambra is one of the most popular things to do in Granada and is busy all year long. They only let a certain number of people walk through each day so you’ll want to plan ahead and make sure you can get in. Also, arrive early and wear good walking shoes so you can take your time exploring the site!
The Alhambra palace has an entry time restriction, but the rest of the place can be explored at your leisure. The main entrance to the fortress is at the top of a hill but there are shuttle busses and cabs you can take from midtown Granada that will bring you right up to the top. Make sure to scope out the stellar views and snap a few photos while you’re up there. There aren’t very many places to eat at Alhambra, so you may want to bring a snack to hold you over.
The History of Moorish Architecture at Alhambra
Moorish architecture is the Roman and Islamic architecture found in North Africa as well as parts of Portugal and Spain where the Moors dominated between the 8th and 15th centuries. The Alhambra palace in Granada is one of the most notable and preserved landmarks of Moorish architecture. It was built in 889 AD on Roman remains and renovated in the mid-13th century by the Emirate of Granada.