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Alhambra in Spring

A FAMILY VISIT

My most recent visit to the Alhambra, in Granada, was in early Spring ’16 with my children. Spring is a great time to come, especially if like me you don't cope well the high summer temperatures. We had a long, bright dry day with a snow capped Sierra Nevada and lots of colour to enjoy in the gardens of the Generalife. 

WONDER OF THE BUILT WORLD

The Alhambra is the most awe inspiring building in Spain. It’s an absolute must-visit for any traveller to Andalucia. This “wonder of the world” is a magnificent fortress, built during Moorish rule. Due to its strategic position, the site has been used as a fortress since the C9th. But the most glorious period was that of the Nasrid Emirs between C13-14, when the Moors built the most beautiful parts, particularly the Palacio Nazaries. “Alhambra” is the Spanish pronunciation of the Arabic words “qa’lat al-Hamra”, meaning “red castle”, so called for the dusty red stone that was used to build the thick walls around the castle. You’ll fully realise the meaning in it’s name at sunset, perhaps from a terrace bar with a view in the city below.

This is such a magical place you soon forget the other visitors. Stepping into the Alhambra transports you back in time. It is simply spine tingling, like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia - it’s another world. You may find yourself inspired to read about the Alhambra, to dip into the legends and stories from the days when the Emirs of Al Andalus inhabited this palace-fortress.

Today, it’s a jewel in Spain’s crown and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The setting is worthy of any fairytale, set atop a sharp ridge overlooking the city with the snow capped Sierra Nevada as a backdrop. You can visit by day - and by night, when the site is illuminated and even more atmospheric.

GENERALIFE

The Alhambra is only part of the complex - the gardens are equally wonderful with reflective green pools and shaded by palm and other magnificent trees. Don’t forget to stroll around the gardens of the Generalife, a warren of paths and patchwork of water-fountains, manicured gardens and fragrant flowers. It’s the perfect place to relax after visiting the main Alhambra complex. The Moors taught europeans pretty much everything about irrigation – and both Generalise and Alhambra are filled with the sounds of trickling water - sublime in summer.

TICKETING

As the opportunity to visit the Alhambra is extended to tens of thousands of visitors annually, you do have to accept the timed ticketing system to enter the Nazaries Palace. But it works as it controls over crowding successfully.

THE PALACES

The Palacio Nazaries will be the high-point of your visit. Shaded walkways feature throughout the Palacio Nazaries, which allowed the Emirs to enjoy the views and fresh, mountain air while avoiding the direct effects of the scorching sun. It’s courtyards are filled with sparkling water; tall, cool chambers decorated with elaborate and intricate Arabic carving from marble floor to vaulted ceiling. The tiling is almost as hypnotic as the tinkling water-scapes of the courts - Patio del Cuatro Dorado; Palacio de Comares; and the Palacio de los Leones, the world-famous patio where water trickles from the mouths of 12 marble lions.. The Salon de Embajadores is the throne-room, with an ornate wooden ceiling, representing the seven Islamic heavens, through which a soul must ascend after death.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Other highlights of the Alhambra include the renaissance style Palace of Carlos V, an incongruous extension built by the Spanish in 1532. In this vast, columned, circular courtyard, you’ll find a Museum of historical artefacts and the Museum of Fine Arts (free for EU nationals).

 The Alcazaba is most like a castle, the part of the fortress which has retained two beautiful towers that you can climb. From the top of Torre de la Vela, the watchtower, you’ll have windswept views across the city.

 

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