Washington Irving sums up my feelings about Alhambra:

“I gave myself up, during my sojourn in the Alhambra, to all the romantic and fabulous traditions connected with the pile. I lived in the midst of an Arabian tale, and shut my eyes, as much as possible, to every thing that called me back to every-day life; and if there is any country in Europe where one can do so, it is in poor, wild, legendary, proud-spirited, romantic Spain..”

I’ve seen much in two years worth of expanding horizons. The Taj Mahal. Agra Fort. The intricate, never ending rooms and corridors of the City Palace in Udaipur. Lodhi Gardens in Delhi. Alhambra is a combination of all of these. Palace. Fortress. Gardens.

Construction began in the 14th century, for the last Muslim Emirs to rule over the city during the Nasrid Dynasty. By 1527, the Roman monarchs had driven the Moors out of Spain and at least one palace, Palacio de Carlos V, was erected in a Renaissance style.

In a creative writing capacity I’m all about the senses. As I explored each palace, gasped at the Generalife’s gardens, textures sang to me. I dreamed of having Alice’s ability to drink a potion that allowed me to grow bigger, so I could reach the ceilings and run my fingers across the patterns and carvings. Then I did along the walls – the curve of my index finger tracing the Koran in Arabic script.

Nestled on al-Sabika hill, above Granada, Alhambra offers not only unparalleled architectural wonders, but stunning views of the city and surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.

As Irving suggests, simply close your eyes and slip into a past of legend, court intrigue and empires conquered and lost…

Fountain (Pilar de Carlos V, Renaissance) near the entrance gate. Notice the distinct Christian touches with the cherubs and a family crest.

Before the entrance gate. I think this photograph illustrates the scale of Alhambra well.

It is said that this fortifying wall was built by Christian slaves, who were forced to live and work at Alhambra. The story  is the materials for this wall were composed of the same stones to be used for their tombstones. Eek!

Lest we not forget, Alhambra was also a protective fortress from enemies. Canons on display.

The main animal you’ll notice at Alhambra is the feline. Cats take in the sights as well as lounge around the grounds to grab shade. I like to believe they are former spirits returned home. Whether Christian or Muslim.

A peek at the Ambassador’s Salon (Hall of the Ambassadors). Breathtaking!

Inlaid cedar ceiling. The details astounded me. I gazed at this one for a long time.

Courtyard outside the Hall of the Ambassadors. The subjects in the photograph remind me of the two states of exploration. Exhaustion and intense curiosity.

A circular vasque fountain – influence of Roman design aesthetic.

Court of Myrtles is an oasis.

He thinks so too. Meeting of the ancient and modern (love his huge headphones!).

Spending time here infuses a single feeling – peace.

The doorways were incessantly fascinating to me. Perhaps opening just one would spill all of Alhambra’s secrets.

Arabic script – intricate and elegant.

The center of Alhambra – The Court of the Lions

The newly restored Fountain of the Lions. The lions are not artistically accurate, but were meant to symbolize power, strength and sovereignty.   The fountain use to be timed. Each hour one lion would produce water from its mouth.

Another view – feast for the eyes and soul.

The stalactite dome of the Abencerrages Hall. It reminds me of a honeycomb in a beehive.

Stained glass glories.

Bouncing colors.

The Generallife Gardens.

Fountain up close.

Fragrant roses is one species of flower that grows wild and free.

One of the walls of Generallife.

That shows this view of  the gardens and beyond.

Interior of Generallife.

The Palacio de Carlos V, built by Emperor Charles V in 1527, is distinct – Renaissance and boldly European to distance itself from the previous design thread of Alhambra.

More lions. To show strength. Europe knocking on the door of their Muslim enemies? Doubt knocking would be involved in war.

But the interior surprised me.

Does it remind you of something significant in Spain? Bullfighting rings. Or in another place or time – Roman colosseum.

Did I mention the views of Granada?

Where to get tickets: This Tripadvisor page is comprehensive and tells you how to purchase tickets (through a Ticket Master website). You can book a window of time, either 8:30 to 14:00 or 14:00 to 18:00) and even an evening visit. I’d suggest doing both a day and night tour – if you can afford it. Alhambra at night is quite a different experience. I chose a “general daytime visit” ticket and it cost me 15 €. Keep your ticket handy because at certain points it will be scanned for entry.

  • If you pre-booked your ticket allow enough time for pick-up, to coincide with your designated viewing times of the Nasrid Palaces.

When it’s open:  In the summer months, it’s open March to October, visiting times are between 8:30 and 20:00. From November to February, the visiting times are between 8:30 and 18:00.

What time of day should you go:  Depends on how quickly you book tickets, but I’d aim for early morning to noon in the summer time to avoid the intense heat. If you can’t book tickets for that block of time, going about three or four in the afternoon is ideal to skirt around the hottest point of the day and you will have plenty of daylight to take photographs. In the winter months, anytime is fine as long as you prepare for the cold.

What you should bring: In the summer, plenty of sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, snacks and water. Be prepared to rest frequently in the shade.  In the winter, a jacket, sweater, sturdy shoes, snacks and water. Extra batteries or memory cards is a good idea for your camera.