Living in Granada meant that we had an important thing to do, which was visiting the Alhambra. As soon as we had told people we were planning on staying in Spain for six months, the first thing they asked is how close we would be to the Moorish palace and when we were planning on seeing it.
After we had settled into our place in the city center, we found out we were only about 5 minutes from the famous landmark. We woke up early one day before the crowds would get too heavy and headed up the hillside to where the palace stood.
Tickets cost about $20, or 15 Euro. It seemed a little pricey to us at first, especially since we would be waiting to enter the main part of the palace until some of the other tour groups had cleared out. In the meantime, we wandered the extensive gardens, which were once some of the largest in Europe.
The Alhambra had been a stronghold for the Muslim conquerors who had taken over this area during the Middle Ages. They ruled there for a few hundred years before they were defeated by the Spanish king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella. At first it was thought that the new rulers would destroy the palace, but Isabella fell so in love with the structure that she made it her new residence.
Despite becoming a newly Christian castle, much of the Alhambra’s original designs were left intact. This is much of why it continues to be such a popular site among tourists today—it’s a look into a past that has been destroyed, a glimpse of a world that had been ruined in the name of religion.
After leisurely viewing the gardens, we journeyed into the palace itself. What astounded me the most were the intricate carvings depicting various aspects of nature. In Islam, it is forbidden to create artwork that depicts animals or people, so the artisans found new ways of expressing their love for their god in the works. Layers upon layers of these carvings decorated the ceilings and the halls.
We could start to see the changes Isabella had made to the palace when we reached the “Court of the Lions.” It was being restored when we were there, but we could get a peek of the opulence this court must have had. Even in February, the sun was shining and bright, allowing us to get some gorgeous views of our new home.
Daniel and I sat and chatted on a bench near some of the pools. During the palace’s heyday, water would constantly be flowing, which meant thousands of gallons of water through the system a day—meaning residents could have a full garden all year long. It showed how incredibly advanced the design of the palace was for its time. It also kept the area cool during the hot summer months in Granada we would experience in the future.
Finally, we meandered toward the end of the palace. New buildings had been erected by King Charles V, which seemed very out of place after spending several hours marveling at the original Moorish designs. Built in the Renaissance as a reaction to increased Italian influence, it was octagonal. We didn’t spend much time there since it is rather empty, but we did learn that you can attend concerts there all year round and that the structure has brilliant acoustics.
After a long day, Daniel and I said goodbye after visiting the Alhambra. We had been blown away by the innovations the builders had created for the palace, and we finally understood why so many people had urged us to see the Alhambra for ourselves.
What has been your favorite palace to visit?