Alhambra Complex

Castle, Gardens, Notable Building and Palace in Granada

The Alhambra or literally ‘The Red One’  is an opulent  palace and garden  complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. The plain walls of the red Alhambra red fortress towers look imposing, standing on a fortified plateau,  rising from a wood of cypress and elm. Across the valley lie the Generalife gardens with its leafy tree-lined walkways provide pleasant shade and coolness, enhanced by the abundance of water that flows in its streams. The snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada are a magnificent backdrop to both.

This fortified palace started life as a walled city, occupying most of the La Sabika hill, before becoming the opulent seat of Granada’s Nasrid emirs. Muslim Granada had its own system of walls, so the Alhambra was able to function autonomously from the city and had all the services and necessary for the people living there, such as a royal palace, mosques, schools, workshops, etc.

Like other Muslim architectural works of the time, its main appeal not only lies in the interior décor, which is one of the best examples of Moorish art, but in the architecture’s seamless integration into the surrounding nature and landscape.

Alcazaba of the Alhambra

Plaza De Los Aljibes, Alhambra Grenada
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Jebulon

On the western tip of the Alhambra  are the martial remnants of the ramparts and several towers of the Alcazaba are all that remain of the site’s original 13th-century citadel. The most important is the Torre de la Vela (Watchtower), with a winding staircase to its top terrace, which has splendid views over Granada’s rooftops. The cross and banners of the Reconquista were raised here in January 1492. In the past the tower’s bell chimes controlled the irrigation system of Granada’s fertile plain, the Vega.

Palacio Nazaríes at the Alhambra

Patio De Los Leones, Palacio De Los Leones, Alhambra
CC BY-SA 3.0 / rheins

This is the Alhambra’s true gem, the most brilliant Islamic building in Europe, with its perfectly proportioned rooms and courtyards, intricately molded stucco walls, beautiful tiling, fine carved wooden ceilings and elaborate stalactite-like muqarnas vaulting, all worked in mesmerizing, symbolic, geometrical patterns. Arabic inscriptions proliferate in the stucco-work.

Palacio de Carlos V at the Alhambra

Patio Palacio Carlos V In Alhambra
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Ra-smit

This huge Renaissance palace was begun in 1527 by Pedro Machuca, a Toledo architect, and was never completed. The imposing building is square but contains a surprising circular, two-tiered courtyard with 32 columns. Were the palace in a different setting, its merits might be more readily appreciated.

Generalife at the Alhambra

The Court Of La Acequia,Generalife, Grenada 3
Pixabay / Ralf Kronenberger

The Generalife or Architect’s Garden the sultans’ gorgeous whitewashed summer palace, dates to the 14th century. It is on the hillside facing the Alhambra and to get to it you need to pass a string of elegant rectangular plots with tinkling water features, the Jardines Nuevos.

Generalife is a soothing arrangement of pathways, patios, pools, fountains, tall trees and, in season, flowers.

Tickets for Alhambra

Tickets for the Alhambra in Granada are fairly easy to obtain but it is essential to buy in advance to ensure admission to the Palacios Nazaries – the Moorish jewel at the heart of the Alhambra. The Alhambra is open daily with long opening hours and occasional nighttime visits. Visits to the Alhambra commonly last three hours or more and require a lot walking.

Tours of Alhambra

There are a lot of guided tours of the Alhambra available, here are a selection:

Accessing the Alhambra

The Alhambra towers over Granada to the southeast of the old town. Two entrances are available – the pavilion main entrance to the far east of the Alhambra and near the Generalife and the Gate of Justice entrance closer to the old town but only for visitors with QR barcoded tickets.

The Alhambra Complex appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Granada!

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Visiting Alhambra Complex


8.30am-8pm Apr–mid-Oct,

to 6pm mid-Oct–Mar,

night visits 10-11.30pm Tue & Sat Apr–mid-Oct,

8-9.30pm Fri & Sat mid-Oct–Mar


Adult €14,12-15yr €8, under 12yr free, Generalife & Alcazaba only adult/under 12yr €7/free NB Advance ticket reservations are almost essential for admission to the best parts of the Alhambra.

Address: Alhambra Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n 18009 Granada Spain
Duration: 3 hours

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Tours and Activities from Granada