Carmen de los Mártires

Gardens in Granada

The Carmen de los Martires or Carmen of the Martyrs is a park located on the side of the valley opposite the Alhambra in Granada. It is the largest garden in the city of Granada and stretches out over seven hectares along the southern slopes of Mauror Hill. It is a haven of flowerbeds, small ponds and leafy paths is only ever sparsely populated with guests. In spring and summer, its shaded walkways provide a sanctuary from the powerful sun, and its views of the landscape beyond Granada give a sense of space that can be lacking in the cramped city center. A fairy-tale tower sits in the middle of this verdant oasis; climb up its small spiral staircase and survey the gardens and Granada from the city’s most romantic viewpoint.

The History of the Carmen de los Martires

Throughout the centuries, these gardens have been dungeons, torture chambers, a chapel, a convent, an orchard and a palace.

The Moorish Period

In the 11th century the area of the Mauror hill was a compound for jousting and military tournaments. Later when the Alhambra was being built the area on the nearby Sabika Hill, the area stored building supplies for the fortress.

During this period the captive Christian slaves were imprisoned here and gained the name ‘Campo de los Cautivos‘. At its peak the the large dungeons which were dug out of the rock, housed up to 7000 prisoners, many of whom died during the seizure of the city at the end of the 15th century, when the Catholic Monarchs conquered Granada.

The Moors also referred to area as Campo de Ahabul.

Boabdil set out from this spot to deliver the keys of Granada to Isabella I of Castile.

The Reconquest

Isabella I of Castile ordered the construction of a hermitage—the city’s first church—at the top of the hill, in honor of those Christian martyrs that included the Bishop of Jaén and a number of Franciscan monks.

Although the hermitage no longer exists today, its history led to the name of ‘Carmen de los Mártires‘, an enormous garden featuring an array of styles that evokes 19th century Romanticism through its lakes, sculptures and hedge mazes. It is no surprise that this is one of the most popular spots in the city for wedding celebrations.

The monastic orchard of San Juan de la Cruz

Later on, in around 1573, that first hermitage was transformed into the Convento de los Carmelitas or the Carmelites Monastery

San Juan de la Cruz, who, wrote several poems during time he spent in the convent, helped planting trees and designing the layout of the gardens and built, alongside his brother, an aqueduct that brought water from Generalife and can still be seen today.

It is said that San Juan would read and write under the shade of an old cypress tree. The tree had been brought from Mexico by Carmelite Missionaries and replanted by San Juan de la Cruz himself. Although it was struck by lightning 20 years ago, the old tree remains standing on the edge of the garden.

Between 1614 and 1620 a new church was constructed in order to replace the original. The building was demolished in 1842 following the Ecclesiastical Confiscation of Mendizábal, but the orchard has been restored and is open to visitors.

Calderón family

After the monastery was demolished, the property was sold at a public auction and purchased by General Carlos Calderón whoordered the construction of a mansion which is still on the grounds today.

Between 1858 and 1861, the Calderón family built the historic gardens in an array of styles around the mansion.

Hubert Merrsmans

Carmen de los Mártires was ultimately acquired by a wealthy Belgian named Hubert Merrsmans in 1891, who bought the land as a summer residence. He added fountains, sculptures and hedge mazes and transformed the pond into a lake with black swans and an island in the middle.

City of Granada

Carmen de los Mártires was classified as a Cultural Heritage Site in 1943, and Cristina de Arteaga, the property’s last private owner, granted it to the Granada City Council in 1958. Despite this, it was abandoned in the 1970s when a project to build a hotel demolished most of the property. Thanks to protests by locals to have the work stopped, Carmen de los Mártires remains standing and continues to enchant millions of visitors with the magic and age-old beauty of its magnificent gardens.

The palace and gardens were partly restored and now it is ideal for taking walks, weddings and official receptions.

Where does the name Carmen de los Martires come from?

The word “carmen” is derived from the Arabic for a garden planted with vines – it is also specifically Granadan word for a villa. The word Martires comes from the christian martyrs that were imprisoned here.

What to see in the Carmen de los Martires Gardens

The French, Spanish and English gardens

Between 1858 and 1861, the Calderón family built the historic gardens in an array of styles around the mansion.

The French garden, which surrounds a small, round area with a fountain honoring Neptune, is home to magnolia trees, palm trees, orange trees and shrubs in bloom. It differs from the original with its lower and more trimmed appearance.

The Spanish garden located on the terrace near Manuel de Falla Auditorium, only a pond surrounded by rose bushes and lime trees remains today since the rest was destroyed in the 1960s. The original design was heavily inspired by Granada’s cármenes or traditional villas with gardens.

The English garden, formed by a grove of palm trees presided by a fountain honouring Philip II of Spain, can be found behind the mansion. Joaquín de Arteaga, Duke of Infantado, had it built after purchasing Carmen de los Mártires in 1930.

The neo-Nasrid courtyard

Inspired by the Water Channel Courtyard of the Generalife, the Duke of Infantado had this courtyard built in 1944 as a tribute to the gardens of the Nasrid dynasty, with jasmines peering out of the large windows and a rectangular pond in the middle.

Although it has its own charm, it cannot be compared with the authentic and historic Moorish courtyards of the Alhambra and the Generalife.

The Island in the Lake

The island in the middle of the park has some of the trees that were planted 150 years ago still there today. The island is surrounded by bamboo reeds, palm trees and myrtles, with the silhouette of a ruined tower looking over them. The tower can be climbed via a spiral staircase, and visitors can have amazing views of the garden and area around it.

Best Tours of the Carmen de los Mártires

There are a couple of tours that take you in and around the Carmen de los Mártires. These are our recommended ones.


How to get to the Carmen de los Mártires

Walking: To get to Carmen de los Mártires you can walk up from Campo de Príncipe, behind the cross towards the Alhambra Palace hotel, or from Plaza Nueva, via the Arco de las Granadas.

Bus: You can reach the Carmen de los Mártires by Alhambra Bus number C30, C32 and C35 (a small red minibus). You can catch these buses in Isabel la Catolica Street. These are the same buses that go to the Alhambra. Get off at the stop “Carmen de los Martires”.

Train: You can also catch the electric train from Plaza Nueva. 

Practical Information for your Visit


From April 1 to October 14: From Monday to Friday from 10:00 am. to 14:00 pm. and 18:00 pm. to 20:00 pm. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10:00 am. to 20:00 pm. From October 15 to March 31: From Monday to Friday from 10:00 am. to 14:00 pm. and 16:00 pm. to 18:00 pm. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10:00 am. to 18:00 pm.



Address: Calle de Antequeruela Alta, Granada, España
Telephone: +34 958 227 953
Duration: 20 minutes


The Carmen de los Mártires appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Granada!

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