Gardens and Palace in Granada

The Court Of La Acequia,Generalife, Grenada 2

The Generalife or Architect’s Garden is the sultans’ gorgeous whitewashed summer palace, which 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 to get there. Generalife is a soothing arrangement of patios, pathways, pools, fountains, flowers and trees. It occupied the slopes of the Cerro del Sol or Hill of the Sun, from which there is a complete view over the city and the valleys of the rivers Genil and Darro.

What to see at the  Generalife?

The Generalife Gardens are divided into 3 parts – Lower Gardens, the Palacio del Generalife and the High Gardens.

Your walk through Generalife starts through the new Generalife gardens, past the avenue of the Cypress trees. Ahead lays the Generalife Theatre, which was built in 1952 and was not included in the original garden plan. Past the theatre, you will visit the lower gardens and enter the Palace of the Generalife where the Patio de la Acequia leads to the upper terraces. Next is the Courtyard of the Sultana and then a climb up the Escalera del Agua to the highest point of the Generalife Gardens.

Palacio del Generalife

Generalife is formed by two groups of buildings connected by the Patio of the Patio de la Acequia. Compared to the Alhambra, all the buildings of the Generalife are quite plain. There are only some decorative motifs of plasterwork. This indicates an intimate and peaceful atmosphere that the kings were looking for when they retired to these gardens to rest.

Entrance to the Generalife Palace is through a tiny door, partially hidden by undergrowth and embedded in traces of marble, with a tiled lintel and the arch-key marking. A steep narrow stairway will take you to the residences and rooms, connected to the Patio de la Acequia which in turn leads to a gallery, with five arches and bedchambers, and then on to the Royal Chamber.

Patio de la Acequia

The Patio de la Acequia connects the lower gardens and upper gardens and includes a high pavilion from where the patio and gardens beyond can be observed. Its interpreted name varies between the not so glamorous Patio of the Irrigation Ditch to  Court of the Water Channel or the Water-Garden Courtyard, this is in reference to the water which flows through the villa before supplying the Alhambra further below. It has a long pool framed by flowerbeds and 19th-century fountains, whose shapes sensuously echo the arched porticos at each end.

On the western side there is a gallery of 18 ogival arches with views over the lower gardens. The gallery was made around the year 1670. The northern portico is called the Mirador and has five arches in front, slender and stylized and three behind made of marble with stalactite capitals.

Jardín de la Sultana

Escalera del Agua

The Escalera del Agua or Water Stairway, is especially beautiful because of its beauty and originality. Built during the Muslim period the staircase is a delightful bit of garden engineering. The stairway is  divided in three flights, each with a fountain and handrails that are channels with running water.   The stairway is flanked by laurel trees which form a vaulted canopy.

Climb the steps outside the courtyard to the Escalera del Agua,  where water flows along a shaded staircase.  A stone step leads to the Upper Gardens which were once olive groves and today boast a handsome esplanade and modern gardens.

Generalife Theatre

In 1952 the Festival of Music and Dance of Granada led to the the building of a theater here. The gardens were extended southward and a horseshoe shaped outdoor theater was built. it has a  central seating area and boxes on the sides.

Where does the Generalife’s name come from?

The Generalife or Architect’s Garden it takes its name from the Arabic jinan al-‘arif, meaning ‘the overseer’s gardens’.

History of the Generalife

The palace and gardens were built during the reign of Muhammed II (1273-1302), Sultan of Granada, and later remodeled by Muhammed III (1302–1309). They were redecorated shortly after by Abu I-Walid Isma’il (1313–1324).

After the city was conquered, the Generalife was granted by the Catholic Monarchs to the Granada Venegas family.

In the 19 century an upper floor was added to the buildings at either end of the courtyard. They also opened the arched windows in the wall which overlooked the Alhambra; and installing the long rows of fountains which flow together in the air before splashing into the central pond.

The present-day gardens were started in 1931 and completed by Francisco Prieto Moreno in 1951.

The generalife became an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.

What to see in the Generalife

  • Mirador Romántico: Mirador Romántico or Romantic Viewpoint is located on the highest point on the Generalife, Mirador Romántico and is an observatory that provides a panoramic view of the surrounding area, including the Alhambra. The structure does not fit well with the rest of the buildings in the Generalife because it is not a Nasrid-era building. Built in 1836 – many years after the fall of the Nasrids – by Don Jaime Traversa, the administrator of the Generalife at that time, it is a neo-gothic style building.
  • Patio del Ciprés: The Jardín de la Sultana or Sultana’s Garden is just to the north  of the Patio de la Acequia with with a pool in the center. This arcaded structure dates back to 1584 and has a central pond surrounded by a myrtle hedge and in the middle of the pond there is another little pond with a stone fountain. It is also known as the Courtyard of the Cypress.  It is here that the trunk of a 700-year-old cypress tree, where Abu al-Hasan supposedly caught his lover, Zoraya with a knight of the Abencerraj clan, leading to the murders in the Sala de los Abencerrajes. The tree also suggests the delicate shade that would once have graced the area.

The Generalife appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Granada!

Other names of Generalife

The Generalife has the following names: Generalife, Architect’s Garden, Garden of paradise, Garden of feasts.

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Visiting Generalife

Duration: 1 hours
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