The Alhambra was a fortified city, a complex of palaces, towers, gardens and access gates. This is the reason why a large part of the Alhambra can be seen for free.
1. The Pomegranates Gate
If you walk from Plaza Nueva up Cuesta de Gomérez you will find the impressive Puerta de las Granadas or Gate of the Pomegranates.
This is a beautifully preserved medieval gate and is the main access to the forest of the Alhambra. It was built in 1536 and replaced the previous gate which was called Bib-Albuxar or Gate of the good news. Remains of this older gate are still visible on the right side of the gate.
The new gate was constructed in the style of Roman triumphal arches tympanum is shown the Imperial shield, with allegorical figures of Peace and Abundance, and crowned by three pomegranates, which is where it gets its name.Read more about the Puerta de las Granadas
2. The Forest of Alhambra
When you pass the Pomegranates Gate you find yourself in the Alhambra forest.
The Bosque de Alhambra or Forest of Alhambra grows around the base of Sabika hill on which the Alhambra Complex is built. There are three paths will lead you into the complex; the side paths are for pedestrians. The right will lead you up to the Crimson Towers, with great views over the forest to the Alcazaba.
The forest was planted in 1729, although its current configuration only dates back to the 19th century. Prior to this the complex was still regarded as a military building and no vegetation was allowed to be grown here.
If you are eager to get to the main part of the Alhambra take the left path, the right if you would like a slight detour to see the Vermilion Towers, or straight ahead along the Cuesta de Gomérez to explore the park further.
If you walk along the Cuesta de Gomérez you will come across a peculiar Arch hidden in the forest, the Puerta de Birrambla. This was 12th century Arch was moved here in the 19th century, originally it was in the Medina de Granada.
When the road splits to the left you will see the Fuente del Tomate or Fountain of the Tomato and a Monument to the writer Ángel Ganivet. After admiring the monument, head up the hill towards the Alhambra.Read more about the Bosque de Alhambra
3. The Vermilion Towers
Take a short detour and head up the right path, you will be coming back this way, so you can skip this if you wish. Bear right up the path and climb up the Mauror hill and you will come to the The Vermilion Towers.
The Las Torres Bermejas or Vermilion / Crimson Towers, which are named for the reddish color of their walls, stand on top of the Mauror hill, opposite the Alcazaba of the Alhambra. There are three towers, although the center is considerable taller than the others. They originally stood apart from the Alhambra Palace but were joined by a wall from Alcazaba which goes through the Puerta de las Granadas.
This is a great place to get your first photos of the Alhambra on the opposite hill.
Head back to the Gate of the Pomegranates, and walk up the Cuesta de Gomérez.Read more about the Torres Bermejas
4. The Fountain of Charles V
The Pilar de Carlos V or The Fountain of Charles V is a masterpiece of the Spanish Renaissance. In this monumental fountain we can see three big spouts representing the three rivers of Granada: Beyro, Darro and Genil.Read more about the Pilar de Carlos V
5. The Gate of Justice
If you pass the fountain and walk up the stairs, turning to the left, you will find the marvelous Gate of Justice.
This is one of the four outer gates that grant access to the walled complex of the Alhambra, and certainly the most impressive and renowned one. It was built in 1348, during the reign of Yusuf I.
The Gate of the Justice is also known as Gate of the Esplanade by the wide space that extended in front of it. The Gate of Justice is adorned with a couple of symbolic icons in the keystone of its arches. The hand carved in the keystone of the outer arch and a key in the center of the inner arch. The Moorish legend say that no Christian would enter Alhambra until the hand touches the key!
We cross this wonderful gate that grants access to the medieval city of the Alhambra. Note as you walk though its formidable defecates, with corners to turn around and then the ramp you neet to advance up.Read more about the Puerta De La Justicia
6. The Plaza de Los Aljibes
The ramp after the Gate of Justice leads you to the Plaza de Los Aljibes. Don’t look at the Gate of Wine when you walk past, we are coming back to that!
The Plaza de Los Aljibes or Square of the Cisterns is now large central square. It was the dividing line between the Alcazaba fortress and the Palacio Nazaríes of the Alhambra. Currently, this square is the point of entry to the Alcazaba.
Before the Christian Conquest of Granada in 1492 this used to be a ditch or gully. In 1494 the Count of Tendilla built a water tank or cisterns in the gully and created the square on top, which is where it got its name.
This is a great place to relax and enjoy the views of the districts of Albaicin and Sacromonte.Read more about the Plaza de Los Aljibes
7. Puerta de la Tahona
If you go to the far end of the The Plaza de Los Aljibes you will be able to view two more important parts of the Alhambra.
To the left you can see the walls of the Alcazaba and its three towers. Below the Torre del Homenaje lies the Bastion of the Torre del Cubo, with lots of people snapping away wwith their cameras at the view. Below that lies the hole in the wall which is the Puerta de la Tahona or Gate of the Bakery. This gate was not discovered until 1954, its horseshoe arches bricked up and hidden within the Torre del Cubo which was built around it!
Originally people from Granada would have walked up the Sabika hill to the Puerta de las Armas, though that gate, walk along the Camino de Ronda or Calle del Foso, beneath the northern walls and towers of the Alcazaba, and through this gate to reach the Palacio Nazaríes.Read more about the Puerta de la Tahona
8. Torre de Mohamed
Also viewed from the far end of the The Plaza de Los Aljibes is the Torre de Mohamed or Tower of Mohamed. This defensive Tower was built in the time of Mohammed II (1235 – 1302) and would have been the last checkpoint before reaching the Palaces.Read more about the Torre de Mohamed
9. Puerta del Vino
Head back to the south east corner of the Plaza de Los Aljibes, to the Gate of Wine.
The Puerta del Vino or The Gate of Wine is one of the oldest in the Complex and sits in the corner of the Plaza de Los Aljibes.
There are two theories regarding the name. It could have beenthe result of a mistake, in Moorish times it was called Bib al-Hamra, which means Red Gate, this may have been confused with Bib al-Jamra, which means Wine Gate. Alternatively during the years of Christian occupation, the residents of the Alhambra could purchase wine tax-free and the wine would hae been picked up from here.
The Gate of Wine is quite simple compared the the L shaped Gate of Justice you came through. It was the main entrance to the medina or city of the Alhambra. Within it you can see a alcove for benches where guards would have sat and controlled the entrance.Read more about the Puerta del Vino
10. Palace of Charles V
Head through the Puerta del Vino, walk 10m and turn left to get to the entrance of the Palace of Charles V.
The Palacio de Carlos V or Palace of Charles V is a 16th-century Renaissance palace, built to be used for King Charles V of Spain’s future royal residence. The Palace clashes spectacularly with the style of the surrounding Moorish Alhambra. It was one of the first Renaissance buildings created outside of Italy, and was modeled on Florence’s Palazzo Pitti. The building is square but contains a stunning two-tiered circular courtyard with 32 columns which is well worth having a look at.Read more about the Palacio de Carlos V
11. Church of Santa María de La Encarnación
Walk up the Calle Real or Royal Street and you will see the Church of Santa María de La Encarnación. It is to the south east of the
Church of Santa María de La Encarnación or Church of Santa Maria of the Incarnation is a plain church was built in 17th century on the site of the Great Alhambra Mosque and was built here to represent the triumph of Christianity over Islam.
Look inside to see the The Virgin of Anguish, which is a work of art by Torcuato Ruiz del Peral.
Look outside for the marble pillar which stands in front of the church, and which bears a plaque telling the story of two monks who entered the Moorish kingdom to preach their faith to the heretics. They were beheaded in this place by the Sultan Mohammed V, the ruler who created the lovely Courtyard of Lions.
You do not need a ticket to visit this church.Read more about the Church of Santa María de La Encarnación
12. Baño de la Mezquita
Leaving the Church of Santa María de La Encarnación you head up the Calle Real de la Alhambra a short way before getting to the Baths of the Great Mosque on your left.
The Baño de la Mezquita or the Baths of the Great Mosque were built in the time of Muhammad III (1302-1309) and would have been linked to the Mosque next door. Pop in to have a look at the baths.
The entrance is combined with the Ángel Barrios Museum a famous musician and composer from Granada. In the 19th century Ángel Barrios’ family lived next door, and managed a tavern which was located in the room where the Baths are. Many popular artists, such as Sorolla, Zuloaga, Ravel and García Lorca would come to the bar.Read more about the Baño de la Mezquita
13. Convento de San Francisco
If you continue walking this road you will reach the Convento de San Francisco or Saint Francis Convent.
The Convento de San Francisco or Convent of St Francis has been turned into a luxury Parador hotel. The Parador de San Francisco, is located in the former convent which was constructed by the Catholic Monarchs in 1493 on a former Nasrid palace, the Palacio de los Infantes, which was erected during the reign of Muhammad II between 1303 and 1309. In this convent, Queen Isabella was buried before being moved to the Royal Chapel.
Enter the hotel for a relaxing drink or just pop in to see the chapel.Read more about the Convento de San Francisco
14. Puerta de los Carros
Head back towards the Palace of Charles V and turn left when you can. Head down the road the taxis are probably going and you will come to the Puerta de los Carros.
The Puerta de los Carros or Gate of the Carriages was created between 1526 and 1536 with the sole purpose of facilitating the passage for the construction works in the Palace of Charles V. It is the only current vehicle access to the Alhambra.Read more about the Puerta de los Carros
15. Torre de las Cabezas
Carry on walking down the Calle Real de la Alhambra with the The Forest of Alhambra on your right and the walls of the Alhambra on your left. You will probably unknowingly walk past the Torre de las Abencerrajes, which would be on your left. You will come to a junction at the base of the Torre de las Cabezas.
The Torre de las Cabezas or Tower of the Heads is a defensive tower which also served as a prison.Read more about the Torre de las Cabezas
16. Torre de los Siete Suelos
The Torre de los Siete Suelos or Tower of the Seven Floors was once an important entrance to the Medina or City of the Alhambra. Legend say that the last Nasrid king, Boabdil, came out through this gate to give the keys of the Alhambra to the Catholic Monarchs, and he asked them not to allow anyone to use it again and therefore to close it down for ever. There is also a legend of the poor and honest water carrier who receives in gratitude for his hospitality, to a dying Moor, who takes him to that door. Once there, he sees the ground open and an immense quantity of gold and jewels appear before him.
Just behind you in the park is the Fuente del Pimiento or Pepper Fountain.Read more about the Torre de los Siete Suelos
17. Torre del Agua
The Torre del Agua or Water Tower is a large three floor defensive tower. It was built here to protect the aqueduct that takes water from the Generalife to the Alhambra. It was completely destroyed by Napoleons troops 1812 and what you see is a reconstruction.Read more about the Torre del Agua
18. Torre de las Infantas de la Alhambra
You pass underneath the bridge the Torre del agua protected and come to the Torre del Cabo de la Carrera. The Torre del Cabo de la Carrera or Tower of the End of the Street, again was mostly destroyed by Napoleon’s troops in 1812. You now will be walking down Cuesta del Rey Chico or Street of the Biy King or Cuesta de los Chinos or street of the Chinese. The Generalife will be on you right and the Alhambra Complex on your left.
You come across the Torre de las Infantas or Tower of the Princesses on your left. Since the 17th century it has been called the Tower of the Princesses from the legend by Washington Irving about the princesses Zaida, Zoraida and Zorahaida. Zayda, Zorayda and Zorahayda were daughters of King Muhammad VII, who lived in the Tower of the Infantas. The older two fled with their lovers, but the younger did not dare and was locked in the watchtower until her death.Read more about the Torre de las Infantas
19. Puerta de Hierro
The Puerta de Hierro or Iron Gate was built just after the conquest of Alhambra. The gate is a fortified bastion that juts out beneath the walls of the Alhambra to protect a door that sits below the Torre de los Picos. The bastion contains a stables and a small courtyard.
The Puerta de Hierro is overlooked by the Torre de los Picos or Tower of the Points which received this name because its merlons end in brick pyramids. It was built in the late 13th century or beginning of the 14th and it is therefore surprising for it to appear in the Gothic style.Read more about the Puerta de Hierro
20. Paseo de los Tristes and Casa de las Chirimías
Continue down the Cuesta del Rey Chico, past the Puerta de Hierro, you will come across an open area, across which you will see the Puerta del Bosque, a small entrance in the outer walls of Alhambra. Continue down and just after passing a small college you will cross the River Darro over the 11 Century Puente del Aljibillo or Bridge Aljibillo. Turn left onto and walk along the Paseo de los tristes, which has great views of the Alhambra above you.
The Paseo de los tristes or Promenade of the Sad is a lively square with amazing views of the Alhambra. There are plenty of restaurants where you can sit out side and enjoy a pleasant rest. Towards the end of the paseo there is an tower Casa de las Chirimías where dignitaries would watch the fiestas below from the balcony, with musicians playing above them.Read more about the Paseo de los Tristes and Casa de las Chirimías
21. Puente del Cadi
Walk down the Carrera del Darro, you will pass the 16th century Parroquia de San Pedro y San Pablo or Church of San Pedro and San Pablo on your left and the Convento de Santa Catalina de Zafra on your right. The left side opens up again and you are walking alongside the Darro. You will see the remains of a Bridge tower on your left.
The Puente del Cadi or Bridge of the Cadi was once an important defense of the Alhambra, it was a combined water gate and bridge. The one remaining of the two towers can be seen across the river. There would have been a city wall from that up the the Puerta de las Armas. The gate was called Puerta de los Tablero or Door of the Boards, which refereed the the system of damning water using wooded boards.Read more about the Puerta de los Tablero
Continue down the Carrera del Darro and you will come to the Plaza Nueva de Granada, where you started.