On top of Granada you find a big complex which is a fortified center of the old town of Granada from where the Muslim rulers controlled the last emirate of the Iberian Peninsula. The fortress complex started as a small fortress in 889 but as the Spanish reconquered most of the peninsula the Muslim emirs held out only in a fairly small land area around Granada. As the Muslim land possessions in Spain got ever smaller the city of Granada started to flourish and grow to the main economic hub of not only the Muslim area but the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.
As Granada grew so did the small fortress at the top of the city. The complex grew into a large palace and fortress complex called Alhambra. Today you can visit the complex – but don’t expect an undisturbed visit to the place – you will not be alone no matter what time of the year you get here. Considering the many visitors coming to this place the best time to visit is probably the early morning like we went – or late in the day. During this time the day trippers still will not be around since they have a bus ride of a couple of hours from their resort down at the coast. If you stay in Granada for a night you can easily make it to the complex early – you just need to hike up the hill or take one of the frequent buses from the center of the city to the entrance to the Alhambra. Granada is a nice city with lots of other attractions so you might as well spend a night here if you have the opportunity to do so.
The main attraction is the Nasrid castle of the Muslim rulers – you will need to pay extra to go here and you have to go in during a specific timeslot. The access to this castle might sell out so you better book ahead if you are visiting during the main tourist season – otherwise your best chance for a same day ticket will be to the earliest or latest timeslots. For a separate blog about the Nasrid castle see here.
Next to the Nasrid castle is a newer castle built by the Spanish king after they conquered the city of Granada in 1492 – just a few month before Columbus made it across the Atlantic to make landfall in the Caribbean. The palace of Charles I is very different from the Nasrid palace it is more a European style castle. It is built around a big round courtyard and you can just go inside the palace and have a look at it. There are several small museums inside the castle which are all included in the general admission ticket to the Alhambra.
After visiting the two palaces we go to the fortress at the end of the complex. This part is the oldest part of the complex and also the area with the strongest fortifications. This was the main military barracks of the Alhambra where the soldiers of the rulers stayed.
The last part of the Alhambra we went to visit was the Generalife. This was the summer palace of the rulers of Granada – it was really a remote palace and it is only slightly elevated compared to the rest of Alhambra so the climate must be almost as hot in the summer as the rest of Granada. But the pleasure palace here is located at the end of a large garden complex which is pretty to walk through. This palace is smaller than the main palace of the Nasrid – but is quite nice the way the palace is centered around the gardens and there is a view from the garden of the city of Granada below and the rest of Alhambra as well.