13 Fascinating Facts About Alhambra in Granada, Spain

13 Fascinating Facts About Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Alhambra is one of the most famous monuments in Southern Spain, one that you should definitely not miss if you’re planning your trip!

In this article, you will find 13 fascinating facts about Alhambra, together with some practical tips that will help you plan your visit.

I have visited Alhambra three times already, so you can imagine I’m a big fan!

Let’s check it out!

Why is Alhambra Famous?

The Alhambra is one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in Europe and one of the first Islamic monuments that became the subject of modern scientific study. It is the most visited monument in Spain (2023 data) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Despite what most people think, Alhambra is not actually one of the wonders of the world, it was just one of the candidates.

visiting alhambra palace day trip granada spain 1
The red walls of the Alhambra, as seen from Mirador San Nicolas.

13 Facts About Alhambra in Granada

1. A Fortress and a Palace

The Alhambra is a stunning historical complex consisting of a fortress, a palace, and a small city all in one, originally constructed in 889 AD on Roman ruins and later renovated into a royal palace in the 13th century by Mohammed Ibn Yusuf Ben Nasr (Yusuf I), Sultan of Granada. It was designed to be a self-contained palace city.

2. Meaning Behind The Name

The name “Alhambra” translates to “The Red One” in Arabic, a nickname derived from the red-tinted walls and towers that make up the structure’s façade, glowing particularly brilliantly at sunset.

3. A Water Wonder

Water is a central element of the Alhambra, symbolizing purity, life, and wealth. The ingenious use of water features, including fountains and reflective pools, demonstrates advanced hydraulic engineering and serves as a cooling mechanism for the palace.

4. Speaking Walls

The walls of the Alhambra are adorned with some of the best-preserved examples of Islamic art and calligraphy in the world, featuring intricate stucco work that includes Arabic inscriptions, primarily poems and passages from the Quran. If you want to know more about the meaning of the engravings on the walls, check out the book ‘Reading the Alhambra’ by Jose Miguel Puerta.

Engravings on the walls of the Nasrid Palace in Alhambra, Granada.
Engravings on the walls of the Nasrid Palace in Alhambra.

5. The Court of The Lions

Perhaps the most famous part of the Alhambra, this courtyard is renowned for its central fountain supported by 12 stone lions. This area exemplifies the peak of Moorish art and the complex symbolism, combining elements of astrology, religion, and royalty.

6. Master of Symmetry

The architects and artisans of the Alhambra were masters of symmetry and geometric patterns. These designs were not just for aesthetics but also had symbolic meanings, representing the infinite nature of Allah.

7. UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Alhambra became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, recognized for its historical, cultural, and architectural significance.

8. The Surrender of Granada

The Alhambra was the last Muslim stronghold in Spain, falling to the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492, a pivotal event in the Christian Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula.

9. Inspiration for Artists

Over the centuries, the Alhambra has inspired many artists and writers, including Washington Irving, whose tales in “Tales of the Alhambra” are still popular today, evoking the romance and history of this enchanting place.

10. Two Residences in One

The Generalife, adjacent to the Alhambra, was the summer palace and country estate of the Nasrid rulers, featuring lush gardens, beautiful flowers, and striking water features, designed to offer a retreat from the summer heat.

11. Blend of Style

The architecture of the Alhambra influenced many later architectural styles and buildings, including the Palace of Charles V, which was built inside the Alhambra complex by the Holy Roman Emperor in the 16th century.

12. Record Breaking

Today, the Alhambra is Spain’s most visited tourist attraction, attracting over 2 million visitors every year. Ongoing preservation efforts are crucial to maintaining its beauty and historical integrity.

13. Night Exploring

For a different perspective, the Alhambra offers night tours, allowing visitors to experience the magic of its illuminated walls and shadows, providing a completely unique and mystical atmosphere compared to the day tours.

Court of the Lions in Alhambra, Granada Spain.
Court of the Lions in Alhambra.
Views of Albaicin from the Alcazaba Tower in Alhambra, Granada.
View from the Alcazaba tower.

Visiting the Alhambra: Practical Tips

Here are a few practical tips for visiting the Alhambra in Granada:

The best time to visit the Alhambra is early in the morning. The entrance to the Nasrid Palace has a dedicated time slot, with the first one available at 8.30 am. If you’re planning to visit, I highly recommend trying to get the first available tickets.

In terms of seasons, late spring or early autumn are great, summer is extremely busy and very hot, but manageable if you visit early in the morning. Winter weather can be unpredictable, with big differences between morning and afternoon temperatures.

That goes without saying that Alhambra is worth visiting even in bad weather, especially if that’s your only chance to see the monument.

If you’re short on time, one day is enough for Alhambra, and you will still have time to see the other attractions in Granada, even on limited time schedule.

The most important thing to plan your visit is to remember to book your tickets well in advance. Tickets to Alhambra sell out weeks in advance, especially in the high season.

If you can’t get tickets to Alhambra anymore, I think Granada is still worth visiting, and you have a few options on how to see the Alhambra.

One of those is the night tours I mentioned earlier, booking a local tour of Alhambra which includes tickets to the monument, or if you’re staying locally in Southern Spain, booking a day trip to Alhambra.

Day trips to Alhambra from Malaga, Fuengirola, Marbella, Estepona, Benalmadena, Torremolinos or Nerja are available each week, and each day trip tour includes tickets to the monument and a guided tour. This is a great option if you can’t get tickets to the monument on a last minute notice, and don’t want to rent a car to drive to Granada.

You can also get to the Alhambra from Seville, Cordoba and other bigger cities in Spain like Madrid, but keep in mind that the travel time is much longer,so you won’t have a lot of free time to explore the rest of Granada.

Gardens of Generalife in Alhambra, Granada, Spain.
Gardens of Generalife in Alhambra.
Gardens of Palacio Nazaries, Alhambra.
Gardens of Palacio Nazaries, Alhambra.

Frequent Questions About the Alhambra

Who Built the Alhambra Palace in Granada?

The Alhambra Palace was built in the 13th century by king Mohammed Ibn Yusuf Ben Nasr, also known as Alhamar.

Where is Alhambra Palace located?

The Alhambra Palace is located in Granada, in Southern Spain. It was built on top of a hill directly opposite Albaicin, framed by the river Darro.

How old is Alhambra Palace in Granada?

The Alhambra palace was built between built between 1238 and 1358.

Did anyone live in the Alhambra?

Yes, Alhambra was constructed as a palace city, so at the time, about half of the citizens of Granada lived within the palace grounds.

Why is Alhambra a wonder of the world?

Alhambra was never actually declared as the wonder of the world.

Final Thoughts

The Alhambra continues to be a testament to the sophisticated tastes and engineering prowess of its creators, and its timeless beauty ensures it remains a beloved landmark of Granada. Isn’t it just fascinating how much history and art are packed into this one gorgeous location?

Let me know if this article covered everything you wanted to know! If not, please leave a comment below and I will be happy to help!

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Lucia has been living on Costa del Sol since 2020, and through her love of photography and travel, she has been documenting the best places to see in Southern Spain and uncovering hidden gems only known to locals. All the articles on Viva La Vita are written based on personal experience and local expertise.

Hi, I'm Lucia

At Viva La Vita, I will help you to discover Southern Spain like a local!

I've been living on Costa del Sol since 2020, and fill these pages with first-hand insights, personal experience and practical tips that will help you plan a wonderful trip to Spain.

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