Welcome to Generalife, a royal summer palace with lush gardens dating back to the 13th century.
Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the most visited monuments in Spain, as it happens to be part of the Alhambra complex.
If you struggle with name a bit, you’re not alone. I called if ‘General-life’ a number of times before I realized my mistake. Pronounced ‘xeneralife’ in Spanish, the name means Gardens of Architect, although there are still discussions as to its true origins and meaning.
Palacio de Generalife was my last stop on exploration of the Alhambra, and one that I almost missed out on. After visiting the Nasrid Palace and Alcazaba, we almost completely missed the well posted and very visible signs for Generalife. Luckily, your tickets are valid all day, so you can re-enter at any time on the same day.
In stark contrast to the Nasrid Palace with its elaborate ornamental decorations on walls and perfect symmetry anywhere you look, Generalife can seem a little plain and simple, but that certainly doesn’t take away anything from its beauty.
The gardens were designed as a relaxation place for the sultans and kings, and have undergone a lot of design and structural changes. The newest part of the gardens is outside the main Palace, right by the entrance – Jardines Nuevos.
These 20th century gardens line the entrance point to Palacio Generalife – they were designed by Francisco Prieto Moreno and finished in 1951.
The gardens spread out on your left as you walk towards the entrance, with a newly build amphitheater visible on your right side. The new gardens are built around traditional fountain features with perfectly trimmed hedges creating a beautiful frame to the stunning views.
Further down the road you will see a beautiful rose garden and right by the entrance to the place is a small patio with orange trees.
The entrance to the palace is through a spacious courtyard lined with orange trees, and if you’re visiting in early spring when they bloom – you’re in for a real treat!
As you pass through the main building you will end up in the main courtyard of the palace – and certainly the most impressive feature – Courtyard of the Water Canal.
The main courtyard is a feast for the eyes – a long water fountain feature stretches through the middle of the courtyard and is surrounded by flower beds on each side. All you hears is the trickling water and bees making their rounds between the flowers.
The archway offers beautiful views and leads you to the end of the courtyard where you can continue your journey to the upper gardens.
The upper floor of the palace offers beautiful views towards the gardens below. The highlight of this area is the water stairway – three flights of stars with small water canals build on each side.
The gardens on the top are not as elaborate and intricate as the display below, but are shaded by large trees and a great place to hide from the summer heat.
As you make your way to the end of the garden you will find a vine covered staircase that will lead you out of the palace gardens.
So much beauty all in one place!
I’ve not seen Generalife in autumn, but the change of colours must be spectacular here.
If you’re planning your visit of Alhambra, get your tickets for the Nasrid Palace for first thing in the morning so you can enjoy the gardens in relative peace after that. You can also only visit the gardens without seeing the rest of the complex, as tickets are also available individually. There are refreshments or vending machines in Generalife, only by the entrance.
Until next time, Granada!
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