Postcards: La Alhambra, Granada

When Washington Irving wrote Tales of the Alhambra, the Moorish compound was a place seen only by few people from outside Andalusia. It was even then surrounded in myth, despite its almost decrepit state. Irving had the very good fortune of being allowed to live within the fortress and he had the luxury of exploring the buildings and gardens at leisure.

Such privileged adventure is no longer possible. The Alhambra has become one of Spain’s most popular tourist attractions, with thousands passing through its grand arches and gates everyday. Nowadays, instead of the rambling but romantic expedition taken by Irving, one is more likely to get to Alhambra via a generic tour bus and be deposited outside the entrance where several buses will be disgorging even more tourists.

It was raining buckets when we arrived and because we did not bring umbrellas, we gritted our teeth and shelled out 5 euros for one that had broken spines. While we were fumbling with it, our tour group walked on without us. In a panic, we looked for the entrance to the grounds, saw a small gate and entered. The next thing we knew, we were being chased out of the Generalife gardens by two stern-faced guards who thought we were trying to sneak in without tickets, hahaha.

We finally found our group but the heavy rains had not let up and I, who was dressed for a bright, sunny day, was already soaked from hat to heel.

Any person at any other place would have been miserable. But here’s the thing about being at the Alhambra: You stop minding everything and can think only of how absolutely awesome the place is. The Alhambra has been rightly described as magical, beautiful, a sprawling, living museum, one of the most important heritage sites in the world. It is all that. And despite the constant presence of hordes of tourists milling about, its beauty is simply impossible to overrate.

~ See? This is the Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Main Canal) at the Palacio de Generalife ~

~ white marble columns at the Court of the Lions ~

The Alhambra was largely built on the hills of Granada as a fortress and royal residence from the mid-13th to the 15th century by the Moors who were then the rulers of Granada and most of Andalusia. Its name literally means ‘Red Castle’ in Arabic, a reference to the color of the clay used in constructing its walls, which over time have taken on a reddish hue.

~ Court of the Myrtles ~

The following images are of various (perfectly-situated) rooms in the complex, including the Chamber of the Ambassadors, the Hall of the Abecerrajes, and the Hall of the Two Sisters. The intricate detailing everywhere is just amazing.

~ courtyard and garden at the Court of Lindaraja ~

After the fall of Islam in Spain, the country’s Catholic rulers took over the Alhambra and during the 16th century, construction of a palace for King Charles V was started. Ninety years later, it was still unfinished.

The Palacio de Carlos V was built in the Roman style and stands as a symbol of the triumph of Christianity over Islam in Spain. It is considered an architectural aberration within the fortress. Irving wrote:

With all the massive grandeur and architectural merit of the palace of Charles V, we regarded it as an arrogant intruder, and (passed) by it with a feeling almost of scorn…

Within the walls of the complex, are extensive gardens, including the famous garden of the Palacio de Generalife (pronounced He-ne-ra-li-fe). The first Sultan resident of the Alhambra wisely apportioned the land along the fortress walls to the members of the royal guard. He encouraged them to till the land and construct their family homes on it, thus ensuring that the defense of the Alhambra became every soldier’s personal battle.

Our last stop during the tour was the Court of the Grated Window where a covered wooden walkway provides this final spectacular view of the city of Granada.


The best-known writing on La Alhambra (and one that has inspired countless tourists and would-be explorers) is Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra. (If you are considering getting the Kindle version from Amazon, I recommend getting Works of Washington Irving instead, which for almost the same price includes all of Irving’s works, including Tales.).

The University of Adelaide has also generously published an online  version which you may read (for free!) here.

If you aren’t sick of my Alhambra pictures yet, there are more on my Facebook page. 😀

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38 thoughts on “Postcards: La Alhambra, Granada

  1. We were there in April and I remember freezing, but at least it was dry! So lovely to wander round the place again with you. Sitting on the riverbank listening to flamenco guitar and looking up at the Alhambra, I had to pinch myself to make sure I was really there.

  2. *Sigh* And the elaborate details on the marble are impressive. What a beautiful place. I think I prefer rainy days there than the brightest sunny days here.

    And thanks for posting pronunciation for Generalife. Nung una akala ko General-life, sabi ko tunong memorial plan. hahaha

  3. Gorgeous, gorgeous!!!! the photos are beautiful. Oh my gosh brings back all my memories. Thank you for posting. Granada took my breath away, especially when we saw the gypsy caves. Did you do the Flamenco dance inside the caves? It was fascinating.
    It rained when we went too, did you go in May? It was freezing and It could have been miserable but we were at the Alhambra – we were sold an umbrella by a gypsy lady for 30 euros pffffttt!!!! I know it was rip off, it was broken and we didn’t have a choice. It rained so hard that we didn’t get to Generalife – I will always regret that. I want to go back to Spain again.

    • It’s a wonderful country, isn’t it, and definitely one to go back to.
      Yes, we went in the spring. We really did not expect that much rain! Maybe your gypsy lady was the same one who sold us our 5 euro broken umbrella. 😉
      We did not get to see the caves but we did see the Generalife gardens. It seems they close that area by mid-afternoon and we did see a lot of tourists who were disappointed that they didn’t know about it.

  4. We went in early April and had warm weather. Going both during the day and again at night was fabulous, and incredibly magical. The echos within the center of the Palacio Charles V were an extra unexpected discovery.

    • Your trip seems to have been timed perfectly. I’d really like to see the place at night, too so that’s one reason to go back. 🙂
      Thanks for dropping by.

  5. beautiful!
    reminds me of the time i made the trek to Granada with 2 friends, only to discover that they limit the number of entry tickets issued daily for the Alhambra. hahaha. i will be back!

    • Haha, I sang the first line of Granada to Ma and she immediately corrected me, saying, it’s not ”crawling under your fence”, it’s ”falling under your spell”. I said, Ma, that’s Sinatra’s version, I’m singing Yoyoy Villame’s.
      She looked at me like, ‘WHY did I even bother to send this daughter to university?” Mwahaha.

  6. Super cool tips on finding the cheaper version of the book and the tales book for free! Beautiful pics! Thank you for sharing!

  7. Beautiful post, Tita! I do looove the Alhambra with all my heart. Been there 3 times and every time I go back I all even more in love with it! It is totally worth it to get there very very early in the morning… oh, and visit it at night! Next time you’re over, make sure you visit Barcelona and you give me a shout! xx

    • Thank you so much! I’ll surely do that because when we went to Barcelona, we mostly stayed w/in the Rambla area and I know there’s so much more I failed to see.
      I envy how you’re able to go a few times to the Alhambra, and during the best times of the day, too, waah. 🙂

      • Hahaha… I do loooove the Alhambra and it’s not that far from Barcelona, anyway… a few 8hours by train and you’re there!
        Barcelona itself is full of wonderful stuff. So please, make sure to let me know if you come round at some point. I’ll be glad to take you sightseeing like a local! 😉

  8. This came up while I was away on vacation, and I am finally got to it today! I was not going to miss this post and photos! Beautiful, just like I knew it would be.

  9. Been to Spain a couple of times but never been to Granada. Your post is so compelling that I should have Spain in sight again comes next holiday planning 😉

  10. Pingback: Postcards: A Walking Tour of Madrid | tita buds' blog

  11. Your exquisite photos bring back powerful memories of my visit there, many years ago now. Rain or shine, it is a spectacular must-see place. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories!

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