People come to Granada from all over the world to see and visit one of the world’s most stunning monuments, the Alhambra. Dominating the skyline above the city, this palace was the jewel in the crown of Moorish kingdom in Spain. It’s now the most visited monument in the country with more than two million visitors every year.
With its spectacular location, high on a hilltop against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains which rise in the background, the Alhambra impresses from afar. Once within its walls, there are so many delights to revel in: the ornately decorated Casa Real, the intricately adorned chambers, the leafy gardens of the Generalife, the old walls of the fortress Alcazaba… we recommend an exclusive tour with an expert Madrid & Beyond guide!
As the Alhambra celebrates 150 years as a public monument, we take a look at 10 facts about this incredible destination described by Moorish poets as “a pearl set in emeralds”.
- The name Alhambra means “the red” in Arabic; it’s thought to have been inspired by the reddish color of the rammed earth outer walls.
- The Alhambra spreads across nearly 26 acres, with more than a mile of walls, 30 towers and numerous smaller structures included on the site.
- While the Alhambra has been a public monument since 1870, it was built many centuries ago, between 1238 and 1358 during the reigns of Ibn al-Aḥmar, founder of the Naṣrid dynasty, and his successors.
- In its prime, the Alhambra comprised three main sections: the Alcazaba, a military base for guards and their families; the palatial zone, where there were several palaces for the sultan; and the Medina where court officials lived and worked.
- The Alhambra fell into disrepair after the expulsion of the Moors in 1492. Hundreds of years later, in 1812, some of the towers were blown up by a French force during the Peninsular War (War of Independence) and, in 1821, an earthquake caused further damage to the complex.
- American author Washington Irving lived in the Alhambra while writing a collection of essays which helped raise interest in Spain’s Moorish past. He was commemorated with a statue near the Puerta de las Granadas (Gate of Pomegranates) on the 150th anniversary of his death in 2009.
- The Salón de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors), inside the Torre de Comares (Comares Tower), is the largest room in the Alhambra at 11m2; it is topped by a dome which is 23m high at its center.
- The building known as the Generalife, means “Garden of the Architect” and dates back to the early 14th century.
- The artist MC Escher visited the Alhambra in 1922 and 1936 and was inspired by the geometry of its mosaics, copying the geometric tessellations into his notebooks, and later adding animals and people to his designs.
- The Alhambra and the Generalife were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.
To include a visit to Granada and the Alhambra on your next luxury vacation to Spain, contact the Madrid & Beyond team today.