Alhambra - Alcazar, Granada
As the time for our tour drew near, we and the other tourists waited in the 'Alcazaba' portion of the Alhambra, with its name derived from the Moorish word for a citadel (al-Quasbah). This plateau above Granada has always been a natural defensive position, with various fortifications having been built there since pre-Roman times. This latest version was built by the Moorish Nasrid rulers in about 1232 as the anchor for the remainder of their amazing structures of the Alhambra - and it did its job for 260 years until the end of Moorish rule in Spain in 1492 (the same year Columbus 'discovered' America). This view of the Torre de la Vela, as seen from our hostal, is a constant reminder to Granada visitors that the Alhambra looms above the city.
Our tight morning schedule did not allow us the time to really have a good look at the somewhat down-trodden walls of the Alcazaba or climb its towers, but even standing in its lower levels we had great views out over Granada from this commanding position. The second photo looks down on the old Moorish quarter of the city known as the Albaicin (and its eastern defensive wall snaking across the hillside), an area of the city we explored on foot later in the day. Separate tours of this part of the Alhambra are available but we were just waiting for the doors to the Casas Reales to open for our official tour to start.
After visiting the gardens and palace at Generalife, we headed over to the other part of the Alhambra where you will find the rest of the sights you'll want to visit-the Palacio de Carlos V, the Nasrid Palace and the Alcazaba.
The ticket to the Alhambra has three tear off tickets, one for Generalife, one for the Nasrid Palace and one for the Alcazaba, the fortress built in the 9th century. You'll want to climb the Torre de la Vela (watchtower) for the spectacular view of the town below and the snow capped Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance as well as Generalife.
The best reason to go into the Alcazar is to climb the Tower as it gives very good views, and aslo gives you a better idea of the site of this Castle. There are normally around three flags flying on top of the Tower. From memory they are the Spanish flag, the Andalusian Flag and the flag for Granada.
This picture shows the view from the top of the tower. There are also very good views across into Granada Town too. although these are not shown here.
You will probably enter the Alhambra through the Puerta de la Justicia ( main gate). A short uphill stroll from here is the Puerto del Vino and then you're on the Plaza de Los Aljibes with the Alcazaba on one side and the Palace of Carlos V on the other. As you can only enter the Nasrid Palaces at the time stated on your ticket, chances are you will have some time on your hands and a perfect opportunity to spend time in the Alcazaba. This earliest part of the complex is obviously defensive and is basically a plain and sturdy fortress.You can walk around freely inside, admiring the towers and ramparts as you make your way up towards Torre de la Vela at the very top. This climb will reward you with a panoramic vista over the countryside. The central area of the Alcazaba is the site of the original barracks and small boundry walls indicate the remains of the different rooms, baths and even the dungeon. This building is not in any way spectacular but it's not so crowded and feels much more relaxed than other parts of the Alhambra. It's quite a good way to warm up for the rest of the experience.
When you enter the Alhambra, your ticket will take you into to thre separate parts of the Alhambra. The Palace area is the bit everybody wants to see. The Generalife gardens are also very impressive. That leaves the Alcazar (meaning Castle in Spanish). This Alcazar is ruined, and is not really that exciting. Indeed a lot of guidebooks don't even seem to cover it. There seem to be a lot of foundations and a big tower that has seen better days. The attached picture shows this area for completeness sake.
The Alcazaba - a fortified stronghold guarding royal quarters built around two exquisite courtyards. This impressive military fortification goes back to 9th century, and was modified by Muhammad III in 13th century to be his private residence. There are various towers, some with elaborate interiors. From the tower, Torre de la Vela, there is a great view over the town.
This is the tallest tower in the Alcazaba.To go up,you must to use a interior narrow stairs and it is always crowded of tourists.From here you can see some awesome views of the city and also of Sierra Nevada.
Normally we all leave till the end, and compared to the palaces that we have already seen, it is not as exciting, but it had its importance for the castle as it was the military area.
Some fo the palces to visit are:
Torre del Cubo
Plaza de Armas
Torre de la Vela
Y el Jardín de los Adarves
The views from the towers are incredible, check tourist traps
If you have time you can still walk along the shops and the gardens before heading to Granada city center
Granada's 'Gate of Justice' is one of the main entrances/exits you take to get through the Alhambra walls. It is also the biggest gate, very imposing in its typical red stone. It leads you to the area in front of the Alcazar castle.
I had to look very closely to spot a hand carved above the large arch and a key above the smaller arch. These are actually Islamic symbols, but the rumour was that the Alhambra would only be captured when the hand reached down to grab the key.
Well, belive it or not that must have been what happened, because Granada was captured by Spain's Catholic monarchs in 1492!!
The lion's court yard (Patio de los Leones) is a masterpiece of moorish style of architecture. Lion's court yard is the former center of sultan's rooms of rest. It is decorated with 124 columns similar to palm trees. Twelve lions symbolize signs on the Zodiac.
It causes admiration of the cosiness and a graceful ornament. The fountain with lions certainly appeared later. The interdiction of islam on the image of people and animals is known. Therefore mixture of styles certainly takes place.
There are Abenserrah Hall and the Royal Hall which come into a lion's court yard. Abenserrah Hall has such a name according to a legend. The emir has decapitated 100 Abenserrah brothers here in a punishment one of them has fallen in love in a concubine of emir.
Of the two residential areas surrounding the Court of the Lions, the rooms located at the south end of the Court developed around the Hall of the Abencerrages, which derived its name from a legend of the 16th century, according to which the members of this North-African family were invited to a banquet and then massacred in this hall.
Although in ruins today, this fort once offered protection for the thousands of moors that lived within it's walls.
There are wonderful views out to the city of Granada, the Albaycin area and the Sierra Nevada mountains from the Alcazar.
I would recommend spending an hour or so walking around this area - it's steep in some sections but well worth the calories spent!
For more pictures, see my travelogue.
The Hall of the Kings is the most emblematic chamber of the Palace of the Lions . It was an area used for relaxation and leisure, structured around a large vestibular hall, more than 30m long, that was reserved for receptions and celebrations.
The Royal Hall has a stalactite dome and a ceiling which is trimmed by the painted leather.
The hall of two sisters is named so because of two stone plates which are in the middle of a hall.
The myrtile court yard (Patio de los Arrayanes) also is a masterpiece of moorish art. It is framed by magnificent carved arches. Comares Tower adjoins to Patio de los Arrayanes.
You can watch my 4 min 02 sec about Video Granada Alhambra part 3 out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
The gate leads to an inner vaulted space with more turns that, at the end and before reaching the Place of Arms opened up so that defenders could control all access and respond from above to an attack. The Citadel (Alcazaba) is the unique construction of military purpose in the whole ensemble. It is dated XIII century. There was soldier's barracks earlier from which almost nothing was kept till now.