10 Days in Andalucia: The Alhambra

This day on the trip was packed with so much awesome, I’m breaking it into a couple of pieces.

The Alhambra is one of the most iconic structures in all of Spain, if not the continent. Like the Real Alcazar (which was used for shooting some scenes in Game of Thrones, by the way), this palace and garden complex conjure visions of opulence, but also meditation. It sits atop one of the highest hills in the area, so you get to see the city sprawl of the city out below. Despite the fact that nowadays Granada is a major urban center, The Alhambra’s location in the historic city center means you still get the terracotta and white motif of old.

Nearly ever inch of the interior is covered with ornate carvings, many of which are actually composed of loopy script. For a little while after my first visit, I was totally obsessed with this style. I did a series of tiles for my ceramics class that were modeled on the artwork I’d seen. But enough talk, here are some pictures!

Another one of my favorite features are the “honeycomb” ceilings. Thousands of tiny stalagmites and crevices adorn many of the grandest rooms, but also humbler niches around the central pool.

Another important courtyard is the Court of Lions, named for its fountain. Islamic art is largely either geometric or organic, like flowers, making these lions among the only faces you’ll find anywhere on the grounds. Because of Corona, they had roped off a specific but serpentine route for people to follow as they wove among the columns and peeked into the adjoining rooms.

And of course, you can’t have a fantastical Islamic palace without an equally enchanting garden! Almost everywhere you looked, you found a postcard-worthy tableau or flower bed.

Here are a few tips for planning your own visit:

  • You can access the main grounds without booking a timed ticket in advance, but the main palace and Generalife (summer palace) do require their own ticket. The Alhambra palace tickets are in 15 minute increments and they are usually pretty strict. Right now, there aren’t as many people around, of course, but I was still worried about making it through that socially distanced line in time for our entry.
  • The reason we were running late was twofold. First, I misunderstood something I’d seen marked on the map as an “entrance.” It was only an entrance to the park surrounding the palace. The second thing you can’t tell from a map is that you have to walk SO FAR UPHILL. It was exhausting. Thankfully, the whole complex is designed with comfort in the summer heat in mind, and I swear it was at least 10 degree F cooler inside than out. There is a shuttle that can take you right to the actual entrance, but the schedule was very limited at that time due to Covid.
  • Give yourself at least four hours so you can take a leisurely stroll and take opportunities to just sit and soak up some of the vistas as you go.

Visiting the Alhambra took us from around 10:30AM to around 3PM. As you can imagine, we were famished and ready for our first tapas and sangria of the day. There was a cafe right at the exit, but we knew better. We walked a little way down the hill and found a gorgeous spot with way fewer people.

We hadn’t really made any other plans for the day except to visit a tea shop at some point and make it up to an Alhambra overlook at night. The store at The Alhambra was closed for Covid, but luckily we found a wonderful shop not too far away. The cashier asked us about our plans for the evening, and let us know about one of the only flamenco shows that was still authorized to operate at the moment. We’d had so much fun at our first show in Jerez de la Frontera that we jumped at the chance to see another one.

Come back next week to read about the show and see some clips of the performances. Missed a post? Read the whole series.



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