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Alhambra General

A walk through the history of the Alhambra

With the daytime general admission ticket you can visit all areas of the Monumental Complex open to the public: Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Generalife

The visit includes:

01 – Alcazaba – La Qasba –

Its location, in the highest part of the hill, makes it a privileged place for observation and surveillance of the city, the vega and their access.

From the 13th century onwards, the Nasrid people gave the Alcazaba its present appearance, adding great towers: the Tower of the Candle (Torre de la Vela) in the west and the Tower of Homage (Torre del Homenaje), the Broken Tower (Torre Quebrada) and Adarguero in the east. It is accessed from the Gate of Arms.

It is in that period when he fortification of the entire perimeter of the Alhambra begins, with its wall and the addition at intervals of some towers and gates along its perimeter.

It is one of the oldest parts of the Alhambra; in this military area you can visit the following spaces: the Terrace of the Tower of the Cube, the Adarve of the North Wall, the Military District, the Gate of the Arms, The Tower of the Candle (Torre de la Vela) and the Garden of the Adarves.

02 – Nasrid Palaces – La Dar al-Mamlaka

Once the first palaces were built, the Dar al-Mamlaka, with its various royal houses built by the different sultans during the Nasrid period, form what we now know as the Nasrid Palaces. Although located in a single compartmentalized space, each palace is identified with the sultan who ordered its construction. Nowadays they form three independent areas: Mexuar, Comares and Lions.

Mexuar

It is the most primitive space of the conserved ones. In the Nasrid era it served the audience hall and important meetings. The main hall is accessed through two large courtyards, which are the Court of the Mosque and the Court of the Machuca.

And a large room, the Mexuar.

It was the central hall of the palace built by Isma’il (1314-1325). It was modified by Muhammad V and transformed into a Christian chapel in the 16th century.

Palace of Comares. Court of the Myrtles.
Built during Yusuf I´s period, this palace is were the Nasrid sultans established the throne room, in addition to being the residence of the Sultan and his family. It is accessed through the façade with two doors located in the Patio of the Golden Room. The right door led to service areas and the left door led to the royal premises.

Before the Façade, and especially at the top of the stairs, as a symbol of the legitimacy of the throne, the Sultan gave audience and imparted justice to his vassals, following the tradition that dated back to antiquity.

The Façade separated the administrative and public sector from the private and familiar part of the Palace. The right door led to the family and servants quarters. The left door led to the core of the Palace of Comares, after having followed a Z-shaped sloping corridor with no other lighting than that of the Palace, which brightly entered from the other end, all of which with highlighting symbolic terms of the royalty of the premises. The Court of the Myrtles takes its name from the dense bushes of this plant, also called mirth, that grow on the longer sides of the pond. In the Hispano-Muslim houses, the courtyard is the core of family life, around which all the other rooms are distributed.

Antechamber to the most important space of the Palace of Comares, its name may have come from the cylindrical shape of the dome, like an inverted boat hull, or from the Arab term al-baraka, repeatedly inscribed on the stucco of the walls.

Inside of the tower there is the largest room of Nasrid Alhambra: the Hall of Comares. This palace achieves a microclimate for the well-being of its inhabitants.

Palace of the Lions
In the second half of the fourteenth century, during the second mandate of Muhammad V, a major modification of the internal structure of the Alhambra is carried out. It is the most fecund of the Nasrid periods, when most of the spaces we visit today were decorated and redecorated.

The Palace of the Lions, brings new aesthetic concepts that break with the usual architectural scheme and that will also be reflected in the administration of the State.

It is structured around two dwelling nuclei and two ambivalent areas. From the latter, the first one seen was the Hall of the Muqarnas, which was used as a hall or vestibule, given its proximity to the main entrance of the Palace.

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..Noteworthy is the eight-point stalactite star of the cupola that spreads out into eight trunk-like stalactites.

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.

This space is divided into three square-shaped spaces with the porticos and the alcoves in the centre, covered with stalactite cupolas that rise up from the general roof in the form of “lanterns” –another typical feature of the Nasrid architecture. These spaces are perpendicularly segmented by large double stalactite arches.

The Hall of the Two Sisters, the second main chamber of the Palace of the Lions, is structurally similar to that of the Hall of the Abencerrages. It is situated above the court, where the only entrance is located.

The name is derived from the setting where two large marble flagstones lie with a small fountain in between from which water flows along a canal to the Court of the Lions.

 Ajimeces Gallery. You enter the gallery through a large archway opening in the wall, with engravings. The intrados has small niches, commonly found in Nasrid times. The upper part of the gallery wall is decorated with polychromatic stucco, while the lower part is bare, leading one to suppose that a tapestry was displayed there at one time. The muqarna cupola was reconstructed at the beginning of the XVI century.

The name of gallery recalls the locks, fixed to the large side supports that the window pairs originally had.

Behind the stalactite arch is one of the loveliest designs to behold in the Alhambra palaces: the Lindaraja Balcony. The name in Spanish of the lookout is derived from “Ayn Dar Aisa”, which is Arabic for “the eyes of Aisa’s home.” During the Nasrid reign it served as a watchtower overlooking the countryside, with a garden extending from its base. A false covering, with multicoloured crystals constituting a veritable treasure, crowns the top of the room, in what may well be the stateliest location in the Palace..

03 – Generalife

It includes the Lower Gardens, the Palace of the Generalife and the High Gardens.

Outside the walls of the Alhambra, to the east, on the slope of Cerro del Sol, is the Generalife, a recreational estate of the Nasrid sultans, also used for agricultural exploitation, with a residential building core and a vast extension of cultivated land and grass, compartmentalized in parades or terraces through four large orchards, taking advantage of their orographic profiles.

The provenance of the term Generalife has long been disputed. Some say it derives from “Jardin” (Garden), or “Huerta del Zambrero” (Zambrero’s Vegetable Garden); also “el más elevado de los jardines” (the highest garden); “casa de artificio y recreo” (house of guile and recreation); “Mansión de placer o recreación grande” (Mansion of pleasure and great recreation); and “Jardín del citarista” (Zither player’s Garden); the most commonly accepted being “Jardin or Jardines del Alarife”, in other words, “The builder or architect’s Garden.”

After the conquest in 1492, the Catholic Monarchs assigned a keeper to watch over the area and make improvements. In 1631 the keeper’s charge was given to the Granada-Venegas family, until 1921, when the state, after a long drawn out legal battle, was finally awarded custody of the premises.

The visit to this sector starts at the New Gardens of the Generalife.

The Generalife and the Alhambra were connected through gardens that successfully integrated the buildings with nature.

The zone was simultaneously divided into the three parts that constitute the New Garden (Jardines Nuevos) today. In 1931 a section resembling a labyrinth garden, with arched rose gardens and cypress trees, was finished near the building; in 1951 the section was extended in accordance with the architect Prieto Moreno’s design for a Muslim-style garden, with an irrigation channel crossing, streets, cypress lined walls, a pergola and a view of both the Alhambra and the city.

Finally, in 1952, the outdoor amphitheatre was built for the Granada International Festival of Music and Dance, which as been held there ever since.

The theatre and the adjacent gardens pertain to the same project and building operation. The retaining walls are perceived as a further fragment of the whole and the different parades and flowerbeds serve as support for vegetable accompaniment, of great importance in the installation. The stage is configured with natural screens of cypresses, offering a permanent and characteristic background, unique in the contemporary scenery.

The Generalife was built between the 12th and 14th Century. The palace was used by the Muslim royalty as a place of rest. It was designed as a rural villa in the vicinity of the Alhambra, with decorative garden, fruit and vegetable patches, courts and other structures.

The Royal Canal (Acequia Real), the principal hydraulic source for the entire historical-artistic monument complex. The court channel was originally in the shape of a crossing, like the one in the Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones), supplying water to four oblique parterres.

The entrance to the Generalife is interesting for two reasons. On the one hand, its exterior part is rural, befitting a country house more than a palace, following the description of the hispanic-muslim almunia in Ibn Luyun’s Agriculture Treaty. On the other hand, various courts had to be traversed at different levels in order to reach the interior of the Alhambra palace itself.

The first court, denominated Court of the Dismount, presents two side buildings which were probably used by stable hands.

The second court, which underwent changes, is located at the top and surrounded by arched galleries, except for in the front, where access to the interior of the palace is gained.

Entrance to the palace itself is through a tiny door, today partially hidden by undergrowth and embedded in traces of marble, with a tiled lintel and the ever present arch-key marking. From there, a steep narrow stairway leads to a residence, connected to the Court of the Main Canal (Patio de la Acequia), called the North Pavilion (Pabellón Norte), which in turn leads to an arcaded gallery, with five arches and bedchambers, and on to the Royal Chamber (Sala Regia) and the observation point of Ismail I.

The Royal Chamber (Sala Regia) is noted for its plasterwork, niches and lovely stalactite capitals. The often repeated interior layout includes bedchambers framed by arches. Of particular note is the stalactite outset cornice supporting the ceiling.

Crossing the side bedroom of the Royal Chamber (Sala Regia) you ascend to an open corridor called the Court of the Sultana’s Cypress Tree (Patio del Ciprés de la Sultana).

The arcaded structure dates back to 1584. In front of it is an intimate court and a garden with a baroque flare to it.

The arcaded structure dates back to 1584. In front of it is an intimate court and a garden with a baroque flare to it. The area was originally the site of the now disappeared Palace Bath. Water from the irrigation canal, which at one time probably filled it while flowing to the adjacent courtyard, can still be seen pouring through a gap in the side wall.

In the centre is a U-shaped pool of water, in the middle of which in the 19th century there used to be a smaller pool, with a stone fountain.

To reach the highest part of the Generalife you take the Water Stairway (Escalera del Agua), leftover—if substantially altered—from an earlier site, famous for its water, which flowed from the Sultan’s Canal through pipes in the walls.

Water once flowed into three circular basins from as many pipes, now lost; however, water from the Royal Canal (Acequia Real) continues to flow down inverted pan tiles along the stairway parapets.

At the end of the Water Stairway is the highest point in the Generalife. From this vantage point Jaime Traverso, the admistrator of the site, built in 1836 the Romantic Observation Point in neo-Gothic style, which was the fashion at the time, and noticeably contrasted with the rest of the site.(This space opens once a year during a month, withing the programme “space of the month”.)

The visit continues through the Promenade of the Oleanders, a long path that crosses the upper wall that separates the vegetable gardens, covered with oleander.

This promenade was built in the middle of the XIX century as a romantic access to the Palace of the Generalife.  Following the Promenade of the Oleander, the Promenade of the Cypress Trees, built at the beginning of the XX century, takes the visitor to the place of exit.

Approximate time of the visit 3 hours

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The visit includes:

01 – Alcazaba

02 – Nasrid Palaces

03 – Generalife

  • Booking and purchase of tickets are done online in the system of management and sales of tickets of the Council of the Alhambra and Generalife, by telephone or on TVRs.
  • These tickets can be purchased through “print at home”, on the TVRs or at the ticket office. This last procedure can cause an unnecessary wait.
  • If your ticket has been purchased through “print at home” you should consider:
    • That all visitors must carry their ticket, printed on A4 paper, obverse and reverse and keep it until the end of the visit.
    • The print must be of good quality. Partially printed, stained, damaged or illegible tickets will not be accepted.
      IF NOt, IT WILL BE CONSIDERED NULL
    • To check the good quality of the print, make sure the information written on the ticket, as well as the QR code are legible.
  • Each visitor independent of his age, must carry his own ticket, which may be issued individually and he is obliged to keep it until the exit of the monument visited, he must present it, with a personal identification document issued by the Ministry of the Interior or homologous organization of his country, at the request of any employee, either his own personnel or the security services, as well as the State Security Forces and Bodies, in this case.
    • If the holder of the ticket is different from the person who is to carry out the visit, it must include the name and surname of the visitor in the “ticket” before printing.

IN THE EVENT OF NOT OBSERVING SOME OF THE RULES SPECIFIED ABOVE THE TICKET WILL BE CONSIDERED NULL.

  • Please note that this ticket is valid for the same day of the visit to the Alhambra.
  • Children under 12 have free admission but it must be reserved at the time of purchase and managed with the rest of the adult tickets.

IMPORTANT: the date and the time of access to the Nasrid Palaces, is expressly written on the ticket. The visit to these spaces must be done within the specific time slot indicated on the admission ticket.

The Council of the Alhambra and Generalife will limit to ten the number of tickets that a private individual can acquire in a month, in order to make a better distribution of unorganized individual tourism tickets.

Did you know?

Access to the Nasrid Palaces must be done at the times indicated on the ticket.

Access to the Palace of Carlos V, the Museum of the Alhambra and the Bath of the Mosque, is free.

With the general ticket you can visit all the spaces of the Alhambra including the gardens (you do not have to buy the gardens ticket).

During the general daytime visit you will also be able to visit the space of the month.

All the temporary exhibitions, that the Council of the Alhambra and the Generalife organize inside the monumental enclosure, are free.

  • Visiting hours
    • 15 October – 31 March
      8.30 h. – 18.00 h.
    • 1 April – 14 October
      8.30 h. – 20.00 h.
    • Mondays to Sundays
    • With the exception of the 25 of December and 1 of January
  • Ticket office hours
    • 15 October – 31 March
      8.00 h. – 18.00 h.
    • 1 April – 14 October
      8.00 h. – 20.00 h
    • Mondays to Sundays
    • With the exception of the 25 of December and 1 of January

Discounts (*)
The following groups are entitled to a reduction in the ticket price:

  • EU citizenship over 65
  • Children between 12 and 15 years
  • European Youth Card holders
  • People with a disability equal or greater than 33%

Gratuity (*)

  • Children under 12
  • ICOMOS members
  • ICOM members

(*) The beneficiaries of gratuitousness or reduction in the price of the ticket must present at the box office the official, valid and updated proofs of belonging to the collective object of gratuity or reduction (retirees, holders of the young card, people with disabilities …) on the days of the collection of the ticket and the day of the visit.
Otherwise, you must pay the full price corresponding to your ticket type.