Gallery and Travel Guide to the Alhambra, Granada, Andalucía, Spain
Andalucia's Crowning Glory
- The Alhambra of Granada by Heather McMillan
There are few visitors to
Andalucia who do not have the Alhambra of Granada at the top of their agenda.
This marvellous palace complex, home of the last ruling Muslim dynasty
in Spain, is renowned throughout the world for the stunning beauty of its
architecture and decoration. The Alhambra received around two and a half
million visitors last year, and it is advisable to reserve tickets in advance
if you do not want to miss what will no doubt be the highlight of your
trip. Reservations can be made by phone, fax or online and your ticket
will specify a window of time during which you can enter the Alhambra.
There are several buildings
within the complex, including the Royal Palace (where the most beautiful
Moorish decoration can be seen), the Renaissance Palace of Carlos the Fifth,
Holy Roman Emperor, and the Generalife, which was the summer palace of
the Moorish rulers whose beautiful gardens are legendary. Most memorable
to the visitor are the intricately-decorated ceilings from which delicate
plaster stalactites seem to hang, and the harmonious beauty of the geometric
patterns used in the decoration.
It is always surprising to
find that the Alhambra lay neglected for many years during which time its
beautiful buildings and gardens fell into disrepair. A French occupying
force during the Peninsular War realised the magnificence that lay dormant
and undertook considerable repairs, although they blew up part of the exterior
walls on their departure! Later, the American writer Washington Irving
spent a long period in residence at the Alhambra in the early nineteenth
century. His subsequent book, Tales of the Alhambra, which extolled the
beauty of the palace and recounted many exotic Arab tales, seized the imagination
of the public. Restoration began a few years later and has continued ever
since. The success of many years of restoration can be gauged by the fact
that the Alhambra only narrowly missed being selected as one of the new
Seven Wonders of the World in a recent international competition.
Of course Granada, backed
by the beautiful snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, has much more
to offer the traveller than just the Alhambra. The historic quarter known
as the Albaicin, whose streets are in many parts too narrow for cars, allows
visitors to experience life as it must have been back in Moorish times.
Traffic-free, whitewashed streets, delicious cooking smells, exotic bazaars
and Moorish-style tea shops, all transport the visitor back in time. The
nearby cave-houses of Sacromonte are a popular venue for flamenco performances.
Granada’s marvellous Renaissance cathedral also merits a visit. Finally,
Granada is a college town (the university is one of the oldest in Spain)
with excellent nightlife. Tapas bars and restaurants abound, many of which
are open into the early hours of the morning, allowing the visitor to experience
the delicious traditional cooking and vibrant atmosphere for which Andalucia