Mediterranean, Western Europe

Alhambra – the many faces of a beautiful sight

Granada is the most visited Spanish destination. It’s truly hard to know what to begin with because of the manifold, assorted reasons I would recommend visiting it. A mixture of cultures and dazzling panoramas, the place isn’t only a communion of cultures, but of their distinct manifestations in time as well. It couldn’t be characterized as provincial, although there is something very personal about it that makes anyone feel like home. The streets, the buildings or people don’t seem old fashioned, but they’re the result of different cultural influences that have made it so original in time.

Taken separately, the 19th century coquette boulevards or the Renaissance cathedral wouldn’t be breathtaking in itself, but together with the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the animated spirit of the city you’ll immediately be trapped by the personality of the place.

And it’s not even this the reason for which thousands of visitors come here daily, but Alhambra. The greatest and most impressive Moorish cultural site, the place is a palace, a fortress and a huge stunning water garden, all in one. One of the greatest architectural edifices in Europe, the place is not only ravishingly magnificent, but a very concentrated pill of Andalusian history as well.

Make it special

Visiting it all during one single day is pretty challenging and in order to enjoy it as much as possible the main tip you’d like to know about would be starting with the Generalife Gardens. Apart from its historical meaning, from being the place where the sultan would take a break and enjoy some quality quiet time you’ll find that the modern amphitheater here is a very popular concert venue. But it’s not only during the International Festival of Music and Dance that the place shines brightly, but all year long, partly because of the most faultless, absolute European Arabian garden there is to be seen.

Its remarkable history dates from over six hundred years ago and, after all this time, it still looks heavenly and blissful, while half a millennium old paintings show it just as marvelous and luscious. After having walked along the pond, you’ll enter the three-room summer palace of the king, at the end of which you’ll be only 10 steps away from the Christian Renaissance gardens. Plus, one of the most impressive panoramas in Spain is the view of Albayzin from the top of this palace. The architectural consequence of the city is as rigorous as the one of the garden: the buildings may not have got perfectly symmetric cuts, but they have surely been constructed following a subsequent pattern.

The reason for which the amazing gardens should be seen before anything else is because they’re on top of the hill and walking downhill is going to make a difference at the end of such a full day. The following destination are the Nasrid Palaces (Palacios Nazaries). You’ll be tempted to think that the time pressure of having to see all that history’s built and put together in half an hour is going to get you stressed and put you on a rush. But it’s not like this at all.

Once you’re inside the palace there’s nothing more relaxing and natural than walking around astonished and moved by all this opulence around you. All the stylish rooms decorated top to bottom and assorted with accessories like special tiles made of ceramic or windows with filigree workmanships, perfectly harmonious with the style of the courtyards, adorned with beautiful fountains and bright, colored flowers of all kind.

The Court of Myrtles is an example of such natural oasis in perfect togetherness with the palace. The most popular legend about it is that the women lived on the superior part of the construction – hence the wooden screens through which they could see outside in the yard without anyone noticing them back. Court of the Lions is the other stunning and very popular interior garden of the place. The twelve lions holding the structure of the fountain on their backs are believed to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, taking into consideration that it was a gift the sultan received from a Jewish leader of the time. And the palace itself doesn’t differ too much from the tall, supple pillars you’ll be passing through to get to the courtyard. Its style, elegance and erudition is present in any of its smaller accessory constructions, as is the opulence and sophistication.

But you won’t fully understand the magnificence of this construction until you get to see the Hall of Ambassadors. The cautiously carved Arabic script saying, among other religious messages, that ‘only Allah is victorious’ will certainly draw your attention, being imprinted over nine thousand times in distinct messages across the palace. You can’t miss it. But the true beauty of its cultural significance can only be reached if you try and imagine the fuss and agitation inside this Hall during its glorious times: the ardent debates preceding the important decisions, the consultation hours, the opulence shown with every important political or public figure stepping in.

The last expression of the edifice of Alhambra is the old fortress. The passing of time makes it look tumble-down here and there, but you can still admire – besides the entire history lesson – the grandeur, its importance during the medieval ages. The tower used to defend an entire town populated by approximately two thousand people – a great density for those times. The last notable contribution to today’s ruins was Napoleon’s, who commanded his troops to destroy anything they could damage on their way.

Be thoughtful!

Yes, of course, be meditative and try to get as much out of this experience. But for the relaxation to be complete, you’ll have to be careful before visiting the place. Because there are thousands of daily visitors, it’s best to book your visit in advance, in order to plan it properly. You can opt for packages, but your trip would be nothing more than a constant rush, especially if the package is for just one day, taking into consideration that you’ll also begin the tour from downhill.

On the other hand, you can book the two-day package and take some time to enjoy the visit, as well as you can go on your own, and this way you’ll spend more time wherever you’ll find it more interesting.

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