Granada is one of the best places to explore Moorish civilization in Spain. Above all attractions–the flamenco shows, tapas, fresh market, old town walking tour–the highlight of the city is the Alhambra, one of the finest Moorish palaces in Europe, the last stronghold of Moorish kingdom in Spain. Granada could be done in one day with an intense schedule, but why? We were there for two days, it was nice to slow down, smell the roses.
The Alhambra consists of the Palacio Nazaries (The Nazarid Palace), Generalife Gardens and Alcazaba fort. The Nazarids were ethnic groups of Spanish Muslims who ruled the last Moorish kingdom till 1492. The palace is the absolute highlight, a beacon of light in the Dark Ages of Europe. Be aware that the admission ticket is often sold out because of the restriction of the number of visitors per day. So purchase your ticket online EARLY and your allotted time shown on the admission ticket. Don’t be the sad left-out tourists who miss the main sight!
The most striking element of the palace was water, the purest symbol for life. Ceaseless cascading flow, elegant dancing fountains, quiet mirror-like reflections, water was the main theme. This mere necessity of the modern life was true luxury in the dessert climate then.
Another obvious, different from other palaces we visited in Europe, was there was NO personal portraits or deity paintings anywhere in this palace. Moorish people forbid idol worship, instead the palace was decorated with intricate patterns and elaborate geometric shapes and wonders, which covered EVERY square inches of the marble walls, tile floors and wood ceilings.
Generalife was the area outside of palace, including the manicured Gardens. At the end of the garden was a small summer palace.
The Alcazaba fort was quite empty, but from the top we could overlook the city of Granada.
At the night fell, the palace became a mysterious place.
The best sunset view of the Alhambra was from the San Nicholas Viewpoint on the hill across from the palace. Go early to find a nice spot. Be patient, the reward would be a view you wouldn’t easily forget! With the palace glistening in the golden light, strong and dignified, I understood why the Christian Charles V (the Holy Roman Emperor who ruled as Charles I over Spain), the king who conquered Granada, chose to siege the palace to force Moorish into surrender. This was his way to show his respect to this splendid palace and preserve its glory.
Two more minor points:
Granada was very walkable. But taxi was very cheap if you were tired of walking. The local people here didn’t speak much English, similar in other southern parts of the Spain we visited, definitely less than the people in Barcelona. So be sure to download a English-Spanish dictionary on your phone, it proved to be very useful for us.
We did this trip, just the two of us, because our children had gone there with their Spanish classes the year before. We started out from Madrid and surrounding cities, such as Avila, Segovia and Toledo, then took a train to Seville, continued to Granada, and flew out from there to Barcelona afterward. The airport at Granada was not very big, only a dozen flights a day. A train to Barcelona would be a much preferred transportation in the hind sight, however our schedule didn’t allow us to do that.
This trip gave us a chance to try a selfie stick for the first time. You could tell we had a ball, haha.