The image above is very useful for understanding the layout of Granada. Plaza Nueva is considered to be the absolute centre of Granada from a tourist point of view. The tower on the right of the the photo is the Torre de la Vela which is a big tower in the Alhambra. On the right between the two buildings is the Cuesta Gomeres which is a hill which goes up to the Alhambra. Just in front of that are the bus stops for the C1 and C2 minibuses which will take you to lots of interesting places in Granada. On the left is the Albayzin district. In the valley between the Alhambra and the Albayzin runs the River Darro which is very picturesque Right in the distance straight ahead is the Sacromonte neighbourhood. There is a taxi rank underneath the trees. The picture is taken from the start of the Calle Elvira famous for its lively night life.
The Albaicin is a “barrio” (a neighbourhood) of Granada which has been built on a hill opposite the Alhambra. The layout came about when Granada was ruled by the Arabs long before the advent of cars so the streets form a narrow cobblestoned maze interspersed with small squares. The geranium filled balconies, glimpses of the Alhambra at every turn, the silence and the sound of running water in numerous fountains all give the Albayzin a romantic slightly enchanted atmosphere.
There are lots of squares in the Albaicín perfect for al fresco dining, people watching and generally chilling out hopefully with some good company. The photo above shows San Miguel Bajo but there are many more squares with open-air restaurants such as Plaza Larga, Paseo de los Tristes, Plaza San Nicolas etc.
The photo above shows the stones which cover the streets of the Albayzin. Car access is difficult or impossible in the labyrinth of streets. This can make building work difficult because it is difficult to transport the materials. It was possible to hire a man with a donkey to bring sand but sadly the last donkey powered haulage contractor retired in 2002. Comfortable footwear is necessary in the Albayzín, wearing high heels would be a big mistake.
The Albayzin is not just a tourist attraction. In the photo above we can see Plaza Larga on market day. Many of the geraniums on the balconies are bought here. There are normally a couple of gypsies selling live snails from a bucket.
How to get to the Albaicín ?
The C1 and C2 minibus do a constant loop of the Albayzin and they pass by every 15 minutes or so. The most popular alighting point is Plaza Nueva.
What to do in the Albaicín ? The Albaicin is all about eating out in restaurants and wandering around. An example of a good plan would be to get the minibus to Mirador de San Nicolas which has an amazing view of the Alhambra, then go and eat in an outside restaurant. Then afterwards just wander about without a map and see where you end up
The Alhambra was first mentioned during the reign of Abdullah ibn Muhammad (888-912) when it was referred to as a primitive small red castle where the Arabs sought refuge after being defeated in one of their battles with the Muladies. It was then largely abandoned until the 11th century when it was rebuilt in order to protect a Jewish settlement on the Sabika hill. Major reconstruction, however, was undertaken during the Nasrid dynasty (1212-1492) and it is this that we can see today.
Serious work on the Alhambra began in 1238 under the command of Sultan Muhammad I Ibn Nasr and in only one year, the ramparts had been completed, water had been brought from the river and a water channel built.
It is a good idea to buy your tickets in advance online or by phone. For more information about how to buy tickets, see this page. The general day ticket is valid for the morning or afternoon and includes entrance to the Alcazaba, the Nasrid Palaces and the Generalife. This way you have more choice and you will be able to indicate the time you want to enter the Nasrid palaces.
Make sure you get into the queue for the Nasrid Palaces on time. If you are late they probably won’t let you in !!!!!!!!!
These Moorish houses were built in the 14th century. Inside there is a mural which was painted in the first half of the 14th century and which is important as being the only figurative Nasrid painting conserved in situ. The painting was discovered in 1908 when plaster was stripped away and provides important information about daily life during the days of the Nasrid dynasty.
This is now taken up with souvenir shops but it was once a great bazaar where silk was made and sold. Alcaicería literally means either the “house of Caesar” or “belonging to Caesar” in recognition of the fact that Emperor Justinian granted the Moors permission to sell silk. Traditionally these bazaars were situated in the centre of a city, with inns where the merchants could stay, and with gates at all the entrances to guard against looting and which were closed at night. The narrow streets inside were then patrolled by watchmen.
On the night of the 19th July 1843, a fire broke out in one of the shops making matches in nearby Calle Mesones and consequently the entire original bazaar burned down. It was soon rebuilt but never regained its importance as a bazaar.
When Carlos V came to Granada on his honeymoon, he fell in love with the Alhambra and the city. He took up residence in the Arab palaces but decided to build his own larger, more spacious palace adjoined to the Nasrid Palaces so that he could continue to enjoy them.
He commissioned the architect Pedro Machuca to design a building befitting a Roman Emperor and work began in 1527. Machuca died in 1550 and his son Luis took over. The project was then continued but most of the major work had by this time been completed.
This Renacentist building is 63m2 square on the outside with a 30m diameter circular courtyard on the inside. Originally there would have been a well in the middle but this has now been covered over.
The project was partly paid for with taxes collected from the Moriscos (Muslims who had converted to Christianity) in return for being allowed to stay in Granada and continue with their traditions.
The building has two levels: the lower level of the patio has 32 stone Doric columns and the upper level has 32 Ionic columns. The building was to be covered with a domed ceiling like the Pantheon in Rome but was never finished and the roof on the superior gallery was only completed in 1957.
Carlos V never lived here. When he died, Felipe II transferred his court to Madrid in 1561 and in 1607 Madrid became the capital of Spain.
Today, the building houses the Museo de Bellas Artes with exhibits from the Alhambra.
For more photos of the Carlos V Palace, please visit this page.
When Queen Isabel died in 1504, her will stated that her daughter Juana should succeed her on the throne. Unfortunately, Juana suffered from schizophrenia and this wasn’t helped by her husband Felipe’s frequent affairs. Following his death after short illness (though some believed that he had been poisoned by Juana’s father, Fernando), Juana went mad and her father Fernando acted as regent until his death in 1516.
After Fernando’s death, Carlos became King and he was to become one of the most powerful rulers in the world. In 1520, he was crowned Carlos V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, an empire on which “the sun never set”. When his father Felipe died in 1506 he became Duke of Burgundy and ruler of the Netherlands, and on the death of his grandfather Fernando, he became King of the Two Sicilies and of Spain. His plan was to establish his court and residence in Granada to commemorate the Catholic Monarchs conquest of the Moor’s last stronghold and with this aim, he commissioned the Carlos V Palace.
Having become a European leader after a power struggle with France, he decided to retire and split his empire between his brother Fernando and his son Felipe. In 1556, his son became King of Spain and Carlos retired to a Spanish monastery in Yuste where he died in 1558.
The Calle Real Alta passes through the Medina (the city of the Alhambra where the courtiers lived) and stretches from the Puerta del Vino to the Parador de San Francisco. This was where the workshops of the craftsmen responsible for the Alhambra decorative work were to be found.
This month, it is possible to visit one of the houses in the Calle Real which was built between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. The house was built around an interior courtyard and is of particular interest for its decorative plasterwork.
The house is open between 8:30 and 18:00 on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday throughout November.
The lions will return to the Patio de los Leones in January 2012. Until then, they can still be seen in the exhibition near the courtyard in the Carlos V crypt with information about the restoration work. After four years of initial research and investigation, restoration began in 2006 but their return to the courtyard has been delayed by the need to repair the original leaking water pipes which were installed last century.
NEWS: The lions were returned to the Patio de los Leones on Jan 15, 2012
The triangular Alcazaba with its thick walls and towers was the main form of defence for the Alhambra against attack. This is the oldest part of the Alhambra complex and was the site of the original red castle. It was Mohammed I who built the surrounding walls and the three towers: the Torre de la Vela (Watchtower) in the far-right corner, the Torre Quebrada (the “Broken” Tower) and the Torre del Homenaje (the Keep). Work on the palaces began later and the Sultan lived here until they were finished.
The Alcazaba was the main military residential area and where the soldiers responsible for defending the Sultan and the Alhambra lived. A walkway runs through the middle of the Alcazaba and the smaller houses on the left were probably for single soldiers without families while the larger ones on the right were for soldiers and their families.
The houses were built around an inside courtyard: downstairs would be the main living room, the food store and the latrine with more rooms upstairs.
As a city in its own right, this area would have had silos, an arsenal, steam baths and a bread oven where food would be prepared. Below the Alcazaba are the dungeons and this was where the captured prisoners were held.
For more photos of the Alcazaba, please visit this page.
This tower dominates both the Alhambra and the City of Granada. The tower itself was built in the 13th century during the Nasrid Dynasty and the bell has always played an important role in daily Granadinian life.
When Boabdil surrendered, the Royal standards of the Catholic Monarchs were raised from the tower. Nowadays, four flags are flown from the tower: the blue European flag, the green and white Andalucian flag, the red and yellow Spanish flag and the red and green Granada flag.
The bell has been replaced several times over the years and the current one dates back to 1773. The bell tower was originally positioned in the corner of the tower but was moved to its current position in 1840 and then rebuilt in 1882 after it had been struck by lightning.
Until recently the tolls were used by farmers to mark the changes in irrigation turns. It is also rung every year on 2nd January in commemoration of the Taking of Granada. Traditionally, single girls would climb the bell tower and ring the bell and it was said that if they did, then they would be married before the year was out. These days, anyone can ring the bell and the bell rings non-stop all day.
During the time of the Catholic Monarchs, the bellringers were appointed by the military governor. They would normally be soldiers who had been injured in combat and they would live in the bell tower itself. The last person to live there was Encarnación “La Velera”, who was the widow of the last bell ringer.