Hall of Abencerrajes in Palace of the Lions

Hall of Abencerrajes in Palace of the Lions

This is the stunning centrepiece of the Alhambra, the most brilliant Islamic building in Europe, with perfectly proportioned rooms and courtyards, intricately moulded stucco walls, beautiful tiling, fine carved wooden ceilings and elaborate stalactite-like muqarnas vaulting, all worked in mesmerising, symbolic, geometrical patterns. Arabic inscriptions proliferate in the stucco work.

Admission to the palacios (included in the Alhambra ticket) is strictly controlled. When you buy your ticket, you'll be given a time to enter. Once inside, you can stay as long as you like.

The palace was originally divided into three main areas: the Mexuar, the administrative and public part of the complex; the Palacio Comares, the emir’s official residence; and the Palacio de los Leones, his private quarters.

Entrance is through the Mexuar, a 14th-century room used as a ministerial council chamber and antechamber for those awaiting audiences with the emir. The public would have gone no further.

From the Mexuar you pass into the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, a courtyard where the emirs gave audiences, with the Cuarto Dorado (Golden Room) on the left. Opposite the Cuarto Dorado is the entrance to the Palacio de Comares through a beautiful facade of glazed tiles, stucco and carved wood.

Built for Emir Yusuf I, the Palacio de Comares served as his official residence. It's set around the lovely Patio de los Arrayanes (Patio of the Myrtles) with its rectangular pool. The southern end of the patio is overshadowed by the walls of the Palacio de Carlos V. Inside the northern Torre de Comares (Comares Tower), the Sala de la Barca (Hall of the Blessing) leads into the Salón de los Embajadores (Chamber of the Ambassadors), where the emirs would have conducted negotiations with Christian emissaries. This room's marvellous domed marquetry ceiling contains more than 8000 cedar pieces in a pattern of stars representing the seven heavens of Islam.

The Patio de los Arrayanes leads into the Palacio de los Leones (Palace of the Lions), built in the second half of the 14th century under Muhammad V. The palace rooms surround the famous Patio de los Leones (Lion Courtyard), with its marble fountain channelling water through the mouths of 12 marble lions. The courtyard layout, using the proportions of the golden ratio, demonstrates the complexity of Islamic geometric design – the 124 slender columns that support the ornamented pavilions are placed in such a way that they are symmetrical on numerous axes.

Of the four halls around the patio, the southern Sala de los Abencerrajes is the most spectacular. Boasting a mesmerising octagonal stalactite ceiling, this is the legendary site of the murders of the noble Abencerraj family, whose leader, the story goes, dared to dally with Zoraya, Abu al-Hasan's favourite concubine. The rusty stains in the fountain are said to be the victims’ indelible blood. At the eastern end of the patio is the Sala de los Reyes (Hall of the Kings) with a leather-lined ceiling painted by 14th-century Christian artists. The name comes from the painting on the central alcove, thought to depict 10 Nasrid emirs. On the northern side of the patio is the richly decorated Sala de Dos Hermanas (Hall of Two Sisters), probably named after the slabs of white marble flanking its fountain. It features a fantastic muqarnas dome with a central star and 5000 tiny cells, reminiscent of the constellations. This may have been the room of the emir's favourite paramour. At its far end, the tile-trimmed Mirador de Daraxa (Daraxa lookout) was a lovely place for palace denizens to look onto the garden below.

From the Sala de Dos Hermanas a passage leads through the Estancias del Emperador (Emperor's Chambers), built for Carlos I in the 1520s, and later used by the American author Washington Irving. From here, descend to the Patio de la Reja (Patio of the Grille) and Patio de Lindaraja before emerging into the Jardines del Partal, an area of terraced gardens. Leave the Partal gardens by a gate facing the Palacio de Carlos V, or continue along a path to the Generalife.

The Palacios Nazaríes are also open for night visits.

Museum of Alhambra

Museum of Alhambra

Museum of Alhambra

Located in the interior of the Palace of Charles V (Palacio de Carlos V), the Museum of the Alhambra offers visitors a unique possibility to see art or architecture objects from the Monument, bound to the Culture that originated it, by means of the most modern museum techniques.

The Museum possesses the best collection of Nasrid Art in the world, with specimens coming from artefacts found archaeological excavations and restored in the Alhambra, making a visit to it an ideal complement to a tour of the artistic-historical monumental complex.

The Museum in Honour of Ángel Barrios is a collection that gathers musical equipment, instruments, drawings, paintings, watercolors, scores and correspondence dedicated by different authors to this important musician and composer born in Granada, who passed away in 1964, and to the figure of his father, Antonio Barrios “the Polinario”, one of last “cicerones” of the Alhambra of the early 20th century, in whose now disappeared tavern, located where today is the Museum, met intellectuals and artists of the time.




    • 15 OCTOBER – 31 MARCH


  • 1 APRIL – 14 OCTOBER
    8:30 – 18:00 H
    8:30 – 14:30 H
    8:30 – 21:30 H
Medina & Gate of Wine

Medina & Gate of Wine

Medina & Gate of Wine

To some extent the function of this Gate today is similar to what it had been during the Nasrid period. It is the main entrance gate to the Medina of the Alhambra and serves to enclose the residential and artisan district within the walled fortress. Because it was an inner gate, it provided direct access to the fortress, as opposed to the outer gates, which required more protection and were built as L-shaped passageways. Inside, however, there was room enough for benches for the guards that controlled all access to the fortress.

Architecturally one of the oldest structures in the Nasrid Alhambra , it was built during the time of the Sultan Muhammad III (1302-1309), although the decoration of both façades pertains to different periods

The door on the east side, carved in sand stone, probably belongs to the 13th century or the beginning of the 14th century, although the tombstone over the door lintel refers to Sultan Muhammad V, who ruled the fortress in the second half of the 14th century. This east façade was the outer side of the gate and, therefore, the traditional Islamic symbol of the key was engraved above the arch key.

The inner side, i.e. the west façade, even when it follows a similar structural pattern, was decorated during the second mandate of Sultan Muhammad V, more specifically after 1367, the date of the military campaigns of Jaen, Baeza and Ubeda. Remarkable are the beautifully decorated spandrels hanging from the arch, made up of dry-rope manufactured tiles, and the composition of the stucco walls that frame the upper floor’s window, and the rest of well-preserved polychromatic painting on the right side of the arch.

Palace of Yusuf III

Palace of Yusuf III

Palace of Yusuf III

The great and elongated pond stand out, testimony of the central courtyard whose lateral corridos, destroyed, fill the now leafy gardenss. Coming away from the lovely intricacy of the Partal Gardens, the narrow way that connects the two palaces of the Alhambra leads to a snug platform with a handrail extending along the foot of the wall that encloses the Palace of Yusuf III (1408-1417).

Outstanding is the long pool in the central courtyard with a lush garden, on the sides of which are the ruins of some rooms marking the sie of a large building, structurally resembling the Palace of Comares .

At the front of the courtyard are the remains of what once was the main room of the palace: a tower overlooking a portico in the open patio. The remains of the walls now form a terrace that, as was the case in medieval times, provides one of loveliest views to be had in the Alhambra.

Some of the excavated remains are attributed to the work of Yusuf III; however, it has been suggested that the building may have belonged to a previous sultan, Muhammad II (1273-1302), having been subsequently renovated and redecorated.

Discovered during an archaeological dig in the 1930s, it was identified as being the Palace of Mondéjar, or Tendilla. The palace was given to Mondéjar and subsequently housed the Alcaides, or the Alhambra keepers.

In 1718 the family, famous in political and cultural circles at the time, was stripped of its entitlements by Philip V, and the building was demolished, parts of its structure being sold off.

Generalife Palace

Generalife Palace

Generalife Palace

The Generalife, built between s.XII and s.XIV, is the palace used by muslim kings as resting place.

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; 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 entrance is currently denominated the Court of the Dismount (Patio del Descabalgamiento) owing to the presence of footrests that facilitate horse riders in their dismount. Also on hand are two side buildings, which were probably used by stable hands.

Once entrance was gained, the visitor would have to climb a stairway past the security guard benches, toward a room above, with a control window. 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.

The Generalife Palace Low Gardens

Beneath the Palace North Pavilion lies a small closed garden that dates back to the period of Arabic rule. In 1526 Andrea Navagero described its walls as being covered with ivy and having a fountain that shot water ten fathoms into the air.

To the west of the garden a staircase leads slightly above to a garden beneath the Palace West Gallery. The garden was designed in 1928 by Torres Balbás, after the building adjacent to the North Pavilion had been demolished. West of that, and slightly lower, covering the entire length of the Main Canal Gallery Court (Galería del Patio de la Acequia), lie the gardens that, though somewhat altered now, in the 19th century were depicted in an engraving by the French archaeologist and traveller Alexandre Laborde.