Located in Granada, Spain, the Alhambra is a spectacular fortress of Moorish and Christian styles built in AD889. This fortress hosted the royal Nasrid Dynasty until 1492. Alhambra, in Arabic means “the red”, probably derived from the reddish color of the Tapia of which the outer walls were made of. The French King, Charles V fell in love on this castle and built a palace in front of it to admire it's beauty. The Alhambra is a must see in Granada. It is important to mention that the entry tickets sell out very fast and, therefore, the Alhambra is sold out on most of the days of the year. It is recommendable to book in advance.
The Alhambra’s color contrasts beautifully with its surroundings. The appearance of the Alhambra varies with the time of day with the Palace looking very special after the sun sets. The Hill of La Sabica appears silver by starlight and golden in the sunshine. The Alhambra was originally built for defensive reasons but when the works finished it became more than that: a palace and a small city as well as performing the defensive function. It was first mentioned as the home of kings in the 13th Century by which time it was several centuries old; the fortress was built in the 9th Century. The Nasrites, whose dynasty was founded by Muhammed A-Ahmar were responsible for the fortress’ restoration. Muhammed and his son gradually repaired the fortress while the palace constructions began. Casa Real Vieja is from the 14th Century and attributed to Yusuf I and Muhammed V. The former created the Chamber of Comares and the Gate of Justice as well as some towers and the Baths with Muhammed, his son, continuing with the Chamber of Lions. Further fortifications and rooms were also added.
Ferdinand and Isabel conquered Granada at the end of the 15th Century and the Alhambra became a Christian Court. Further building was undertaken including a church, monastery and military quarters. It was Charles V who did spend time there who oversaw both the buildings and some alterations some of which remain controversial. There was a period when the Alhambra was allowed to deteriorate. It became home to beggars and thieves, a dumping ground and home to thousands of bats. Later, Napoleon who spent four years there used it as military barracks. Two of the towers became ruins as troops retreated and blew them up and the future of the Alhambra remained grim over the following few decades until it was declared as a national monument in 1870. It then received support from enlightened people across the Continent. One thing that often guarantees the integrity of a site is the status bestowed on it by UNESCO; the Alhambra became a World Heritage Site in 1984. It was used on the 2 euro coin in 2011. The Alhambra is visited by over a million visitors per year and the tickets are sold out most of the days of teh year. Therefore, it is advisable to book well in advance. There are several options of tickets which include or not include some parts of the Alhambra, like the Nasrid Palace. However, joining one of the guided visits is also a good choice: the expert guides will give you more information adn insights about this unmissable attraction. It is important to give yourself plenty of time to fully appreciate the whole site. For example, a typical guided tour is likely to last around 3 hours. If you prefer to explore by yourself you can pick up a map but it may still seem to be a rather confusing place. One thing you must see is the Court of the Lions, the main court in the Palace which was part of the Sultan’s private quarters. It contains a stunning piece of ‘’architecture’’, 12 intricately fashioned lions as the base to a fountain. It is said to represent the heavenly garden of Islam. Water trickles along the channels but also in the surrounding rooms. There are two other beautiful Nasrid Palaces which are fine examples of Islamic architecture, Palacio Real (Royal Palace) and Palacio de Comares (Palace of Ceremonial Rooms). Both are extremely ornate using typical Islamic tiling and together with the Court of Lyons will leave you stunned by the experience of visiting the Alhambra. If you are in Granada, the Alhambra is and is likely to remain the highlight of your visit of the city.