The Alhambra Palace is a UNESCO world heritage site located in Granada, Spain that features well-preserved Moorish Architecture. It is also a vast and beautiful palace that travelers from around the world flock to see. Visitors can gaze at this fantastic “pearl set in emeralds,” cited as an example of Muslim historical art. If visitors find themselves in this part of Spain, they absolutely cannot miss this fantastic piece of history.
The Alhambra Palace was originally designed as a small fortress in the year 899. This fortress was forgotten by history until its renovation in the mid-thirteenth century. The fortress officially converted into a palace in 1333. The Alhambra Palace, as recognized now, was built for the last Muslim rulers in Spain.
Traveling European scholars rediscovered Alhambra Palace in the nineteenth century. Through its restoration, the Alhambra Palace has become one of Spain’s major tourist attractions and is the country’s most significant and well-known example of Islamic architecture.
What to Marvel About
The palace is composed of a series of rooms and courtyards intertwining to create a fantastical maze of architecture and design. The palace’s tremendous size can be attributed to the gradual addition of rooms varying in dimensions and connecting each other. As travelers will find out, the majority of the buildings are quadrangular in shape with the rooms opening up to a central court.
Not only is the Alhambra Palace itself large, but it is also surrounded by an enormous woodland. The park (Alameda de la Alhambra) is a gardener’s paradise because of the overgrowth of wildflowers, roses, oranges and myrtles all planted by the Moors. Not to be missed is the dense forest of English Elms that were brought over by the Duke of Wellington in 1812 and which enhance the natural elements of the palace.
Not to be Missed
One should take the opportunity to visit the Hall of Ambassadors. The Hall of Ambassadors (Salón de Los Embajadores) was the grand reception room and also where the Sultan sat to greet his guests. The hall is exquisite with four-foot walls covered in tilework that hold a series of oval medallions with inscriptions, interwoven with flowers and leaves. The ceiling is also exquisite, painted in white, blue and gold inlays in the shapes of circles, crowns, and stars.
Those interested in stories and legends should stop at the Hall of the Abencerrajes. The hall itself is splendid with a honeycomb style dome and beautiful mosaic tiles, but it is the story itself that draws pedestrians. Legend has it that the last sultan of Granada invited the chiefs from the Abencerrajes family to the Hall of the Abencerrajes (Sala de Los Abencerrajes) and slaughtered them all because of a romantic dispute. In the room, there is a fountain where you can see rust spots claimed to be the blood of the murdered chiefs.
There are a few courtyards that one must see if visiting Alhambra. Probably the more famous of the courts is the Court of Lions. The Court of Lions (Patio de Los Leones) is surrounded by a gallery supported by 124 white marble columns. Paved with colored tiles and white marble, the court gleams in the sunlight creating an airy feeling as guests stroll. Various depictions of foliage adorn the columns themselves. In the center of the court, you will find the famous fountain lions. The fountain is an alabaster basin supported and surrounded by twelve marble lions. The Lions all represent strength, power, and sovereignty. As visitors walk around the fountain, they will find at the edge a poem written by Ibn Zamark attempting to put the wonders of the Court of Lions into words.
Another important court to visit is the Court of Myrtles. The court holds a pool to help keep the palace cool in the warm summer. Interestingly, this pool is also a traditional symbol of power. Water was scarce at the time, and keeping the pool full was a challenging and tedious task. There is also a pond set in marble full of goldfish with myrtle growing along the sides, which is said to encourage peace and tranquility.
We took an organized tour so that we wouldn’t have to deal with tickets or entrances. The palace is wondrous, but it’s best enjoyed with older kids. Even our children had one or two moments where, after seeing several of the halls, they were a little “halled out.”
The most interesting thing we explored was the Women’s Quarters. Here, walls separated the harem from the rest of the palace. The separating wall had tiny peepholes that the women could peek through to see what was happening without being seen themselves.
Not only did our kids learn about Spanish history and the Moors, but they also saw the different beautiful mosaic designs on the walls and exquisite wood carvings unique to the palace. Our family considered it a day well spent.
Autism Travel Tips:
- The best time to visit is in spring or fall, as it gets crowded and hot during the summer. It is also best to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid these crowds.
- You can buy tickets ahead of time, which we highly recommend. Your family can also take an organized tour of the palace.
- The palace is easy to walk, though there are a lot of stairs. Prepare your kid for walking, and make sure everyone wears comfortable shoes.
- If you visit in the summer, you may have to deal with bugs or heat. Bring sunscreen, water, insect repellent or a mini fan from home, or consider coming in the fall.
- Pickpocketing is frequent around the area. Watch your belongings, wear a money belt under your garments, and don’t bring electronics unless you’re prepared to hold them in hand at all times.
- Visitors are not allowed to touch things within the palace. Prepare your kid for this accordingly.
- The palace is vast, and you could easily spend an entire day there without noticing. However, for kids, two to three hours is enough time to explore the best parts of the palace.
- If your child is not a history or architecture fan, they might feel bored by the guided tour. You’d be better off just seeing one or two halls and courtyards and calling it a day.
- Wheelchairs are available in the main ticketing office. There is a wheelchair accessible route through Alhambra, though visitors taking this course won’t see the entire palace.
- You can buy replicas at the shop, all handmade by local artists. Our son fell in love with a beautiful bone model. These are expensive but well made.