Two weeks ago, Kuba and I spent a day in Granada touring Alhambra, the most visited tourist site in Spain. According to the 2014 tourism study carried out by Alhambra itself, over 2.4 million tourists visited Alhambra in that record-breaking year.
And just because I like knowing the specifics (and perhaps you do too):
The day with the fewest visitors was December 11th, with 2,212 people visiting, while the busiest day was May 1st, a bank holiday in Spain, when 9,329 people visited.
WOW. I’m glad we didn’t visit Alhambra in May!
The Alhambra complex is massive. It includes Alcazaba, several palaces and gardens. While there is evidence that Alcazaba existed since the 9th Century, Kings didn’t take up residence here until the 13th Century.
According to the official website of Alhambra:
The Alhambra was a palace, a fortress and a citadel; the residence of the Nasrid Sultans and top government officials, court servants and the royal guard.
The Nasrid Kingdom became the last Islamic sultanate on the Iberian Peninsula, and its capital Granada progressively received Muslim populations forced to retreat from the Christians. The city grew with the development of new suburbs and extended its walls nearly until it was conquered at the end of the 15th century.
And according to Andalucia.com, Alhambra fell into neglect during the 18th and 19th Century:
As the crowning blow, Napoleon’s troops, masters of Granada from 1808 until 1812, were to convert the palaces into barracks. During one retreat they mined the towers and blew up part of them. Two of them, the Torre de Siete Suelos and the Torre de Agua were left in ruins. And so the incredible neglect continued, until 1870 when the Alhambra was declared a national monument. Travellers and romantic artists of all countries had railed against those who scorned the most beautiful of their monuments. Since that date and up to now, the Alhambra, protected, restored, cared for and even improved, has been preserved for the pleasure and admiration of all.The Alhambra became an UNESCO World Heritages site in 1984.
We knew we couldn’t pass up visiting Alhambra, especially since Granada is only a 2-hour bus ride away from Torremolinos.
Fortunately, you can walk around the Alhambra grounds for free. Even without purchasing a ticket, you can visit the Palace of Carlos V, the Alhambra Museum, the Church of Santa María de la Alhambra, the Angel Barrios museum and the Arab Baths.
Thanks to my husband Kuba for sharing his photos in this post. Check out his Instagram account @roaming_kuba for more stunning photos of our travels.
While there’s plenty to see for free, we still opted to purchase tickets in advance. A general daytime ticket (around €15) granted us access to Alcazaba, the Nasrid Palaces and Generalife Palace, in addition to all the free sites.
We picked up our tickets from Corral del Carbón in the city centre. Based on my research, it is easiest to enter Alhambra from la Puerta de la Justicia (the Justice Gate), a short (but uphill) walk from Corral del Carbón. Corral del Carbón happens to be the oldest Arabic monument in Spain, so it’s worth swinging by even if you don’t need to pick up tickets for Alhambra.
Once you enter Corral del Carbón into the courtyard, turn left. The Ticketmaster machine is just inside a little office. Don’t forget to bring your credit card as you’ll need this to retrieve your tickets.
The most impressive thing about our Alhambra visit was the carved tile patterns in the Nasrid Palaces, especially the ones embellished with Arabic script. It was difficult to capture the intricacy and beauty of the tiles with my camera. You just need to see them in person to fully appreciate the design. (You can see the decorative tiles in my Granada vlog linked at the end of this post.)
We toured Alcazaba and the Nasrid Palaces but left the rest of the palaces for another time because we wanted ice cream. It was very hot that day, what can I say!
I had Eco De.leite on my Granada to-do list thanks to HappyCow. Eco De.leite isn’t a fully vegan ice cream shop, but they had over 20 natural and organic vegan flavours to choose from. We chose wisely!
I appreciated Eco De.leite’s creative flavours like lemon with basil along with their safe and reliably delicious flavours like chocolate. The texture was nice and it wasn’t overly sweet. This ice cream hit the spot after walking around in the sun all day.
We only spent the day in Granada and that definitely wasn’t enough time to explore the entire city. Still, it was enough time for us to realise we’d like to revisit Granada in the future. Out of all the cities we visited in Spain this time around, Granada was our favourite.
Check out my vlog to see Alhambra and more of our day in Granada.
Thanks for reading and watching! 🙂