In 1238, Granada became the capital, or seat, of the Islamic caliphate on the Iberian Peninsula after the Christian conquest of Córdoba in 1031. Granada was eventually conquered in 1491 by Isabella and Ferdinand, effectually ending 700 years of Muslim rule on the peninsula. This one UNESCO site in Granada, Spain is really three different things so, for the sake of clarity, I’m going to treat it as such.
The Alhambra is a palace/fortress that sits overlooking the city of Granada; construction began in the 11th century and was completed in the 14th century as the city of Granada grew in political and cultural importance. The word “alhambra” means “the red” in Arabic and speaks to the red-color stones in which the palace was built from. The palace structure of the Alhambra is known for its fountain-filled courtyards, most notably the Courtyard of the Lions, the intricate decorations in the rooms filled with stalagmite-like stucco and colorful glazed ceramic tiles (azulejos).
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The Generalife is connected to the Alhambra and serves as the residence and gardens for the Islamic, and then Christian, kings of Granada. The gardens are the crowning glory of the Generalife and water is a central element as different pools and fountains flow from one area to another. Scattered about are pavilions, covered walkways, summer houses and there spots to site in the shade and enjoy the sights and sounds of the gardens.
The Albayzín was the “origin”of Granada and is now one of the neighborhood adjacent to the Alhambra and Generalife. The Albayzín stands out for the complex and rich display of the medieval Moorish (Muslim) architecture still standing. It still retains its medieval city planning centered around courtyards and narrow streets. It’s a gorgeous place to walk around (although a steep climb up!) after visiting the Alhambra and Generalife.
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- “The Alhambra.” In Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2015.
- “Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín Granada.” In World Heritage Sites: A Complete Guide to 1031 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2015.