During the centuries the Moors ruled most of Spain, including Andalucia, they built numerous palaces and fortresses in the style of their original country (Morocco, hence the name Moor). But no example is more magnificent than the Alhambra citadel in Granada. The series of palaces and gardens, including the famed Generalife at the base outside, is justifiably among Spain’s most often visited sites.
Standing at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, visitors gain a spectacular view of the city in the valley below. Looking up at the Alhambra from town is an equally awesome sight. Driving through the Puerta de las Granadas, past the enormous triumphal arch built in the 15th century, one enters a world of splendor.
But walking within its walls is best of all.
Not least of the many worthy sights within is the Patio de Los Leones. It is named after a series of lion statues that support a beautiful fountain in the center of the courtyard.
Enclosing the courtyard is a series of 124 breathtaking marble columns that support more traditional looking arches. But that tradition is rich with decoration and the patio alone would make a visit worthwhile.
But there are yet more magnificent sights to see in Alhambra.
The Salon de Los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors) was designed as a grand reception hall. It was here that the Sultan would receive visitors while seated on the lovely throne that still forms the centerpiece. Surrounding it are walls tiled with the sort of mosaics for which Moorish art is best known. These ceramic squares are inlaid with lapis and gold and make the hall shine in the noonday sun.
The Sala de las dos Hermanos (Hall of the Two Sisters) is another of the many dazzling sights within the palace. Named for the two large marble slabs that form the floor, it also contains a stellar indoor fountain. Above the room is a domed ceiling composed of hundreds of carefully set cells that splash light over the entire room.
The Peindar de la Reina (the Queen’s Robing Room) is still another sight that will amaze visitors. Harems are more typically associated with Eastern potentates. Yet, this private room is among the most elegantly decorated in all of Alhambra.
In the center of the complex lies the enormous palace of Carlos V. Begun in the mid-14th century, it is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of early Spanish Renaissance architecture. Visitors can readily see why it was referred to by the poets of the day as ‘this pearl set in emeralds’.
Be sure to save enough time to explore the 205m (670 foot) terrace, too, set 740m (2430 ft) above the valley below. Enclosed by a fortified wall that encompasses 13 defensive and lookout towers, the River Darro flows lazily through a large ravine below. From here one can see the Albaicin district, which is also worth exploring.