The Albaicín and The Alhambra

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My second day in Granada I decided to hike through the old Moorish quarter called the Albaicin to see the remarkable view of the Alhambra from the St. Christopher overlook.  The hike takes me through small winding alleyways that haven’t been changed much since the 1300’s.

It would be easy to get lost in here.  The streets and buildings all look the same.  They are all white, with only the occasional hint of color.

I know if I keep heading up, I’ll get there eventually. It’s a steep walk, and I’m huffing and puffing by the time I reach the top.  The view across the valley and the town below to the Alhambra is worth it.  While I was here during the midday sun, it would be a magical sight to see the palace and fortress during the golden hour or lit up during the early evening.

After taking in the view for a bit and resting up, I head back down the hill and end up back where I started, a small plaza by the river, looking up at the Alhambra.

The next day it was finally time to visit the Alhambra, the Moorish palace and fortress built in the 1200’s.  I had booked several weeks in advance and the only time slot available was at 6:30 PM.  That ticket gets you into the palace, but you can tour the rest of the grounds before or after, it was recommended I arrive 2 hours early to see the other sights.

After taking the city walk and hiking through the Albaicin to the overlook, there really wasn’t much left to do.  Granada is a small town and the Alhambra is the main attraction.  I decided to head back down to the Paseo de los Tristes, which translates to walk of the sad, so named because it was once the route taken by funeral processions to the local cemetery.  It’s now a promenade next to the river with great views of the Alhambra – it’s where my walk ended the previous day.

I followed the road until I came across an open doorway looking into a small garden area, I decided to head in and check it out.  I had stumbled upon the Palacio de los Córdova.  The palace was built in the 1500’s and was moved to its current location in 1960.  I’m not sure how one moves a palace, but that’s what the sign on the door said, so I take them at their word.

I had a walk around the beautiful gardens before taking a peek inside the palace.  There wasn’t much to see, at least not in the space open to the public, but it was all free to look around.

I stumbled on a few tourist dipping there feet in one of the fountains.  This would be tourists behaving badly in my opinion.

I walked back towards town and decided to look at the old Arab Baths that were along the way.  Turns out the ticket office didn’t take cash and I wasn’t carrying my credit card so that was a no go.

A little further down was a local history museum.  It cost a whopping 1.50 Euro so you know going in it has to be good.  After a short look around, I think the museum was actually overpriced.

I passed the rest of the time shopping in souvenir shops and the Alhambra bookstore where I picked up a very nice guidebook.  I spent some time reading it to get familiar with the place I was about to visit.

The Alhambra

I made the hike up to the Alhambra a few hours before my entry time.  It’s a long walk up a steep hill.  If you’re not in mediocre shape like me, it’s probably best to take the shuttle bus from the town square.

There is a statue of Washington Irving on the way up the hill.  He wrote the Tales of the Alhambra during his travels in Spain and even stayed at the palace for a little while.

I entered at the Justice Gate, which is a now a side entrance but was actually the original entry to the palace, and it’s significantly closer than the current main entrance.  If you haven’t picked up your ticket in town as I did, then you need to hoof it the rest of the way to the main gate.

The first stop was to see the Alcazaba, which is the old fort.  The citadel is the oldest part of the complex and there isn’t much left but the towers and walls.

You can freely walk the ramparts and climb the tower for some great views of the town and surrounding countryside.

Touring the fortress didn’t take long and I still had a lot of time to kill.  I took the long walk to the other end of the Alhambra to see the Generalife, the former summer palace and gardens of the Moorish rulers.

The walk down the Royal Road takes me by St. Mary’s Church of the Alhambra, which was built in the 17th century where the Great Mosque once stood.

Further along is the Hotel America, which is a small 17 room hotel that is in a former residence.  I don’t know what they charge a night, but I’m guessing it is out of my price range.  I thought it an odd name for a hotel inside the Alhambra.

To get to the summer palace you first walk through a beautiful garden and hedgerows.

The path eventually leads you into the palace where the main attraction is the courtyard and fountains.

The walk leads you through some of the palace and more gardens before finally exiting close to where you started.

I still had some time left and I was getting hungry so I stopped into the Hotel America for a bite to eat and an ice cold beer.  The restaurant is in an inside courtyard, open to the sky above.  It was a charming setting, a shady enclave with green plants filling the space and small birds chirping and flying about as I ate my meal.

I made my way back towards the Royal Complex, stopping off to see the Palace of Charles V before queuing up in line for my tour.  The Palace of Charles V is designed with a Roman influence and is built as a circle inside a square.  Visitors are free to roam the colonnade, though not inside the building.

After I was done exploring, it was time to get in line for my tour.  The queue was already quite long and there were going to be a lot of people inside.

The palaces are indeed beautiful.  I found it tough to get a decent photo of anything as every room was crowded with my fellow tourists.

I didn’t purchase an audio guide so I just wandered around on my own, trying my best to use the guidebook I bought.  The path winds you through the several buildings in the complex before finally exiting into a garden in the back of the palace.

The tour was well worth the trip and I found the Moorish architecture and design to be intricate and beautiful.  The tour was much shorter than I imagined it would be and was over way too quick.  I would have lingered in the rooms longer if I had it to do over again.

I headed back to the Justice Gate and the long walk back downhill.

Spotting more tourists behaving badly.

Took a look in a few shops and thought about buying a guitar.

I really wanted to head back to the viewpoint and get some pictures of the Alhambra at golden hour, but I didn’t have the energy to make that hike again.  I had been walking all day and it was time to give my legs some rest and get some food.

I parked myself at a nice outdoor restaurant on the promenade with amazing views of the Alhambra.  It was a great way to end a wonderful few days in Granada.

By the time I finished dinner the sun had set and it was time to walk back to the hotel.  Instead of heading straight back I wandered around a bit.

While I was looking up at the cathedral I hear a beautiful voice singing.  I followed it to a small courtyard next to the church where a small group of spectators were gathered to listen a woman singing.  I stayed for a few songs, put a Euro or two in their collection hat and continued on back to the hotel.  The perfect end to a great day.

Tomorrow it is a mid morning train to Seville.

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