Inside the Comares Palace, the curious shape of the vault that covers the Sala de la Barca is surprising. This is an area with an eye-catching tiled base and a wooden frame that prepares the visitor to enter the Salón de los Embajadores, housed inside the high Comares Tower, the Sala del Trono and the most important place in the whole of the Alhambra, which has original ceramic flooring and stands out for its refined ornamentation. Nine small rooms open on its walls, full of inscriptions and texts that exalt the Sultan and legitimize him.
Palacio de los Leones
Already in modern times an entrance was opened to the Palacio de los Leones where the Sala de los Mocárabes is located, almost immediately next to the entrance door and characterized by its large openings to the highly decorated galleries of the courtyard. On its ceiling there was a spectacular plasterwork vault that collapsed due to the explosion of a powder keg in 1590, being replaced later. Around it is the Patio de los Leones (14th century), in the centre of which you can still see its famous medieval fountain, equipped with a complex hydraulic system.
Fountain of the lions in the Alhambra in Granada
One of the highlights of the Palacio de los Leones is the Sala de los Abencerrajes, where a deep-rooted local tradition says that dramatic episodes took place and which is overwhelmed by its complex muqarnas dome, a unique work of Islamic architecture. This square room has two alcoves or alhanias. In the same building is the Sala de los Reyes, divided into multiple spaces among which three rooms with remarkable paintings on leather in their vaults, the result of relations between Muhammad V and Peter I.
The most outstanding room in the complex is the Sala de Dos Hermanas, crowned by a superb muqarnas dome and with adjoining rooms, from which one can access the Sala de los Ajimeces, with openings to the landscape and in the centre of which is the delicious Daraxa Viewpoint, the only room in the palace complex that is covered by a wooden frame and coloured glass.
Charles V also ordered that his rooms be arranged around the existing palaces. In this way, an authentic suite was designed that had several rooms, including the bedrooms and an office. Very close by, and housed in the tower of Abu-I-Hayyay, is the room known as the Peinador de la Reina.
Other secondary courtyards are those of La Reja (17th century) and Lindaraja (16th century), which are much more like a Christian cloister and were built using columns from other earlier constructions. At the exit of the palaces, we enter the area of El Partal, where we find the remains of the Partal Palace (14th century), which was restored at the end of the 19th century after the additions to a house that had absorbed it were removed. The beautiful silhouette of the Las Damas Tower stands out in the complex.
El Partal Palace
Many more palaces, patios and masterpieces
In addition to the Palacios de Comares and Los Leones, the ruins of the Palace of Yusuf II, built in the early 15th century and resurfaced in the archaeological campaigns of the 20th century, can also be visited. It was the dwelling occupied by the governors of the Alhambra and was ruined from the 18th century onwards. In the vicinity starts the Paseo de las Torres, which can be seen among others of Los Picos (ss. XIII-XIV) and, especially, the Tower-Palace of La Cautiva (s. XIV) and Las Infantas (s. XV), scenarios of legends and traditions with beautiful views.
La Rauda or cemetery is accessible through a monumental entrance, with a striking dome located in an area very close to the Palacio de los Leones. The royal burials were there until Boabdil ordered them to be moved to the town of Mondújar.
The Convent dedicated to San Francisco (16th century), built from an earlier Nasrid palace, is today the headquarters of the Parador de Turismo. It is an excellent place to visit and have a drink in its bar or restaurant; it has a quality that is not offered by the excessively touristy hotels in the surrounding area.
From the city, you can reach the site through the Puerta de las Granadas (16th century) which leads directly to the Alhambra Woods, where you will find the Manuel de Falla Auditorium, named after the Cádiz composer who dedicated the first act of his work Noche en los Jardines de España to the Generalife. Next to the Puerta de la Justicia we find the extraordinary Pilar de Carlos V (16th century), an allegorical monument of the three rivers of the Granada plain: Darro, Beiro and Genil.
In 1931, an enclave known as Dar al-arusa was discovered in the garden area of the Generalife, in the so-called Cerro del Sol. These are the remains of a small palace with several rooms. In this area are the remains of the hydraulic engineering elements that supplied the palaces and the defensive and surveillance elements such as the so-called Silla del Moro. Later the fortification was used as a hermitage dedicated to Santa Elena.
Connected by a wall to the Alcazaba are the famous Torres Bermejas, three magnificent buildings whose origin can be traced back to the period of the Taifas kingdom (11th century).
Another curious enclave in the Alhambra’s surroundings is the extensive and ancient estate of the Carmen de los Catalanes. Next to the Manuel de Falla Auditorium is also the Carmen de los Mártires, a magnificent 19th century recreational estate with fountain gardens and even a lake.
When visiting the Generalife Palace, at whose feet there is a beautiful garden, one can perceive a less solemn atmosphere than that of the palaces of the neighbouring Alhambra. You enter the recreational estate through a spectacular Patio del Descabalgamiento, which indicates the existence of benches and terraces in this rugged terrain. A marble and tiled front gives access to the Patio de la Acequia, which was originally closed on all four sides. It is organised around a large canal with slender spouts; it leads to the different pavilions and rooms, among which the Sala Regia stands out.
Generalife gardens. | Shutterstock