• Sarah

A November trip to the Alhambra, Spain

The Moorish fortress of the Alhambra should be on everyone's travel bucket-list in our opinion. The 'red fort' towers over the city in a truly impressive manner and was the Moors last stronghold in Spain. Other palaces were subsequently built on the site by the Castilian monarchy, especially by King Charles V, grandson of Isabella and Ferdinand.

It is said that the mother of Boabdil the last Moorish King of Granada rebuked him as he turned to overlook the city as it was conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic monarchs, forcing him into exile. She is supposed to have said to him, "Do not weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man". Harsh!

Originally chosen as the site for a fort by the Moors, by the mid 13th century it became home to the court of the Nasrids. The Islamic art is stunning; the tiles, the plaster work, the calming waters, and the internal gardens of the Nasrid Palaces are all just beautiful.

The upper and lower gardens of the Generalife are beautiful and must be a haven from the summer heat. Originally there would have been houses and shops here, the gardens are more recent additions.

We saw stunning pomegranate trees a plenty here - in fact it's said that Granada gets it's name from this fruit, either from the Spanish granada (“pomegranate”), or from its Moorish name, Karnattah (Gharnāṭah), possibly meaning “hill of strangers.”

View of the Sultana's garden in the Alhambra looking towards the mountains with the dead Cyprus tree
The scene of the Sultana's betrayal and the now dead Cyprus tree

There are plenty of grisly stories to be told too; the dead Cyprus tree in the Garden of the Sultana (Boabdil's wife) has it's own legend. She was said to have had assignations with a knight under/against this tree. Fornicating with a King's wife is rarely a good idea, as the knight found to his cost, he and his other senior tribesmen had their throats slit as a result.


There is a lot to take in during a visit to the Alhambra, do allow a full day.


Practicalities:

Booking: This is advisable. Whilst it's possible to buy tickets on arrival, you might not get the time slot you want to visit the Nasrid palaces, or even be able to visit at all. When we were looking to book one of the days we thought that we'd visit only had an 8.30 a.m. slot available, so we chose another day when a more reasonable 11.15 a.m. slot was free. Bearing in mind that November is low season, I would book further ahead for busier times of year.

Booking Site


Driving: We drove from the town Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol, it was about 80 miles and took 2 hours with one toll booth en route. The non toll route takes slightly longer.


Parking: Parking for the Alhambra is well signposted as you approach the city of Grenada, so you don't need to try to negotiate city traffic, narrow streets, and the minefield of 'resident only' streets. Payment for parking is in addition to your ticket.


Visiting essentials: You are required to wear a face mask. You must bring your passport with you along with your ticket. This is checked at the entrance and then again at the Nasrid and Generalife palaces. Do not be late for your timed slot to visit the Nasrid palaces or you won't be allowed in. It's a 1o-15 minute walk from the entrance, and the queue to get in took around 25 minutes.


Eating and drinking: You are able to bring your own food and enjoy a picnic in the gardens of the Generalife. There are a number of shops selling drinks and snacks and one hotel with a restaurant within the grounds. You can also exit and re-enter if you want to eat at one of the restaurants near the Alhambra. We initially tried Restaurant La Mimbre but couldn't get the attention of any the staff, so we went to Restaurant Jardines Alberto which has beautiful terraces looking across the countryside. We had the menu du jour, which was very reasonably priced for 3 courses, included a drink, and was perfectly fine, but not amazing.

Man in red jacket at Restaurant Jardines Alberto with an Alhambra beer bottle and a glass of beer
At Restaurant Jardines Alberto with an Alhambra beer

Weather: There was snow on some of the Sierra Nevada mountains early November. The Alhambra is up high, so this time of year wear layers. It was warm in the sun, but decidedly chilly at other times. There were quite a few people in shorts and T shirts looking as if they regretted their wardrobe choices! In the summer it can be 45 degrees and baking, so do check the forecasts. Sensible shoes are advised too.


We hope that you enjoy your trip as much as we did.