The Court of Lions By Jim Gordon – Wikimedia

Top 10 Facts about Alhambra Palace in Granada


This Palace is found in Granada, Andalusia in Spain. It is both a Palace and a fortress that was first built in 899 AD.

It was renovated by the Moorish King while it was still a small fortress in the 11th century.

They converted it into a Royal Palace in the 14th century by Yusuf I who was the Sultan of Granada.

The Palace sits on top of a rocky hill by the banks of River Darro and occupies about 35 acres of land. It is the main attraction in Granada.

This Palace not only exudes beautiful architecture but also rich history from centuries ago. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As you plan your next visit to Granada, this Palace has to be on the list of places to visit. While that’s settled, here are some useful facts about the Palace that will interest you.

1. Alhambra Palace was built in the 13th century

The Court of Alhambra in 1867 by By Edwin Lord Weeks – Wikimedia

This beautiful palace that we see at the Nasrid Complex was built in the 13th century.

The building was added by the Nasrid dynasty because the site was considered safe from attacks.

This was done after the Moors were conquered by the Spanish. They also improved the original Palace over the centuries to preserve its structure and charm.

The Moorish King of Granada was the first one to renovate the original Palace in the 11th century. It was then converted into a Royal Palace in the 14th century.

Later parts of the Palace were used by Christian rulers after King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel took over Andalucía. The Mosque at the Palace was then converted into a Church.

After years of neglect, European explorers rediscovered the Palace and got to work on its restoration.

2. The location of the Palace was strategic

The location of a Palace and a fortress in ancient times were crucial.

They were built on higher grounds and mostly on hills to be at a vantage position in watching out for the enemy.

Palaces built on hills were highly fortified and therefore less likely to be invaded. This is why the Alhambra Palace was built on al-Sabika hill.

This location gave a great view of the land below up to the current city Granada area and the meadow. The fortification around the Palace was built by the Romans in 899 AD.

The plateau is 2430 feet long and 674 feet wide. The Palace then served as a military camp before it became a Royal residence.

3. The Palace was built by the Emir Muslims of Spain

By Harvey Barrison -Wikimedia

Before the current occupants of the Palace took over, the original residents and owners of the Palace were Muslim emirs. They were there during the decline of Nasrid dynasty.

After it was abandoned, squatters moved in and it was rediscovered after Napoleon was defeated. Napoleon had led an attack in the area and ordered the destruction of the Palace.

The first people to discover the ruined Palace were British explorers.

This Palace is now the most popular landmark in Granada and Spain.

Inside you will find Islamic architecture exhibits along with Christian buildings and beautiful gardens dating back to the 16th century.

In the compound, you will get to see the Grand Mosque and Arabian baths built under the reign of Muhammed I’.

4. The name Alhambra means red castle

By Jebulon – Wikimedia

The name Alhambra is of Arabic origin. It means a red castle or a red one. It got this name from the red soil in the area it was built.

The redness of the soil and the white building created a reddish colour, hence the name.

When the buildings were first constructed, they were whitewashed and continued exposure to sunlight made it turn its colour.

A Moorish poet described the building as a pearl set in Emeralds.

5. You can be turned away at the castle even with a ticket

It is without a doubt that this Palace is the most popular landmark in Granada. This makes it the most visited site by tourists.

While the Palace is open to the public, missing your time slot or showing up late will get you denied access.

If you plan on visiting the Palace, ensure that you arrive at the gate an hour early. This will ensure that you beat time since there is always a long queue of tourists.

The other reason is that there is a limit of people allowed in the Palace in a day. Only 300 people are allowed in the Palace in 30 minutes.

Tickets to this Palace sell like hot cake and some people buy their tickets months in advance.

6. There are several pools and fountains at the Palace

The Court of Lions By Jim Gordon – Wikimedia

The Alhambra Palace is famous for its water features, such the fountains, reflecting pools, water tanks, and acequia.

As you walk through the compound of the Palace, one sound you are certain to hear constantly is water trickling.

The one feature that stands out is the fountain at the courtyard of the lions. This fountain is symbolic of the heavenly gardens of Islam.

The fountain is supported by twelve lions carved from marble. Another interesting water feature is the reflecting pool at the court of Myrtles.

This pool served a very important function at the Palace. Its function was to cool the Palace as well as act as a symbol of power.

The fountains and pools at the Palace got their water from acequia real.

This water network was based on ancient Roman water channels diverted from River Darro.

7. The first Spanish monarchs to occupy the Palace were Ferdinand and Isabella

The first Europeans to live in the Palace were King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella through the Christian conquest that lasted for 800 years.

They conquered the Palace in 1492 ending the rule of the Muslims and unifying Spain under the Catholic Monarchy.

This monarch family rebuilt the Palace and added more structures to it. They introduced renaissance touch to the architecture of the Palace.

The next monarch to live in the Palace was King Charles V in 1526. He built another Palace in Renaissance style which was left unfinished after the Morisco rebellion in Granada.

8. The Palace has an ancient cooling system

As you enter one of the courts in the Palace, the court of Myrtles, you will find the goldfish pool.

The Moorish built this pool to provide cooling for the interiors of the Palace and was a symbol of power. This pool stands out from all the others.

This pool is made of marbles and is surrounded by a sunken garden.

9. Most of the decorations in the Palace are made from plaster

The decorations in the palace date back to the last great period of Andalusian art in Granada. It influences Byzantine contemporary architecture.

The artists that worked on these decorations produced the same forms and trends in the process creating a new style.

Most of the decorations were carved plaster and not stone. They also used tile mosaics as panelling for the columns and arches.

10. It took three generations to restore Alhambra Palace

Most of the features of the Alhambra Palace are originals with little renovations.

Some parts of the Palace were destroyed during the conquest while some wasted away after it was abandoned.

Earthquake also contributed to some of the damage at the Palace. After the Spanish took over, they restored the Palace and this was done by subsequent monarchs.

The most recent renovations done at the Palace was in the late 19th century.

I hope that you found this information useful and intriguing as well. As mentioned, the Alhambra Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

To continue its preservation, the Spanish government regulates the number of visitors to this landmark per day.  If you plan to visit as a group, the recommended number is a maximum of 30 persons per group with a certified guide.