Lonely Planet review for Alhambra
Try to visit first thing in the morning (8.30am) or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds, or treat yourself to a magical night by visiting the Palacio Nazaríes. The Alhambra contains two outstanding sets of buildings: the Palacio Nazaríes and the Alcazaba (Citadel). Also within its walls you’ll find the Palacio de Carlos V, the Iglesia de Santa María de la Alhambra, two hotels, several bookshops and souvenir shops – as well as lovely gardens, including the supreme Generalife. There are a couple of cafes by the ticket office, but only the two hotels offer full-scale meals. The Alhambra, from the Arabic al-qala’at al-hamra (red castle), was a fortress from the 9th century. The 13th- and 14th-century Nasrid emirs converted it into a fortress-palace complex adjoined by a small town (medina), of which only ruins remain. Yusuf I (1333–54) and Muhammad V (1354–59 and 1362–91) built the magnificent Palacio Nazaríes. After the Christian conquest the Alhambra’s mosque was replaced with a church and the Convento de San Francisco (now the Parador de Granada) was built. Carlos I, grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella, had a wing of the Palacio Nazaríes destroyed to make space for a huge Renaissance palace, the Palacio de Carlos V (using his title as Holy Roman Emperor). In the 18th century the Alhambra was abandoned to thieves and beggars. During the Napoleonic occupation it was used as a barracks and narrowly escaped being blown up. In 1870 it was declared a national monument as a result of the huge interest stirred by Romantic writers such as Washington Irving, who wrote the entrancing Tales of the Alhambra in the Palacio Nazaríes during his brief stay in the 1820s. Since then the Alhambra has been salvaged and very heavily restored. Together with the Generalife gardens and the Albayzín, it now enjoys Unesco World Heritage status.