Granada: The Awe-Inspiring Alhambra

Much of my two weeks in Spain last fall entailed revisiting places that I already had been. And, don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind going back to wonderful places. But there was one spot that I had never been to before, and I was dying to get there perhaps more than any other destination. I’m speaking of the Alhambra, of course.

A palace and fortress perched above the town of Granada, the Alhambra is immense. The Alhambra dates back to the 9th century and its storied history includes a stint serving as the royal court of Ferdinand and Isabella.

Today, the Alhambra draws hordes of visitors, making pre-planning essential. My sister and I booked our tickets far in advance, not wanting to miss our chance to see this place. We also got up way, way early (for me, at least) to make sure we were at the palace and in position to collect our tickets and make our way in before the crowds.

The complex is sprawling, so it’s also best to have a plan of attack in mind. We visited the Plaza de Nazaríes, the main royal complex, first, then made our way to other areas of the grounds, including the fort. We ended our day by circling back and then walking up the hill, through a series of gorgeous gardens, to the most gorgeous garden of all, tucked inside the courtyard at the Generalife Palace. Between the Alhambra’s numerous courtyards, dreamy reflecting pools, and abundance of flowers, I was in heaven.

I didn’t find that the town of Granada itself had much to offer, in terms of major sites. In fact, the town was packed to the point of unpleasantness on the weekend we were there (which, to be fair, was a Spanish holiday, which might have contributed to it). Despite all that, however, I would do it all again. The Alhambra is stunning, and if you have to put up with a lot of hassle to get to it, the good news is you will be richly rewarded.

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