The Generalife in Spanish means the architect’s garden, but the deep meaning of Generalife word remains unknown. This was the summer palace of the Nasrid dynasty that ruled Granada, Spain for many years. Viewpoints and romantic gardens bring to life the muslim past of this ancient palace.
The Generalife was built in the 13th century, before the Comares Palace. It is and located in the slopes of the Hills of the Sun and was redecorated in 1313-1324.
General info Generalife
Opening times Generalife: The Generalife is part of the Alhambra and follows the opening times of the
Tickets and Guided Tours Generalife: More information on tickets and Guided tours Alhambra
Accessibility Generalife: More information on accessibility Alhambra
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These gardens were planted in 1931 to substitute an area that needed a deep renovation. All that is left of the original gardens are cultivated orchard terraces. They replanted cypresses and myrtles. Roses and vines were used to cover the pergolas the upper walk. In total the gardens contain about 160 different species of plants. The walks are paved with a mosaic of pebbles in white and black. This is the traditional Granadan style. Through the walks there are stunning central pools in the shape of a cross.
The role of the Generalife was the same as the houses known as Carmens present in Granada. A Carmen is a house with a small area that is dedicated to plants and flowers and has decoration and fruit trees. The Albaicín neighborhood has many of these houses with these garden areas.
The muslim gardens are designed to be enjoyed with all the senses. The pleasure of the sight and smell of the flowers, the sound of the water and the feel and taste of fresh fruit. This area is at the same time a working grange that supplies food to the Royal House and a paradise for the senses.
If you go from the Alhambra to the Generalife via the Puerta del Arrabal you will arrive to a massive door beneath a pointed arch. This is the opening onto the Dismounting Yard, the first courtyard of the Generalife. In the past, the riders were supposed to leave their horses in this entrance, hence the name “Dismounting Yard”. This is a simple corral with vines and roses.
There is a second courtyard with orange trees and a central fountain. If you pay close attention you can see that the door lintel is decorated with fine mosaic in black, green and blue on white background.
The Water Garden or Patio de la Acequia is one of the oldest of the palaces in Alhambra, but has been one of the best preserved.
The patio is narrow and about 50 meters long. In the original construction it only had a pool to reflect the surrounding façades. The two fountains at either end were supposed to make a gentle murmur and facilitate silence and meditation. In the XIX century water sprouts were added, breaking the mirror effect but giving a peaceful sound and a splash of water that inspired many other arab constructions.
The gardens inside this patio have been updated over time. These days you can find myrtle bushes, orange trees, cypresses and roses.
The Courtyard changed shapes over the years. The west wall was lowered during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs and converted into a gallery and arches were added to allow a view of the countryside. The North end is the best preserved. The façade has round arches supported on pillars with mocárabe capitals. The middle arch is notably higher than the side ones.
The arches give access to a chamber with a wooden work ceiling. There are niches at the end of the room for rituals and it is believed that this was the sultan’s reception room. The chamber finishes with a mirador added during the reign of Ismail I.
Also known as the Courtyard of the Sultana, the original shape and layout of this courtyard is not clear. It is believed that it featured a water system that brought water as though nowhere. The legend says that the Sultana had an affair here with one of the Abencerrages and this led to the death of all the men of that family.
This is one of the few original Nasrid features that was preserved. The water flows from top to bottom on this stairway both on the sides with hand rail water features and in the middle with a water flow that ends in three small fountains.
At the end of the stairway you will find the Romantic Mirador. This part belongs to the XIX century and the origin is unknown but it is suggested that it might have been an oratory. The architecture of this building is neogothic, clearly out of place in an arabic environment.