Alhambra Palace Granada History

The magnificent Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, is surrounded by breathtaking scenery and medieval towns.

It beautifully exemplifies  Spain’s rich cultural heritage and Islamic architecture.

Originally a small fortress, Muslim leaders later turned it into a magnificent palace-fortress.

Today, it is one of the most visited historical sites in the world, with around 2.7 million visitors every year.

In this article, we will take you through the history of Alhambra and the different reigns it witnessed.


As its final threads demonstrate, the Alhambra’s history is more than just a record of building and decay.

It demonstrates the existence of several dynasties, their culture, architectural styles, the use of elements, buildings, and so on.

The Nasrids brilliantly used water to create a peaceful and beautiful oasis of beauty in Granada’s dry lands.

The Christian monarchs brought with them their bit of Renaissance influence that further lit the Alhambra complex.

From a simple fort, it evolved into an incredible palace over time, and it is one of the best examples of preserving culture and history for the future.

 Alhambra’s History (Early Times)

The history of Alhambra, Granada, dates back to the 9th century when it was a small fortress built atop an old Roman fort.

Originally known as “qal’at al-hamra” in Arabic, meaning red castle, it referred to the reddish walls and towers encompassing the citadel.

The fortress served as a strategic military stronghold for the Berber rulers of the region.

During the 13th century, the Nasrid dynasty brought significant changes to the Alhambra, transforming it into what it is today.

The Nasrid Dynasty and Golden Age

The Alhambra peaked in luxury and complexity in the 13th and 14th centuries when the Nasrid dynasty ruled. 

Muhammad ibn al-Ahmar established Granada as the capital and began the expansion of the Alhambra. 

He expanded the fortress into stunning palaces, courtyards, and gardens, contributing to their distinct creative and architectural style. 

The Nasrids included many water features that reflected the advanced hydraulic engineering of the time.

They fused Andalusian, Moorish, and Islamic elements to create an unmatched work of art.

In the 14th century, Yusuf I and Muhammad V built the most famous parts of the attraction.

The complex included three palaces as part of the Nasrid Palace:

  • Palace of the Lions: the best example of Nasrid’s artistry, with a beautiful courtyard and intricate decorations. 
  • Comares Palace: the center of political power and home of the kings.
  • Mexuar: office of the kings. 

You can see intricate works of art, Arabic calligraphy, quotations, poems, and natural patterns, enhancing the palace’s interior decor. With its lush gardens and innovative water features, the Generalife offered a peaceful retreat for the sultans.

If you look into its past, you can observe how the art and architecture of the Nasrid dynasty changed. 

Observe its architectural beauty through some key highlights inside Nasrid Palace.

  • Palacio de Comares – it served as the Sultan’s official residence and government seat. 
  • Palace of the Lions – is famous for its Fountain of Lions in the courtyard and hydraulic network. The cultural spot draws tourists and experts because of its beauty and history.
  • Partal Palace – a palace with water and gardens, making it a calm and peaceful place. This is where the nobles lived.
  • Court of the Myrtles – courtyard with fountains and myrtle bushes. It was a retreat area for the royals.
  • Hall of the Ambassadors – Yusuf I, the long-time ruler, sat and met important guests here.

History of Generalife 

The Nasrid rulers of Granada were famous for their love of art, architecture and nature. 

Generalife is the perfect amalgamation of nature and art, signifying “Jannat al-afia” in Arabic, meaning paradise. 

It functioned as the Nasrid rulers’ summer palace and retreat estate.

One of the Nasrid Dynasty’s best-preserved properties, it contains beautiful orchards, gardens, and numerous water bodies for ornamentation and irrigation purposes. 

According to historical records, they built this palace away from the main complex to create a paradise inside the Alhambra fortress.

The Fall of Granada and Christian Rule

The history of Granada saw the invasion of the Catholic monarchs In 1492 when Christian rulers took over Granada.

The influence of the Renaissance and Christianity finely displaced art and architecture.

The churches and monasteries replaced Islamic art by restoring and keeping the Islamic masterpieces intact. 

Modifications and Additions 

The Christian rulers changed the Alhambra significantly to suit their style and needs.

They added churches to the palace, bringing Christian symbols and changing the Islamic look at different parts of the complex, gates and surroundings.

The biggest change was the Palace of Charles V, built in the 16th century, adjoining the Nasrid Palace walls.

It symbolizes the Renaissance, which was created in Spain and built by one of Michelangelo’s followers.

The Alhambra’s military powers improved during the Christian era as well. 

The Alcazaba, the fortress area, was made stronger to address the new rulers’ military needs.

Reviving the Alhambra: Restoration and Preservation 

After being neglected for many years, it gained popularity again in the 19th century.

This happened due to Washington Irving’s stories and the interest of travelers from Europe and America in Middle Eastern culture.

This renewed interest led to efforts to restore the complex under the supervision of the Patronato de la Alhambra y Generalife.

Preservation has become a key focus, especially since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. 

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  1. What is the Alhambra Palace?

    The Alhambra Palace is a stunning historical fortress and palace complex in Granada, Spain. It is famous for its architectural beauty and rich history.

  2. What was so impressive about the Alhambra of Granada?

    The Alhambra in Granada is unique for its smart design, detailed decorations, and beautiful gardens and fountains.

  3. Was the Alhambra built by Muslims?

    It was built in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid dynasty, the last Muslim rulers in Spain. 

  4. How did Alhambra fall?

    On January 2, 1492, Muhammad XII of Granada (also known as King Boabdil) gave up Granada City and the Alhambra palace to the forces of Castile. The Catholic monarchs took over the last Islamic ruler and extended their land win.

  5. Who lived in the Nasrid Palaces?

    The Nasrid Palaces within the complex served as the royal houses and courts for the Nasrid dynasty, the last Muslim dynasty in Spain, ruling from the 13th to the 15th century. 

  6. What was the purpose of the three palaces inside the Alhambra?

    The three Nasrid Palaces inside the Alhambra served distinct functions:
    The Mexuar was used for work and meetings.
    The Comares Palace was the sultan’s home, where he met special guests.
    The Palace of the Lions was a private space for the sultan’s family, showing beautiful art and design.

  7. What is the history of Nasrid Palace?

    The Nasrid kings built the Nasrid Palaces in the Alhambra between the 13th and 15th centuries. These palaces were the kings’ homes until 1492, before the conquest of the Catholic monarchs.

  8. How did the Alhambra Palace change after the Christian conquest?

    After Christians took over Granada in 1492, the Alhambra was transformed with new buildings like the Palace of Charles V, influenced by the Renaissance,  and saw the fusion of Muslim & Christian designs.

  9. Who is buried at the Alhambra?

    The gravestones belonged to Sultans Muhammad II and Yusuf III and one to Prince Yusuf, the brother of Sultan Muley Hacen. 

About the author

Harshitha’s heart lies where greeny mountains meet stretches of beach. She believes getting lost is the best way to explore

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