Things to do in Granada

Generalife Alhambra – The Burgeoning Gardens Of Granada

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A stroll down the cypress tree-lined avenues in the Generalife Gardens will transport you to the age of the Nasrid Sultans back in the 13th century. A sense of serenity envelopes you as you amble through the myrtle hedges, gardens with orange trees, courtyards with stone fountains and water channels with jets. The gurgling water sounds with the picturesque elements of Islamic garden architecture make the Generalife Gardens a must-visit while on a tour of the Alhambra Palace. A medieval garden retreat of the sultans, the Generalife Gardens is the most beautiful part of the Alhambra and the best way to end your day at the complex.

Generalife Alhambra - History Under A Minute

Palacio de Generalife and the Generalife Gardens were initially planned in the 13th century as a retreat for the sultans. Built along the slopes of the Cerro del Sol (Hill of the Sun), it looked over the Genil and Daroo valleys and the Alhambra. Palacio de Generalife was the summer palace of the Nasrid rulers and were designed to offer calm and relaxation and included the use of water and vegetation like manicured gardens and trees.

The name has several theories, but its closest translation is from ‘Jardines del Alarife’ or the Garden of the Architect. The Generalife Gardens have been altered over the centuries, but the terrace gardens have retained their essence. The main architectural component of the gardens is the simple yet medieval palace with patios, courtyards, and pavilions.

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Your Generalife Alhambra Experience

Generalife Alhambra
The Generalife Alhambra Gardens

The Generalife Gardens are divided into 3 parts - Lower Gardens, the Palace of the Generalife and the High Gardens.

Your walk through Generalife starts through the new Generalife gardens, past the avenue of the Cypress trees. Ahead lays the Generalife Theatre, which was built in 1952 and was not included in the original garden plan. Past the theatre, you will visit the lower gardens and enter the Palace of the Generalife where the Patio de la Acequia leads to the upper terraces. Next is the Courtyard of the Sultana and then a climb up the Escalera del Agua to the highest point of the Generalife Gardens.

Highlights of Generalife Alhambra

Patio de la Acequia

Generalife Alhambra

The Court of the Main Canal was an ornamental addition around the water channel that brings the irrigation water from the Alhambra. It connects the lower gardens and upper gardens and includes a high pavilion from where the patio and gardens beyond can be observed. It was designed as an interior garden, with the exception of the small lookout point on the west. As a result, it was transformed into a sort of belvedere when the landscape appeared, and the intimate quality of the court was lost.

Palace of Generalife

Generalife Alhambra

Entrance to the Generalife Palace is through a tiny door, partially hidden by undergrowth and embedded in traces of marble, with a tiled lintel and the arch-key marking. A steep narrow stairway will take you to the residences and rooms, connected to the Court of the Main Canal (Patio de la Acequia)which in turn leads to an arcaded gallery, with five arches and bedchambers, and then on to the Royal Chamber.

Jardin de la Sultana

Generalife Alhambra

Legend goes that the last Nasrid ruler Bombadil's wife used to have a rendezvous with a knight of the Abencerrajes family in this courtyard. This arcaded structure dates back to 1584 and flaunts trimmed myrtle hedges, the ancient cypress trees and the stone fountains with jets. A tiny door to the south leads back to the Court of the Main Canal (Patio de la Acequia), and the rest of the Historic-Artistic Monuments Complex.

Escalera del Agua

The ‘water stairway’ was a functional yet ambitious feature in the Generalife Gardens. Built during the Muslim period, the stairway was designed in three flights with water channels for handrails! The stairway is flanked by laurel trees which form a vaulted canopy that makes for a surreal visual. To reach the highest part of the Generalife you must take the Water Stairway.

Generalife Theatre

Generalife Alhambra

The Festival of Music and Dance of Granada in 1952 led to the the building of a theatre. The gardens were extended southward to build the symmetrically horseshoe shaped outdoor theatre, with a central seating area and boxes on the sides, reflecting a western mannerist and baroque style. Recently the Generalife theatre has undergone restoration, and its installations and acoustics have been improved.

Read our A-Z Guide on Visiting Alhambra Palace to plan your visit better.

Best Alhambra Garden Tickets

Wondering which tickets work best to explore the Alhambra gardens? Here's our selection of the top Alhambra Gardens tickets.

Read more about the Top Alhambra Tours & Tickets to choose one that suits you and your budget best.

Getting to Generalife Alhambra

The Generalife Gardens are separated from the Alhambra by the Calle Real de la Alhambra. Once you enter from the main Pavillion entrance of the Alhambra Complex, you will find the Generalife Gardens on the right side, and the Alhambra Museum, Nasrid Palaces and Alcazaba on the left side. The Alcazaba and the Nasrid Palaces are almost 1KM away from the Generalife and you can access them on foot. There are clear sign boards indicating directions across the Alhambra Complex, hence getting around shouldn't be a problem.

Know all about Alhambra entrances and which entrance is closest to the Generalife Gardens.

Alhambra Gardens Opening Hours

From April 1 to October 14

Day Visit : Monday through Sunday

  • Hours - 8:30 AM to 8:00 PM
  • Ticket Office Hours - 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM

Evening Visit : Tuesday to Saturday

  • Hours - 10:00 PM to 11:30 PM
  • Ticket Office Hours - 9:00 PM to 10:45 PM
From October 15 to March 31

Day Visit : Monday through Sunday

  • Hours - 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Ticket Office Hours - 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Evening Visit : Friday & Saturday

  • Hours - 10:00 PM to 11:30 PM
  • Ticket Office Hours - 9:00 PM to 10:45 PM

The Alhambra Palace is open every day of the year, except 25th of December and January 1st

The last visit to the Nasrid Palaces will be one hour before the closing time.

Good To Know Before Visiting Generalife Alhambra

  • Keep aside 1.5 hours for a leisurely visit of the Alhambra Gardens
  • The Generalife Alhambra Tour is adapted for the disabled and those on wheelchairs.
  • Plucking flowers and walking on grass in the gardens is strictly prohibited.
  • Distance from the lockers to the Generalife: 100 m
  • Distance from the Generalife to Nasrid Palace: 700 m

Final Thoughts

Away from the architectural grandeur of the Alhambra are the Generalife Gardens which revel in the wealth of nature. A visit to Generalife Alhambra will offer a peek into Islamic garden architecture. Take a tour and explore the gardens to find out the intriguing stories of the Sultana, the subsequent Christian residents and the desire of royalty to get away from the political machinations at the Alhambra at the peaceful and breathtaking Generalife Gardens!

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