Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada

Province of Granada, Autonomous Community of Andalusia
N37 10 36.012 W3 35 39.984
Date of Inscription: 1984
Extension: 1994
Criteria: (i)(iii)(iv)
Ref: 314bis
News Link/Travelogue: SPAIN

Rising above the modern lower town, the Alhambra and the Albaycín, situated on two adjacent hills, form the medieval part of Granada. To the east of the Alhambra fortress and residence are the magnificent gardens of the Generalife, the former rural residence of the emirs who ruled this part of Spain in the 13th and 14th centuries. The residential district of the Albaycín is a rich repository of Moorish vernacular architecture, into which the traditional Andalusian architecture blends harmoniously.

Brief synthesis

The property of the Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada, stands on two adjacent hills, separated by the river Darro. Rising above the modern lower town, the Alhambra and the Albayzín form the medieval part of the City of Granada, which preserves remains of the ancient Arabic quarter. These components represent two complementary realities and examples of medieval urban complexes: the residential district of the Albayzín and the palatine city of the Alhambra. To the east of the Alhambra fortress and residence are the gardens of the Generalife, an example of a rural residence of the emirs, built during the 13th and 14th centuries.

The Alhambra, with its continuous occupation over time, is currently the only preserved palatine city of the Islamic period. It constitutes the best example of Nasrid art in its architecture and decorative aspects. The Generalife Garden and its vegetable farms represent one of the few medieval areas of agricultural productivity. These palaces were made possible by the existing irrigation engineering in Al-Ándalus, well established in the Alhambra and Generalife with technological elements known and studied by archaeologists. This constituted a real urban system integrating architecture and landscape, and extending its influence in the surrounding area with gardens and unique hydraulic infrastructures.

The residential district of the Albayzín, which constitutes the origin of the City of Granada, is a rich legacy of Moorish town planning and architecture in which Nasrid buildings and constructions of Christian tradition coexist harmoniously. Much of its significance lies in the medieval town plan with its narrow streets and small squares and in the relatively modest houses in Moorish and Andalusian style that line them. There are, however, some more imposing reminders of its past prosperity. It is nowadays one of the best illustrations of Moorish town planning, enriched with the Christian contributions of the Spanish Renaissance and Baroque period to the Islamic design of the streets.

Criterion (i):The Alhambra and Generalife contain all the known artistic techniques of the Hispano-Muslim world, on the basis of a proportional system in which all decorative and building developments are based, with particular emphasis on the aesthetic value represented by the intelligent use of water and vegetation. Together with this tradition, since 1492 the Royal House has received the most advanced proposals in terms of palace and poliorcertic architecture, and plastic arts of Western humanism.

The Albayzín district is the best-preserved illustration of a Hispano-Muslim city in the South of Spain, particularly formed during the Nasrid dynasty. The Albayzín, enriched with the contributions of Christian Renaissance and Spanish Baroque culture, is an exceptional and harmonious blend of two traditions, creating a unique and special form and style.

Criterion (iii): The development of the materials used in the Alhambra and Generalife are unique particularly with the use of plaster, wood and ceramics as decorative elements. Together with the use of the Arabic epigraphy, constructions were transformed into an ensemble of “talking architecture”, whose contents are related to the religious, political and poetic world of the Nasrid Dynasty, preserved and enriched by the best examples of the humanistic and innovative art of the Spanish Renaissance. The architectural ensemble is a living example of the mix of Easter and Western artistic traditions.

The Albayzín represents a microcosm of what the Andalusi cultural splendour meant in Granada from its origins in the Zirid Dynasty to the magnificence of the Nasrid Dynasty. The customs passed down through the Andalusí people originated in these kinds of neighbourhoods and have largely influenced all European cultures. Their great scientific knowledge and their social customs – as well as their gastronomy and hygiene – confirm the greatness of this advanced culture that influenced the subsequent cultures of the Albayzín centuries later.

Criterion (iv): The Alhambra and Generalife bear exceptional testimony to Muslim Spain the 13th and 15th centuries. They form a remarkable example of the palatine residences of medieval Islam, neither destroyed nor changed by the vicissitudes of time, as with the examples in Maghreb. The architecture and urban landscape of the Albayzín is the most remarkable cultural example of the survival of Andalusí culture in our days. It bears witness to the medieval Moorish settlement, which was not changed when it was adapted to the Christian way of life after the conquest. Its main characteristics in terms of form, materials and colours, are preserved almost without change and survive as a notable example of a Moorish town of the Nasrid dynasty that merged with the vernacular town planning of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

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6 replies »

  1. Albayzin is a pleasure to wander around with its maze of narrow streets and traditional houses with secluded courtyards and vibrant flowers. It’s also an excellent location to stay in for exploring the city, with stunning views of the Alhambra on the adjacent hill and several sights including Granada Cathedral only a short walk away. Albayzin is on a steep hill which is something to keep in mind if you’re traveling with little ones or using a stroller.


  2. Granada has a beautiful, scenic setting with the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountain range towering in the background. Its architecture is dazzling. In the centre of the Alhambra is the immensely large Palace of Charles V, a magnificent example of Spanish Renaissance architecture. The complex of buildings called the Nasrid Palaces, like all places popular with visitors, requires you to purchase an entrance ticket. The domed ceiling stands out – with its more than 8000 cedar pieces which with its star pattern, represents the seven heavens. Adjacent to the Alhambra is the Generalife, which translates to “Garden of Paradise.” It is a series of beautifully laid-out gardens containing courtyards, archways, pathways, pools, fountains, waterfalls, and flowers. Check out the 700 year-old cypress tree.

    Albaicin, an old Arab Quarter, is made up of a labyrinth of narrow streets. A walk through this neighbourhood, with its ancient Spanish/Muslim architecture, will take you back to historical times with its unique ambience. You will also have great views from here of the Alhambra. If you feel in need of rest and nourishment, there are some very attractive cafes here which offer just this.


  3. One of my favorite activities to recommend in Granada is a walking tour through Albaycin and Sacromonte, The history, architecture and landscape make a visit to Albaycin a must-do. Sacromonte was the original gypsy settlement in the region, where you can find some of the best flamenco performances today. Both are beautiful; offer great history and architecture; and lend themselves to amazing photography.


  4. Granada’s Moorish legacy makes you gasp in wonderment. The La Alhambra with its Palacios Nazaríes and its Alcazaba fortress, along with the gardens of Generalife overwhelm you. The snow covered Sierra Nevada in the background along with the La Alhambra is a sight to behold. Staying in one of the Sacromonte cave houses in the Albayzín area of Granada gives you a sneak peek into the medieval past of this area. Pedalling across Rio Guadalquivir with ducks for company and not another soul in sight on the river and a hot, thick xocolatl in hand reminds you of the gift of travelling that keeps on giving.


  5. What sets the Alhambra apart from most other palaces is the fact that it is open to visitors at night. Views of the city lights under the night sky, from a height of about 120 metres, with fires from gypsy caves in the distance, are breathtaking. Getting a day-pass for entry to the gardens and touring the palace after dusk is the best way of getting a moonlit tour: Exploring the palace with your friends is one of the many little-known experiences Andalusia has to offer.


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