The Alhambra palace is the most visited monument in the whole of Spain whilst also being one of the best preserved pieces of Islamic architecture in the world. The Alhambra is located in the city of Granada, Andalucia, an area I’m currently lucky enough to call home for the time being. Having said that life can be so busy that I’ve only managed to visit this incredible piece of architectural history a handful of times, my goal is to take a day out solo with an audio guide and wander the palace at my own pace sometime soon. Stood on the hillside above the city with the Albayzin (the old arab city) opposite, you really do feel the Alhambra’s presence all around you when wandering the streets of Granada, the old city is unspoilt in many ways and you can almost feel what it was like to wander the same streets hundreds of years ago when the palace was in its prime.
A visit to this UNESCO heritage site and the city of Granada is a must for anyone who enjoys heritage, culture, good food and European cities but what is it like to visit as an interior designer or as a designer/creative/artist of any kind? I’m going to try and share just how inspiring and important this palace is for feeding the creativity…
A visit to the Alhambra is split into three areas, the first is the gardens with the summer garden palace (Generalife), then the main palaces before a walk around the Alcazaba (the fortress). To give yourself the time to soak in as much as you can (I was going to say everything but that’s impossible in one visit) you need at least 4 hours in my opinion, any less and you start to rush. The gardens deserve time to sit and wander through at a pace which allows you to take in the design and the views across to the Alcazaba and down to the city. As you know from previous blog posts I love to visit places of historic importance and beauty around the world yet I struggle to think of anywhere as well designed as the Alhambra, every corner, viewpoint, staircase, hedge is a thing of beauty in it’s own right and when paired with the stunning fountains and buildings it really does have a magical feel.
From the gardens you can head to the Alcazaba or the main palaces, a walk around the old fortress is just as inspiring to me as the beautiful and ornate areas of this monument. The worn, deep red stone and subtle pomegranate shaped carvings (Granada is the Pomegranate city) are the perfect source of design inspiration for those relaxed, wabi sabi interiors we love to create for our clients. This is a wonderful place to visit just before walking down the hill through the Alhambra forest into the city, through the pomegranate gate, it gives a real sense of how visitors would enter the palace grounds all those years ago.
The main palaces are what draw in so many visitors to this part of the world each year, consisting of the Mexuar, Comares palace, Partal palace and my personal favourite the palace of the lions. These palaces are overwhelming for the eyes, the plaster mouldings and wood carvings cover meters of wall space with traditional tiling mixed in too on the walls and floors. Whole columns, pillars and ceilings are carved, moulded or tiled, I don’t think in it’s heyday the palace would have had a plain surface, the only break in these incredible details is for an arch or balcony to frame a view of the city or mountains (often the snow topped Sierra Nevada), creating the perfect calming contrast to the opulence of the palace. You could spend hours noticing all of the different patterns, carvings and surfaces.
As an interior designer I feel extremely lucky to live near such inspiring, historic buildings they feed my creativity more than any magazine could (although there is space for those too).
Let me know in the comments below or send me an email to chat further about the inspiring Alhambra or places that inspire you.