The day after we returned home from Alsace, we hopped on a plane and headed south to Spain for Christmas and warmer weather. We planned on staying in the Andalucia region for around 10 days in 4 different accommodations.
Our first hotel was in Antequera, a small town located about an hourish from both Alhambra and Cordoba, two major places we wanted to visit. It was nice, especially considering that it was very cheap to stay there and we were only going to be there for a few days.
The next morning, we headed out to Alhambra, the sight we wanted to see the most on our trip. It can get very busy there, even during the off season and it’s highly recommended to buy tickets ahead of time online (which unfortunately is a bit of a trick to figure out). You can buy tickets for either morning or afternoon.
In order to also see the Nasrid Palaces, you must also pick an hour within either the morning or afternoon that you’ll be there and then arrive early in order to ensure you get in by your allocated time. It’s a bit confusing, but what we did was buy tickets for the afternoon session and then we chose the very first hour in the afternoon session to visit the palaces. It was the least busy time on their afternoon timetable, and also a fairly good time for our kids (rather than visiting later and having them falling apart from already seeing so much).
We arrived early, grabbed a quick bite to eat and then got in line for the palaces. We were very lucky that the Alhambra was not crowded at all that day.
The Nasrid Palaces are first recorded in the reign of Abu l-Walid Ismail (fifth king of the dynasty). The palaces has three areas: the Mexuar, used for administration and State affairs; the Comares Palace, the official residence of the king; and the Palace of the Lions, the private living quarters for the wives and mistresses of the king.
Everything was gorgeous walking through the palaces. The details and design were amazing and so unlike anything I had ever seen before. Everywhere we looked, there was some sort of intricate work to admire. Islamic religion discourages depictions of humans and nonhumans, so instead mosques and palaces are decorated with geometric shapes.
Everything was also so modern considering the time period (the 1300’s were it’s highest point). The women had running hot and cold pressurized water for their showers. The palaces themselves were designed so much nicer than the castles in the rest of Europe at the time (those castles are still awesome too, but this looked way more comfortable).
One of my favorite features (and Adeline’s too) was how there were little fountains everywhere. In the Palace of the Lions, there were 4 small fountains on each side of the courtyard that then led to the center where there was one huge fountain. It seemed like it would have been the perfect place to cool off during the summer.
We also checked out the Alcazaba, the oldest part of the Alhambra. It was mostly used as a fortress for military purposes. We climbed to the top and were greeted with a beautiful view of the valley, complete with snow covered mountains in the distance.
Our last stop was at the Generalife (built in the early 1300’s). This is where the kings would go to “get away from it all”.
Nowadays, it’s difficult to know what the original Generalife looked like as it had been rebuilt and altered several times throughout Christian history (mostly due to neglect and deterioration). The buildings are more simple though, with the idea that this created a more peaceful and intimate atmosphere.
Both the gardens and the views from the Generalife were spectacular. We even got to see the beginning of the sunset while we were up there. It was the perfect way to end our visit.
- We only saw the major sights while we were there. There was much more that we missed out on, but with only being able to explore for half a day, there’s no way we could have done more than what we did.
- Beware of scammers: when we were looking for parking, a man walked up to our car and said we could pay him 20 bucks to pay in some parking lot… We decided to park in the official parking lot instead. This also happened on a separate day when we were parking to cross the border into Gibraltar.
- There is a first aid station and also very nice bathrooms right before entering the palaces. Unfortunately our oldest got scratched trying to feed some of her lunchmeat to the stray cats… after watching me do that exact same thing. Oops! 😦 Luckily, it wasn’t bad at all and we got her all cleaned up and with a band aid at the first aid station.
- Everything was pretty stroller friendly, except for the gardens in the Generalife (but we were able to keep it in a designated spot while we explored).
- I would love to visit again. It’s very family friendly with plenty of places for children to run around and beautiful architecture that everyone will appreciate (both our girls loved looking for all the different shapes on the walls and ceilings). It’s also just such an unique place here in Europe and gives some great insight to the Moorish time period in Spain.