On April 11, 2019, the new Mein Schiff 2 will dock in Málaga, southern Spain. Andalusia's second largest city offers its visitors many attractions. One day is not enough to see everything. There are also attractive destinations in the near and far. One of these destinations is Granada. To get to know Granada, we recommend a guided day trip to guests arriving by cruise ship. The journey leads through a charming landscape shaped by olive cultivation.
The road to Granada leads through Andalusia's olive country
Interesting facts about Granada
The Andalusian city lies at an altitude of over 700 meters on the western edge of the Sierra Nevada. With more than 230.000 inhabitants, Granada is the metropolis of the province of the same name. The community originally called "Iliberra" was first mentioned in writing around 500 BC. The city was first dominated by the Phoenicians, and then by the Romans, Vandals and Visigoths. The city flourished under Moorish rule. The Moors conquered Granada in 711 AD and held it for more than 780 years.
View of the Albaicín - Granada's former Moorish residential area
Under Moorish rule, Arabs, Christians and Jews lived together amicably in Granada. Moors developed Granada into a cultural and scientific center. The rule of the Muslim-Moorish ruling dynasties did not end until 1492 after months of siege by troops of the Catholic Kings, the "Reyes Católicos".
Granada's UNESCO World Heritage Site
Over a millennium, Granada has been shaped by the coexistence of different cultures. In the center of Granada, the Moorish heritage and the buildings of the Christian conquerors built in the Spanish Baroque style stand side by side. To UNESCO World Heritage Sites became the fortress of the Alhambra, the Generalife, the summer residence of the emir, and the Albaicin, explains the former Moorish residential area below the Alhambra.
Alhambra y Generalife 20 years ago and now
Visitors to Málaga and cruise ship passengers are offered guided excursions to the Alhambra and the Generalife Gardens from Málaga. We are using such a convenient excursion package in 2019. As individual tourists, we visited the Alhambra and the Generalife Palace 20 years earlier. At that time we bought tickets and entered the facility. Limitations were out of the question.
Today, in the age of mass tourism, different rules apply. Access to the facility is limited. A maximum of 7.500 visitors are admitted daily. Tickets must be ordered in advance. They are personalized and a personal document must be presented when entering the facility. Times are changing!
La Alhambra - the entrance area
On their sightseeing tour, visitors cover a 3½ kilometer walk within the monumental ensemble. The recommended circular route begins with the Generalife, later it goes over to the area of the Alhambra. The huge fortress wall and the Alcazaba, the actual fortress, are not part of our sightseeing program.
The Palacio del Generalife
The regents' summer palace, built in the middle of the 13th century, was unprotected outside the fortress walls. The origin of the name Generalife is still a mystery.
One thing is certain: After the Reconquista and the expulsion of the Moors from Andalusia at the end of the 15th century, the Generalife was structurally changed. Since then, the system has consisted of two parts. A courtyard and an irrigation canal connect both parts of the house. In contrast to the overloaded Alhambra, the Palacio del Generalife is kept unadorned. Only artfully crafted decorative stucco elements bring variety into play. There was no rule in the Generalife. The Summer Palace was and is a place of reflection and relaxation up to our time.
In front of the Palacio del Generalife there is an unspectacular auditorio and a spacious, tree-lined garden with beautiful water basins. You have to cross it before entering the ensemble of the Alhambra.
The tree-lined gardens of the Generalife
The 740 meter long and up to 220 meter wide castle complex on Granada's Sabikah Hill is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Europe. It is the most famous and imposing monument of Moorish building culture and Islamic art in Europe. The ensemble consists of the fortified Upper Town, The Nasrid palaces and the Alcazaba, the citadel of the regent. The upper town, the medina, was inhabited.
The fortified upper town of the Alhambra
The entire castle area covers 13 hectares. The Alhambra got its current appearance in the 13th century. Later, after the reconquest of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs, many alterations were made. The Moorish and Spanish architectural styles intermingled over time. The mixture gives the system its special character. The top attractions of the Alhambra are the Palacio de Carlos V, the Nasrid Palaces and the Alhambra Medina.
Stucco work from the Moorish period
Palacio de Carlos V.
The Habsburg King Charles V, who ruled in the first half of the 16th century, intended to make Granada the seat of government of the Spanish kingdom. Inside the Alhambra, a representative, square Renaissance palace with a circular inner courtyard, the Palacio de Carlos V, was built. After the discovery of America, the construction project stalled. Granada did not become the seat of the Spanish Kingdom and the Palacio de Carlos V became a ruin. The palace today use that Museum of Fine Arts of Granada and I baked the Alhambra Museum.
By the way: The Palacio de Carlos V remained in ruins for several centuries. The entire ensemble of the Alhambra, which had since fallen into disrepair, has been restored and renovated since the 19th century. The Palacio was only given a roof in the 20th century and has been a museum location since 1958.
The Nasrid Palaces
The hub of the Alhambra is the Nasrid Palaces. They were the seat of government and the residence of the rulers. The main parts are the Alcázar with the throne room and the lion court, the Patio de los Leones. The walls of the palace area are provided with arabesques and Arabic characters made of stucco. Beautiful gardens surround the palace complex.
The Alhambra Medina
The nobility and high-ranking citizens lived in the medina. The resident merchants, craftsmen and armourers went about their work in the upper town. Eye-catchers in the area of the medina, which is characterized by wide gardens, are today the church Santa Maria de la Alhambra and a state Parador Hotel. This building was originally a monastery complex dedicated to Francis of Assisi.
The Parador Convento de San Francisco
Conclusion of our tour to the Alhambra
We appreciate discovering new destinations and refreshing memories from long ago through repeated visits. Organized tours with a shared lunch menu are, in our opinion, often time thieves. - The reason why we decided on the organized excursion to Granada is due to the relatively short layover time and the given distances. Málaga and Granada are 150 kilometers apart.
In addition, the strict access restrictions to the Alhambra and the fixed entry times especially for the Nasrid Palaces speak in favor of an external organization. The number of participants was limited and the tour guides provided lots of useful information. All in all: an organized trip to Granada makes sense.
Palacio del Partal
Overall, the tour lasted more than eight hours, of which almost three hours were spent on the Generalife and the Alhambra. The tour cost 105 euros. The price included a lunch snack and the entrance fee.