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Visiting The Alcazaba in Alhambra, Granada

Best described as the military area within the Alhambra, Alcazaba is the oldest part of the fortress. During your trip to Alcazaba, walk to the top of the watchtower for unmatched views of Plaza Nueva, the Albaicín, and the Sierra Nevada mountains beyond. Apart from the watchtower, the Alcazaba holds the Bucket Tower, the Arms Square, the urban military district, the terrace of the Arms Gate and the Ramparts ́ garden. The Alcazaba played an instrumental role in Andalusian history and a visit to this fortress will help you better understand the culture of Granada.

History of the Alcazaba

  • The Alcazaba is located at the western tip of the Sabika hill in Granada, serving as a historic defensive position from the 9th century onward.
  • Initially fortified, it evolved during the first Taifas period in the 11th century, becoming part of a local Zirid kingdom centered in Granada.
  • Known as the al-Qasaba al-Jadida ("New Citadel"), it was connected to other fortresses on Sabika and Mauror hills.
  • In 1238, under Ibn al-Ahmar (Muhammad I), Granada became the capital of a new emirate, leading to the founding of a new citadel on Sabika hill.
  • The Alcazaba, built over earlier Zirid fortress foundations, is now the oldest surviving part of the Alhambra palace complex.
  • Later Nasrid rulers, like Yusuf I, made additions to the fortress.
  • In 1492, the Catholic Monarchs conquered Granada, raising the flag of Castile over the Torre de la Vela in the Alcazaba.
  • Spanish modifications in the 16th century fortified the fortress against gunpowder artillery, although it saw little military action thereafter.
  • In the early 20th century, archaeological excavations and restoration work were conducted to uncover and preserve the Alcazaba's history and heritage

Highlights of the Alcazaba

Puerta de las Armas

Puerta de las Armas

The building features a striking door that has functioned as the primary access to the Alhambra since the 14th century from the San Pedro forest. Puerta de las Armas is one of the main buildings of the Alcazaba and takes up the entire lower level. Situated on the outer perimeter wall of the Alcazaba, this gate facilitated the passage of troops, supplies, and visitors between the city and the interior of the Alhambra complex.

Torre del Homenaje

Torre del Homenaje

Standing as the tallest tower, the Torre del Homenaje served as the keep and military command post. Its terrace provided commanding views, allowing for visual signals to be sent across the area. The tower's five floors housed various chambers, including the residence of the commander of the Alhambra's guards.

Torre de la Vela

Torre de la Vela

One of the most recognizable features of the Alcazaba, Torre de la Vela is famous for its flags and bell tower. During the time of the Catholic Monarchs, the tower used to function as the living quarters of the bell ringers. Now, the bell is used by farmers to mark any changes in irrigation cycles. The bell tower has also been replaced and repositioned multiple times. Presently, 4 flags are hosted on the tower: the Andalusian flag, the Grenadian flag, the European flag, and the Spanish flag.

Plaza de las Armas

Plaza de las Armas

Adjacent to the Puerta de las Armas lies the Plaza de las Armas, or Arms Square, a spacious area within the Alcazaba where military activities and gatherings took place. Serving as a focal point for training exercises, military drills, and ceremonial events, the plaza echoed with the sounds of soldiers honing their skills and commanders strategizing for defense.

Plaza de Los Aljibes

Plaza de Los Aljibes

The Plaza de Los Aljibes lies in the trench between the Alcazaba and the palaces. The name is derived from the cisterns that were constructed in the square at the end of the 15th century. Throughout its storied past, the Plaza de Los Aljibes has served as a cultural hub where ideas, traditions, and artistic expressions converge. Musicians, poets, and scholars once gathered here and it is a place of great cultural importance.

Jardín de los Adarves

Jardín de los Adarves

Originally a defensive rampart, it evolved into a tranquil recreational garden during the 16th century as part of fortress improvements against modern artillery. Once serving as a strategic stronghold, the space now features plants and two exquisite fountains, The first fountain, dating back to around 1628, boasts intricate carvings of genies riding dolphins, while the second, added in 1624, showcases arabesque motifs, reminiscent of the Nasrid-built Court of the Lions.

Visitor tips

  • Visit the Fountains: Explore the Plaza de los Aljibes and Jardín de los Adarves to see the beautiful fountains carved with intricate designs. 
  • Learn About Military History: Gain insight into the military history of the Alcazaba by exploring areas where military exercises once took place.
  • Take in the Views: Climb to the top of the Torre de la Vela for panoramic views of Granada and the surrounding countryside.
  • Explore Hidden Passageways: Keep an eye out for hidden passageways and tunnels as you explore the Alcazaba.
  • Engage with Guides: If you have questions or want to learn more about specific aspects of the Alcazaba, don't hesitate to engage with guides or staff members onsite. 
  • Respect the Heritage: Remember to respect the heritage and cultural significance of the Alcazaba by following posted rules and regulations, refraining from touching or climbing on historic structures, and disposing of trash properly.
  • Take Guided Tours: Consider joining a guided tour to gain deeper insights into the history and significance of the Alcazaba.



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Frequently asked questions about Alcazaba, Alhambra

What is the Alcazaba in the Alhambra?

The Alcazaba is the oldest part of the Alhambra palace complex in Granada, Spain. It served as a military fortress and stronghold for the Muslim rulers of the region.

When was the Alcazaba built?

The Alcazaba was built in the 9th century during the Moorish period of Al-Andalus. It underwent expansions and renovations in subsequent centuries.

What can I see in the Alcazaba?

Visitors to the Alcazaba can explore its defensive walls, towers, and battlements, as well as archaeological remains of military structures. Highlights include the Torre del Homenaje (Tower of Homage) and Torre de la Vela (Watch Tower).

How long does it take to visit Alcazaba?

The length of time needed to visit the Alcazaba can vary depending on individual interests. A typical visit may take around 1 to 2 hours, allowing time to explore the fortress and enjoy the views.

Are guided tours available for the Alcazaba?

Yes, guided tours of the Alcazaba are available for visitors who wish to learn more about its history, architecture, and significance. Guided tours can provide valuable insights and enhance the visitor experience.

Can I take photos inside the Alcazaba?

Yes, photography for personal use is generally allowed inside the Alcazaba, but flash photography and tripods may be restricted in certain areas.

What is the best time of day to visit Alcazaba?

The early morning or late afternoon tend to be less crowded times to visit the Alcazaba, allowing for a more peaceful experience. However, any time of day can offer its own unique charm and ambiance.

Is the Alcazaba accessible for people with disabilities?

While efforts have been made to improve accessibility, some areas of the Alcazaba may be challenging for people with mobility issues due to uneven terrain and staircases. However, there are accessible routes and facilities available.