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ALHAMBRA AND GENERALIFE
The Alhambra is a Nasrid "palace city". It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. It is certainly Granada's most emblematic monument and one of the most visited in Spain. It consists of a defensive zone, the Alcazaba, together with others of a residential and formal state character, the Nasrid Palaces and, lastly, the palace, gardens and orchards of The Generalife.
The Alhambra occupies a small plateau on the southeastern border of the city in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada above the Assabica valley. Some of the buildings may have existed before the arrival of the Moors. The Alhambra as a whole is completely walled, bordered to the north by the valley of the Darro, to the south by the al-Sabika, and to the east of the Cuesta del Rey Chico, which in turn is separated from the Albaicín and Generalife, located in the Cerro del Sol.
In the 11th century the Castle of the Alhambra was developed as a walled town which became a military stronghold that dominated the whole city. But it was in the 13th century, with the arrival of the first monarch of the Nasrid dynasty, Mohammed I ibn Nasr (Mohammed I, 1238–1273), that the royal residence was established in the Alhambra. This marked the beginning of its heyday. The Alhambra became palace, citadel and fortress, and was the residence of the Nasrid sultans and their senior officials, including servants of the court and elite soldiers (13th-14th centuries).
In 1527 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor demolished part of the architectural complex to build the Palace which bears his name. Although the Catholic Monarchs had already altered some rooms of the Alhambra after the conquest of the city in 1492, Charles V wanted to construct a permanent residence befitting an emperor. Around 1537 he ordered the construction of the Peinador de la Reina, or Queen's dressing room, where his wife Isabel lived, over the Tower of Abu l-Hayyay.
There was a pause in the ongoing maintenance of the Alhambra from the 18th century for almost a hundred years, and during the French domination substantial portions of the fortress were blown apart. The repair, restoration and conservation that continues to this day did not begin until the 19th century. The complex currently includes the Museum of the Alhambra, with objects mainly from the site of the monument itself and the Museum of Fine Arts.
The Generalife is a garden area attached to the Alhambra which became a place of recreation and rest for the Granadan Muslim kings when they wanted to flee the tedium of official life in the Palace. It occupies the slopes of the hill Cerro del Sol above the ravines of the Genil and the Darro and is visible from vantage points throughout the city. It was conceived as a rural village, consisting of landscaping, gardens and architecture. The palace and gardens were built during the reign of Muhammad III (1302–1309) and redecorated shortly after by Abu I-Walid Isma'il (1313–1324). It is of the Islamic Nasrid style, and is today one of the biggest attractions in the city of Granada. The Generalife was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.
It is difficult to know the original appearance of the Generalife, as it has been subject to modifications and reconstructions throughout the Christian period which disfigured many of its former aspects. All buildings of the Generalife are of solid construction, and the overall decor is austere and simple. There is little variety to the Alhambra's decorative plaster, but the aesthetic is tasteful and extremely delicate. In the last third of the 20th century, a part of the garden was destroyed to build an auditorium.
Unlike most cathedrals in Spain, construction of this cathedral had to await the acquisition of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada from its Muslim rulers in 1492; while its very early plans had Gothic designs, such as are evident in the Royal Chapel of Granada by Enrique Egas, the construction of the church in the main occurred at a time when Spanish Renaissance designs were supplanting the Gothic regnant in Spanish architecture of prior centuries. Foundations for the church were laid by the architect Egas starting from 1518 to 1523 atop the site of the city's main mosque; by 1529, Egas was replaced by Diego de Siloé who labored for nearly four decades on the structure from ground to cornice, planning the triforium and five naves instead of the usual three. Most unusually, he created a circular capilla mayor rather than a semicircular apse, perhaps inspired by Italian ideas for circular 'perfect buildings' (e.g. in Alberti's works). Within its structure the cathedral combines other orders of architecture. It took 181 years for the cathedral to be built.
Subsequent architects included Juan de Maena (1563-1571), followed by Juan de Orea (1571-1590), and Ambrosio de Vico (1590-?). In 1667 Alonso Cano, working with Gaspar de la Peña, altered the initial plan for the main façade, introducing Baroque elements. The magnificence of the building would be even greater, if the two large 81 m towers foreseen in the plans had been built; however the project remained incomplete for various reasons, among them, financial.
The Cathedral had been intended to become the royal mausoleum by Charles I of Spain of Spain, but Philip II of Spain moved the site for his father and subsequent kings to El Escorial outside of Madrid.
The main chapel contains two kneeling effigies of the Catholic King and Queen, Isabel and Ferdinand by Pedro de Mena y Medrano. The busts of Adam and Eve were made by Alonso Cano. The Chapel of the Trinity has a marvelous retable with paintings by El Greco, Jusepe de Ribera and Alonso Cano.
THE ROYAL CHAPEL
This mausoleum houses the remains of the Catholic Monarchs (Spanish: Los Reyes Católicos): Doña Isabel de Castilla I (Queen Isabella I (1451–1504)), Don Fernando de Aragón II (King Ferdinand II (1452–1516)), their daughter Queen Juana I of Castile, León, and Aragon ((Joanna I, in Spanish Juana la Loca) (1479-1555)) and her husband Felipe I ((Philip I, Philip the Handsome, Spanish: Felipe El Hermoso) (1478-1506)) and their oldest grandson Miguel da Paz, Prince of Asturias, Portugal and Girona (Spanish: Infante Miguel) (1498–1500).
In the Sacristy Museum there are some relics, portraits, tapestries, ornaments, Baroque sculptures and paintings on display. The works are predominantly by Flemish, Italian and Spanish painters of the 15th Century, including pieces by Rogier van der Weyden, Dirk Bouts, Hans Memling, Botticelli, Perugino and Bartolomé Bermejo.
This district contains the Carthusian monastery of the same name: Cartuja. This is an old monastery started in a late Gothic style with Baroque exuberant interior decorations. In this district also, many buildings were created with the extension of the University of Granada.
THE ALBAICÍN QUARTER
Albayzín (also written as Albaicín), located on a hill on the right bank of the river Darro, is the ancient Moorish quarter of the city and transports the visitor to a unique world: the site of the ancient city of Elvira, so-called before the Zirí Moors renamed it Granada. It housed the artists who went up to build the palaces of Alhambra on the hill facing it. Time allowed its embellishment.
Of particular note is the Plaza de San Nicolas (Plaza of St. Nicholas) from where a stunning view of the Alhambra can be seen. The artist George Owen Wynne Apperley (1884–1960) owned houses on both sides of the Placeta de San Nicolás, also known as El Mirador, a wonderful lookout place with awesome panorama sights over the Alhambra.
The Sacromonte neighborhood is located on the extension of the hill of Albaicín, along the Darro River. This area, which became famous by the nineteenth century for its predominantly Gitano (gipsy) inhabitants, is characterized by cave houses, which are dug into the hillside. The area has a reputation as a major center of flamenco song and dance, including the Zambra Gitana, Andalusian dance originating in the Middle East. The zone is a protected cultural environment under the auspices of the Centro de Interpretación del Sacromonte, a cultural center dedicated to the preservation of Gitano cultural forms.
The Sierra Nevada (meaning "snowy range" in Spanish) is the mountain range sited in Granada and Almería, and it contains the highest point of continental Spain, Mulhacén at 3,478 meters above sea level. Parts of the range have been included in the Sierra Nevada National Park. The range has also been declared a biosphere reserve. The Sierra Nevada Observatory and the IRAM radio-telescope are located on the northern slopes at an elevation of 2,800 meters (9,200 ft).
It is a popular tourist destination, as its high peaks make skiing possible in one of Europe's most southerly ski resorts. With its high elevation, the skiing season can last from late November until early May. Particularly towards the end of the season it experiences many sunny days for pleasant skiing, although wind can be a problem due to Veleta's prominence and few trees. The resort is situated 27 km (17 mi) from the city of Granada, and is accessed by the A-395.
For further information please refer to: http://www.lovegranada.com/sierra-nevada/
The Alpujarra is a natural and historical region in Andalucía, Spain, on the south slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the adjacent valley. The average elevation is 4,000 ft above sea level. It extends over two provinces, Granada and Almería; it is sometimes referred to in the plural as "Las Alpujarras".
There are several interpretations of this Arabic name: the most convincing is that it derives from Al-bugsharra, meaning something like "sierra of pastures". The administrative center is Órgiva. Trevélez, at 4,840 ft (1,486 meters) above sea level, is the highest village in Europe.
Olives are grown on the lower slopes, and in the valley below which extends from Órgiva to Cadiar, through which flows the Guadalfeo river, plentiful water, a milder climate and fertile land favor the cultivation of grapes, citrus and other fruit. There is also a developing production of quality wine on the hills between this valley and the sea, and almond trees thrive on its southern slopes. The eastern end of the Alpujarra, towards Ugíjar in the province of Almería, is much more arid.
The Sierra Nevada and most of the Alpujarra is protected under various national and international schemes, ensuring that the rural and the urbanistic features are preserved. The priority now is to promote "sustainable tourism" and as far as possible to extend the tourist period.
For further information: http://www.andalucia.org/es/destinos/zonasturisticas/la-alpujarra/
The Costa Tropical is the Mediterranean coastline of the province of Granada. It is also but less frequently called the Costa de Granada or Costa Granadina.
The principal towns of the Costa Tropical are Motril and Almuñécar. Motril is principally a manufacturing and agricultural center (horticulture, vegetables, tropical fruits and some sugar cane, although the last is declining). Motril also possesses a small seaport. Almuñécar is primarily a resort town and agricultural center (tropical fruits), with the summer-time vacation population more than tripling the town’s population.
The Costa Tropical has many historical sights, including prehistoric cave paintings in nearby Nerja; many Roman ruins including roads, bridges, buildings, fish salting factories, and irrigation systems used to this day; and abundant remains of the many-centuries domination of the region by the Arab conquerors. In fact, Almuñécar served as the entry point to Iberia and establishment of a power base for Abd ar-Rahman I in 755 A.D., who came from Damascus and was the founder of an independent Muslim dynasty that ruled the greater part of Iberia for nearly three centuries thereafter.
Further reading: http://www.lovegranada.com/coast/
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST
Regarding to the history of Granada, this city offers an unique opportunity to visit other places of cultural interest in town such as the Realejo, Paseo de los Tristes, Carrera del Darro, Plaza Nueva or the Alcaicería. Also, the Monastery of S. Bernardo, the Convent of S. Jerónimo or the Grand Mosque of Granada are religious places of interest. Granada also has wonderful gardens such as the Garcia Lorca´s Park, the Carmen de los Mártires or the Triunfo Gardens. Some museums such as the Museum of the Alhambra, the Sciences Park, Palacio de los Olvidados, Palacio de la Madraza or the Museum Cuevas del Sacromonte must be visited.
Further information: http://www.granadatur.com/monumentos/