If you are going to Granada with kids, you will definitely want to see La Alhambra. We were a little worried that visiting the Alhambra with kids would be a little too much history, walking, and heat but we should have known that our trooper was ready to take in the magnificence of the architecture and soak up the history.
Since we were only spending two nights in Granada, we didn’t have much time to see more than the Alhambra and the Albacin. However, if you are staying longer, be sure to check out how to make the most of your time in Granada.
After we arrived from our drive from Ronda and settled in at Hotel Saray, we were ready for our first glimpse of La Alhambra. We had considered staying at the Parador hotel within the walls of La Alhambra but it was cost prohibitive (although we did take a peek in during our tour).
We took a taxi to the Albayzin, the old Arab quarter, for dinner at Mirador de Morayma. The Albayzin is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a walled city built in the 1200s with streets so narrow that only taxis are allowed in. The restaurant offers patio seating with a breathtaking view of La Alhambra.
Despite more smoke from Japanese tourists, we enjoyed our dinner and my daughter enjoyed making “friends” with a French girl just a little younger than her. She was excited that she could communicate without speaking the same language.
Visiting the Alhambra with Kids
The next day, after exploring downtown Granada, we met our guide at the hotel. Given the history and size of La Alhambra, I knew we would get the most out of visiting the Alhambra with kids using a private guide and I didn’t want to leave anything to chance by negotiating with someone at the gates. The thing to remember about visiting the Alhambra with kids is that you purchase tickets for a timed entry so you need to get there early in the morning to be able to visit the Alhambra that day. Luckily, our guide had gone by earlier and picked up tickets for our afternoon visit.
Since we had some time to kill, we took the bus over to the Albayzin, where she led us on a walking tour of the walled city, including a cafe that has entertained the likes of the Clintons and Michelle Obama.
Visiting the Alhambra with kids is a bit overwhelming to all. There is a lot of walking in high heat, as well as dealing with the crowds and trying to comprehend the history and architecture. I really recommend a guide as the way to go. Anne did a great job explaining the history and differences between the Muslim and Christian architecture. For example, Muslim water features don’t utilize fountains and are therefore quiet and reflective, whereas Christian water fountains are noisy and showier. We also learned how the Moors used aqueducts that are still in use today to move water and keep the gardens irrigated.
When I first read about La Alhambra and the Generalife, I thought the Generalife was just a side show to the main event. Luckily I wasn’t there unguided as I would have missed my favorite part of the tour. The Generalife, or the garden of the architect, dates from the beginning of the 14th century and has been restored many times. The main features are the gardens and courtyard. But inside the buildings you can see the mosaic and tilework, and look out the arched window to a view of Granada. Within the tilework, you can see some remnants of the original color and only image how beautiful it once was.
After a short stop at the Arab baths, we were ready to move on to the main buildings. La Alhambra is a mix of architecture, both traditional Moorish and Christian palaces. It was brutally hot the day we visited and even with spray bottles of water and ice cream breaks, it was tough going for all of us. That could be why Anne hurried us through the tour. We definitely got to see everything, but it would have been nice to stop and linger to marvel and absorb what we were seeing a bit more.
The interior of the Alhambra buildings is too difficult to describe and I took too many pictures to include here. Should I say you just have to see it yourself? The features that really stood out were the boat room, named for its boat shaped ceiling, featuring inverted prisms that were each hand carved, and the 12 lion fountain.
Apparently this fountain used to function as a clock, where the water would spurt from the lion’s mouth, according to the time of day. When the Christians took over, they took the fountain apart and couldn’t figure out how to put it back together again to make it work. It is now a functioning fountain, but apparently doesn’t act as a clock. It is a shame that with modern technology they couldn’t make it work the way it did almost a millennium ago.
Learning about this feat of engineering did inspire my daughter. She drew the fountain and still talks about trying to build it out of legos in a way that actually works like a clock. There are many amazing sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and I am thrilled that we got to experience this one.
With that, it was time to cool down at the hotel and prepare to head to Madrid the next day.