Located on a hill called the Sabika, the Hill of the Sun, adjacent to the Alhambra Palace in Granada, the Generalife was the summer residence of the sultans of the Alhambra.
Generalife and Alhambra gardens
Spring is undoubtedly the best time to see the gardens. In the first days of May, there are magnificent displays of wisteria, bedding plants and thousands of iris and other bulbs. The perfume from hundreds of roses in bloom and jasmine, wafts through the air mingled with that of the orange blossom from trees in the allotment or huerta.
Roses round the door
The Generalife are the oldest Hispano-Muslim gardens in Europe. The name, Generalife has nothing at all to do with the insurance company of a similar name, it comes from the term Yannat al-Arif, which means the architects garden and it was owned by the sultan. Part of the gardens were allocated for growing food crops and herbs and it is these terraces, still in use today, that you encounter first as you enter Generalife.
Generalife and Alhambra gardens patio
Generalife comprises a set of historical gardens that date from the Nazrid period in the 13th century, right through the Christian period up to the 19th century. Every era has modified or added to the gardens and the adjoining palace.
The original gardens surrounded the country house, the Generalife Palace. The palace as you see it today was the creation of Muhammad III (1302 – 1309) who adapted the former building that dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. You will notice that the Generalife Palace lacks the decorations and adornments for which the Alhambra itself is known. This palace was a place for contemplation from which to appreciate the trees, shrubs, plants and water features in the gardens. It is here that you will find the world famous, and probably the most photographed, patio in the world, the Patio de la Acequia. Down the centre of the patio is a water feature with symmetrical fountains that give the impression the water is moving from side to side of the central channel. The jets are a 19th century addition, just one example of how succeeding generations have embellished the gardens.
Generalife and Alhambra gardens view
Surrounding the Palace are four orchards, on terraces, and, in Nazrid times, the surrounding land would have been a pasture. Today it is a set of gardens from different periods. The essential essence of a Muslim garden has not been lost. The re-created Hispano-Muslim garden, near the auditorium, is what might best be described as a symphony of water, space and the scent of the herbs and flowers, all blending into the surroundings.
Generalife formal boxed hedges
The gardens in the immediate vicinity of the Palace were modified by the 15th and 16th century Christian monarchs to reflect their, more Catholic, tastes. They are an impressive, rather than pretty, part of the gardens with stately Cyprus trees, boxed hedges and trim shrubs.
One of the charms of the Generalife are the vignettes that you discover when peering through the Arab arches and windows in the walls. You will be seeing the same views as was enjoyed by the sultans and their close entourage, a magnificent sweep over the Albaicin and the rivers Doro and Genil with the Alhambra Palace in the foreground.
A visit to Generalife is included in the General Day Visit fee to the Alhambra Palace. There are also tickets, Gardens Day Visit and Gardens Night Visit that allow access to the Generalife and restricted access to the Alhambra Palace. Tickets should be pre booked online to prevent disappointment and a long queue at the turnstiles. You could easily spend two hours in Generalife.