The Generalife

The Generalife was built between the 12th and 14th Century. The palace was used by the Muslim royalty as a place of rest. 

For your interest

The Generalife Almunia was ideal for gardening and rest. Most of the buildings were residential and much of land was used for grazing and cultivation. The orographic site was divided into terraces. There are four main vegetable gardens.

The vegetable gardens were separated by thick walls, the remains of which can still be seen. Their Spanish names have been preserved for centuries: Colorada (Red), Grande (Large), Fuentepeña (Crag Spring) and Mercería (Haberdashery). The boundaries of each one have remained about the same since Medieval times. A meadow surrounded the premises, where horses and farm animals would graze and the sultan hunt.

The provenance of the term Generalife has long been disputed. Some say it derives from “Jardin” (Garden), or “Huerta del Zambrero” (Zambrero’s Vegetable Garden); also “el más elevado de los jardines” (the highest garden); “casa de artificio y recreo” (house of guile and recreation); “Mansión de placer o recreación grande” (Mansion of pleasure and great recreation); and “Jardín del citarista” (Zither player’s Garden); the most commonly accepted being “Jardin or Jardines del Alarife”, in other words, “The builder or architect’s Garden.”      

After the conquest in 1492, the Catholic Monarchs assigned a keeper to watch over the area and make improvements. In 1631 the keeper’s charge was given to the Granada-Venegas family, until 1921, when the state, after a long drawn out legal battle, was finally awarded custody of the premises.

There were several access points, with the remains of at least three accounted for. The most direct access connected the Generalife Almunia to the Alhambra through the vegetable gardens.  Another access point was the gate where the people who tended the gardens resided, and which can still be seen in the Entrance Pavilion (Pabellón de Entrada). The third access point was located at the Gate of the Rams (Postigo de los Carneros), in the highest area; however, today the official tour commences at point where a line of cypress trees were planted in honour of a visit by Isabel II in 1862.

Built between the 12th and 14th centuries, the Generalife was used as a place of rest for the Muslim royalty. It was designed as a rural villa in the vicinity of the Alhambra, with decorative garden, fruit and vegetable patches, courts and other structures.

The entrance to the Generalife is interesting for two reasons. On the one hand, its exterior part is rural, befitting a country house more than a palace; on the other hand, various courts had to be traversed at different levels in order to reach the interior of the Alhambra palace itself.The vegetable gardens located on the south side of the palace, between the Promenade of the Cypress Trees (Camino de los Cipreses) and the Promenade of the Walnut Trees (Camino de los Nogales), were transformed into landscaped gardens in 1930.

  • The Lower Gardens

    The Lower Gardens

    The Lower Gardens connect with the Generalife Theatre (Teatro del Generalife).

  • The Palace of the Generalife

    The Palace of the Generalife

    The door has a fairly rich display of craftwork. The entrance to the palace is preceded by the sight of the markings of the traditional symbols of the hand and the key in the arch.

  • The Court of the Main Canal

    The Court of the Main Canal

    Also known as the Court of the Estuary, it is a long and narrow court.

  • The Soultana´s Court

    The Soultana´s Court

    It is so called because the legendary romantic scenes in the novels written by Genés Pérez de Hita are believed to have been set here.

  • The Water Stairway

    The Water Stairway

    It is a small stairway that is protected by vaulting laurel trees, designed in a way that would suit the needs of a medieval sultan.

  • The Romantic Observation Point

    The Romantic Observation Point

    The low-lying windows are a characteristic of Nasrid architecture.

  • The High Gardens

    The High Gardens

    The Generalife High Gardens resemble more the traditional Andalusian house and walled garden in Granada at the time than they do a Muslim farmstead.

  • The Promenade of the Oleanders

    The Promenade of the Oleanders

    The Promenade of the Oleanders is connected to the Promenade of the Cypress Trees.

  • Water Ponds

    Water Ponds

    The construction of the Alhambra was linked to the need to develop an effective hydraulic system.

  • The Promenade of the Cypress Trees

    The Promenade of the Cypress Trees

    Following the Promenade of the Oleander, the Promenade of the Cypress Trees takes the visitor to the place of exit.

  • The Generalife Theatre

    The Generalife Theatre

    The Festival of Music and Dance of Granada in 1952 provided an impetus to the building of a theatre in the historical-artistic monuments complex.