Discover the history and origins of our emblematic building and find out about the author of Tales of the Alhambra (1832) who was inspired by the spirit and interior decoration that prevail today in the Aurea Washington Irving 5*.
Few people have been as enthusiastic about Spanish history as Washington Irving (1783-1859). This North American soon decided to give up his career as a lawyer to become a writer and this is how he began publishing short essays and poems. Soon after these small publications would come other more successful works.
Years later in 1826, fascinated by the figure of Christopher Columbus, the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820) arrived in Madrid to study some documents related to the discovery of America, and two years later he published what is considered to be the first biographical account of Columbus: A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828).
The period’s romantic passion for the past and exoticism, coupled with Irving’s interest in Spanish and Islamic culture led him to visit Granada in 1829 as secretary to the American Legation in Spain. While he was there he had the opportunity to become immersed in the local tales and legends, as well as stay in the Salas de las Frutas (Halls of Fruit) of the Alhambra. It is possible that there he became inspired to write his Tales of the Alhambra (1832), in which he describes Granada during that period: its streets, people and customs, evoking at the same time the stories associated to the Nasrid Palace.
Enraptured by the grandeur of the Alhambra, Washington Irving recovers tales such as the Legend of the Three Beautiful Princesses, in which a Muslim king locks his three daughters inside a tower to prevent them from falling in love; The Governor and the Notary, which emphasises the fervent jurisdictional dispute between Granada and the Alhambra; or The Adventure of the Mason, which invites the reader to discover hidden treasure.
The narration of these legends still echoes on the walls of the Alhambra, and the sound reaches this hotel, in whose rooms travellers can listen to the tales while they look at the group of Historical Monuments. As to be expected, Washington Irving’s work is also in our library, which contains several original first editions presided over by the complete works of the author.
Ever since the North American hispanist visited Granada, throughout the 20th century the Hotel Washington Irving coexisted with an endless list of distinguished guests, including Hollywood film stars like Anthony Quinn, Gregory Peck or Brigitte Bardot; and Spanish celebrities such as the Nobel Prize in Literature Camilo José Cela, the singer Raphael, the pianist Alicia de Larrocha and the guitarist Andrés Segovia.
Legend of the Three Beautiful Princesses
The Governor and the Notary
The Adventure of the Mason
In 1493 Hernando de Zafra suggested to the Catholic Monarchs that they could occupy the Alhambra, which is exactly what they did, converting it into a Royal Place. Ever since then, many travellers have been captivated by the sight of the Nasrid Palace. The North American writer Washington Irving (1783-1859) was one of the most significant.
Towering over the city at a height of 765 metres, the Aurea Washington Irving 5* does not let the Alhambra out of its sight. Its north façade safeguards the palace founded at the end of the 9th century and the hotel is surrounded by the Paseo del Generalife, Carmen of the Martyrs and Bellavista.
The Catholic Monarchs maintained the independent nature of the palatial city; consequently giving rise to a large population of Christians. In the 16th and 17th centuries commercial needs contributed to the creation of fondaks or caravan-serrallos, the birth of inns, which appeared at the end of the 18th century.
The first hotels would soon appear. The origin of the one concerning us now dates back to 1821, when written documents describe a house with ‘a garden and farmyard’ that was purchased from the Alhambra’s Royal Heritage. Years later its owner sold it to Benigno Ortiz. La Fonda de Ortiz is the origin of the current building, whose name first appeared in 1870, the year in which the Alhambra was declared a National Monument.
The interest for Spanish and Islamic culture led Irving to visit Granada in 1829, when he was secretary to the American Legation in Spain. Whilst he was there he stayed in the chambers of the Alhambra. There he compiled the legends that comprise his work Tales of the Alhambra (1832), in which he describes Granada during that period: its streets, people and customs, evoking at the same time the stories associated to the Nasrid Palace.