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).
The complex consists of the Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel or Water-Garden Courtyard), which has a long pool framed by flowerbeds, fountains, colonnades and pavilions, and the Jardín de la Sultana (Sultana's Garden or Courtyard of the Cypress). The former is thought to best preserve the style of the medieval garden in Al-Andalus. Originally the palace was linked to the Alhambra by a covered walkway across the ravine that now divides them. The Generalife is one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens.
The present-day gardens were started in 1931 and completed by Francisco Prieto Moreno in 1951. The walkways are paved in traditional Granadian style with a mosaic of pebbles: white ones from the River Darro and black ones from the River Genil.
There is an imitation of part of the Generalife at Roundhay Park
in Leeds, UK.