Planning to join the other 2.7 million people that flock to Spain’s most breathtaking palace each year? We’ve got you covered with these essential tips you need to know before visiting the Alhambra.
It’s no surprise that this stunning example of Moorish architecture is the most popular attraction in all of Spain. This exotic and intricately designed fortress is perched on the top of a hill, overlooking the city of Granada with a backdrop of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains. It truly doesn’t get much more spectacular than this!
Whether you plan to spend one day in Granada or longer, a visit to the Alhambra is an absolute must on your itinerary and will be an experience that will leave a lasting impression.
Visiting the Alhambra will leave you continually speechless, from the famous Nasrid palace with its exquisite wood carvings and colourful tiles to the peaceful gardens of the Generalife.
Then there’s the incredible Alcazaba fortress ruins, the oldest part of the entire complex which towers over the city below. The Alhambra has no shortage of breathtaking sights and views to offer as you stroll through this majestic complex.
To plan a successful visit there are a few key things to take into consideration. This guide will outline everything you need to know before visiting the Alhambra so that you can maximize your time without missing out on anything important.
After reading this article you will know how to avoid the massive queues, the essential item you MUST bring with you and exactly how you should plan your visit to make your time at the Alhambra one to remember for life!
Table of Contents
Before Visiting The Alhambra
The Alhambra is an official UNESCO heritage site which draws over 6,000 tourists per day! It’s not like most attractions meaning you can’t just show up there, buy a ticket, and expect to walk straight in. In order to avoid disappointment you must book your ticket months in advance (especially in high season!)
When we visited in February, we were able to book only a few weeks in advance as it was the middle of low season. If you’re thinking of visiting the Alhambra any other time of year (ie. Spring or Summer), you really have to plan ahead and book far in advance.
Click here for a downloadable map that will help you to plan out your trip. It’s in Spanish but easy enough to make sense of where you need to go.
How To Buy Alhambra Tickets
- Head over to the official Alhambra website
- Tickets cost 19€ per adult
- Once you click on General Ticket, it will bring you to the next page where you will select the date and time of your visit. This is where you will see how crucial it is to book your ticket well in advance, as you will likely see entire months blacked out in red stating “tickets not available”
- You will then need to select the exact half hour slot you’d like to enter the Nasrid Palace
- As soon as you’ve paid for the ticket, you will receive an email confirmation
- Ensure you print it out and bring it with you
- Tickets will be scanned and checked before entering most of the sites
*Tip* Check out this awesome Skip-The-Line Alhambra Tour to save yourself the hassle and maximize your time spent exploring the Alhambra! Your ticket to the Alhambra complex is included in this tour.
Don’t Forget To Bring…
What should you bring? Whatever you do, don’t forget to bring a piece of ID with you when you visit, preferably your passport! There are check points each time you enter a different palace. We actually totally forgot about this until we got to the ticket check lady at the Alcazaba.
As soon as she asked us for our IDs, we both turned and looked at each other in fear. I remember nervously reaching into my bag hoping that I had something with me and thank God, I had my English residency card. Rick just happened to have his passport with him… PHEW!
Also, don’t forget to bring your printed ticket with you!
What should you leave behind? Your tripod! Tripods are not allowed inside the Alhambra. If you’re travelling with children, note that you are not allowed to bring strollers through the Alhambra complex.
Large backpacks are not allowed in either. Backpacks and strollers can be left behind at the coat room when you enter. There is a free service for loaning baby carrying backpacks for people with small children.
Best Time Of Year For Visiting The Alhambra
It’s no surprise that the Alhambra is most popular during the summer months of June-August. This also happens to be when the temperatures in Andalusia reach their highest of 40°C (104°F). So, if you’re not a big fan of crowds or extreme heat you should definitely plan to avoid this time of year.
Best time to visit Alhambra: If you go during the Spring months of April-June, the weather is comfortably warm and the Generalife gardens are in full bloom making this place even more magical than it already is! In the fall months of September – November, you’ll still have the nice temperatures but with less crowds.
Unfortunately when we were there in February, we missed out on all the beautiful flowers and it was definitely not warm. But even without flowers, the Alhambra is still one of the most impressive palaces we’ve been to in Europe!
Choosing The Right Time of Day
You should allow about 3-4 hours to cover everything. This complex is actually huge and it takes a while to walk between the attractions. We would advise visiting the Alhambra in the morning or late afternoon.
When you visit in the late afternoon, you will see less queues as the crowds start to thin out at this time of day. First thing in the morning is also a great time as you will beat the tour buses and avoid the overwhelming heat (if you go during the summer!)
Try and avoid going in afternoon/middle of the day as this is when crowds are at their peak and in the summer months the temperatures can get very hot! Keep in mind this is a very busy attraction so you can always expect crowds to some extent.
Alhambra Opening Times:
15th October to 31st March: 8:30 to 18:00
1st April to 14th October: 8:30 to 20:00
Getting to the Alhambra from Granada City Centre
There are many simple and cheap options for getting to the Alhambra from Granada.
Bus – For 1.4€ the C32 or C30 city bus will pick you up at the Plaza Isabel and drop you off near the ticket office at the entrance to the Alhambra. Buses leave every 10 minutes.
Driving – Getting to the Alhambra by car will take about 10 minutes. There is a parking lot next to the attraction which isn’t cheap. Tickets cost 6.35€ for 3 hours and 8.15€ for 4 hours.
Taxi – Taxi’s leaving from the city centre will cost about 5-7€ depending on where your accommodation is located.
Walk – Starting at the Plaza Nueva, follow the map below for a steep but quick 20 minute walk.
Where To Stay In Granada
For easiest access to the Alhambra, we recommend staying inside the city centre of Granada. It generally costs a little more to stay in the heart of the city but we found it to be well worth the extra money to be within walking distance to all the sites and be able to get to the Alhambra quickly in the morning.
Below are some great options all located conveniently around the city centre.
Pension Zurita – This is where we stayed while in Granada and we loved it. If you’re on a budget, we can highly recommend this lovely, traditional Andalusian style guest house. It is located in the city centre, with small but comfortable rooms and a shared bathroom (which was always kept extremely clean).
The owner was very helpful and friendly. It features a private balcony, close proximity to traditional tapas bars and restaurants, with excellent value for money! We think this guest house is perfect for travelling couples on a budget who don’t want to stay in a hostel. Check out the prices and book your room here.
Sacromonte – Located in the city centre, nearby all the popular tapas restaurants and bars. With great value and excellent reviews on Booking.com, this tastefully decorated hotel has everything you need for a comfortable and affordable stay. Click here to view photos and reserve your room.
Nest Style Granada – Stay in this colourful and modern guest house which is centrally located and about 25 minutes walk to the Alhambra. Featuring a 24 hour reception, luggage storage, and an included breakfast. Click here view photos and book.
During Your Visit
To ensure you don’t miss out on anything and that you cover all of the sites in the right order, we’ve listed approximately how much time you might need at each attraction and where you should start your visit.
Planning Your Trip
Nasrid Palace – As this is the main highlight of the visit, you will probably spend at least 1 hour exploring the different buildings that make up this incredible palace. We recommend booking this one at the earliest spot of the day (8:30 am), before the hordes arrive and it becomes impossible to take photos.
Alcazaba – Head over to the fortress ruins after the Nasrid Palace, allow for 20-30 minutes.
Charles V Palace – If you decide to visit the 2 small museums inside this palace, allow for at least 45 minutes here.
Generalife – It will take around 30 minutes to explore these stunning gardens.
Distance covered – You will cover about 3.5 km of walking throughout the day.
Time spent in queues – Approx. 30-60 minutes depending on what time of year and time of day you visit.
Walking between attractions – Approx. 1 hour
You can also choose visit the attractions in the order that you like as long as you are at the Nasrid Palace for your booking time.
The Best Alhambra Tours
There are many options for taking a guided tour if you don’t wish to navigate your way through the complex on your own. Find some of the most popular Alhambra guided tours below.
You’ll want to reserve your spot ASAP if you decide to go with a tour as they tend to book out quickly!
The most famous part of the Alhambra is arguably the spectacular buildings that make up the Nasrid Palace. Upon entering, it doesn’t take long to see why! This was the official residence of the first Moorish king, Mohammad I, who arrived in Granada.
Due to the popularity of the Nasrid Palace, the guards only allow 300 people in every half hour. This means you must choose the exact time slot you wish to visit when you buy your ticket. If you try to enter the palace outside of your chosen time, don’t be surprised when they don’t let you in, as it’s strictly controlled.
As previously stated, we suggest you try to book the first slot available of the day to avoid crowds. Plan to arrive 30 minutes prior to the time printed on your ticket, this way you can avoid getting stuck at the back of the notoriously long queues that form at the entrance.
The Nasrid Palace is made up of 3 buildings:
The Mexuar is the first room you will enter. This room was used to hold important meetings by the king.
The official residence of the king is made up of a few important rooms surrounding the Court of the Myrtles. Inside this palace, you’ll find the Hall of the Ambassadors aka the throne room. Admire the stunning, ornate detailing of the tiles and carvings on each wall of this majestic room. You’ll also pass through the beautiful Hall of the Boat.
Court of the Myrtles / Throne Room
Palace of the Lions
The most iconic part of the Nasrid Palace is this stunning Moorish courtyard which is made up of intricately designed columns surrounding the famous lion fountain. If you’ve ever seen a photo inside the Alhambra, it was probably this one!
Daraxa’s Garden / Daraxa’s Mirador
Dating as far back as the 9th century, this military fortress ruin is the oldest part of the Alhambra. It is believed by historians that parts of this structure existed there prior to the Moors arriving to the area.
The current complex was built by King Mohammad I who lived there with his son Mohammed II until the Nasrid Palaces were completed. From then, the Alcazaba was used only for military purposes.
Take a stroll through the Arms Square where you’ll find ruins of old Moorish houses. There’s even a dungeon there which is no longer open to tourists.
Head up to the top of the Vela watchtower for sweeping views over Granada below with the rolling hills in the background. Finish your tour of the Alcazaba by making your way though the lush Gardens of the Ramparts from which you will also find a beautiful view of the city along with fountains, flowers and cypress trees.
Charles V Palace
The newest building of the complex is the Renaissance style Charles V palace which really stands out among the surrounding Moorish architecture.
The Emperor Charles V ordered this palace to be built near the Alhambra so that he could enjoy its beauty. Construction of this palace started in 1527 and was totally completed in 1957 due to a lack of finances and resources.
Once you’re inside, don’t miss out on the 2 small yet fascinating museums which are full of amazing Moorish artifacts.
The furthest away from the rest of the Alhambra buildings is the enchanting Generalife palace and gardens. Once a summer home to Spanish royalty, this beautiful palace really comes to life during the spring and early summer months when the gardens are in full bloom.
Stroll through the series of lush gardens to find beautiful fountains surrounded by hedges and colourful flowers. As the Generalife sits on a hill across from the rest of the complex, you’ll be able to catch some nice views looking back at the Alhambra.
Beautiful view looking back at the Alhambra / Winter at the Generalife Gardens
After Your Visit
Think your visit to the Alhambra is finished once you leave the complex? If you leave Granada without stopping at one of the best view points to admire the Alhambra in its entirety, you haven’t done it properly! The following view point will leave you speechless with its epic panoramic view over the city and of course the Alhambra.
Best Alhambra Viewpoint
Mirador de San Nicolas – If you want to catch that postcard perfect shot of the Alhambra, this is where to go. Of course, it’s also the busiest spot! When we got there it was crawling with people.
You will normally find this busy square bustling with tourists and locals who are playing music, selling hand-made trinkets and just having a good time.
We decided to head to one of the nearby bars to admire the same view while munching on delicious olives, sipping Sangria, and watching the sun go down! Moments like these cannot be topped.
If you want to be able to enjoy this viewpoint without the crowds, you will have to head there in the morning or in the late evening.
To get there, click on the map below and follow the directions as you wind your way through the steep streets of the Albaicín.
Round off your perfect day at the Alhambra by heading out on a tapas and wine tour around Granada. Visit a few top restaurants around the city centre and sample a few delicious traditional dishes while learning the history behind each one.
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