|Posted: May 2nd, 2017||4.9|
For a national treasure and UNESCO World Heritage site, visiting the Alhambra is actually insanely confusing. At times, it feels near impossible to find the information you need. And while we certainly don’t have all the answers, we have some of them! This blog post contains everything we know about visiting the Alhambra – hopefully, it helps you with your visit.
Wondering Where to Stay in Granada? Check Out Our Guide of the Best Areas to Stay in Granada, Complete with Hotel Recommendations!
Alhambra. Granada. Andalusia. There are place names in the world that evoke a feeling of magic and adventure, and the Alhambra is one such place. The Alhambra Palace is the most visited tourist attraction in all of Spain, attracting millions of visitors per year. Despite the sheer numbers of people flocking to this beautiful palace, it is a remarkably confusing affair: from buying tickets to planning your visit, the Alhambra can be slightly befuddling.
To make it easier for you, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to visiting the Alhambra Palace. We really hope it’s helpful!!!
A visit to the Alhambra can be confusing, but it is well worth it
Alhambra Basics The Alhambra is not a singular building. Rather, it is a complex of buildings that you wander around over the course of three or four hours. There are several segments to the complex, and you’ll need to show your ticket three times throughout the visit as you move between different sections of the complex. The three main sections, and the ticket check points, are the Nasrid Palaces, which in our opinion were the best part of a visit to the Alhambra; the Alcazaba, which offers spectacular views of Granada and Andalucia; and the Generalife, which includes nice gardens and a smaller palace. You may want to print off this official English map of the Alhambra to get an idea of the layout (We also have our own map below, which plots out our tips!).
The Nasrid Palaces are perhaps the most famous part of the Alhambra
Granada limits the number of visitors who can visit the Alhambra to 6,600 per day. While this may sound like a lot, Alhambra tickets sell out early – like really, really early. If you intend to visit the Alhambra in peak season (summer!), it’s not uncommon to have to book up to 90 days in advance. Unfortunately, the Alhambra is one of those places where last minute travellers can get caught with their proverbial pants down, although it’s much easier to get last minute tickets in the winter. (Don’t worry if you can’t get tickets for your dates…keep reading for our “work around” tip)
You can enter the Alhambra complex at either the main entrance or through the Gate of Justice. If you choose to enter through the main entrance, it makes sense to visit the Generalife first, and then the Nasrid Palaces and Alcazaba. If you enter through the Gate of Justice, then the opposite routing makes the most sense. Many websites recommend visiting the Generalife first and the Nasrid Palaces last. However, we did the opposite, and we think it is the better way to go for a few reasons:
This is probably the most confusing part of visiting the Alhambra. Ideally, you’ll want to buy your tickets online up to 90 days before your visit, and then pick up the physical tickets once you arrive in Granada. Here’s how:
1. Go to the Alhambra page on the Ticket Master Website.
2. Choose which type of visit you want: you’ll probably choose either Alhambra General, which gives you access to the main highlights, or Alhambra at Night – Palaces, which allows you to visit the Palaces, but not the gardens, at night. Once you’ve decided on your ticket, click Buy Tickets. The process below is for an Alhambra General Ticket, which is the most popular ticket.
3. Select the day you want to visit, and then click Continue through to the next screen. You can purchase tickets up to 90 days in advance.
4. Here is where things get slightly confusing. After selecting the number of tickets you want, you’ll need to choose times to visit. First, you need to choose the general window of time during which you’ll visit: morning or afternoon. Next, you’ll need to reserve a time slot specifically to enter the Nasrid Palaces. That’s right, you need to make two separate reservations when you buy your ticket: a general reservation to visit the Alhambra complex during either the morning or afternoon, and a specific reservation within that general time slot to enter the Nasrid Palaces.
5. Once you’ve chosen your time slots, you are almost done. You just need to enter your credit card information, and you’re good to go. Remember to take that credit card with you to pick up tickets!
The plus side of walking up that huge hill to the Alhambra: the views of Andalucia!
Once you’ve purchased tickets, you’ll still need to pick up physical tickets with a bar code once you arrive in Granada. There are two easy options for picking up your tickets: 1) Stop in at any La Caixa Bank ATM in Granada, and put the credit card you used to purchase the tickets into the machine. It will recognize your card and print out the tickets. 2) Swing by the Tienda de la Alhambra (Alhambra Shop) on Calle Reyes Católicos nº 40 once you’re in Granada. It is just down from Plaza Nueva, and is a quick walk from the cathedral area. The shop has a ticket dispenser: pop in the credit card you used to buy the tickets, and out come they come! (Update September 2016: The bookshop has closed as of September 2016, but they have opened an office just down the road at Corral del Carbon, 200 meters down the road – I have included this on my custom map, below! Thank you to another reader tip for this!)
An example of a Caixa Bank ATM where you may print your Alhambra Tickets
Closer up view of where your Alhambra Tickets tickets will be dispensed
Too Confusing? Tickets Sold Out? Recently, a reader got in touch saying he’d messed up: he didn’t know he had to book ahead of time, and all the tickets were sold out. He asked us what his options were, and I honestly didn’t really know. So I researched it, and it turns out you’re not totally out of options.
Probably the easiest option is to book a tour. Tour companies — being the savvy organizers and planners, they are — know that some people won’t know how far in advance they have to book, and they’ll be ready to help you.
Consider a tour with Viator. Honestly, we haven’t used them before (yet), but in general, Viator has a great reputation among the travel blogger community, and sends writing work to lots of bloggers, so we’re happy to support the company.
I’ve done some research, and have listed some tour options below. Basically, I looked for the highest rated tours, checked the reviews to make sure they’re good, and then thought about which tours I would be interested in taking myself. Those are the tours you’ll find below!
Glad you asked. Geoff made a beautiful video about Alhambra here.
And, we’ve created a free, downloadable and printable map with our recommended tips and order for visiting the Alhambra, from picking up your tickets to the way of visit, plus an awesome view of the Alhambra in the afternoon!
Click the link below.
When we visited Granada, we stayed in an Airbnb apartment that was a bit far out. If I were to do it again, I’d probably get a hotel closer to the centre. And because we started getting so many emails from people wondering where to stay in Granada, we actually created an entire post on it. We hired a local blogger who’s lived in Granada for 4 years to outline all the best places to stay, and then went in and added our own thoughts and tips!
You can see our Where to Stay in Granada Guide here! We really hope it helps with your trip planning!
How and Where do I Buy an Audio Guide?
Unfortunately, the Alhambra has discontinued the audio guides. In the past, it was possible to rent an audio guide for €6.50 to use while visiting the Alhambra, but in summer 2016, we received a note from a reader to tell us the audio guides are gone and have been replaced by an app. This has been confirmed by several sources now.
While the app sounds like a great idea, it seems to have some significant problems. We heard from a reader that you need Wifi to use the app (Network: Alhambra / Password: unesco2012) BUT the Wifi is actually too weak to use the app properly.
The consistent message we’ve been getting from readers is to either 1) Book a tour so you get the info, or 2) Bring a good guidebook with you.
I can’t really recommend a guidebook, as we haven’t used them personally while at the Alhambra. However, I have combed Amazon for Alhambra guidebooks, and can point you to the two following book, which seems pretty good and gets good reviews. The reason I’ve chosen this one, rather than the other books available, is that it seems actually usable while visiting the site, rather than scholarly tomes or souvenir coffee table books:
Granada Revealed: The Alhambra (Spain Travel Guide) — Updated for 2017 – A kindle book you can print out as a PDF, or can use on a device. An in-depth look at the key features of the palaces, gardens, and architectural details. It includes advice and itineraries to follow while visiting the Alhambra, maps, and images.