The Alhambra: Tips for Visiting the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain

Posted: May 2nd, 2017
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Tips for Visiting The Alhambra Granada

Table of Contents for this Blog

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!!!

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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!).

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The Nasrid Palaces are perhaps the most famous part of the Alhambra

Plan Ahead

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 reallyreally 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)

Plan Your Visit

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:

  • If you follow our advice and pick up your tickets prior to arriving at the Alhambra, you can walk from Plaza Nueva (in town) to the Alhambra entrance at the Gate of Justice, which puts you right near the queue for the Nasrid Palaces. This means you can skip the gong show and hoards of people at the main entrance pavilion.
  • The entrance to the Nasrid Palaces is highly restricted (more on that below). If you visit it last, you’ll have to plan out your entire visit so as to be at the Nasrid Palaces at the correct time, lest you miss your reservation. To me, that sounds stressful. If you visit the Nasrid Palaces first, you won’t have to adhere to a tight schedule, meaning you can take your time, take a break when needed, and relax while enjoying the remainder of the complex.
  • The views of Granada from the Nasrid Palaces entrance lineup are spectacular in the early morning. We would recommend entering the Nasrid Palaces during the first reservation of the day (8:30am), so you can enjoy gorgeous light over Andalucia while you wait in line. Plus, the line up for the Nasrid Palaces can be long, and the temperature will be more comfortable first thing than in the middle of the day.
  • If you do follow our advice and you’d like a free audio guide to use during your visit, you can pick one up in the gift shop in the Palacio Carlos V, near the entrance to the Nasrid Palaces. (UPDATE September 2016 – Apparently, they no longer offer Audio Guides at the Alhambra as of September, 2016. Thanks to a reader tip for that!)

Buy Your Tickets

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 proalhambra spain muslim tours tips and trickscess 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.

  • For your general time slot (morning or afternoon), you can enter the grounds any time within your slot. However, you must pass through the final ticket check point of your visit prior to the end time on your general reservation. For example, if you choose to visit the Alhambra in the morning, you can enter as early as 8:30am, but must pass through the final ticket scanning check point prior to 2pm.
  • For the Nasrid Palaces, they allow 300 people to enter every 30 minutes, and you must enter in the 30 minute window printed on your ticket, or you’re out of luck. In the winter, the lineups to enter the Nasrid Palaces aren’t terrible. However, in the high season, it is recommended that you are in line for the Nasrid Palace one hour prior to the 30 minute window you’ve reserved!

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!

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The plus side of walking up that huge hill to the Alhambra: the views of Andalucia!

Pick Up Your Tickets

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!)

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An example of a Caixa Bank ATM where you may print your Alhambra Tickets

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Closer up view of where your Alhambra Tickets tickets will be dispensed

The Day of Your Visit

  • Wear sensible shoes. You’ll want to plan on walking throughout the complex for between three and four hours, on average.
  • To get to the Alhambra, you can either take one of the many public buses from Plaza Nueva or walk. If you choose to walk, we’d recommend you enter at Puerta de la Justica, which is about a 15-minute uphill walk from Plaza Nueva. If you enter here, you must already have tickets. If you don’t have tickets, take the bus to the main entrance.
  • Again, we’d really recommend visiting the Nasrid Palaces during the first reservation of the day (8:30am), and then working your way through the rest of the complex.
  • You can purchase basic drinks and food on site, but food stops aren’t plentiful, so you may want to bring water and a snack.alhambra tours tips and tricks spain muslim
  • If you have mobility issues, accommodations can be arranged. Get in touch with the Alhambra people in advance of your visit.

What to do if Tickets are Sold Out

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!

 

If you don’t want to take a tour, but haven’t been able to buy tickets…

  • You can explore the gardens for free. Honestly, this option kind of sucks for the most part, because inside the attractions is awesome. What is cool about this, is you get a great view of the city when standing in the free part, near the entrance to Nasrid Palace. So it’s not a total bust, but also not the best.
  • Finally, you could book a night ticket on the Ticketmaster Website. That’s what the reader who emailed us did, and he found it to be fine, but not perfect. He said it was difficult to take nice photos, because it was so dark, but also because the ‘no flash’ rule isn’t enforced, so other people’s flashes are constantly going off. His advice: good in a pinch, but it would be a nicer experience if you could visit in the daytime

What’s Next?

Glad you asked. Geoff made a beautiful video about Alhambra here.

 

 

Download & Print Our Free Map

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.  

Download (PDF, 279KB)

 

Where to Stay in Granada

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!

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m slowly working my way through all the comments, emails, tweets and Facebook messages we get about visiting the Alhambra, to create a concise database of FAQs you can use when planning your trip.

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:

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Buy on Amazon

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.

 



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