13 Tips For Visiting the Alhambra, Granada
Mis à jour : 13 déc. 2020
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If you're planning a trip to Granada in the near future, chances are you'll be heading straight for the Alhambra. The Alhambra is the most popular tourist attraction in the whole of Granada (if not all of Spain), and it really is a fantastic complex to walk around. It dates back to the 13th century, when Granada was under Muslim rule, and in 1492 was converted into the royal court of Ferdinand and Isabella, who made some changes to the complex in the Renaissance style. Today the palace and fortress stand as an opulent reminder of Granada's past, and welcomes over 2 million visitors per year.
That being said, you can imagine how difficult it is to get a ticket! I had done minimal research before planning my trip to Granada, so I was under the impression that, like most attractions, you could get a ticket at the entrance. Big mistake on my part. There were actually a number of things I wish I had known before visiting the Alhambra, so I've put together my top tips for visiting the Alhambra, which will hopefully help you when you plan your own trip there.
1. Order your tickets online well in advance
With over 2 million visitors per year entering the Alhambra, you can imagine how quickly the tickets sell out. The tickets are sold in time slots, meaning they only allow a certain number of people through every 30 minutes. Depending on what time of the year you visit, you may be lucky and find that there are tickets available through the Alhambra's official website at the last minute, but if you really want to get into the complex during your trip, and don't want to risk missing out, I would buy them in advance. We visited in early March, and were told that the tickets were sold out for 3 months!
2. Cancelled tickets are released at midnight
What do you do if the Alhambra tickets are sold out? The best piece of information I found out while trying to find last minute tickets was that the official website releases cancelled tickets at midnight the night before. I thought this was too good to be true, so I sat on my phone and at midnight I refreshed the ticket page to find out that they had released 250 extra tickets for the next day! You need to be quick to get these tickets though, so have your credit card details ready. By the time I had finished putting in all of my information, there were less than 100 tickets available, and it had only been 5 minutes! I was also told that there is the option to queue for tickets very early in the morning, but that there's no guarantee of any being available if they were all purchased online when the cancelled tickets were released at midnight.
3. Don't miss your time slot for the Nasrid Palaces
The biggest mistake we made during our trip to the Alhambra was before we even entered the palace complex. I didn't read the ticket correctly, and thought that the time slot on our tickets meant that we were able to enter the entire complex at that time. What it actually meant was that we had 30 minutes to gain entry into the Nasrid Palaces. We arrived at the front of the queue a few minutes after our time slot since we decided to look at the fortress first, and were almost denied entry. Luckily the ticket man took pity on us and had a security guard escort us very quickly through the palaces to where we needed to be.
4. You can enter the Alhambra's fortress at any time
The Alhambra can be a bit confusing to navigate, and even more confusing reading about online. The fortress of the Alhambra is separate from the palaces, and is the very large structure that looks like a medieval castle. We purchased the Alhambra General ticket, which gave us access to all areas of the Alhambra. The fortress doesn't have a time slot, unlike the Nasrid Palaces, so you can visit it either before or after the rest of the complex, depending on when your time slot is for the palaces. The fortress also offers you amazing views of Granada and the surrounding landscape from the top of the tower.
5. Palacio de Carlos V is free
If you can't manage to find a ticket for the Alhambra, you can still visit the Palacio de Carlos V which sits on the complex. It's completely free to enter, so you don't need any sort of ticket combination to gain access to it. It was built during the Renaissance, and is an interesting building to walk around as it's circular inside, but from the outside looks like a rectangular palace. If you do have tickets to see the rest of the Alhambra, I would recommend visiting this site last, on your way out of the complex.
6. Spend 4 hours here at a minimum
The Alhambra is enormous to walk around. As soon as I thought we had finished, I looked at the map and found that we had only seen half of it. If you can, get a ticket to visit as early in the morning as possible so you can spend the whole day here at your leisure. If you don't have time to spend an entire day at the Alhambra, you can probably get around it within 4 hours if you walk at a quick pace. The Nasrid Palaces and Generalife Gardens are the areas that will take up the most of your time.
7. Don't waste money on a guided tour
It's always tempting to book a guided tour, but for the Alhambra I wouldn't recommend it. I saw a lot of people on guided tours, and they had only just set foot in one spot and they were whisked away to another. The Alhambra is a magical place to visit, so you should take your time to enjoy it as much as you can. If you have no other option than to take a guided tour, be prepared to snap your photos very quickly!
8. Do some background research
I find that the best way to enjoy visiting a new attraction is to do some background research before visiting, especially if you aren't partaking in a guided tour. That way you'll have a better idea of what you're looking at, and will enjoy walking around a lot more. You may even end up knowing more about the Alhambra than the tour guides!
9. Wait for a gap in the crowds to take your photos
If you want that all important photo at the Alhambra without crowds of people in the background, patience is key. The most beautiful spots in the Alhambra are also the most crowded, but the crowds will eventually leave and you'll most likely have a minute to take a photo. We waited for at least 20 minutes in the Generalife Gardens to get a photo under the arches, but it was worth it!
10. Skip the museum
Located inside the Palacio de Carlos V is the Alhambra museum. I actually had no idea that it was there until I popped my head into one of the open doors. If you're short on time, don't worry about skipping over this part of the Alhambra. Like the building that it sits inside, the museum is also free to enter. So if you want to come back to it another day you can.
11. Bring a lot of water
Despite visiting the Alhambra in the off-season, it was still very warm! The amount of walking you'll do during the day makes it essential to bring a lot of water with you - especially if you're visiting in the summer months. If you're feeling hungry, I wouldn't recommend eating at the Alhambra. Plan ahead and find somewhere to eat in Granada's city centre instead - the food will be better and a lot cheaper too.
12. Dress in comfortable clothing
With the warm weather and the hours of walking ahead of you, I would definitely say to wear comfortable shoes and light clothing. If you're planning on walking to the Alhambra, you'll find a pretty large hill waiting for you, so make sure you don't wear sandals. You should pack a light jacket or sweater though if you're planning on staying at the Alhambra later in the evening, as it can get a little chilly being right next to the Sierra Nevada.
13. View point of the Alhambra from Mirador de San Nicolás
If you're wondering where people are getting this photo of the Alhambra in its entirety from, it's at a view point known as Mirador de San Nicolás. You'll have to trek through the city to get to this view point, and it's a bit of a climb to the top, but the view is definitely worth it. There's also a Tourist Train that will bring you to the top of the view point if you pay for a ticket. The area this view point sits in is surrounded by tapas bars and restaurants too!
The Alhambra really is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind historic site to visit in Spain. If you're planning on visiting the Alhambra, don't forget to visit the Nasrid Palaces first (if you can), and take your time exploring the intricate details in its architecture. You'll probably be exhausted by the end of the day, but you'll definitely remember this trip for a long time to come.
If you have some extra time while visiting Granada, or are staying somewhere near the city and want to go on a day trip, both Córdoba and Málaga are within reasonable driving distance. Remember to follow me on Instagram too, so you can keep up to date with my latest travels!