As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain, the Alhambra is truly the jewel in the crown of Granada’s Moorish past.
From intricate Arabic carvings to bright, colorful tiles to stunning views of the Albayzín, the Alhambra constantly leaves visitors in awe. It’s no wonder why this stunning palace enchants more than 6,000 visitors per day. Visiting the Alhambra is an absolute must for anyone spending time in Granada, but a successful visit requires some prior planning. Here are our tips to make your trip to the Alhambra an undisputed highlight of your time in Spain.
Before You Go
As we mentioned before, the Alhambra draws thousands of visitors from all over the world every day. This means that tickets sell out weeks—and during high season, sometimes months—in advance. We strongly recommend buying your ticket as soon as possible to avoid arriving and facing the disappointment that it has been completely sold out.
The Alhambra website now offers the possibility to buy tickets online. If you’ll be spending quite a bit of time in Granada, you can also buy them in person at the ticket office for a future date. General admission to the Alhambra will set you back 14 euros and will get you into each of the site’s main areas.
Most people visiting the Alhambra come to see the Nasrid Palaces (more on that later!), the most famous part of the monument. When buying your tickets, you’ll be asked to select a specific time for entrance to the palaces. These entrance times are strictly observed, so be sure to select a time you’re sure you’ll be able to visit.
Due to the enormous size of the complex, we recommend setting aside at least a full day of your trip to truly enjoy visiting the Alhambra.
Getting there from the city center
Get your exercise before visiting the Alhambra! You can easily walk there from the city center in less than half an hour. The route takes you up a steep hill along the street Cuesta de Gomérez, but the path is covered by beautiful trees that provide some much-needed shade, especially in the scorching summer months.
Not into the idea of even more walking? The bus line C3 will drop you right in front of the Generalife ticket office. Check the schedule and map to find out when and where you’ll need to catch the bus.
If you have access to a car, keep in mind that private transportation is not allowed direct access to the Alhambra grounds. Parking areas are not too far from the ticket office. You can also take a taxi from anywhere in the city directly to the Alhambra.
Arguably the most well-known part of the Alhambra, the Nasrid Palaces were the official residence of the Moorish kings of Granada. This section alone includes several different components. The different sultans who occupied the Alhambra during Granada’s Moorish period continued adding various royal houses onto the palaces, completing them into the iconic structure we know today.
As mentioned above, entrance times to the palaces are strictly controlled. Plan to arrive at the entrance at least half an hour before the time printed on your ticket, as long lines are common. While you wait, you’ll be able to enjoy spectacular views of the Albayzín.
Once inside, the palaces are truly a sight to behold. The amazing detail in the carving and beautifully laid colorful tiles will take your breath away. Possibly the most iconic room is the Patio de los Leones (Patio of the Lions), once a private courtyard that still preserves its stunning Moorish beauty.
The oldest part of the Alhambra is the Alcazaba military fortress. Its privileged position high on a hill overlooking the city made it ideal for surveillance. Some historians believe that parts of the structure already existed before the Moors arrived to the city. The first rulers used it as living quarters during the construction of the Nasrid palaces, after which point it turned into a fortress.
Walk up to the top of the ancient watchtower (Torre de la Vela) for unbeatable views of Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountains beyond. Beneath the towers, in the old Plaza de Armas, you’ll see the ruins of the foundations of old Moorish houses and even a dungeon!
The peaceful Generalife gardens provide a stark yet pleasant contrast to the busy palaces and fortress. While still popular among visitors, it’s hard not to feel a sense of inner peace and tranquility while walking through this beautiful green space.
If you visit in the spring or summer, you’ll have the pleasure of seeing the colorful gardens in full bloom. Even if you’re visiting the Alhambra later in the year, the space is still undeniably beautiful. The incredible buildings were once a summer estate for the Moorish rulers. They surround peaceful pools and fountains, and the views of the main part of the Alhambra are picture-perfect.
Palace of Carlos V
Much newer than the rest of the complex, the more modern, Renaissance style of the Palace of Carlos V stands out among the Moorish architecture. The stately building encompasses a circular courtyard with majestic pillars supporting two grandiose stories. The unique design symbolizes the union of heaven and earth, an important theme to Renaissance architects.
Once inside (entry is free!), don’t miss the two small yet spectacular museums. On the ground floor, you’ll find the Alhambra Museum, full of fascinating Moorish artifacts. Head up to the second level to enjoy the Fine Arts Museum, which houses a collection of 15th through 20th century masterpieces.
Cap off an incredible day at the Alhambra with an evening food tour! Get your fill of history and delicious tapas on our Tapas, Taverns & History Tour. You’ll learn about Granada’s dramatic past and how its history has shaped its present. All this while eating amazing food at our favorite family-run spots!
Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.