Are you traveling to Granada and are you planning on visiting Alhambra? In this article, you will read all about the best sights, which tickets to buy, and other practical tips.
What is the Alhambra? The Alhambra is a complex of medieval palaces, gardens, and a fortress in the Spanish city of Granada. It is located on a hill in the middle of the city and is incredibly photogenic.
The construction of the Alhambra
Mohammed I ibn Nasr was the first sultan during the Nasrid kingdom and became ruler of Granada, Almería, and Málaga in 1237. In 1238, he ordered a palace to be built on Sabika Hill in Granada. After his death in 1273, his successors continued building on this site.
In 1492, the Nasrid kingdom came to an end and the royal couple Ferdinand and Isabella came to live in Alhambra, giving it some more Spanish influences. The most notable structure was commissioned by Charles V in 1526, a new Renaissance-style palace.
Rediscovering the Alhambra
The complex then fell into disrepair but was rediscovered in the early nineteenth century by several British, American, and northern European travelers. Thanks to Washington Irving’s book Tales of the Alhambra, the Alhambra gained worldwide fame and restorations started to preserve the complex.
What makes Alhambra so special? It is one of the best-preserved palaces in the world from the ancient Islamic world. In addition, it also has Spanish architectural influences, which makes it even more interesting. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts some three million visitors annually.
Things to do in Alhambra
What to see and do in Alhambra? The complex consists of several parts you can visit. These are the most beautiful Alhambra sights.
The Nasrid Palaces are one of the highlights of visiting Alhambra. This huge complex consists of rooms full of beautiful vaults, green gardens, courtyards with ponds, and lots of colorful mosaics. As you can imagine, the views are stunning.
- The Nasrid Palaces can only be visited with a ticket.
- Only 300 visitors are allowed in every 30 minutes, so you are only allowed to enter the Nasrid Palaces at the time stated on your ticket.
The Alcazaba is a military fortress and one of the most enjoyable parts of the Alhambra to visit. It is mostly a ruin full of walls and towers that you can climb. From several places in the Alcazaba, you have a beautiful view of Granada. The best view of the city is from the great Torre de la Vela.
- The Alcazaba can only be visited with a ticket.
Palacio de Carlos V
The Palace of Charles the Fifth is one of the “newer” parts of Alhambra. You can see the large circular plaza here (it feels a bit like being in an arena) and there’s also a small museum.
- Palacio de Carlos V is free to visit. However, you have to pay if you want to visit the museum inside the palace. You can buy a ticket for this on the spot.
El Partal is a special area with gardens, terraces, and unusual structures. A perfect place for a break.
- El Partal is free to visit.
The Medina (also called Calle Real) was the original residential area in Alhambra. This is where the court and officials lived, among others. In the Medina, you will find the cathedral, various stores, and the tourist office, among other things.
- The Medina is free to visit.
Generalife is a complex with a palace and gardens located just outside the walls of the Alhambra, on a separate hill. It was used by the sultans as a summer palace, so there are several baths, ponds, and fountains. Near the Generalife are also many gardens where fruits and vegetables are grown.
- For Generalife, you need a ticket.
Buy Alhambra tickets
To visit Alhambra, you don’t need a ticket, Yes, you read that right! You can walk through either Puerta de la Justicia or Puerta de Los Carrosjust and then you are in the Alhambra. However, if you want to visit the palaces (yes you do!), you will need a ticket.
Which Alhambra ticket do you need?
There are several tickets you can buy to visit Alhambra. What are the differences and where can you buy the tickets?
- Alhambra General: this is the “standard ticket” to Alhambra. These Alhambra tickets include a visit to the Nasrid Palaces, the Alcazaba, the gardens, and the Generalife.
- The gardens, Generalife, and the Alcazaba: with this ticket, you can visit everything except the Nasrid palaces.
- Dobla de Oro General: Alhambra General and in addition, you can visit several other monuments in Granada, such as the Palacio de Dar al-Horra and Bañuelo (one of the best preserved Arab baths in southern Spain).
- Evening tickets: there are also special tickets for an evening visit to the Alhambra. Your choices are the Nasrid Palaces and Generalife.
Where can you buy Alhambra tickets?
You can buy tickets to Alhambra at many different places. Of course, you can buy them on the spot at the box office, as well as in many souvenir stores in Granada. However, it is wise to buy them online in advance.
Why? Thousands of visitors come to the complex every day and only a limited number of people are allowed into the palaces. So yes, they sell out quickly. For the Nasrid palaces, there is a time slot (you may only enter at the time stated on your ticket). Ticket purchases can be made starting three months in advance.
You can buy your Alhambra tickets through the following websites:
- Official Alhambra website – The best source. These tickets are not cancellable.
If tickets through the official website are sold out (or you would like a guided tour), you can also buy tickets through the following websites.
- Get Your Guide – Here you can buy the same tickets as on the official website and, in addition, there are many options with guided tours of the Alhambra. This is really recommended if you want to learn more about the history of the complex and discover some special details.
- Tickets – Both single tickets and guided tours.
What you need to know about Alhambra tickets
You must provide your ID card or passport number when purchasing your ticket. It will be scanned at the entrance(s). You may visit each palace only once. Tickets are valid for one day. So don’t forget to bring your ID/passport and tickets!
Spending the night in Alhambra
Did you know that you can stay in a hotel within the walls of the Alhambra? There are two options:
- Hotel América (1⭐) – Charming budget hotel.
- Parador de Granada (4⭐) – Luxury hotel in a former monastery.
Both hotels also have a restaurant.
I myself slept just outside the walls of the Alhambra in the luxurious Áurea Washington Irving hotel (5 ⭐). Highly recommended!
View all hotels in Granada here.
The most beautiful view of the Alhambra
Granada is a hilly city and therefore has many viewpoints. The very best viewpoint in front of the Alhambra is Mirador de San Nicolás. This is the place to take the best pictures of Alhambra. Especially just before and during sunset, it is a magical sight!
How to get to Alhambra in Granada?
Would you like to visit Granada and Alhambra? Then it’s time to book your trip!
How to get to Granada?
- Arriving by plane – The nearest international airport is the one in Málaga. Vueling is a good (and very affordable) airline with connections to other places in Spain and Europe. You can also check WayAway, this is a flight aggregator that provides travelers with the best rates on airline tickets.
- From Málaga to Granada – There are several ways to travel from Málaga to Granada.
- Rental Car – the fastest and easiest way to travel from one place to another in Andalucia. Check Rental Cars and Discover Cars to find the best deals.
- By train – It’s really easy to travel by train in Spain. Check Rail Europe for all options and prices.
- By bus – Within Andalusia, you can reach many places by bus. Check Busbud for all options and prices.
How do you get to Alhambra?
Once you are in Granada, getting to Alhambra is quite easy. In fact, it is indicated everywhere on the signs.
- By car: drive along the Ronda Sur (Granada’s ring road) and follow the signs to the Alhambra. Once there, you can choose from four major parking lots (all on the side of the main entrance). The sites are open 24 hours a day and cost 2.82 per hour.
- By bus: Line C30, C32, and C35 all stop at the Alhambra. Check Google Maps for routes and bus stops.
- Walking from Granada via the Cuesta de Gomérez. If you follow the path on the left (it is called Cuesta Empedrada), you will end up at Puerta de la Justicia.
Frequently asked questions about the Alhambra
What else do you need to know before visiting Alhambra? Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about Alhambra.
How long does a visit to Alhambra take?
If you visit all the palaces and gardens, you will spend about three to four hours visiting the Alhambra.
What are the opening hours of the Alhambra?
The places you can visit without tickets (such as the Medina) are always open. The palaces and monuments have limited opening hours. These are open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. in summer and from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in winter.
Are you allowed to bring a large bag/backpack into the Alhambra?
No, you may only enter with a bag smaller than 40×40 centimeters. A backpack should be carried on your front side. Do you have a larger bag with you and can’t leave it at your hotel? Then there are luggage lockers at the main entrance and Puerta del Vino.
Can you visit the Alhambra with a stroller?
No, you can’t. Special backpacks to carry children (up to 12 kilos) are available at Puerta del Vino. You can also leave your stroller here.
Can I bring a dog to Alhambra?
No, you can’t, unless it’s a guide dog.
Read more about Granada and Andalusia
These were all my Alhambra tips! Want to read more about traveling in Andalusia? Then these are some fine travel guides:
Rick Steves Snapshot Sevilla, Granada & Andalucia
In addition, you can also read more about a vacation in Spain on this website. You might like to read these articles as well:
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