The Alhambra is a fortress complex overlooking Granada. It is Spain’s most visited landmark, and is absolutely breathtaking. Without giving too much away, its history is astonishing, and you’ll get to see first-hand how the Moors, and later the Catholic kings and queens lived in their palaces and gardens. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of NOT visiting the Alhambra.
A great idea before or after you visit the Alhambra is to take a walk up into the Albaicin area of Granada. This old part of Granada is full of the typically white Andalusian buildings on a hill opposite the Alhambra. Head for the Mirador de San Nicolas and you’ll find one of the most stunning views you’ve ever seen. Opposite is an amazing panoramic view of one of history’s most iconic buildings with an unbelievable backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the background - usually snow-capped from November through till May.
Alternatively, take a walk along the Paseo de los Tristes to get an amazing view of the Alhambra from street level, below the towering turrets of the fortress above. Alternatively, you can stop off at one of the tapas bars in the square and while away an hour or two while taking in the view above you.
From the centre of Granada, you can either walk or take a bus to the entrance of the Alhambra. There’s a bus service up to the Alhambra (C30 and C32). Tickets can be bought from the driver. Once you’re at the front gate, you’ll also see lots of taxis waiting around, so add this method of transport to the list of possibilities.
It’s around a 15-minute walk from Plaza Nueva to the Alhambra, along a steep yet well-maintained footpath. An alternative route starts from the Realejo area of the city, gradually climbs up and passes the Hotel Alhambra Palace and bears right past the Museum of Manuel de Falla and up to the beautiful scenic gardens of the Carmen de los Martires. From the gardens here, it’s just a short walk across to the entrance of the Alhambra.
Where to buy Alhambra tickets?
It is recommended that you buy your tickets in advance from the official Alhambra website. Tickets can be booked up to 3 months in advance so make sure you do it in good time to ensure that you are not disappointed; the tickets can sell out quickly, especially in the summer months.
You purchase your ticket for a specific day, and select a half-hour time slot for entry to the Nasrid palaces. This is to ensure that only a limited number of people are in the palaces at any one time, avoiding overcrowding. Just don’t be late: they are very strict with their time slots. We would recommend arriving at least one hour before your assigned slot. Don't forget, the time slot is only for getting into the stunning palaces - once you're in the Alhambra grounds, you can stay as long as you want. The rest of the Alhambra (including the Generalife gardens) can be visited before or after you’ve been inside the palaces. The palace entrance is a good 15 minute's walk from the actual entrance to the grounds. Allow for queues.
Equally impressive, but less well known than the Alhambra, is the Generalife. This summer palace was also built in the 12th century and contains more breathtaking architecture and is especially well-known for its beautiful gardens. There’s lots of shady spots, beautiful views, flowers in bloom, refreshing fountains and stunning palaces. It’s a photographer's dream too. The amazing and surprising thing for a lot of visitors is the amount of water here at the highest point of the Alhambra complex. The ingenious methods used by the Moors are still in place today.
- Buy tickets early (especially in summer and on weekends)!
- Granada’s tourist card, the Granada Card, has some special discounts and deals on sights in Granada - including the Alhambra. If you plan to visit a number of different attractions, this might be worthwhile.
- There’s a bus service up to the Alhambra (C30 and C32). Tickets can be bought from the driver.
- If you decide to walk, there are a couple of routes up - but both quite challenging as it’s a steep walk. There are plenty of tapas bars to quell your thirst (and hunger) on your way back!
- Tickets are personalised and non-transferable, so you will require ID to enter. This must correspond with the ID used when purchasing the tickets. Even if you booked online, you will have to show your ID on arrival before entering. If in doubt, ask one of the many English-speaking staff for help - they will guide you in the right direction.
- If you’re hoping to get tickets on the day, you need to go there early but you could still end up being disappointed.
- If you’ve missed out on the general ticket, there are still other types of ticket that will give you access to other parts of the site - for example, a night visit to the Generalife.
- Granada can be extremely hot in summer. It’s a good idea to cover up and put suncream on as some parts of the site have no shade. Refreshments and snacks are available from kiosks and vending machines, mostly around the area where you will queue to get into the Nasrid palaces.
- Audio-guides in several languages are available at the entrance. When we last visited, the English version was very good, as was the German. It’s worth doing if you want a more detailed visit and some of the information is fascinating
Don’t miss it
If you’re in Granada you simply HAVE TO visit the Alhambra. For the ticket price of around €19 for the full visit, it is absolutely money well spent.
Learn Spanish in Granada
Granada is more than just the Alhambra. And one way to enjoy this amazing city is to learn Spanish there. Thousands of people of all ages go to Granada and "live" the city's culture, history and tapas while doing a Spanish course. With courses from 1 week to as long as you wish, Estudia-España offers a range of courses at 4 different language schools in Granada and has great deals and discounts available.