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Alhambra: This Is What You Need To Know About This Gem

The Alhambra is one of the most visited attractions in Spain – for a good reason. The Alhambra is definitely one of the most impressive things I saw on my trip to Andalusia. The beautiful architecture, the Arabic feel and the incredible views of the Albaicin neighbourhood combine to make this palace so special. A visit to the Alhambra should definitely be on the must-visit list of any traveller to Granada. However, because it is so popular, it is important to do some planning before you visit and, above all, it is important to buy your tickets in advance.

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain is a true treasure of Moorish architecture and history. Known for its stunning palaces, intricate tile work, and breathtaking gardens, the Alhambra is a must-see destination for any traveler. With its rich history and enchanting beauty, visiting the Alhambra can be a truly magical experience.

This blog post will provide you with essential tips for visiting this spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this post, I’ll highlight the most important things you need to know before your visit, so you can make the most of the time you have.

alhambra

The history behind Alhambra

Alhambra Palace was built in the 1200s by a Muslim king named Muhammed Al-Ahmar. He was the founder of the Nasrid Dynasty. It was a medieval walled city, the residence of sultans and kings from the 13th to the 16th century. A total of 22 emirs and sultans reigned in the Alhambra until the arrival of the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. 

During the Reconquista, the Christians returned Spain from the Moors. The Alhambra was also retaken and has been ruled by Christian kings since then. Nevertheless, the architecture of the Alhambra has remained predominantly Islamic. Both the interior and the exterior are remarkable to look at.

Because of its fascinating story, unique location and with breathtaking views of Granada, the Albaicin and Sierra Nevada this palace is one of Spain’s most visited historical sites!

This historic fortress-turned-palace is steeped in tales of love, conquest, and cultural fusion. Imagine walking through the same halls where sultans once roamed, or standing in awe at the intricate designs that tell stories of a bygone era. The Alhambra’s history is not just a collection of facts. It’s a vibrant tapestry of passion and creativity that will leave you in wonder.

💡 Did you know? The name Alhambra derives from its Arabic name, al-Qalʻat al-Ḥamrāʼ, meaning ‘The Red Fortress’. This name, in turn, comes from the red clay – rich with iron oxide – originally used to construct its walls. Today, its walls are faced with white stone, but the name remains.

The Alhambra is divided into three main areas: the Nasrid Palaces, the Generalife and the Alcazaba. We will get to know all these areas more closely a little later.

Hidden gems and must-visit spots in Alhambra

As you wander through the enchanting Alhambra, keep an eye out for hidden gems that will take your breath away. Don’t miss the tranquil Generalife Gardens, where the beauty of nature and architecture blend seamlessly. Explore the stunning Nasrid Palaces, adorned with intricate carvings and captivating tile work that showcase the pinnacle of Moorish artistry. Make sure to visit the Alcazaba fortress for panoramic views of Granada and a glimpse into the military history of the Alhambra. Take your time to discover the lesser-known corners and hidden courtyards that hold their own unique charm and stories. Get ready to uncover the treasures that make Alhambra a true marvel to behold!

Nasrid Palace

The Nasrid Palace is for me personally (as for many others) the most beautiful part of the Alhambra. It is also the heart of the Alhambra, serving as the center of the Palatine city where the Sultan and his family lived, where the government and court were installed. The monumental complex known as the Nasrid Palaces is made up of several important palaces:

  • the Mexuar: it was used to hold important meetings by the king
  • the Comares Palace: the official residence of the king
  • the Palace of the Lions & the Christian constructions added later
  • the Partal Palace

The most famous part of Nasrid Palace is the stunning Moorish courtyard, made up of intricately shaped columns surrounding the famous lion fountain. If you’ve ever seen a photo of the Alhambra, it was probably this one!

nasrid palace alhambra

Generalife

The Generalife was the summer residence of the Sultan and his family – a paradise full of aromatic plants, trees, walls and fountains. This part is most beautiful in spring and early summer, when the flowers are in full bloom.

As the Generalife is located on a hill opposite the rest of the complex, you can enjoy spectacular views of the Alhambra.

generalife

The Alcazaba

This military fortress ruin is the oldest part of the Alhambra. The Alcazaba is an exclusively military part of the enclosure. The remaining buildings date from the 13th century. When you enter, the first thing you will encounter is the Barrio Castrense or Plaza de Armas, which was once the site of military houses and barracks. Take a stroll through the Arms Square where you’ll find ruins of old Moorish houses.

Ascend to the top of the Vela watchtower for a magnificent view of Granada and the hills behind.

Allow about 20-30 minutes for this part. My favorite was the phenomenal view of the Albaicín.

albaicin granada

alcazaba alhambra

Additional gem: Mirador de San Nicolas

A visit to the Alhambra is spectacular in itself, but there are a few things you should add to your must-do list if you want to see the Alhambra in all its glory. It needs to be seen from a distance. One of the most beautiful viewpoints is the Mirador de San Nicolas, located in the Albaicín district, which you should definitely visit.

As a result, the place is packed with people – locals and tourists alike. It is especially popular at sunset, when people gather to admire the Alhambra, enjoy music and dancing, and take in the beauty of life.

Alhambra tickets

As I mentioned earlier, the Alhambra attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world every day. As a result, this means that tickets sell out weeks in advance. In the peak season in the summer months, tickets can even sell out months in advance. I strongly recommend that you buy your tickets in advance to avoid the disappointment of finding out that all the tickets are sold out and you won’t be able to visit the whole palace.

The General Alhambra visit allows access to all visitable spaces of the monument: Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Generalife. The visit to the palace of Charles V and the Alhambra Museum is free.

🎟️ Buy your ticket here. Here you can also see the different types of visit and choose the one that suits you best. I would definitely recommend going for The General Alhambra visit.

Many people visit the Alhambra for the Nasrid Palace, which is considered one of the most beautiful parts of the palace. When you buy your tickets, you will choose a time slot for the Nasrid Palace and it is very important that you are there at that time, as they are quite strict about entry.

How to buy your tickets?

I’ll give you a brief step-by-step guide on how to buy a ticket.

  • Go to the official website, which you can find in this link.
  • Select the ticket you want to buy. This will most likely be the Alhambra General ticket, which costs €19.
  • Once you have selected the ticket you want, you are taken to the next page, where you select the date of your visit and the number of people. Here you will see how important it is to buy your tickets early, as they sell out really quickly.
  • At the next step you will be offered time slots to enter Nasrid Palace, so choose the one that suits you best. Once again – please, remember to be punctual to access the Nasrid Palaces at the time selected on your ticket, as you will not be able to get in if you are late.
  • The next step is to make the payment and you will receive an email confirmation.
  • Print your tickets and keep them with you, as they will be scanned. Or keep them in digital format.

Please bring your personal identification with you! It is mandatory to present the original ID card or passport to access the monumental complex.

Opening times

There are two opening times – winter and summer. Winter opening hours are from 15 October until 31 March, and summer opening hours are from 1 April until 14 October. To enter Nasrid Palace, please pay special attention to the time slot for which you bought your ticket. You can only enter at this time, otherwise you will be refused entry. You can visit other parts of the palace at any time.

The average duration of the visit is around three hours. It’s just an average. You can easily spend long hours there, as there really is so much to see.

Especially in summer, when the days are hot and the sun is shining brightly, I would advise you to visit as early as possible.

Summer opening hours – April 1st – October 14th

☀️ Day tour: 8:30 – 20:00

🌑 Night tour: 22:00 – 23:30

Winter opening hours – October 15th – March 31th

☀️ Day tour: 8:30 – 18:00

🌑 Night tour: 20:00 – 21:30

How to get there

You can exercise before visiting the Alhambra if you feel up to it. It will take you about half an hour to walk from the city centre. The path takes you up a steep hill along the Cuesta de Gomérez, but the path is covered with beautiful trees that provide some much-needed shade, especially in the hot summer months.

If you’re not keen on the idea of walking, or if walking to the Alhambra is not an option for other reasons, you can take one of the red minibuses C30 and C32 from the centre to the Alhambra. They depart pretty frequently from the Isabel Católica Square (Columbus monument).

Get off at the bus stop called ‘Alhambra – Generalife 2‘, Which is the last stop for the bus C30. Bus C32 continues its journey towards the Albaicin, so be careful not to miss your stop.

Top tips for visitors & Alhambra rules

Prepare to immerse yourself fully in the captivating ambiance of Alhambra by arriving early to beat the crowds.

Remember to wear comfortable shoes as you explore the vast grounds and intricate architecture. Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the stunning views and intricate details that will leave you in awe.

Engage with the knowledgeable guides or immerse yourself in audio tours to enhance your understanding of the rich history behind each majestic structure.

Plan your visit strategically to witness the beauty of the Alhambra at different times of the day, from the soft glow of sunrise to the magical hues of sunset. Get ready for an unforgettable journey through time!

Important rules

  • All visitors should bring a ticket with a bar code, including those whose entrance to the monument is free, such as children less than 12 years old.
  • You should enter the Nasrid Palaces during the time printed on your ticket!
  • Backpacks, large bags and baby strollers are not allowed & should be left at the coatroom.
  • No photography with tripods or flash (not even for night time visits), without authorized permission.

During my visit to Granada, I was definitely most impressed by the Alhambra, and I think Granada is worth a visit for that alone. For more information on what else to do in Granada, check out my Granada travel guide.

Alhambra is not just a destination. It’s an experience that will fill your soul with joy and your memories with everlasting magic. So, pack your curiosity, wear your most comfortable shoes, and get ready to walk through the corridors of history, nature, and culture!

6 Comments

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    April 13, 2024 at 2:41 PM

    We had some trouble in Spain on one visit and almost cancelled our visit to Granada and the Alhambra. We are eternally grateful that we did not cancel. Alhambra is still one of the places that evokes such strong memories. The stone work was like lace! Totally agree that you want to get the view from Mirador San Nicolas!

    Reply
    • Moona

      April 13, 2024 at 4:23 PM

      Wow, what a beautiful place. I have yet to make it to Alhambra but it’s definitely on my list, even more after reading this post. The views from the mirador of San Nicolas look fab.

      Reply
  • Anita

    April 13, 2024 at 6:20 PM

    Your article brings me back nice memories of visiting Alhambra quite a long time ago. Your practical tips are very useful for future visitors of Alhambra to avoid dissapointment and make most of their visit. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • Anja

    April 14, 2024 at 4:31 PM

    Visited in 2012 and can only second to definitely pre-book your tickets well in advance. It is so beautiful and thanks to the advance ticket system, it wasn’t too crowded on our tour.

    Reply

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