The Alhambra is said to be the most visited monument in Spain. And with good reason. This amazing place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is full of history and beauty.
Perhaps you have already heard that you must book your Alhambra tickets in advance, sometimes up to a month or two ahead of your visit. It’s true, you really should plan ahead when it comes to this place!
But I have a few helpful hints for you in case you did fail to book in advance or if you are confused about what type of ticket to purchase.
Tips for getting Alhambra tickets and visiting the Alhambra:
You can now reserve your tickets directly through the Alhambra. Here is the website in English for the General Ticket which includes everything (Nasrid Palaces, Gardens, Generalife, Alcazaba). You can also look at the other types of tickets such as Doble de Oro or night time visits to the Alhambra. They have a helpful chat feature if you have questions. Or you can call them at +34 858 953 616. (you can no longer get Alhambra tickets through Ticketmaster)
How far in advance can I purchase Alhambra tickets? You can purchase tickets via the website three months in advance.
You (most likely) want to purchase a ticket that includes the Nasrid Palace – the “General Ticket” is the normal ticket that includes this area of the monument. This is the section of the monument that is time restricted. You can access the rest of the monument throughout the day on the date of your ticket (may be restricted to morning or afternoon time slots depending on the time of year), but you can only visit the Nasrid Palace at the time shown on your ticket. And you should plan to be in the line for the Nasrid Palace at least 30 minutes before your scheduled time. Many people get confused about this so I will elaborate. If your ticket says 14:00, that means you should be in line for the Nasrid Palace at 13:30. You will gain entry to the palaces at 14:00. As far as I can tell you can stay inside for as long as you like but there is a one way route so you will probably finish within 30 minutes to 1 hour.
But WHY do you want to see the Nasrid Palaces? This is the gorgeous Moorish area of the monument, with fountains, arches, fancy tile work and plaster decorations. If you don’t care for these things, you can skip it and get a cheaper ticket that doesn’t include this area. Those tickets do not sell out as quickly.
My advice is to plan to visit the Nasrid Palace at the beginning of your visit to the monument. Why? The entire monument is quite large and you don’t want to be tired when you finally reach the most “important” part.
The Alcazaba section of the monument is next to the Nasrid Palace. This is the area you will likely notice when viewing the Alhambra from the city of Granada: tall towers with people peering over the edges. There are amazing views from these towers, don’t miss them! Keep in mind there are quite a few steps to some of the towers if you are traveling with small children or are not able to climb stairs. This area also requires a valid ticket for access but this section is not tightly controlled with timing as are the Nasrid Palaces.
The Partal is also next to the Nasrid Palaces and is lovely.
From the Partal, you can walk a path along the old city wall to the Generalife. This section is another palace, a bit less impressive after the Nasrid Palaces, but very beautiful too. This is the large white building you can see from the city of Granada. The Generalife gardens are an example of traditional Persian/Moorish style and are quite lovely, and a good place to take a break for a bit. I especially loved the arches of roses.
To summarize, the monument is basically organized into four sections: Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Partal and Generalife. The Alcazaba is the military fortress section, the Nasrid Palaces are the detailed Moorish structures, the Partal is in the gardens and has lovely buildings, and the Generalife is the rural palace with large gardens.
Alhambra Tickets Sold Out
I didn’t book ahead and I don’t have an Alhambra ticket! What to do?
You have a few possible options for getting last minute Alhambra tickets:
Check out the Granada Card. This tourist combo card sometimes has Alhambra bookings available when the main site is sold out for your dates. You can book a 3 or 5 day card. The card also gives free access to several other sites around the city of Granada including the Cathedral, House of Zafra and Sacromonte as well as a few free trips on the city buses. You may end up spending a bit more than you would for the normal Alhambra ticket, but it’s not too much extra. Check the Granada Card for the dates you are visiting and see if there are any reservations possible for the Alhambra. When you purchase the Granada Card online you will book your time and ticket for the Alhambra. Pick up your Granada Card at the tourist office in the city center when you arrive in the city. You will then not need to wait in line to enter the Alhambra but you will need to wait in line at the Nasrid Palaces so plan ahead for that.
Get in line at the Alhambra ticket office early in the morning. There are often a few tickets available each day for that day. But of course that means you must be one of the first in line. The ticket office opens at 8AM and I have heard that you should be there at 6AM. It probably depends on the time of year, but nevertheless you should be there early. I have also heard the credit card line is faster than the cash line. If there are two of you maybe wait in both? (bring cash) Now you can also check the Alhambra website to see if there are any last minute tickets available.
What to do if Alhambra tickets are sold out? Book a guided tour. There are many companies offering tours of the Alhambra and they usually have last minute tickets available. However you will be paying about 2-3x as much as a normal ticket. That being said, I saw a few tours when I was there. The private guides were full of useful information and if you get a good one it is definitely worth the extra cost if you love to know lots of details. Here are some guided tours of the Alhambra.
Other tips for your visit to the Alhambra in Granada:
If you already have tickets, enter through the Puerta de la Justicia. If you need to wait in line or pick up tickets you will need to go to the main gate, and there may be a line so plan ahead for that. The bus stop is just outside the Puerta de la Justicia.
You can walk up to the Alhambra via several routes. The easiest is probably via Cuesta de Gomerez. Of course you can also take a taxi, but the bus is a simple option. Hop on bus C3 and get off at Puerta de la Justicia. You can walk back down or take the bus again. You can find the bus map here.
How long does it take to see the Alhambra? The typical recommended time is 3-4 hours. But if you love taking photos and smelling the roses it can take you all day!
There are several cafes with food and drink up at the Alhambra. You can also bring your own food and drink for a nice picnic. Keep in mind that you cannot carry large bags into the palaces – there is a bag check near the Puerta de la Justicia but it is wise to leave excess belongings at your hotel.
When you first arrive at the Alhambra, look for the small stands selling audio guides, they are often located close to the entry to the Nasrid Palaces and at the main entry. if you can’t find them, just ask someone with headphones where they got theirs. If you want to know what you are looking at you will need this multilingual audio guide. It costs about €6 and you must leave a credit card deposit. There is almost no signage at this monument so if you want any information you will need to purchase this guide, go with a tour, or prepare yourself with a book or audio guide before you arrive. Or you can just wander around and take in the sights.
Don’t forget your camera and extra batteries. But please don’t just be like most folks I saw at the Alhambra. Look before you snap. Enjoy the gorgeous surroundings. Soak up the beauty. Imagine what life was like centuries ago. Don’t just capture a great photo, take your time to enjoy the ambiance.
There are hotels and restaurants within and nearby the Alhambra complex. It could be fun to stay there or have a lovely dinner looking at the gorgeous monument lit up at night!
Don’t have Alhambra tickets? No problem! I highly recommend visiting the monument anyway. You will not be able to access the ticketed areas but there is plenty to see – lovely gardens, amazing views and stunning architecture. Access to the Palace of Carlos V, the Museum of the Alhambra and the Baths are free. Enter through the Puerta de la Justicia.