There’s no doubt about it, the Alhambra awes anyone who visits. Sprawling on top of a hill above the town of Granada, the fortress and palace have gained incredible popularity. But with this has come an influx of rules.
Nonetheless, a visit to the Alhambra doesn’t have to be complicated, and these Alhambra tips will ensure you have a stress-free visit.
Wheelchair Accessibility Note: If you’re a wheelchair user, make sure to visit our post on wheelchair accessibility in Granada, which includes details on accessibility at the Alhambra.
Before we jump into these Alhambra tips, let me put your mind to ease; I haven’t made this list blindly from compiling information on the internet.
I’ve visited the Alhambra twice. My first visit was in the late spring of 2017 and my second visit was in the winter of 2020.
From the standpoint of both weather and entrance policies, my two visits to the Alhambra have given me a well-rounded point of view for understanding the most important things to know about visiting there.
12 Alhambra Tips
Below are my Alhambra tips to help you make the most of your trip. Make sure to read to the end of this post where there’s an FAQ section. This is where I share tidbits of information that didn’t fit elsewhere here.
1. Purchase your tickets in advance
Of all the Alhambra tips I’ll discuss here, this one is the most important.
Alhambra tickets sell out far in advance so you should aim to purchase your ticket as soon as you choose your travel dates.
Even better, if you have the flexibility, I recommend purchasing your Alhambra tickets first. That way, you can arrange the rest of your trip around the Alhambra date you booked.
In fact, so many people (myself included) encounter issues with purchasing Alhambra tickets that I’ve written an SOS guide on what to do when Alhambra tickets are sold out. Hint: All hope isn’t lost!
You can check availability and purchase your tickets at the Alhambra’s official website here: Alhambra Tickets.
Thanks to changes to the Alhambra’s entrance policies made in early 2020, it’s now possible to purchase your ticket one year in advance.
Travel Tip: Tickets are released for the entire month on the first of each month. So, if for example, you plan on visiting the Alhambra on October 20, 2021, you’ll be able to purchase your ticket on October 1, 2020.
There are a number of different types of Alhambra tickets you can purchase, but the most popular one is the “Alhambra General.”
Alhambra General is a daytime ticket that includes the four most popular sites at the Alhambra (Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Generalife, and the Palace of Charles V.).
2. Spend the night in Granada
There’s so much more you can do with a visit to the Alhambra than walking around the fortress and palaces.
Granada, the town below the hill that the Alhambra is on, is charming and has a strong Moorish feel. In fact, with its spice stands, lanterns, and narrow cobbled streets, it’s easy to feel like you’re in Morocco.
I recommend spending at least one night in Granada, although two nights is ideal if your schedule allows.
With your extra time, visit the Mirador de San Nicolás. This is a spectacular viewpoint on a hill in the center of Granada. San Nicolás offers some of the best views of the Alhambra- even better than many views from the Alhambra itself!
Make sure to also visit Sacromonte, which is an area of manmade caves where gypsies and other outcasts used to live. Tourists are now welcome to wander the narrow streets and visit the Caves Museum.
Travel Tip: Sacromonte offers unique, less-visited viewpoints of the Alhambra compared to the Mirador de San Nicolás.
By spending at least one night in Granada, you also open the opportunity to book an evening ticket to the Alhambra in addition to a daytime ticket. Such a win-win!
3. Don’t print your ticket at the ticket booth
When you purchase your Alhambra ticket online, your reservation confirmation will state that you need to print your ticket at the Pabellón de Acceso, which is where the ticket booth is located.
When you get to the Alhambra, the signs will also tell you to print your ticket at the main entrance.
But here’s an insider Alhambra tip: Many people don’t need to print their ticket at the ticket booth.
In fact, despite what your reservation confirmation says, you don’t even need to print out a copy of your ticket from your home printer.
A mobile version of your ticket is all you need.
That being said, if you opt for using a mobile Alhambra ticket, keep in mind the following tips:
- Scanners at the Alhambra don’t do well with being able to scan photo tickets. Therefore, you should have data to pull up the original version of the ticket on your phone.
- Bring a backup charger for your phone if you’ll also be using it to take pictures.
By skipping a visit to the ticket booth, you’ll save yourself time waiting in what is oftentimes a long line.
However, there are certain groups of people who must go to the Pabellón de Acceso to get their tickets verified. They include those who qualify for discounted rates since they’ll need to verify their ID.
4. Find the Nasrid Palaces
The Alhambra is beautiful, but the Nasrid Palaces portion is the most sought after place to see.
Unfortunately, not everyone who has an entrance ticket to the Alhambra is able to secure a precious time slot to visit the Nasrid Palaces. Only the Alhambra General, Nasrid Palaces night visit, and Alhambra Experiences tickets allow entry into the Nasrid Palaces.
Each ticket offers a specific entrance time on the half-hour which you’ll choose at the time of purchasing your ticket.
Assuming that you have a Nasrid Palaces ticket, make sure you know how to get to the entrance of the Nasrid Palaces before you start your exploration of the Alhambra.
Travel Tip: If you have a ticket to the Nasrid Palaces within an hour of the Alhambra’s opening time, enter the Alhambra via the Justice Gate (Puerta de la Justicia).
While the Alhambra is fairly well marked with signs, there are countless path options to choose from and it’s easy to get in a time crunch with arriving to the entrance of the palaces on time.
For this reason, it’s best to seek out the entrance to the Nasrid Palaces first so that you know how to get there when the time comes.
5. Bring your passport
Everywhere you look, whether it be on the Alhambra’s official website, on your ticket reservation, or on signs at the Alhambra, there’ll be a note to carry your passport or European Union ID with you.
The information states that there will be checkpoints to make sure that your ticket matches the name on your ID when you pass through different parts of the Alhambra.
The reality for both my 2017 and 2020 visits was entirely different. Keeping in mind that I had a regular entrance ticket (no discount), I was never asked to show my passport at any of the Alhambra checkpoints.
However, despite my experiences, I strongly recommend that everyone travel to the Alhambra with their passports. It would be a shame to travel so far and risk the possibility of being turned away!
6. Bring a map
As mentioned in my travel tip about finding the Nasrid Palaces, the Alhambra is a maze of paths.
No doubt, choosing on a whim which paths you’d like to take during your Alhambra visit has its place. This is particularly true when you’re exploring the Generalife Gardens.
However, in order to be sure that you don’t miss the highlights, make sure to bring a map with you.
A GPS or other map app on your phone will do. Alternatively, you can pick up a map at the Pabellón de Acceso.
Whichever option you choose, if your Nasrid Palaces time slot allows for it, the ideal route to take is the following:
- Enter through the Puerta de la Justicia
- Identify the entrance of the Nasrid Palaces
- Visit the Alcazaba
- Visit the Palace of Charles V.
- Enter the Nasrid Palaces
- Remainder of the day to explore the Generalife Gardens
That being said, if you have a discounted ticket that needs to get validated at the Pabellón de Acceso, you’ll start your visit closest to the Generalife Gardens.
7. Be last in line at the Nasrid Palaces
This Alhambra tip is contrary to natural human impulse which is why it’s so important to bring up here.
Each entrance slot at the Nasrid Palaces is for a set time, with a certain number of people assigned for that time. Each half-hour, a new group of people line up at the entrance gate.
Many people leave other parts of the Alhambra earlier than necessary in order to get as close to the front of the line as possible at the Nasrid Palaces. There’s no doubt about it- if you’re one of the first people in line for your timeslot, you’ll get to enjoy a mostly crowd-free experience, assuming you rush through to beat your fellow Nasrid Palace goers who are also trying to snap photos of the palace without people in them.
However, by stepping into the line after most of the group in your time slot has passed through the ticket booth, you can take your time exploring the Nasrid Palaces, putting intentional time distance between you and everyone else so that you encounter fewer crowds.
You’ll be told anywhere you read that they’re super strict about cutting off entrance to the Nasrid Palaces after the time on your ticket.
Let me be clear, I strongly recommend arriving at the Nasrid Palaces on time.
However, if something happens that forces you to arrive a bit late, chances are you’ll be able to enter. In fact, I witnessed the ticket people letting visitors finish their coffee before entering and allowing stragglers in almost 20 minutes after the time of their ticket.
Talk about having the Nasrid Palaces to yourself!
Again, I’m not recommending to arrive late to the Nasrid Palaces- whether it be intentional or unintentional.
However, I am recommending to cue up at the back of the line and slowly work your way through the Palaces in order to avoid extra large crowds.
8. Choose your season
If your schedule- and Alhambra ticket availability- offer you the option to choose when you visit, consider what you’re looking to get out of your Alhambra trip.
Is it seeing the Alhambra in full flower bloom?
If so, visit from the end of spring through the summer.
Do you want there to be fewer crowds in Granada and/or see the snow capped mountains behind the Alhambra?
If so, visit in the winter. Note, however, that since the Alhambra has a set number of daily tickets and they almost always sell out, that there really isn’t a season when the Alhambra has fewer tourists.
If you’re looking for colorful leaves, visit in the fall.
Personally, my Alhambra tip is to travel from late spring through the summer. The gardens are among the most impressive parts of the Alhambra and while still pretty in the winter, they don’t have the same “glow” that they do in the late spring and summer.
9. Choose your time of day
Given that the Alhambra is open all day and you can enter it before the time of your Nasrid Palaces ticket, you have a good amount of flexibility for choosing the time of day that you’d like to visit.
The Alhambra is crowded in the morning but these crowds only increase as the day wears on, as some people don’t realize that they can enter before the time of their Nasrid Palaces ticket.
Therefore, if you’re looking to visit the Alhambra when there are fewer crowds, relatively speaking, I recommend either going first thing in the morning or towards the end of the day, once people start leaving.
For ideal photos, if you visit too early there will be lots of shadows, so visiting in the late morning and early afternoon is best.
And then, of course, there’s the evening. There are two evening tickets- one for the Nasrid Palaces and one for the Generalife Gardens. This will offer you an entirely different view of the Alhambra, along with the town of Granada below.
10. Pack accordingly
You already know to bring your passport, but your packing preparations shouldn’t end there.
There are small food stands sprinkled throughout the Alhambra. They sell coffee, sandwiches, ice cream, etc. However, as you’d probably guess, the food is expensive.
Therefore, I recommend bringing a day backpack with some snacks and a reusable water bottle. There’s the occasional drinking fountain at the Alhambra where you can re-fill your bottle.
In addition to this, check the weather for the temperature and to see if you need rain and/or sun gear.
Since you’ll be at a small elevation, even warm days can start out with cool mornings. Most likely, wearing layers that you can add and remove as needed will be your best option for staying comfortable during your Alhambra visit.
11. Don’t rush
This point goes along with my Alhambra tip about visiting the Nasrid Palaces, but I feel that taking your time exploring the Alhambra is so important that it deserves its own section.
The Alhambra is about 35 acres, so there is a lot of exploring that can be done.
They say that the average visit to the Alhambra takes around three hours. However, you can easily spend more time than this, particularly if you’re a photography or history buff.
There’s also a forest surrounding the Alhambra with pedestrian paths that follow and branch off from the fortress walls. This area isn’t frequently explored by visitors, even though it doesn’t require an entrance ticket, so it’s worth allotting some time for it.
12. If you go with a guide, hang back
Taking a guided tour of the Alhambra has its place, as it’s one of the best ways to understand the history of what you’re looking at.
If you choose to hire a guide and your budget allows, book a private tour.
If a private tour isn’t feasible for you, make sure to ask how many people are in the group tours. Some group tours at the Alhambra are massive and, personally, I’d rather visit on my own than to be with such a big group.
Regardless if you opt for a group or private tour, take this tip and hang back inside the Alhambra after your tour is over. This way, you can revisit the places you wanted to spend more time in (with the exception of inside the Nasrid Palaces) and take more photos.
And now, here’s a little FAQ to help answer some other lingering questions you may have. If I don’t address your questions here, feel free to leave me a comment at the end of this post and I’ll get back to you.
Can I enter the Alhambra before the time slot on my ticket?
Yes. Regardless of what time your entrance to the Nasrid Palaces is, you’re allowed to enter the Alhambra as early as the opening time.
Can I backtrack at the Alhambra?
Backtracking is allowed at the Alhambra, except inside the Nasrid Palaces. There are lots of paths to explore so you’re free to wander as you’d like.
Is there a limit on how much time I can spend at the Alhambra?
There is no limit on how much time you stay at the Alhambra, as long as your visit is during the opening hours.
Can I book both evening tickets in one night?
If you wish to book both the Nasrid Palaces evening ticket and the Generalife Gardens evening ticket, you’ll need to do so for two separate nights. Booking both evening tickets in one night is not logistically possible.
Are there restrooms at the Alhambra?
There are a number of free restrooms inside the Alhambra. Maps at the Alhambra clearly state their locations.
Is the Alhambra wheelchair accessible?
Portions of the Alhambra are wheelchair accessible. There’s a wheelchair accessible route indicated on the Alhambra map and on signs. There are also accessible restrooms. For more details on wheelchair accessibility at the Alhambra, head over to my post on wheelchair accessibility in Granada.
Is there WiFi at the Alhambra?
There’s WiFi in certain parts of the Alhambra. The WiFi has a password, which is unesco2012. This is not an employee-only password as it’s stated on the Alhambra’s official website.
What should I do if tickets are sold out?
First, take a deep breath! All hope isn’t lost. If tickets are sold out the day of your visit, my SOS guide on what to do when Alhambra tickets are sold out will show you the handful of workaround options you have.
I hope these Alhambra tips help you better prepare for your own visit to this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site in Spain. Although it can take some preparation to visit the Alhambra, particularly with securing tickets, in my opinion, it’s every bit worth the effort.
Have you been to the Alhambra and have your own tips that you’d like to add? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section. Alternatively, if you have questions about visiting the Alhambra, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help.
P.S.- Will you be spending time in Seville? If so, don’t miss our guide on free things to do in Seville.