Alhambra Day Trip: The PERFECT Tour Itinerary [2024]

Alhambra Day Trip: The PERFECT Tour Itinerary [2024]

In this article, you will find everything you need to know about planning your Alhambra day trip – from planning your travel to Granada, what to see first in Alhambra, and practical tips for you trip.

Having explored the Alhambra Palace not once, but three times already, I have compiled the most useful tips and practical advice that will save you a lot of time and research.

In case you wonder: is one day enough for Alhambra? Absolutely, you will need approximately half a day to explore the whole monument at a slow pace.

The Nasrid Palaces and the whole complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site,  and one of the most visited monuments in Spain – taking the top spot in 2023. That means you will also need to plan ahead to make sure you can get tickets and your preferred time slot.

This comprehensive expert guide will navigate you through every step – from buying the tickets, getting to there, and to planning a guided tour of the Alhambra. 

The building of Alhambra in sunset light as seen from Mirador San Nicolas, in Granada, Spain
Views of Alhambra at sunset from Mirador San Nicolas.

What is the Alhambra in Granada?

The Alhambra in Granada is a breathtaking complex that stands as one of the most celebrated architectural masterpieces in Spain.

Celebrate for its rich history, a first time visit of this monument will be an unforgettable experience. This historic citadel comprises palaces, fortress, and gardens, offering a window into Spain’s rich Moorish past and its transition into Christian Monarchs rule.

Originally constructed in the mid-13th century under the Nasrid Dynasty, the last Muslim dynasty on the Iberian Peninsula, the Alhambra began as a small fortress. It was later expanded into a vast royal complex by successive sultans, with the addition of the stunning Nasrid Palaces, the formidable Alcazaba, and the lush Generalife gardens.

The name “Alhambra” itself means “the red one,” or the red castle, a nod to the reddish walls and towers that dominate the landscape, especially striking at sunset.

Perhaps the most iconic parts of the Alhambra are the Nasrid Palaces, including the famous Courtyard of the Lions, which features an elaborate marble fountain supported by statues of lions, and Palace of Comares with its stunningly crafted ceiling.

This courtyard is an emblem of Islamic art, incorporating elements of nature, mythology, and astrological significance into its design.

Beyond its aesthetic allure, the Alhambra also boasts advanced hydraulic technology of its time, evident in its sophisticated water systems used for irrigation, baths, and decorative fountains.

View of the Alhambra complex with Palace of Charles V as seen from the tower of the Alcazaba.
View of the Alhambra complex with Palace of Charles V as seen from the tower of the Alcazaba.

Is Alhambra Worth Visiting on a Day Trip?

I don’t like exploring places in a rush, for sake of ticking off some travel bucket list.

The good news is, that’s not the case with Alhambra. This monument is perfectly suitable for a day trip, as you will only need about half a day to explore the whole complex on a slow pace.

Thanks to the fact that Granada is well connected to Costa del Sol and bigger cities in Southern Spain, in addition to driving you can also take advantage of reliable local transport and make it to the city of Granada with plenty of time to see the Alhambra and a few hours of free time to explore the rest of the city

I think Alhambra is worth visiting even on bad weather days or off seasons, especially if that’s your only chance to see the monument.

7 Tips For Planning Your Alhambra Day Trip

1. Getting Tickets

So the first thing you need to know about Alhambra is the fact that the tickets are not easy to get, especially if you’re planning to visiting the summer months. Each year, between 2 – 2.5 million people visit this complex, so you can imagine the tickets go quite fast. 

To prevent overcrowding, the Nasrid Palaces are accessible only with a dedicated entry time, printed on your ticket. You select this time slot when you buy your tickets, and you need to be at the entrance 30 minutes before your time slot. If you miss it, you can’t get in anymore.

The rest of the complex, including the alcazaba fortress, and generalife gardens, can be visited anytime during the same day.

So before you even plan your trip, you need to make sure you can get tickets to the Alhambra

You can get the tickets with an official guide, in which case you need to wait at the designated meeting point printed on your tickets, or just get simple tickets and explore at your own pace.

There are large group tours visiting the Alhambra, so keep that in mind, the monument is always full of people.

The ticket office for the Alhambra next to the entrance.
The ticket office for the Alhambra next to the entrance.

2. When to Visit

If you can choose when to visit, I recommend late spring or early autumn. The busiest time in Alhambra is probably in the summer months, but I’ve seen it pretty crowded even in the middle of the winter, because local school kids often go there for day trips. 

If you already booked your flights, don’t worry. I’m sure you will still have an amazing time exploring this stunning historical monument.

3. Traveling to Granada

Granada has a very good train and bus connections with most destinations in Southern Spain, and driving is easy option too, so you have lots of easy ways to see the Alhambra.

Alhambra has its own parking facility that operates around the clock, which is extremely convenient. Parking fees start at €2.80 for the initial hour and €1.80 for each additional hour, capping at €19.20 for a full day.

What makes this car park particularly appealing is its location—you can avoid the hassle of driving through the busy center of Granada as it’s only about 300 meters from the parking area to the Alhambra’s entrance.

If you’re also interested in checking out the heart of Granada, it’s quite accessible. A scenic 20-minute walk downhill through the wooded areas surrounding the Alhambra will get you to Plaza Nueva.

People boaring a bus at main bus station in Granada, Spain
Main bus station in Granada.
Local C31 red minibus in Granada, Spain.
Local C31 bus connecting the city with the monument.

4. Getting To Alhambra

Once in Granada, the easiest way to get to Alhambra is by car or taxi, I don’t recommend relying on the local buses as you might miss your entry time to the Nasrid Palace.

You can get a taxi directly from the train station or bus station, which will take about 15 – 20 minutes to get to the Alhambra entrance. 

To be on the safe side, if you can, just get a taxi to the monument entrance. I took this journey by taxi two times, the cost from Plaza St Ana which is at the edge of Albaicin costs around 7 to 8 euros and takes 5 to 10 minutes.

Locally, the small red and white minibusses also run on this route—routes C32 or C30—and provide a link between Alhambra and the city center, with services running every 15 minutes or less.

5. What to Bring for Alhambra Day Trip

Bring water, and comfortable shoes.

If you’re visiting in the summer, remember it’s very hot so you use sun protection. You can also bring snacks and food, but you can’t eat or drink in the Nasrid Palace.

There are a few benches and a small kiosk with food in front of the entrance to the Alcazaba. If you want to take a break for lunch time without leaving the complex, the Parador hotel is on the grounds of the complex, so you can pop there for a lunch and continue exploring after that. 

6. What to Avoid

Using tripods or selfie sticks is not allowed in the complex, but you can take photos or videos.

You can’t bring large backpack inside the Nasrid Palace (like backpacking size) and baby prams are not allowed either – you will leave these at the storage area. 

7. If You Can’t Get Tickets to Alhambra

​If you cannot get tickets to Alhambra, I think Granada is still worth visiting so you shouldn’t skip the day trip.

There are a few options if you can’t get tickets to Alhambra – you can book an Alhambra tour from Costa del Sol and big cities; all of these tours normally include entrance tickets to the monument.

The other option, if you can’t get day tickets, is to book at least the night tour on their official website. It is much cheaper but only includes access to the Nasrid Palace.

Tickets to the Generalife Gardens, the Sultan’s summer palace, can be bought separately and are usually easier to get. The only area of Alhambra you can visit without a ticket is the Palace of Charles V and the courtyard between the Alcazaba and the Nasrid Palace, so you can take photos of the outside of the monument from up close. 

Views of Alhambra from the Generalife Gardens.
Views of Alhambra from the Generalife Gardens.

Your Itinerary For Alhambra Day Trip

Here is my suggested itinerary for exploring the Alhambra:

Morning: Arrival & Nasrid Palace

I highly recommend getting tickets to Alhambra with the first possible time slot for entrance to the Nasrid Palace, which is usually at 8.30 am on the day, it should be your first stop on this day tour.

You need to be there by 8am and then wait in line to get your tickets checked against your ID. It is essential to have the ID with you, they won’t let you in without it.

Spend an hour or 1.5 hours in the Nasrid Palace and explore the intricate designs of the walls and ceilings and take a stroll through the palace gardens. The Palaces are a series of rooms and courtyards built with stunning Islamic art and architecture.

What to See in Nasrid Palace

  • Palacio de Comares: This is the largest palace and it was the official home of the sultan.
  • Hall of the Ambassadors: A smaller room but don’t forget to look up – it’s known for its impressive ceiling.
  • Palacio de los Leones: The famous Court of the Lions has delicately engraved pillars supporting the gallery and the marble fountain with lions in the middle of it.
The Court of the Lions in the Nasrid Palace.
The Court of the Lions in the Nasrid Palace.

Late Morning: Visit the Alcazaba

After the Nasrid Palaces, cross the courtyard where you were waiting and head to the Alcazaba, the oldest part of the Alhambra’s complex. This fortress offers panoramic views of Granada and the surrounding areas.

Climb the Torre de la Vela for some of the best views. 

What to See in Alcazaba:

  • Torre de la Vela: This watchtower offers stunning views of the whole city of Granada, with the peaks of Sierra Nevada on the left side framing the whole view
  • Torre del Homenaje: Another great viewpoint in the Alcazaba.

You can continue your visit by checking out the Renaissance building of the Palace of Charles V; it is also home to the Alhambra Museum, which showcases Islamic artifacts, and the Museum of Fine Arts.

You will need around 30 – 45 minutes for the Alcazaba and about the same time for the Palace if you’re also visiting the museums.

Views of the entrance of Alcazaba and Albaicin from one of the towers of the Alcazaba in Alhambra, Granada.
Views of the entrance of Alcazaba and Albaicin from one of the towers.

Lunch Break

You can bring a picnic to enjoy in the Alhambra’s outdoor areas or choose the nearby restaurant in the Parador hotel for a warm lunch. There are also vending machines in the complex. 

Early Afternoon: Explore the Generalife

Post-lunch, walk off your meal with a visit to the Generalife, the summer palace of the Nasrid Sultans, with Palacio de Generalife as one of the highlights of the visit.

The gardens are about 10 10-minute walk from the main part of the complex. The gardens are lush and offer a tranquil escape with beautifully maintained flowers, fountains, and pathways.

Views from Palacio de Generalife.
Views from Palacio de Generalife.

After Alhambra

​Visiting the Alhambra in the morning will give you plenty of time to discover some of the other stunning sights in Granada.

I recommend a stroll through Albaicin to the Paseo de los Tristes, where you can enjoy a refreshing drink with free tapas and the best views of Alhambra.

If you have time, it’s worth booking a walking tour of Albaicin or Sacromonte, to learn more about the history of this oldest part of the city. The Cathedral of Granada and the Royal Chapel is also well worth a visit.

Some of the lesser-known spots, but the ones I like the most, are the Sacromonte Abbey, La Cartuja Monastery, Basilica of San Juan de Dios, or the popular Cave Museum of Sacromonte

I’ve been to Granada six times now and have a few favourite restaurants I return to, check them out in here.

​Planning Alhambra Day Trip from Costa del Sol

Planning a Granada day trip is super easy from almost anywhere in Southern Spain, especially if you rent a car that allows you to explore at your own pace.

But even without a car, Granada is easily accessible by bus or train.

The only thing you need to remember is that you should be at the entrance to Alhambra well before the dedicated time slot for the Nasrid Palace.

In the table below, I linked my articles, which will give you detailed information on planning a day trip from these destinations on Costa del Sol.

Day Trip Travel Time & Options
Alhambra Day Trip from Malaga 1.40 mins drive, buses & trains available
Alhambra Day Trip from Marbella 2 hour drive, very limited public transport, no trains
Alhambra Day Trip from Torremolinos 1.5 hours drive, limited bus & train connections via Malaga
Alhambra Day Trip from Benalmadena 1hr 40 mins drive, limited bus & train connections via Malaga
Alhambra Day Trip from Fuengirola 1 hr 45 mins drive, limited bus & train connections via Malaga
Alhambra Day Trip from Estepona 2 hrs 20 mins drive, very limited public transport, no trains
Alhambra Day Trip from Nerja 1 hour drive, limited public transport via Malaga, no trains

Planning Alhambra Day Trip from Other Cities

You can plan a day trip to Ahambra from Seville, from Cordoba or even from Madrid or Alicante, you just have to remember that the travel time is a little longer – see below.

Usually, the fastest and often most cost-effective way to see Alhambra is to book a day tour with a local travel company.

Day Trip Driving Distance and Approximate Travel Time
Seville to Alhambra Approx. 250 km, about 3 hours
Cordoba to Alhambra Approx. 200 km, about 2 hours 15 mins
Alicante to Alhambra Approx. 340 km, about 3 hours 30 mins
Gibraltar to Alhambra Approx. 220 km, about 2 hours 45 mins
Cadiz to Alhambra Approx. 320 km, about 3 hours 20 mins
Madrid to Alhambra Approx. 420 km, about 4 hours 30 mins

Questions on Alhambra Day Trip

Can I Visit Alhambra for Free?

No, you need to get tickets to see the Nasrid Palace, Alcazaba and Generalife Gardens, however, you can visit the Palace of Charles V and the outside parts of the complex for free.

Is it Possible to Visit Alhambra Without Guide?

Yes, it is possible to visit Alhambra without a tour guide, it’s not a requirement when you get your tickets.

Can I Just Turn up to the Alhambra?

No, you cannot just turn up to the Alhambra. You need to get tickets online well in advance and book a dedicated time slot to enter the Nasrid Palace. The entrance to the Alcazaba and Generalife Gardens doesn’t have a dedicated time slot.

What is the Most Beautiful Part of the Alhambra?

Most people agree that the most beautiful part of the Alhambra is the Nasrid Palace, in particular, the Patio de los Leones and the Hall of Ambassadors.

Can I Wear Shorts in Alhambra?

Yes, you can wear shorts in Alhambra. There is no specific dress code required for Alhambra.

Final Thoughts

Alhambra is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Spain, so planning ahead will save you a lot of time and frustration. It’s also important to manage your expectations – because it’s so popular, it’s very likely it will be full of other tourists unless you book the first available slot for the Nasrid Palaces.

So to repeat, don’t forget to arrive there at the indicated time on your ticket, take plenty of water with you and comfortable walking shoes, and allow sufficient time to explore the whole Alhambra complex, at least four hours in total. 

LOVE it? SAVE it for Later!

Save this pin image to your Pinterest account, so you can get back to it later when you’re ready to plan your day trip. Don’t forget to also check my boards on the best things to do in Granada, best photography locations and best day trips in Granada.

Pinterest image showing the view from the Alcazaba of Granada, with a headline that reads: The perfect day trip to Alhambra in Granada, Granada Spain Itinerary.
Pinterest image showing the view of Alhambra in Granada, with a headline that reads: The perfect day trip to Alhambra in Granada, Granada Spain Itinerary.
Photo of author
Lucia has been living on Costa del Sol since 2020, and through her love of photography and travel, she has been documenting the best places to see in Southern Spain and uncovering hidden gems only known to locals. All the articles on Viva La Vita are written based on personal experience and local expertise.

Hi, I'm Lucia

At Viva La Vita, I will help you to discover Southern Spain like a local!

I've been living on Costa del Sol since 2020, and fill these pages with first-hand insights, personal experience and practical tips that will help you plan a wonderful trip to Spain.

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