13 Essential Alhambra Visit Tips for the PERFECT Trip [2024]

13 Essential Alhambra Visit Tips for the PERFECT Trip [2024]

What are the most important things you should know before visiting the Alhambra?

In this article, I will offer my best Alhambra visit tips, based on my three visits to the beautiful monument in Granada Spain.

The Alhambra complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site,  and one of the most visited monuments in Spain – taking the top spot in 2023.  

Visiting the Alhambra is certainly a bucket list experience. This ‘red fortress’ on the hill of La Sabike, overlooking Darro River, is renowned as the most stunning Arab palace in Europe and the most popular attraction in Southern Spain.

Dating back to the 13th century, Alhambra is a testament to the Nasrid Dynasty rule and the best-preserved example of Moorish architecture in Spain, symbolizing not only the rich history of the region but also a source of national pride.

One of the things that makes Alhambra also special is that it’s a place where you can’t just turn up and get tickets on the day.

Read on to find out why! 

View of the courtyard between the Charles V Palace and Alcazaba, in Alhambra Granada, Spain.
View of the courtyard between the Charles V Palace and Alcazaba, in Alhambra.

13 Alhambra Visit Tips You Need to Know About

Here are 13 essential Alhambra tips that will help you plan a great visit to the Alhambra complex. 

1. Book Your Tickets in Advance

​This is the one tip that you probably heard everywhere – you need to book your Alhambra tickets well in advance.

That’s not a few days, but usually a few weeks in advance.

In the summer months, the tickets might be sold out for a couple of weeks ahead, so you need to do your research to make sure you can get to the Alhambra during your stay in Granada.

​Ok, but what if you already checked and the tickets are no longer available?

You have a few of options to consider if you can’t get tickets from the official Alhambra website.

The easiest of them is booking a tour with a local company. That could be a local tour from Granada, which includes tickets to the monument and a local guide.

Alhambra tour with tickets is also available as a day trip tour from Costa del Sol or other cities in Southern Spain.

There are regular day trip options to Alhambra from Malaga, Marbella, Nerja, Estepona, Fuengirola, Benalmadena or Torremolinos, each with transport to Granada and a guided tour of the Alhambra included. The same is available from bigger cities like Seville, Cordoba or even Madrid, but the travel time is a little longer. 

The second option is getting a ticket for the night tour of the Alhambra, which is usually not that busy, but it doest have its limitations. You will only be able to access the Nasrid Palace and not the Generalife Gardens and see the palace with limited visibility, but the tickets are very affordable at 10 euros each.

The Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) in Nasrid Palace, Alhambra, Granada.
The Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) in Nasrid Palace.

2. Guided Tour vs Self Guided

The best way to see the Alhambra is with a guided tour, preferably a small group.

If you don’t like guided tours, I completely understand, and it’s okay to explore the complex without a guide at your own pace. You can always get an audio guide, available in a number of different languages.

I did all three of my visits without a guide, and even though I would have loved to have one, navigating the tourist group with two small kids is nearly impossible. 

Booking an independent guided tour is a great option, especially if you can’t get last-minute tickets to the Nasrid Palaces, and this option will also guarantee a good time slot for entry. 

3. Visit in the Early Morning

Visiting early in the day can help you avoid crowds and the midday heat. All three of my visits to the Alhambra were early in the morning; it’s much more peaceful, and you can explore the whole monument before it gets really crowded and busy. 

There are usually long lines by the main entrance to the Nasrid Palace, and you should be there at least 30 minutes before your entry time, to make sure you don’t miss it. 

If you’re wondering how early you can get the tickets, the first ones available each day are at 8.30 am, and you need to be by the main entrance at 8.00 am. The Alhambra Palace is open till 6 pm in autumn and winter and till 8 pm in the summer season. 

4. Bring Your ID

This is really important – you need to have the same ID that you used to book your tickets with you.

They check it upon entering each part of the monument – so by the entrance to the Nasrid Palace, to the Alcazaba, and also to Generalife Gardens. If you do not have your ID, they will not let you in. 

I had to learn the hard way on my last trip as I left my passport in my apartment and had to dash back with a taxi to get it. 

Summer in the gardens of Generalife, next to Palacio de Generalife entrance, in Alhambra Granada, Spain.
Summer in the gardens of Generalife, next to Palacio de Generalife entrance.

5. Visiting with Kids

​My last visit to Alhambra was with my 2-year-old son. I didn’t know this, but that comes with challenges of its own.

First of all, you need to book the free ticket for the child under 2 online, same way as you buy normal tickets, but they will not provide a digital ticket for the baby. You will need to go to the ticket office at the entrance to Alhambra, where they will give you a physical ticket.

Without that, you cannot enter with the baby. It’s a small print on their website, but do not miss this one as it’s a little annoying to take the extra step. 

On that note, if you’re coming with kids and a baby pram, you can access all parts of the monument except the Nasrid Palace and the Alcazaba; for obvious reasons – in the Nasrid Palace, there is very limited space to move around, and the Alcazaba is not pram-friendly at all. 

You can leave baby prams and strollers in a storage room – a member of staff will point you in the right direction where you find it.

Do this before you wait in line to get to the Nasrid Palace, so you don’t have to return scrambling to find the storage and miss your entry slot. 

6. Don’t Miss Your Time Slot

As I mentioned earlier, the entrance to the Nasrid Palace has a dedicated time slot.

That means you can only enter the palace at the time printed on your ticket. If you miss it, they won’t let you in. If you don’t have your ID with you, they won’t let you in!

Please keep that in mind when you’re planning how to get to the Alhambra. A lot of people recommend local mini buses from the city center, but if you don’t check the schedule in advance, you might arrive there too late. The buses are very cheap, single ticket costs only 1.40 euros, but you need to make sure you know when they are leaving and give yourself plenty of time to get to the entrance to Alhambra.

These small buses are super crowded in the summer months – I’ve seen this first hand, so DO NOT rely on them to get to the Alhambra.

The minibusses, as the name suggests, are small and have very limited seating, and even though they run pretty frequently, I recommend getting a taxi to get to the Alhambra on time, well in advance of your entry time to the complex. 

The minibus on line C31 to Sacromonte, in Paseo de los Tristes in Granada, Southern Spain.
The minibus on line C31 to Sacromonte, in Paseo de los Tristes in Granada. Same size buses go to the Alhambra.

7. Find the Right Entrance

On the topic of entering the Nasrid Palace: on my first visit there, I couldn’t find the place where to enter the palace. The complex is quite huge, and if you’re visiting for the first time, you will not be familiar with the layout and what each building is. 

So, to save you the confusion, you will head to the Puerta de la Justicia (Gate of Justice), and the entrance to the Nasrid Palace is from the courtyard between the Alcazaba (the fortress) and the Palace of Charles V (huge palace building with massive wooden door). You will see a small booth with people waiting right at the corner of the Charles V Palace. That’s where you need to wait. 

The entrance to the Alcazaba is right across from there, and to enter the Generalife Gardens, you need to walk around 10 minutes outside of the complex, with the path being well sign-posted. 

Here is a map with all the parts of the monument marked:

8. Taking Photos in Alhambra

Photography is allowed in Alhambra, but you cannot bring a tripod or use a selfie stick.

I personally feel like they should add another rule to the list – no tiktok videos. I’ve seen some teenagers recording tiktok videos in the Charles V palace and it was honestly pretty annoying to witness. 

Another personal note – Alhambra is, unfortunately, one of the Instagram hotspots.

During my winter visit in December, I witnessed some of the experts at work – girls wearing summer dresses and a winter jacket on top of it. Each time they went to take one of the 15 photos in one location, they would take the winter jacket off to strike a pose in a summer dress.

In 2C ‘heat’.

Fascinating to watch.

If you want to get photos without many people in them, especially at the Nasrid Palace, the best time of day to do that is early in the morning.

So get the first one of the ticket options with the 8.30 entry time, and be one of the first people in the line to get inside the palace. There is plenty of light inside the complex, and flash photography is not allowed. 

Great photography locations inside the palace complex include:

  • Torre de la Vela of the Alcazaba
  • Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones)
  • Gardens of the Nasrid Palace
  • Hall of the Ambassadors (check the ceiling)
  • The lush gardens of Generalife and Palacio de Generalife – the summer palace
The intricate carvings and details on the walls of the Nasrid Palace in Alhambra, Granada, Southern Spain.
The intricate carvings and details on the walls of the Nasrid Palace.

9. Be Patient

Alhambra is the most popular tourist attraction in Southern Spain, in 2023 alone it welcomed over 2.3 million visitors.

That means it will be busy and overcrowded, even in what you would call a ‘low season’, and I have experienced this first hand. You will bump into other visitors all the time, there will be lines to get in, and a lot of people around the monument. 

Not everyone behaves considerately, and there are also a lot of school trips and visits, so you need to be patient when exploring. 

10. Best Time to Visit

I think the best time of the year to visit the Alhambra is in late spring or early autumn. This time of the year, the weather is very pleasant, and it’s not as busy as in the middle of the summer, which I would call the high season. 

Summer in Granada is very hot, the temperatures regularly reach around 40C, not ideal conditions for exploring a historic monument.

On the plus side, if you visit in summer, you will get to see the gardens in full bloom, and you can explore in relative comfort if you visit early in the morning. For reference, I have shared photos of Generalife gardens in winter vs summer below.

Alhambra is beautiful in all seasons, and I’ve seen it at its best but also at its worst.

In winter, the gardens are almost without any flowers and foliage, which takes away a lot from the experience, so if you could choose, I would recommend avoiding winter. In winter, the weather is also pretty unpredictable, meaning it can change pretty fast and bring sudden rain.

But what if you can’t travel any other time? 

Certainly, don’t skip it! Alhambra is worth visiting even if it’s raining or cold – especially if that’s the only chance you will see the monument. 

On the note of timing, you will need approximately 4 hours to see the entire complex at a slow pace, so if you’re planning a day trip, that will leave you plenty of time to explore the rest of the city center too. 

Winter views of Alhambra the Generalife Gardens, Granada, Southern Spain.
Winter in the Generalife Gardens.
View of the Alcazaba from Generalife Gardens in the summer, in Alhambra, Granada, Southern Spain.
View of the Alcazaba from Generalife Gardens in the summer.

11. Prepare For Your Visit

A few things that are essential for an Alhambra visit – in addition to your ID & Tickets: comfortable shoes, water and snacks.

You can’t eat inside the palace itself, but you can take a snack break in the courtyard between the monuments, where you will also find a small kiosk serving hot and cold drinks and simple food.

There are also vending machines by the gate, and that’s where you will also find toilets. 

You cannot bring large backpacks to the Alhambra (backpacking size or hiking size), and the monument is not easily accessible to those on wheelchairs. 

12. Stay Near Alhambra

If you’re planning to stay in Granada overnight, I highly recommend staying in the Albaicin district, which overlooks the Alhambra.

The hotels in this area are smaller and more boutique, but there are also plenty of beautiful apartments offering stunning views of the monument. I have stayed in a few of these myself, and here are the ones I recommend:

LimeHome Apartments

LimeHome offers serviced apartments, available in a few areas in Granada and I stayed in those on Plaza Santa Ana more than once. It is a gorgeous, beautifully renovated old building, and if you get one on the top floors, you will also have a very spacious outdoor terrace. It has a perfect location and an amazing quality apartment.

Orro del Darro (Bibo Suites)

This apartment complex is slightly further along the river, and almost all of them offer views of Alhambra and direct access to Paseo de los Tristes. Luxury apartments with high ceilings, lots of light, and even a proper receptionist.

Bibo Suites – Plaza St Ana

I have stayed with Bibo suites many times; they have two buildings on Plaza St Ana, both great quality apartments at a very reasonable price. The one on Plaza St Ana is most recently renovated and has the most generous space of any apartment I’ve been in. Highly recommend!  

​The best area to look around is Plaza St Ana, a big square with a church and taxi rank. That’s where you will also find a bus stop for the minibusses going to Alhambra. 

I have previously also stayed close to the Paseo de los Tristes, which is a great location too, but you have to keep in mind that each time you walk back to the center, you have to navigate the Carrera del Darro road, which is full of people and traffic passing by. Navigating the road with a baby pram when full of people and passing cars wasn’t fun. 

I don’t recommend booking a hotel directly next to the Alhambra, because it is quite far from the city center, with not many restaurants easily available within a walking distance. You will also miss out on the chance to have beautiful Alhambra views from your window, and experience the atmosphere in Albaicin, my favourite place in Granada. 

limehome apartments in Granada, Spain
Limehome apartments in Granada.
the inside of the apartment of Oro del Darro Suites (Bibo Suites) in Granada, Spain
Bibo Suites – Darro del Oro Apartments in Granada.

13. Explore the City of Granada

Do not leave Granada without exploring what the city has to offer. Alhambra may be the most famous monument, but there is so much more to explore! 

If you only have a half day left in Granada, I recommend checking the Albaicin district – what you might call the old town.

Right next to it is Barrio Sacromonte, a cave district where locals still live in cave dwellings and there is even a whole museum dedicated to this! You can book a walking tour of Albaicin or Sacromonte to get the most out of your experience, or wander around on your own. 

A few other landmarks you might want to check out – the Mirador of San Nicolas, one of the best viewpoints of Alhambra, Paseo de los Tristes – also great for Alhambra Views, Calle Caldereria Nueva, known for small shops and tea rooms (Kasbah is my favourite) and if you have time, Sacromonte Abbey is also worth a visit.

If you’re spending more time in Granada, you can extend your visit by checking out the Cathedral of Granada and the Royal Chappel. If you’re visiting with kids, they will love the Science Museum of Granada, about 10 minute taxi drive out of the city center (allow at least half a day for exploring, its huge!). 

Lastly, don’t forget that Granada is one of the last promised lands of free tapas.

That means each time you sit down for a drink, you will be offered a free small tapa to go with it. Here are some of my favourite restaurants in Granada, those with the best views of Alhambra are probably El Huerto de Juan Ranas, and for drinks, I really like Huerto del Loro, a beautiful local gem with gorgeous views of Albaicin.

Streets of Albaicin district in winter time, Granada, Spain.
Streets of Albaicin in winter time.
Sacromonte Abbey in Granada, Spain
The courtyard of Sacromonte Abbey in Granada.

​Alhambra Visit Tips: Common Questions

Here are some common questions you might have:

How Long Does it Take to Visit the Alhambra?

I recommend allowing at least 3 – 4 hours for visiting the main areas of the Alhambra complex. 

Is There a Dress Code for Visiting the Alhambra?

No, there is no dress code for visiting the Alhambra. 

What Do I Need to Know Before Going to Alhambra?

The most important thing to know before going to Alhambra is that the tickets sell out pretty fast, so you can’t wait till last minute to get them. In summer months, they sell out weeks in advance.

If you can’t get tickets anymore, the article offers some tips on how you can see Alhambra if you can’t get tickets.

What Should I Not Miss at the Alhambra?

The most important parts of the monument are the Nasrid Palace – in particular, the Hall of Ambassadors and Court of the Lions, views from the Alcazaba towers, and, of course, exploring the lush gardens of Generalife and Palacio Generalife.

Can I Bring a Water Bottle into the Alhambra?

Yes, you can bring a water bottle into the Alhambra. There are also vending machines where you can buy one. 

Can You Take Backpacks into Alhambra?

Only smaller backpacks are allowed in the Alhambra, but if you can, avoid the risk and just take a smaller bag. There are locker rooms available at the complex. 

Are There Toilets in Alhambra?

Yes, there are toilets available by the ticket office next to the entrance, at the corner of Palace of Charles V, and close to the entrance to Palacio de Generalife. 

Do You Need Your Passport for Alhambra?

Yes, you do need your passport for Alhambra. You need to have it with you during the whole visit as they check the ticket against your ID. 

Can You Get Food Inside Alhambra?

​Yes, you can get food inside the Alhambra. There are vending machines close to the entrance to the Nasrid Palace, and a small kiosk with hot and cold drinks and light snacks in front of the Alcazaba entrance. In the complex you will also find the Parador hotel, where you can go for lunch in the local restaurant. 

What is Included in Alhambra General Ticket?

The Alhambra general ticket includes access to all parts of the monument, including the Nasrid Palace, Generalife Gardens, Alcazaba and Charles V Palace.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article answered all the questions you might have about visiting the Alhambra. 

If there is something specific you wanted to know and didn’t find the answer here, please leave a comment below – I will be happy to help!

LOVE it? SAVE it for Later!

Not ready to plan your trip yet? Save these images to your Pinterest profile so you can find the article with tips later!

Be sure to also check out my dedicated boards on the best things to do in Granada, beautiful photography locations and also the best places to see in Southern Spain!

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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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