Is Alhambra Worth Visiting? 7 Reasons Why Visit [2024]

Is Alhambra Worth Visiting? 7 Reasons Why Visit [2024]

Is Alhambra worth visiting? Oh yes, it definitely is!

If you’ve been asking yourself this question before booking your trip to Southern Spain, this article has all the answers you need to plan your trip and consider whether it’s worth your time.

I have visited Alhambra three times already, in different seasons and different times, so I have a pretty good idea of what you can expect.

I also live locally in Southern Spain, so I will also share lots of practical tips and insights from my numerous extended trips to Granada. 

Dont forget to also read my comments on the negative reviews of Alhambra and practical travel tips at the end of the article.

Let’s dive in!

The court of the lions in Alhambra, one of the highlights of the monument tour. In Granada, Southern Spain.
The court of the lions in Alhambra, one of the highlights of the monument tour.

Why Is Alhambra Famous?

Alhambra Palace dates back to the Nasrid dynasty at the end of the 13th century.

It consists of the Palace itself, the Palace Gardens, the Palace of Charles V, the Alcazaba Fortress, and the Generalife Gardens. They say it’s the best-preserved example of Muslim architecture and a historical marvel, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Alhambra is an expression of true architectural brilliance, and a visit to the palace will stay with you for a long time. In 2023, Alhambra was the most visited monument in the whole Spain, welcoming over 2.6 million visitors. It is often referred to as the eight wonder of the modern world (not by official records of course).

It is the most popular attraction in Spain, and that also means one of the most crowded ones. This translates into the fact that you can’t just get tickets to the monument on a day’s notice, especially in the summer.

Check out my visitor tips for your trip to Alhambra below.

Is Alhambra Worth Visiting?

As a local travel expert in Spain, I can confidently say that the Alhambra definitely is worth visiting.

Often heralded as the most beautiful monument in Spain, this gem of Granada will captivate you with its intricate Islamic art, stunning gardens, and fascinating history encased within its walls.

The Nasrid Palaces are a true marvel of architecture, and perusing the intricate details on the walls and ceiling will leave you speechless. The ‘red castle’ as the name translates, has captivated visitors for years, and the palace complex remains the main reason why people venture into Southern Spain, and Granada in particular, in the first place.

Intricate architectural details inside the Nasrid Palace in the Alhambra complex.
Intricate architectural details inside the Nasrid Palace in the Alhambra complex.

Visiting Alhambra First Time: What You Need to Know

  • book your tickets as soon as possible when you know your travel dates
  • make sure you enter your passport details and take the passport with you to the main entrance (they will scan it)
  • you need a dedicated time slot entry for Nasrid Palace, the rest of the complex can be visited anytime during the day
  • once you leave the Nasrid Palace, you cannot re-enter
  • if you have a baby under 2 years old, you need to pick up a physical ticket for entry at the ticket office by the entrance
  • expect to spend at least 15 – 20 minutes waiting in the line
  • arrive at the entrance to the palace, next to the Palace of Charles V, at least 30 minutes before your slot
  • no food or drinks are allowed in the palace
  • there is a small food & drink kiosk in front of the Alcazaba entrance
  • baby prams and large backpacks are not allowed inside the Nasrid Palace, you need to leave them in the storage room
  • wear comfortable shoes, you will do a lot of walking
  • basic tickets do not include a tour guide; this is available at extra cost
  • you need about 2 hours max to see the Nasrid palace and up to 4 hours for the whole complex

7 Reasons Why Alhambra is Worth Visiting

Courtyard in the Nasrid Palace, Alhambra in Granada
Courtyard in the Nasrid Palace, Alhambra in Granada

1. For its History

Built in the mid-13th century, the Alhambra served as a palace, fortress, and a small city all in one.

The original plan for Alhambra was designed to be its own city, including having its own water supply and design that separated the different classes within the grounds.

It was the seat of Muslim rulers until 1492 and has since been a Christian royal site and a national treasure. This deep historical layering offers a unique glimpse into the past eras of Spain.

2. For the Gardens

The Generalife, the summer palace with its gardens and the stunning Palacio Nazaries, is right next to the Alhambra and is worth the visit all on its own.

The lush gardens, refreshing fountains, and flowering plants offer a tranquil escape, and the views of the Alhambra from here are simply breathtaking.

3. For the Views

Situated on top of the Darro Valley with the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Alhambra offers spectacular views that extend over the city of Granada. The strategic placement of the fortress offers an understanding of why this site was chosen by the Nasrid dynasty.

If you venture to the towers of the Alcazaba fortress, you will be treated by the best views of the whole Granada – peaks of Sierra Nevada on one side, the whole city under your feet, and the hills of Albaicin on the other side. 

4. For the Architecture

The Alhambra is a stunning example of Moorish architecture with its intricate arabesques, detailed calligraphy, and ornate tile work. Each hall and courtyard tells a story of its past, from the grandeur of the Nasrid sultans to the later Christian influences.

The delicate beauty of the royal residence at Palacios Nazaríes, the fortress of the Alcazaba, and the Renaissance style of the Palace of Charles V are all standout features. Some of the most stunning architectural features can be found in the Courtyard of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) and the Hall of Ambassadors. 

5. For its Educational Value

There’s so much to learn from a visit to the Alhambra. Each tour can teach about Islamic art, the history of Spain, garden design, and medieval architecture.

For history buffs, architecture lovers, and the culturally curious, the Alhambra serves as a magnificent educational experience.

6. For the Photos

Alhambra has some of the most stunning photo opportunities in the whole city and in Southern Spain. The stunning backdrop of the historic walls, the views from the balconies and towers, and the stunning garden will give you plenty of opportunities to keep your camera happy and clicking away.

7. For the Bucket List Experience

Alhambra is certainly at the top of any bucket list travel experiences in Spain, and missing out on the chance to see this architectural marvel will be a bit mistake.

Is The Alhambra Overrated?

No, it is certainly not! I am pretty confident that if you visit, you certainly won’t be disappointed. 

The intricate decorations and engravings in the ceiling at the Hall of Ambassadors inside the Alhambra, Granada, Spain.
The intricate decorations and engravings in the ceiling at the Hall of Ambassadors inside the Alhambra.

Negative Reviews of Alhambra

I couldn’t believe the stuff I read on Tripadvisor.

Just open the page on Alhambra and filter for one and two star reviews.

These are from people who did not read absolutely anything before booking their visit and expected to arrive at the most popular monument in Spain without having to wait in line.

I will address these one by one for the sake of clarity and full disclosure:

1. Overcrowding

I know it’s shocking, but the most visited monument in Spain will be full of people. Yes, even in low season. 

I visited in the middle of winter, and the gates were full of people waiting to get in. Even in winter, it’s not possible to get tickets for the same or even next day.

To prevent overcrowding, there are time slots available to visit the Nasrid Palaces, which has a limited capacity, but other parts of the complex can be visited anytime during your allocated day of visit.

If you don’t like to be a part of a huge group, the best time to book your slot is the first available one for the day.

Night visit of Alhambra is also great and isn’t so crowded, but you won’t get as much out of it as if you visit during the day. 

2. Rude Staff

Some seasoned travelers were complaining that the staff navigating the tourist traffic were quite rude. 

I have never encountered this during my three visits, and if this was the case, I can imagine why some people might perceive them as rude.

Don’t get me wrong, but tourists can act like a simple-minded group, unable to follow simple directions, like ‘stand in the line and wait for your turn’. I have seen this so many times in different monuments and cities.

There will always be people who want to do things on their terms and think they know better than a staff member. Also keep in mind that people who work there have to navigate thousands of people around the same places every day.

To recap: the staff at Alhambra Monument are very helpful, easy to spot, and all speak English, so you can get help where you need it.

3. Getting Tickets

Yes, it’s not easy to get Alhambra tickets. That’s the first thing I learned about visiting. Why? 

Because each year, there are roughly 2 – 3 million visitors, many of them come in huge groups, and tickets can get sold out weeks in advance.

You do need book them as soon as you want to travel, otherwise you won’t get in. And you can’t get tickets in person at the ticket booth. See my tips on what to do if the tickets are sold out at the bottom of the article.

The court of the lions and the hall of the ambassadors at the alhambra in Granada, Spain.
Alhambra interiors.

4. Waiting Time

People on Tripadvisor were outraged that they had to wait for 30 minutes in a line to get into the Nasrid Palace in a summer heat.

Well, guess what?

You need to think about this before you buy your tickets! There are time slots for a reason – you have an option to choose the early morning one when it’s not so hot or come later in the afternoon when the temperatures go down.

Waiting in line is compulsory as they need to scan your ticket and check it against your ID before you get into the Nasrid palace.

This is the only part of the Alhambra complex that is accessible on a dedicated time slot, so if you miss it you’re out of luck. If you don’t have your ID with you, they won’t let you inside either.

​5. Overpriced Tickets

I don’t think the tickets are expensive at all, considering the size of the monument and everything that’s included in the ticket price. If you upgraded to a guided tour of the Alhambra, of course, that ticket cost more than just standard access.

6. Lack of Renovation

I can’t believe people actually commented on this, but complaining about paint peeling off, on a 13th-century wall? That’s kind of the point, it’s old so you want to preserve it, and not paint it over so it looks better on your photos?

Alhambra has an extensive list of restoration works done each year, for example in this article they detail how they proceeded with the restoration of the fountain of the lions.

7. Empty Rooms

I had to laugh when I read this, but yes, there is no furniture in the palace.

Only empty space allows you to explore the most beautiful parts of the monument – the architecture and gardens. If you expect a lush palace with golden-plated chairs, that’s not what Alhambra is all about.

The same person who complained about this recommended a visit to a nearby hotel that has all the trimmings of a proper palace – luxury chandeliers and gold plated decorations.

Courtyard view of the Patio de los Leones in Alhambra, Granada, Spain.
Courtyard view of the Patio de los Leones.

Now, with my little rant over, here are some comments on visiting during different seasons.

My three visits were in January, May and October. I liked May the best.

Is Alhambra Worth Visiting in Spring?

Yes, Alhambra is worth visiting in the spring months.

If you can, try to visit in late spring when all the flowers are blooming, and you get a chance to see the monument on a nice clear sky day. Early spring might still be very cloudy, and even though they plant seasonal flowers all year round, I don’t think you will see it at its full beauty.

Pros Cons
Mild and pleasant weather High tourist volume can mean crowded tours
Gardens in full bloom, enhancing the aesthetic Accommodation prices tend to be higher
Longer daylight hours for extended visiting times Need to book tickets well in advance due to demand
Perfect conditions for photography Some areas might be under restoration, limiting access

Is Alhambra Worth Visiting in Summer?

Summer is possibly the most popular time to visit the Alhambra, but I have to warn you about the temperatures.

It’s very common for temperatures in Granada to reach over 40C, so you need to keep that in mind, especially when selecting your time slot for the Nasrid Palace.

Choose the first available tickets on the day so you don’t have to wait in long lines in the summer heat, and you will be done with the whole visit by lunchtime when the temperatures start to rise.

Summer is a gorgeous time at the palace, you will see it in its full glory, but do prepare that it is the high season for the monument and be patient with other visitors around you.

Pros Cons
Stunning views with lush summer vegetation Very crowded, as it’s peak tourist season
Longer daylight hours to explore the site High temperatures can make the visit less comfortable
Evening tours available, offering cooler temperatures and different perspectives Need to book tickets well in advance due to high demand

Is Alhambra Worth Visiting in Autumn?

Autumn is another great option for visiting Alhambra. The trees start changing colours as late as November, so you will have a feast for the eyes on all accounts.

Autumn is still very much a high season for Alhambra, in addition to international tourists, there is also a lot of local visitors and school trips from Spain.

Pros Cons
Milder weather Can be crowded, especially during mid-autumn holidays
Beautiful autumn colors in the Generalife gardens Shorter daylight hours
Less hot than summer months Occasional rain can disrupt plans
Off-peak season may offer lower accommodation prices Some amenities and tours might operate on reduced schedules

Is Alhambra Worth Visiting in Winter?

I went to the Alhambra in winter because I wanted to see the snowy peaks of Sierra Nevada against the red walls of Alhambra, and enjoy the view from the Alcazaba.

Winter has its own benefits, including easier availability of tickets,and it’s probably the least crowded time for the monument.

However, with cloudy days, a chance of rain, and the garden being stripped of any foliage, I think it’s not a great time to visit Alhambra. If that’s the only time you can go to the monument, by all means, get your tickets and don’t hesitate to visit! 

Pros Cons
Fewer crowds, more serene experience Colder weather might make outdoor exploration less comfortable
Better deals on accommodation and tours Shorter daylight hours to enjoy the sights
Winter lights and decorations enhance the beauty Possible closure or limited access to parts of the monument due to maintenance
Unique perspective of the architecture with a chance of snow Some nearby attractions may be closed off-season

Is Alhambra Worth Visiting on a Rainy Day?

Some parts of the Alhambra, like the Nasrid Palace and Palace of Charles V, can be visited while staying nice and dry, and the rain will mostly limit the exploration of the palace’s garden and Generalife Gardens.

Having said that, if your only chance to see the Alhambra is during a rainy day, you shouldn’t skip it and still visit! 

Is Alhambra Worth Visiting Without a Tour Guide?

Having a tour guide for your visit to Alhambra will guarantee a unique experience and insights into the history and life at the palace.

If you have time and can afford it, I recommend getting a local guide before the visit, it is the easiest way to see the palace and get a deeper understanding of its importance, history and artistic value.

There is also a relatively affordable option for those who don’t want a tour guide, and that’s an audio guide in many languages – many people use this so they can explore at their own pace.

The ticket office of the Alhambra in winter.
The ticket office of the Alhambra in winter.

Visiting Alhambra from Southern Spain

The great news is that you don’t need to stay in Granada if you only want to see Alhambra. The monument is a great option for a day trip from many locations in Southern Spain.

For those who like to use public transport, you can get to Alhambra from Malaga and other Costa del Sol destinations like Fuengirola, Benalmadena, Estepona, Marbella or Nerja.

For those who venture further away, great train connections are available for day trips to Alhambra from Seville, from Cordoba, and even as far as Madrid.

Many local travel companies offer day tours of Alhambra from different places, and you can also book private tours that include pick-up from your hotel. 

Even if you only have a few hours to see the Alhambra, it’s well worth booking the day trip, and you won’t be disappointed.

​The best way to visit Alhambra, in my opinion, is as part of an extended weekend, so you can also explore other important parts of Granada, like the districts of Albaicin and Sacromonte. Having more time in Granada will also give you a chance to upgrade your experience, for example, by booking a night tour of Alhambra and experiencing other parts of the cultural heritage, like booking a flamenco performance in Sacromonte or Albaicin.

But if you only have one day in Granada, you can easily visit Alhambra in half-day and have ample time to explore the city center and the best places in Granada.

​Alhambra Tickets Not Available

I think Granada is a stunning city, the most beautiful one in Southern Spain in my opinion, so if you can’t get tickets to Alhambra during your trip, you should still go and see Granada.

If anything you will get amazing views of the Alhambra from the outside, the best spots are from Paseo de los Tristes, Mirador San Nicholas and other locations in Albiaicn. Also, check out this post on the best sunset spots

If you’re desperate to see Alhambra, the best way to get tickets is to book a tour with a local company.

For example, if you’re staying in Malaga, you can book a day trip which already includes tickets to the palace. Local travel companies buy these in advance, so you’re guaranteed to get a ticket as part of the day trip package, even if you book a few days in advance. 

Generalife gardens in Alhambra, Granada, in the middle of the winter.
Generalife gardens in the middle of the winter.

Getting to Alhambra

The easiest way to get to Alhambra from the city center, is using a local taxi or a bus.

There are small red and white buses that run on this route, but they make a lot of stops and you don’t want to take the risk of missing your entry slot for the Nasris Palace.

I regularly take a taxi from Plaza Nueva square (Plaza Santa Ana or Plaza Nueva, same place), and the drive to the entrance costs around 7 – 8 euros one way. It takes about 5 – 10 minutes to get there, depending on the traffic.

if you have your own car, you need to leave it at the nearest parking space for Alhambra marked on the map here.

Frequent Questions

Is Alhambra Worth Going to?

Yes, Alhambra is certainly worth going to! It’s the most visited monument in Spain, and one of the most breathtaking examples of Moorish architecture.

How Long Should I Spend at the Alhambra?

Expect to spend between 3 to 4 hours visiting the Alhambra, as the complex is quite extensive and there are several parts of the complex that you should visit.

What is so Special About Alhambra?

The Alhambra is one of the most important historic monuments in Spain, and one of the first Islamic monuments to become the object of modern scientific study. The monument is declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and the most visited monument in Spain, beating Sagrada Familia in Barcelona to the title in 2023.

Other Monuments to Explore

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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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