What is the Best Time to Visit Alhambra? Must Read Guide [2024]

What is the Best Time to Visit Alhambra? Must Read Guide [2024]

What is the best time to visit Alhambra? If you’re wondering about this, you came to the right place!

I visited Alhambra three times already, so I am a bit of an expert. I love Granada and have stayed in the city six times, so in this article, you will also find lots of extra tips on what to explore in the city.

As you know, Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best-preserved examples of Islamic architecture in the world.

In 2023, Alhambra became Spain’s most visited monument, which means two things: it’s challenging to get the tickets, and you will need to expect crowds, even in the low season.

With this guide, you can plan the timing of your visit just right and make all the difference between a serene experience and battling crowds.

Best Time to Visit Alhambra: My Recommendation

View of Alhambra during the sunset, in Granada, Southern Spain.
The red walls of Alhambra basking in the sunset in Granada.

Based on my experience of different seasons and entry times, I recommend visiting Alhambra in late spring or early autumn and getting the first available tickets on the day to enter the Nasrid Palace. The first available entry slot for the Nasrid Palaces is at 8.30 am.

If you could choose, visiting during the week will be less busy than on the weekends, and the morning slots are usually not that difficult to get since most people don’t want to get up that early.

Don’t forget to check the end of the article for important practical tips for visiting the Alhambra.

Opening Hours for Your Alhambra Visit

Alhambra operates on two different opening times, for summer and winter, and is closed only two days of the year.

Alhambra Opening Times
Winter Opening Times: October 15th to March 31st
Monday to Sunday 8:30 am – 6:00 pm
Summer Opening Times: April 1st – October 14th
Monday to Sunday 8:30 am – 8:00 pm
Night Palace Tour Opening Times
Winter 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Summer 10:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Night Gardens Tour Opening Times
April 1st to May 31st 10:00 pm – 11:30 pm
September 1st to October 14th 10:00 pm – 11:30 pm
October 15h to November 14th 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Alhambra Closed Days
Closed on December 25th and January 1st

Best Time to Visit Alhambra: The Seasons

While Alhambra welcomes visitors year-round, the sweet spot lies in the shoulder seasons of spring (April and May) and autumn (October to November).

During these months, the weather is pleasant, with mild temperatures and fewer tourists compared to the peak summer season. But don’t expect to find the monument completely empty; it’s becoming very popular even in the low season.

Below are two images from winter vs summer in Generalife Gardens, so you get the idea of what a difference a season can make!

View of Alhambra from Generalife gardens in Spring, Granada, Southern Spain.
Alhambra in the spring months.
View of Alhambra from Generalife gardens in winter months, Granada, Southern Spain.
In the same location in Generalife Gardens in the winter.

Visiting Alhambra in Spring

Spring is one of the best months to visit the Alhambra – the temperatures pretty enjoyable during the day, and the gardens are already in full bloom. The foliage on the trees makes a huge difference when you’re visiting the Alhambra, and spring will give you a chance to experience its full beauty.

Even though day temperatures can be pretty pleasant, it is freezing in the mornings, so wrap up warm.

An added bonus for visiting in spring is a chance to see the peaks of Sierra Nevada, still covered in snow – best seen from the towers of the Alcazaba.

Visiting Alhambra in Summer

Summer in Granada is extremely hot. It’s not unusual for the temperatures to reach 40C on a regular basis, and if your only chance to explore is in the summer months, you need to prepare for the heat.

For your Alhambra visit, book the first available slot of the day at the Nasrid Palace, and aim to finish a visit to the whole complex by lunchtime so you can hide away from the sun and the heat.

I recommend taking a break in the afternoon, as locals call it, siesta, before venturing out to explore the rest of the city in the late afternoon.

Visiting Alhambra in Autumn

The trees don’t start changing to autumn foliage until November, so if you visit in September or early October, it will still feel like summer.

There is a higher chance of rain closer to the end of autumn, and the difference between morning and daytime temperatures is getting bigger, so you need to prepare for that when packing. Having said that, it’s unlikely that the weather will spoil your visit to the complex.

In Autumn, the crowds are getting smaller, but it’s still pretty busy. You can only avoid them by booking the early morning visit spots.

Visiting Alhambra in Winter

My most recent Alhambra visit was in January, the winter months. I don’t recommend visiting in the winter months, for the simple reason that you won’t see the gardens in their full glory.

They try their best by planting flowers that bloom all year round, but without the foliage on the trees and other plants, the whole complex feels pretty lifeless.

If winter is your only chance to see the Alhambra, by all means go and see it – you will still like it! Alhambra is worth visiting even on a bad weather or rainy day, as much of the complex is indoors (Nasrid Palaces and Charles V Palace).

The Courtyard of the lions in Alhambra, Granada, Southern Spain.
The Courtyard of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) in the Nasrid Palace basking in the early morning sun.

Best Time of the Day to Visit Alhambra: Morning or Afternoon?

To beat the crowds and bask in the tranquil beauty of Alhambra, aim to arrive early in the morning.

The complex opens its doors at 8:30 AM, and being one of the first to enter allows you to explore the Nasrid Palaces and Generalife Gardens with relative peace. Additionally, the soft morning light adds a magical touch to the intricate architecture and lush surroundings, perfect for capturing stunning photographs.

I planned all of my visits for the 8.30 am entry and it’s the best decision you can make, if you want to explore the Nasrid Palace in peace.

For those who prefer a quieter afternoon experience, consider visiting during the last time slot of the day. As the sun begins its descent, the crowds thin out, offering a more leisurely exploration of the grounds.

However, keep in mind that the last entry is at 6:00 PM, so plan accordingly to make the most of your visit.

Best Day of the Week to Visit Alhambra

While Alhambra welcomes visitors every day of the week, choosing the right day can significantly impact your experience.

If possible, opt for a weekday visit, particularly Tuesday through Thursday. These days typically see fewer crowds compared to weekends, and are the best way to see Alhambra without massive crowds.

Avoiding weekends not only ensures a more peaceful visit but also provides an opportunity to savor every moment without feeling rushed. However, if your schedule only permits a weekend visit, consider booking tickets well in advance and arriving early to maximize your time and minimize wait times.

Best Time to Visit Alhambra Gardens

Unlike the Nasrid Palace, you don’t need a timed entry slot to visit the Generalife Gardens. The garden complex is quite big, and the most crowded space in the gardens is the Palacio de Generalife, the sultan’s summer palace.

If you have more time to spare in Granada, I recommend booking the visit to the gardens with a separate entry on a different day, so you can visit in the morning when it’s not so busy.

If you want to do the gardens on the same day, head to the gardens right after visiting the Nasrid Palace. The gardens are also available to book as a night visit, which might be a good idea if you’re visiting in the summer since you have plenty of light until late hours.

Pond and flowers in the gardens of Generalife in Alhambra, Granada, Southern Spain.
Generalife Gardens in summer.
Palacio de Generalife in Alhambra, Southern Spain.
Palacio de Generalife, the summer palace gardens.

How Long to Visit Alhambra

I recommend allowing at least 3 -4 hours to visit the Alhambra, if you’re planning to explore slowly.

Half-day visit is plenty of time to see all the parts of the complex: the Nasrid Palace and gardens, the Alcazaba, the Palace of Charles V, and the Generalife Gardens with Palacio Generalife.

Practical Tips for Visiting the Alhambra

Getting Tickets for Alhambra

The most important thing to remember is that you need to get your tickets to Alhambra very early, usually a few weeks in advance. You can get them on the official website and choose a dedicated time slot from the calendar.

But what if you’ve already checked and found that the tickets are sold out?

You’ve got three options to explore if you can’t get the tickets anymore. And if you’re wondering – no, you can’t get tickets to the Alhambra from the ticket office on the day, or buy them locally in Granada.

First, the most straightforward route is to book a tour with a local company. This could mean choosing a tour based in Granada, which typically includes a ticket to the monument and a knowledgeable local guide.

The second option you can look into is day trip tours to the Alhambra from Costa del Sol or other cities in Southern Spain.

There are regular day trip options from various cities like Malaga, Marbella, Nerja, Estepona, Fuengirola, Benalmadena, or Torremolinos. These tours usually include transportation to Granada and a guided tour of the Alhambra. Similar options are also available from larger cities such as Seville, Cordoba, or even Madrid, though travel times may be a bit longer.

The last option is to book a ticket for the night tour of the Alhambra. While this tour tends to be less crowded, it does come with its limitations. You’ll only have access to the Nasrid Palace and won’t be able to explore the Generalife Gardens, and you will have limited visibility, too. The tickets are quite affordable, priced at just 10 euros each.

The ticket office at the entrance to Alhambra in Granada.
The ticket office at the entrance to Alhambra in Granada.

Take Your ID with You

The most important piece of advice after booking your tickets – don’t forget to bring your ID with you to the complex!

They won’t let you enter the complex without checking your ID, and no excuses will help.

I had to learn the hard way as on my last visit, I left the passports in the apartment and had to take a roundtrip with a taxi to get them so I could enter the complex. ID is required for everyone entering the complex, even kids.

Guided Tour vs Self Guided Visit

The best way to see the Alhambra is with a guided tour. This way you can learn more about the monument and ask questions from an expert local guide.

Exploring the complex without a guide at your own pace is also perfectly fine. 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. 

Don’t Miss Your Time Slot

As mentioned earlier, there’s a specific time slot for entering the Nasrid Palace, which is indicated on your ticket. Missing this slot means no entry, and remember, they’ll need to see your ID too!

The red mini buses connecting the city with Alhambra.
The red mini buses connect the city with Alhambra.
Paseo de los Tristes, Albaicin - Granada, Spain
View of Alhambra from Paseo de los Tristes.

How to Get to Alhambra

Granada is well connected with other destinations in Southern Spain by buses and trains. The tickets are very affordable, making a day trip to Granada to see the Alhambra an inexpensive and cheap option to explore.

Once you get to Granada, the city center is about 10 minutes taxi ride from the bus station and the train station. Check my recommendations on where to stay below.

So how do you get to the Alhambra?

Remember that your entry to the Nasrid Palace has a dedicated time slot, and you should be there at least 30 minutes before the indicated time, so being punctual is crucial.

Many online guides suggest taking local minibuses from the city center, but without checking schedules, you might arrive late. While these buses are cheap at 1.40 euros per ticket, ensure you know the departure times and allow plenty of time to reach the entrance.

In the peak season, these minibuses get packed, it’s almost impossible to get in.

Based on personal experience, it’s risky to rely on them. Given their limited seating and high demand, I highly suggest choosing a taxi instead. Arrive well in advance of your entry time to ensure a stress-free visit to the Alhambra. I took the trip with taxi many times, it’s a short ride and from Plaza St Ana (next to Alhambra) it costs around 7 – 8 euros.

If you want to drive there by car, keep in mind that the parking lot closest to the entrance will fill up pretty fast, so get there early if you want to find a free spot.

If you want to walk, you can do that too, strolling uphill through the Alhambra forest to reach the main entrance. Allow at least 20 – 30 minutes for this walk.

Where to Stay in Granada

On all of my six trips to Granada, I stayed in the Albaicin district, which I think is the ideal location for exploring the whole city. I love the area of Plaza St Ana in particular, for easy access to restaurants, taxis, shops, and all the sights of Granada within walking distance.

I have previously stayed twice at LimeHome Apartments, a beautifully renovated traditional Andalusian property, and I also love the BiboSuites at Plaza Santa Ana – check the links to see what they look like.

The hotel options in Albaicin are pretty limited, but many gorgeous apartments offer amazing Alhambra views. Bigger hotels with more fancy facilities like pools tend to be closer to the center of the city.

Other Places to Explore in Granada

If you’re visiting Granada, you shouldn’t miss out on exploring the gorgeous neighbourhood of Albaicin. You can book a guided tour or simply explore on foot, covering the highlights like Mirador San Nicolas and Paseo de los Tristes.

Right next to Albaicin, you will find the old cave district – Sacromonte, known as the cradle of Flamenco. Book an authentic flamenco performance in cave, or a walking tour of the area. There is also a dedicated cave museum and a gorgeous abbey at the top of the hill worth visiting.

If you’re visiting with kids, they will love to spend a day at the Science Museum of Granada and run about in Carmen de los Martires gardens, close to the Alhambra. Other important monuments include the Cathedral of Granada with the Royal Chapel, and lesser known places like the Arab Baths (El Banuelo), the Torture Museum and Basilica of San Juan de Dios (the most beautiful church I visited in Spain).

Most importantly, don’t miss out on the local tapas culture – you get a free small tapa with each drink you order at a restaurant! Check out my guide for best restaurants in Granada here.

Final Thoughts

The best time to visit Alhambra, in my experience, is during spring or autumn; making sure you arrive early in the morning and choose a weekday tour if possible. By strategically planning your visit, you’ll unlock the full splendor of this architectural masterpiece and create lasting memories of your journey through history.

I hope this article answered all the questions you had about visiting the Alhambra! If not, please leave a comment below and I will be happy to help!

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Pinterest image showing the Alhambra in Granada, with a headline: best time to visit Alhambra in Granada, Southern Spain travel tips.
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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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