On a hill overlooking Granada, the Alhambra sits proudly with a backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains. First built by the Nasrid Dynasty, the last Muslim rulers of the Iberian Peninsula (or present day Granada), the complex was later partially destroyed and rebuilt by King Charles V.
Due to its history, the Alhambra is a delicate juxtaposition of Moorish and Renaissance architecture. This is why I believe a visit to the Alhambra palace is a must-visit when you are in Granada.
Let me share with you 6 insider tips that will make a visit to the Alhambra in Granada a smooth experience and help to beat the crowds!
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Buy Tickets for the Alhambra in Advance
It’s actually pretty difficult to google “Alhambra tickets” and find the official website. There are tons of similar websites, all with “official” in the name, selling guided tours of the Alhambra for hundreds of dollars. Unless you want the guided tour they are selling, you can purchase general admission tickets for a fraction of the price.
The official Alhambra General ticket (which includes the Nasrid Palace, Alcazaba Fortress, Gardens, and Generalife) is 14 EUR and is available to be booked 3 months in advance here. You must book you ticket in advance as they will sell out months ahead during peak months.
Note: You are required to present a form of personal identification or your passport along with you ticket to enter.
Get the Earliest Entrance Time to the Nasrid Palaces
The Nasrid Palaces inside the Alhambra complex are the jewel of the Alhambra. The Nasrid Palaces were the former residences of the Kings of Granada. Once you visit you will see they are built for royalty.
There are multiple rooms with Moorish-inspired architecture, colorful tiles, opulent hallways and ceilings, expansive courtyards, and lush gardens with orange trees. The Nasrid Palaces offer the most photo-worthy spots within the Alhambra complex.
If I could explain in one word what makes the Nasrid palaces so impressive, I would say: Details.
When you are booking your tickets in advance, you will choose a specific time slot for entrance to the Nasrid Palaces. I urge you to select the earliest time possible as you will want to explore the Nasrid Palaces before they get too crowded.
We got the first entrance time to the Nasrid Palaces at 9:00am and were still battling some light crowds within. However, if you are one of the first groups inside, it is easier to linger behind the crowds to enjoy areas with less people. Once the second and third time slots enter however, this method becomes much more difficult.
It is suggested to arrive to the Alhambra entrance gates at least 1 hour before the time on your ticket for entrance into the Nasrid Palaces. This is to ensure that you make it through the Alhambra complex entrance and have enough time to walk to the Nasrid Palace to not miss your time slot.
Check out the section below on the most convenient entrance to the Alhambra for the shortest walk to the Nasrid Palaces.
Note: You are able to visit the rest of the Alhambra complex at any time of the day on the date of your ticket. Visiting hours in the summer are 8:30am to 8:00pm. Visiting hours in the winter are 8:30am to 6:00pm.
How To Get to the Alhambra Palace
Getting to the Alhambra Palace by Walking
If you are staying near the city center, reaching the Alhambra palace by foot is actually pretty easy. From Plaza Nueva, take Cuesta Gomérez about 15 minutes. If you are starting from Albaicín it is much easier to take Cuesta del Rey Chico about 25 minutes by foot.
Getting to the Alhambra Palace By Bus
Buses C30 and C32 will take you to the Puerta de la Justicia bus stop or the Alhambra – Generalife 2 bus stop which are both near to entrances to the complex. Depending on where you are starting walking could actually be faster than the bus.
For example, if you are starting from Plaza Nueva, the bus will take about 9 minutes and cost 1.40 EUR one way. If you are starting from Albaicín the bus could take us to 30 minutes and require a change, which makes walking more viable.
You can check the latest bus hours and schedules here. Or just use Google Maps like we do to find the fastest route.
Getting to the Alhambra Palace By Car
For starters, the streets in Granada are extremely tight and mostly cobblestones. There are many times that you will be driving on a two-way road, that is only passable by one car at a time.
That being said, it is possible to drive, and park, near the Alhambra complex. You must go toward the Granada bypass on the edge of the city, toward the South (Motril) and follow the directions toward the Alhambra (Ronda Sur) which will lead you to the monument’s car park.
The car park is free and open 24-hours a day.
If you want the fastest option possible, I would suggest a taxi.
The Most Convenient Entrance to the Alhambra Complex
Google Maps will take you right to the main entrance with a ticketing office, where all those waiting without tickets will also form into your line to try to score a ticket.
Only after we entered through the main entrance with ticketing office, and walked about 10 minutes to the Nasrid Palaces, did we realize there was a closer, and much less crowded side-entrance.
So here is the scoop.
As you will want to visit the Nasrid Palace first, and won’t need the entrance with a ticket booth (you will have purchased in advance), you should plan to use the Puerta de la Justicia entrance.
This entrance is way less crowded than the main entrance, possibly because it is not widely known. It is also a much shorter walk to the Nasrid Palaces which gives you a better chance of getting in before the crowds!
Plan an Itinerary for your Visit to Alhambra
The Alhambra complex is rather large so it’s important to come with a plan. You now know you should visit the Nasrid Palace first. You also know which entrance to use to reach the Nasrid Palace in the shortest distance.
But what next?
First, I would suggest visiting the Alcazaba Fortress, as it is located right next to the entrance of the Nasrid Palaces.
The next stop included in your ticket price is about a 20 minute walk away. So in order to avoid unnecessary walking in the heat, I would suggest the Alcazaba as your second stop.
The Alcazaba is the oldest part of the Alhambra complex. It dates back to the 1200’s as the original defense of the present day city of Granada. Today, the fortress provides stunning views over the city of Granada, as well as a glimpse into the past.
Generalife Palace & Gardens
The Generalife is about a 20 minute walk from the Nasrid Palaces and fortress. Therefore, I would make it your last stop before leaving. The Generalife was built as the summer palace and estate for the former Nasrid rulers.
It is not pronounced “General Life” like in English because it is a Muslim word without an English translation (think “heneral-lyfeh”). Pronouncing it correctly will make you stand out in a good way from the rest of the tourists!
Don’t skip out on the Generalife gardens if you love flowers as much as I do. This is one of the oldest remaining Moorish gardens in Europe. We almost passed it up but I’m so glad we didn’t.
Where to Stay Near the Alhambra
If you are looking for a great place to stay near to the Alhambra, try to get a room at the Parador de Granada. This is a 15th-century convent converted into a hotel, that is actually on the grounds of the Alhambra complex.
Not far away, an alternative place to stay would be either the Plaza Nueva in the historic city center of Granada or in the charming Albaicín neighborhood.
From our personal experience, we really enjoyed staying in the Albaicín neighborhood of Granada, and can read all about why here. We were able to walk to the Alhambra complex in about 25 minutes from our AirBnb.
Visiting the Alhambra complex can seem overwhelming due to its size. However, armed with these six tips, you will surely have an advantage over others when planning a seamless day at the Alhambra. Let me know in the comments below if you are planning a trip to the Alhambra soon! I’d love to hear from you!