The Alhambra Palace is a breathtaking monument nestled in the hills of Granada, Spain. This iconic fortress-palace complex was constructed during the 13th and 14th centuries, and it is considered to be one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in the world. The Palace is surrounded by lush gardens and offers stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was once a thriving royal court, serving as the home of the Nasrid dynasty and their courtiers. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors each year. Now, I’m about to share my visiting the Alhambra tips – but first of all, is the Alhambra worth visiting?
Is Alhambra worth visiting?
Yes! the Alhambra is absolutely worth visiting – it’s one of the best things I’ve seen in Spain and up there with my favourite palaces in the world. Visitors to the Alhambra Palace can explore the magnificent palace rooms, intricate courtyards, and tranquil gardens that make up this incredible complex. From the stunningly ornate architecture to the serene water features, every aspect of the Alhambra Palace is a testament to the rich history and culture of Andalusia. Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking for an unforgettable travel experience, the Alhambra Palace is a must-see destination that is sure to take your breath away.
I would recommend that you combine it with a visit to Cordoba (particularly for the Mezquita) and Seville (particularly for the Royal Alcazar and the largest gothic Cathedral in the world). These three destinations are doable as a 10 day trip with 3 days in each and a rest or travel day. You could even do them in a week if you do hardcore cramming (I prefer to take it easy though).
What is the Best time of year to visit Alhambra?
The Best time of year to visit Alhambra is the shoulder season – either March/April/May or September/October. We went in April just after Holy Week and thought it was the perfect time to visit. The flowers were in full bloom and it was not too hot. Remember that Holy Week can get crazy busy in Spain and the streets are full of processions. Unless you are big into religious parades you will probably want to avoid this time. You will definitely want to avoid July and August when temperatures are extremely uncomfortable and hit 30-40 degree Celsius. Don’t go in August unless you want to be passing out! This is one of my top tips for visiting the Alhambra palace (see the full list below).
Visiting the Alhambra Tips – Making the most out of your visit to the Alhambra Palace
It’s great having lots of friends who are travel blogs – you get inside advice to most destinations before you even get there! Now, before I launch into my top tips, I want to say a massive thank you and shout out to Rachel from Blondwayfarer.com who booked our Alhambra Palace tickets and motivated me to make this trip happen!
Here are my top tips on Visiting the Alhambra Palace, which came from my day there in 2023…
- Take your passport!
- Book in advance otherwise it may sell out
- Try to be the first visit of the day
- Plan a whole day for the Alhambra you will be there at least 3-4 hours.
- Take bus number C30 or C32 to the Alhambra – C32 is better
- Wear good walking boots or sturdy and comfortable trainers
- Eat a big breakfast!
- Take bottled water
- Arrive at least an hour earlier than your ticket says
- Get in the queue for the Madrid palace asap with passport ready
- Wear your backpack on the FRONT and not your back!
- Don’t miss the Generalife
- Your FIRST view of the Alhambra should be from Mirador de San Nicolás
I’m going to go into detail on each of these visiting the Alhambra Tips and why they are important….
#1 Take your passport!
They will scan your ticket and your passport on the gate to the Alhambra and also ask for your passport ID and ticket again at the entrance to the Madrid Palace. This ensures that they know who is in the monument for security and also prevents onward selling of tickets. This is one of the most important tips for visiting the Alhambra – if you forget it – you will not be allowed to enter, and it’s Game Over!
#2 Book in advance otherwise it may sell out
We booked our tickets at least two weeks in advance (thanks to Rachel!) and by the time we got there we were told it was sold out for a month! You don’t want to get all the way to the Alhambra expecting to be able to buy tickets on the day and then be disappointed. So book in advance online here.
#3 Avoid July and August
We visited the Alhambra palace in April and the weather was perfect – not too hot and not too cold. Even so we found ourselves needing sun cream/hats and guzzling quite a lot of water to keep hydrated. I have heard of people going in August (as it’s the school holidays) but it can reach highs of 30-40 degrees C! I have also heard of people feinting with the heat at this time of year or getting heat exhaustion (even worse sun stroke). Avoid going in July or August. Instead book your trip for the shoulder season either April/May or September/October.
#3 Try to be the first visit of the day
We didn’t do this, but I would if I was going again or I had a do-over! Try to be the first guests of the day. Remember that the Alhambra palace can be both busy and hot. The time of day that you book to go is also important – you either want to be one of the earliest slots (9am) or later in the afternoon around 4.30pm when it has cooled. I’d recommend going first thing if possible and if that time slot is available.
#4 Plan a whole day for the Alhambra
You need to you take a while day for the Alhambra palace as you will be there at least 3-4 hours and also factor in time getting there and back (and up all the stairs!!!) Some people will say that you can do the Alhambra in the morning and another activity in the afternoon – I wouldn’t recommend it. The Alhambra palace is MASSIVE and you want to thoroughly enjoy it without rushing like we did. We saw most of the palace but still not all, and we were there for 4-5 hours in total. Do yourself a favour and don’t plan anything else other than an evening tapas crawl on your day of the Alhambra.
#5 Take bus number C30 or C32 to the Alhambra – C32 is better
It’s easy to get to the Alhambra from the centre of Granada. It is actually walkable, BUT I wouldn’t attempt walking up the whole way because firstly it’s all uphill and secondly, you are going to be on your feet for a long time walking round all day (4-5 hours at least) and so get the bus which is only €1.40. e jumped on the C30 but realised we still had loads of steps to go – that just took us to the base of the Alhambra. C32 is better as it goes around to the other side and all the way up. It’s not far from the centre of Granada and so look out for the stop which will be quite quick.
If (like us!) you miss the stop – don’t worry, the route is circular and you can just stay on! (Yes, we sat gossiping and then realised we had gone right into Albaicin!)
Travel tip – if you get the bus back down your ticket is still valid within a certain amount of time (I think it’s 3 or 4 hours)but it’s worth checking with the driver if you can use the same ticket to go back down.
#6 Wear good walking boots or sturdy and comfortable trainers
There is a lot of steps and a lot of uneven ground at the Alhambra palace – a pair of decent walking boots or trainers is essential. We saw a few women struggling in scrappy sandals – although they let your feet breathe, they are not suitable for the long standing hours and much walking needed to visit the Alhambra palace.
#7 Eat a big breakfast!
Once you get inside the Alhambra palace there are limited and expensive food options. You are also not allowed to eat in many parts of the palace and so I recommend that you fill up with a large breakfast on the day of the Alhambra! You can take a small picnic but check where you can eat as it’s not allowed in many areas.
#8 Take bottled water
I’ve already mentioned that the heat can get intense in this part of Spain. No matter when you are visiting, take bottled water to avoid dehydration. There is also a cafe shop at the entrance where you can buy water (but prepare for it to be overpriced here).
#9 Arrive at least an hour earlier than your ticket says
What many people don’t realise is that the entrance time on your ticket is for the NASRID PALACE only. And it will take a while to get there and get in the queue. Arrive at least an hour or two earlier than the time on your ticket. You will be able to explore other parts including the Alcazar (castle), gardens and the Moorish bath house. Then get in the Nasrid palace queue around 10-15 minutes before your time slot with your passport at the ready.
#10 Wear your backpack on the FRONT and not your back!
You will be asked not to take luggage and large backpacks. A small backpack is ok and probably a good idea for carrying water, but wear it on your FRONT not your back. If you go into the Nasrid palace with your backpack on your back they will tell you off and tell you to wear it on your front. I think that this is so that you can see what it touches and minimise damage to the monument.
#11 Don’t miss the Generalife
Many people focus their time on the Alcazar and Nasrid Palace and miss out the Generalife. It’s important not to miss this as the architecture and flowers are just as stunning as Nasrid palace – in my opinion the gardens in front were better. But it’s the views from the Generalife with the Moorish architecture and the Granada backdrop that make this sometimes overlooked part of the palace so spectacular.
#12 Your FIRST view of the Alhambra should be from Mirador de San Nicolás in Granada
Finally, one of my top tips for visiting the Alhambra palace – a piece of advice for the night before you go. Head up to Mirador de San Nicolás in Granada which is the best viewing point for the Alhambra from Granada. I literally WOWED out loud and almost cried when I saw the Alhambra from here. This should be your first site of the palace, so that you see the full palace in all it’s glory before going right up to it. And if you can, go at sunset, which will blow your mind.
I hope that you found these Visiting the Alhambra Tips really useful. Please drop me a comment below on how you got on visiting the palace. It’s a long but absolutely amazing day and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.
Onward Travel from the Alhambra Palace
Before you leave Granada, make sure that you check out some of the amazing Churches and also enjoy the fabulous tapas scene (read this article on things to do in Granada). Then, you might want to visit Cordoba and also Seville for the Royal Alcazar and Cathedral.