When we think of Granada, the first monument that comes to mind and with which we associate this charming city in southern Spain is the Alhambra. The visit does not disappoint, which is why it is the most popular tourist attraction in the country.
To make the most of this experience, here are a few tips that are always good to know.
1. Buy tickets online and in advance to skip the queue
Many travellers dream of going to Granada to see its legendary Alhambra, the city's emblem and main tourist attraction, whose beauty has inspired people from all over the world for generations.
It is, therefore, a very popular monument in Spain and abroad, so to ensure access to the Nasrid fortress on the date and time you want, I advise you to book your tickets to the Alhambra as far in advance as possible, as soon as you book your flight or hotel.
This is the first piece of advice I would give you when it comes to seeing the Alhambra. If you buy your Alhambra tickets this way, as well as being able to compare prices and types of tickets (with or without a guided tour, in small or standard groups, day or night visits, etc.) you will avoid endless queues at the ticket offices and the risk of running out of tickets, as demand is extremely high and capacity is limited every day.
In my opinion, the best option is to buy online a skip-the-line ticket to the Alhambra with which you will enjoy direct access to the monument and you will have the attention of a professional guide who will accompany you throughout the visit to show you all the secrets of this ancient palatine city.
2. A guided tour, always better than a visit on your own
Although you can visit the Alhambra on your own, if this is the first time you visit this monument and you are not familiar with its history and the different spaces that make it up, my advice is to book a guided tour of the Alhambra to discover all its amazing corners and curiosities with an expert guide.
If you explore the Alhambra on your own, you will undoubtedly see a beautiful monument, but the experience may not be enough as you will miss out on the context and overview of the Alhambra that a guide provides.
Not only about its historical and artistic dimension but also about the anecdotes and legends that the guides know and that make a cultural visit very entertaining and enjoyable. That is why, in my opinion, guided tours of the Alhambra are the best way to visit the ancient Nasrid palatine city, the last living trace of this dynasty in Spain.
3. Get to know the most mysterious side of the Alhambra with a night tour
If you have visited the Alhambra before and on this trip to Granada you would like to enjoy it in an original and different way, how about booking a night visit to the Alhambra?
If the beauty of this ancient palatine city is impressive in the daylight, at night it has a special charm: contemplating it in the moonlight and in the stillness of the night is a magical and intimate experience that you must live!
In addition, thanks to the delicate lighting of the monumental complex, you will be able to better appreciate certain decorative elements of its architecture and get to know the more enigmatic side of the Alhambra.
Night visits are also a good option for those travellers who prefer to avoid the crowds that can be found in the fortress at certain times in the morning. If you are one of these people, don't hesitate to join one of them because you will have a great time and you will see the Alhambra from a unique perspective.
If you want to know more about this kind of activities, I recommend you to read my article Night Visits to the Alhambra where I tell you all about these fascinating tours.
4. Eating well near the Alhambra is possible
If there is one thing Granada is known for, it is its rich gastronomy. There is no doubt that one of the best memories you can take away from your trip is tasting the delicious local food whose flavours are the result of the mixture of different cultures that have inhabited this land.
So that at the end of your visit to the Alhambra you don't have to live an odyssey trying to find a free table on an empty stomach in such a touristy area as the surrounding area, my advice is to be proactive and look for a good place in advance.
Normally, when planning a trip, more attention is paid to finding transport or accommodation than to finding restaurants to eat at during your stay, and by forgetting this small detail you run the risk of ending up in a tourist trap when hunger strikes. Especially if you are travelling with your family and young children.
So in order for you to live an excellent gastronomic experience in Granada, in the post Where to eat near the Alhambra I leave you a small list with some of the best places to eat close to the monument and with spectacular views.
5. If you go with children, plan your visit beforehand
Travelling to Granada as a family is a fantastic plan but like all visits with children it has its trick and requires a bit of organisation so that everything goes perfectly. Even more so when it is an extensive visit of several hours as is the Alhambra.
That's why I recommend you to plan your visit to the monument a little if you have children with you. Take note of these little tips that will help you to have a great family experience:
Get your tickets online in advance to avoid the kids getting tired of queuing at the ticket office.
Before the visit, tell them what you are going to see so that they know something about the Alhambra and can let their imagination run wild when they are inside.
If you visit the Alhambra with children in summer, go early in the morning when it is still cool and they are full of energy.
The visit to the Alhambra is long. Bring snacks and water in your bag in case the children get hungry or thirsty at any time. There are no restaurants inside the enclosure.
In the post Visit the Alhambra in Granada with children you will find more tips that will be useful to make the most of this plan as a family. Don't miss them!
6. Protect yourself from the heat: bring water, a hat and sun cream
Many travellers take advantage of the summer holidays to visit the Alhambra and at this time of the year it is extremely hot in Granada, where temperatures can reach 40ºC.
That's why it is very important to protect yourself from the heat and the sun to avoid sweltering and to be well prepared. Remember to carry cool water in your backpack, wear sunglasses, cover your head with a hat, apply sunscreen and use a fan.
Oh, and don't forget to wear comfortable shoes because the visit to the Nasrid fortress is long and you will be walking a lot from one place to another. At the end of the day, your feet will thank you for it.
7. How much time to spend in the Alhambra
Whether you take a guided tour of the Alhambra or you go on your own to see the whole monumental complex, enjoying the walk at your leisure and taking in the views, you will need at least 3 to 4 hours.
However, if you just want to see the Alhambra from the top in order to add it to your list of travelling landmarks, you may need less time to get an idea of what the monument is like.
In any case, the Alhambra tour should be organised according to the time of access to the Nasrid Palaces, as each visitor is only allowed to enter this part of the fortress at the time indicated on their ticket. So I advise you to see the royal residence of the sultans first and then explore the Alcazaba and the Generalife.
Isabel's Traveler Tip
To make the most of your visit to the Nasrid Palaces try to be there 15 minutes before the time marked on the entrance. Punctuality is important or you will not be allowed to enter later.
8. The best sunset at the San Nicolás viewpoint
Did you know that the sunset at the Alhambra in Granada is considered to be the most beautiful in Spain? The best place to see it is from the San Nicolás viewpoint in the Albaicín neighbourhood.
Here you will have the best panoramic view of the Alhambra with the spectacular Sierra Nevada in the background. You'll also enjoy unbeatable views of the Generalife, the Nasrid Palaces and the Alcazaba.
Watching the sun slowly set behind the Alhambra, while the light colours its towers, walls and palaces reddish is a magical feeling that you can't miss, and when you finish you can take the opportunity to visit the Albaicín, one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in the city.
How to get to the Alhambra
To get to the San Nicolás viewpoint you can walk up the Paseo de los Tristes or take the C1 or C2 bus. Another option is to cross the Plaza Larga and take the Alhacaba slope.
9. What is the best time to visit the Alhambra in Granada and what is the best time of year?
The best time
The best time to visit the Alhambra is usually early in the morning when it opens its doors.
There are usually not many tourists or large groups, so you will be able to visit all the corners of the monumental complex in peace and quiet and it will be more pleasant to walk around without crowds.
Besides, after seeing the Alhambra, you'll have the rest of the day to make other plans around the city. In the article The best excursions and guided tours in Granada I give you some ideas to discover other interesting places during your trip.
The best time
To enjoy good weather and admire the beauty of the Partal and the Generalife gardens in all their splendour, the best time of the year to see the Alhambra is spring (April, May, June) and autumn (September and October).
10. Remember to bring your ID to visit the Alhambra
On the day of your visit to the Alhambra remember to bring your ID card or passport with you. For reasons of security and conservation of the monument, the staff carry out identification checks on visitors and it is necessary to show this document together with the tickets, which are personal and non-transferable.
When booking tickets to the Alhambra, you will be asked to provide certain information such as your name, surname, nationality, date of birth, passport number or ID number and passport expiry date.
Be careful! This step is vital because if you do not provide these details correctly, you will not be able to participate in the tour and you will not be entitled to a refund.