When we decided that we were going to visit the South of Spain this year, Mo insisted that one thing we could NOT miss out under any circumstances, was the Nasrid Palaces of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
He had been on a day trip whilst he was on retreat 2 summers ago and all he could tell me was how stunning and awe inspiring this place was. One thing neither of us (naively) anticipated however, was how popular a tourist destination would be.
During our drive down from Madrid to La Herradura, we got a message from the lady whose house we would be staying at, to say she was running later than scheduled. As we were only 30 mins away from Granada, we thought, why not pop into the Alhambra and kill some time. It would mean we wouldn’t have to come back up this way later in the week and we could spend that time elsewhere.
Off we went, only to discover it was sold out! No more tickets left for the day and as we weren’t sure what our day to day itinerary was we weren’t in a position to pre-buy tickets for another time just yet. After following advice from locals, the second time we went, we made sure to arrive at lease an hour before the ticket office opened. We arrived to find there was already a queue, and within minutes of the desks and machines opening, it was sold out again! Unbelievable.
We never made it into the Palace itself unfortunately, but we made it into the fort, the Alcazaba, and into the gardens, known as the Generalife. So here are my top tips to anyone visiting the Alhambra:
1) Book in advance
WAAAAY in advance. When Mo went in late June / early July 2015, he didn’t even have to queue. But as we have discovered, September is a very busy holiday period and Spain seems to be swarming with tourists trying to get the last rays of sunshine. So book your dates AS EARLY AS YOU CAN to avoid disappointment. The officials on site recommend booking a month before to ensure you get a space. If you want to get a better idea of the Alhambra opening times etc (depending on the time of year you are going), then more information can be found here: Alhambra opening times.
If you aren’t fussed about seeing the palaces (although if you can, you really should!), but would rather just visit the Alcazaba and Generalife, then you can buy separate tickets for this.
I’m not the biggest fan of pre-booking tickets all the time as I love to have flexibility when we’re on holiday and not feel pressured into timings. However sometimes because of pricing or availability, it is definitely worth doing.
If you are going to risk buying tickets on the door like we did, then during peak season, you will want to be there first people there. We arrived at around 7:30am one morning only for them to release 60 tickets which were sold out in less than 10 minutes. We would suggest you arrive at least a few hours beforehand – yes, it is THAT popular.
Luckily there is a teeny coffee shop hidden by the side of the entrance gates for you to pick up a quick breakfast to enjoy whilst you queue. (It’s what we did and the doughnut was YUM).
2) Dress appropriately
Wear a good pair of walking shoes / sandals. The Alhambra and it’s gardens are set out over a fairly sizeable area – there is a lot to see and you don’t want to be uncomfortable.
3) Take a camera
If you’re on holiday, the likelihood is you will already have one with you. Mo says the beauty of this palace is unlike anything he has ever seen before, and from what I have seen of the gardens alone, you will want to capture every moment.
Some of the viewing points from parts of the Alhambra are breathtakingly beautiful, so do not miss out on some potentially great pics.
4) Parking can be a bit of a nightmare!
If you are driving, then the official car park gets full very quickly and gets quite pricey. You may want to park elsewhere in Granada and make your way to the Alhambra by cab.
5) Ticket prices vary
Depending on who is going and when you want to go and unless you are going as an organised group, then you can only book a maximum of 10 tickets at any one time.
Prices range from €7 to €14 depending on what you want to see and when you are going.
You can buy night tickets more easily than day time slots. But a couple of words of caution – they don’t open the whole palace by night and you may have to go as late at 10:30pm. We would suggest book in advance, online, to avoid any disappointment.
I’m sure a number of these travel tips stick out as quite obvious, but sometimes stating the obvious is necessary! Although as I mentioned above I missed out on seeing the actual palaces, just being within the grounds was a wonderful, peaceful experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. My disappointment faded very quickly when I was still able to explore the Alcazaba and Generalife gardens.
And it also gives us a reason to return to the South of Spain again in the future!
Have you visited the Alhambra? Have you any extra tips?