An all-inclusive guided tour of the Alhambra with skip the line access
An official UNESCO heritage site, the Alhambra is one of Spain’s top visited sites, drawing over 6000 people every day. It’s a fortress and palace perched on the top of a hill, overlooking the old town of Granada and set against a backdrop of the Sierra Nevada peaks.
This marvelous piece of Islamic architecture was originally built in the 9th century as a walled city but the current structure dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries when it served as a residence for the Moorish monarchs of the Nasrid dynasties. The name Alhambra derives from the Arabic al-qala’a al-hamra (the Red Castle) due to the reddish color of its outer walls.
The Nasrid Palaces is the Alhambra’s central attraction and showcases the finest Islamic architecture in Europe, owing to the perfectly proportioned rooms and courtyards, intricately moulded stucco walls, beautiful tiling, finely carved wooden ceilings, elegant patios and beautiful facades with complex Islamic geometric designs.
It was the official residence of the first Moorish king, Mohammad I, and has continued to serve as the seat of the Nasrid emirs. The Nasrid Palaces are divided into three key areas - the entrance through Mexuar, the administrative and public part of the complex, the Palacio de Comares, the emir's official and private residence, and the Palacio de Los Leones, a private area for the royal family.
The Generalife, the emirs’ gorgeous summer estate, dates to the 14th century and derives its name from the Arabic jinan al-‘arif, meaning ‘the overseer’s gardens’. Situated farthest away from the rest of the Alhambra buildings, the enchanting Generalife palace and gardens used to the emirs’ summer home. The perfectly manicured rectangular gardens, with colorful flowers, towering trees, an amphitheater and small fountains evoke a resplendent imagery.
As you leisurely stroll through these gardens, you will arrive at a string of elegantly designed rectangular plots, the Jardines Nuevos or the Lower Gardens, which lead up to the whitewashed Palacio del Generalife, the emirs’ summer palace. From here you can see the Alcazaba Fortress on the other side of the hill.
This military rampart is the oldest segment of the Alhambra, dating back to the 9th century. Built and originally used as a residential quarter by King Mohammad I until the completion of the Nasrid Palaces, the Alcazaba fortress was mainly used for military purposes. Although the fortress is mostly in ruins, the Torre de la Vela or the Watchtower is a must visit. Once you climb up the winding staircase leading up to the tower, be prepared to be mesmerized by the breathtaking views, including the Sierra Nevada in the backdrop. The tower is also historically significant as the one where the cross and banners of the Reconquista were raised in January of 1492.
The opening hours of the Alhambra in Granada are as follows:
Mid-October to end March: daily from 8:30am to 6pm
April to mid-October: daily from 8:30am to 8pm
Please note that the Alhambra remains closed on December 25 and January 1.
The best time of the year to visit Alhambra is during the Spring months of April-June, when the weather is comfortably warm and the Generalife gardens are in full bloom. The Fall months of September-November experience pleasant temperatures and it is a great time to visit if you wish to avoid the crowds. Try to avoid the Summer months of June-August as the temperature sometimes soars to 40°C.
As expected, weekends attract more people than weekdays. As the Alhambra complex is an expansive site and requires quite a bit of walking, it will take you 3-4 hours to go around the place. We suggest you visit either early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the day-trip bus parties and tour groups. Early morning is also a good idea during summers to beat the heat. You can start with the Nasrid Palaces and book the earliest spot of the day (8:30 am) before the hordes arrive and it becomes impossible to take photos.
There are two entrances to reach the Alhambra – the pavilion main entrance to the far east of the Alhambra and near the Generalife and the Gate of Justice entrance, which is closer to the old town but only for visitors with QR barcoded tickets.
Bus – For €1.40, the C32 or C30 city bus will pick you up at the Plaza Isabel and drop you off near the ticket office at the entrance to the Alhambra. Buses leave every 10 minutes.
Car – Getting to the Alhambra by car will take about 10 minutes. Several parking lots are available near the Pavilion entrance. Tickets cost €6.35 for 3 hours and €8.15 for 4 hours. However, driving is restricted in many parts of the old town, so it’s better to use the main roads circling around the center and approach the Alhambra from the south.
However, driving is restricted in many parts of the old town, so it’s better to use the main roads circling around the center and approach the Alhambra from the south.
Taxi – Taxis from the city center will cost about €6-8, depending on where your accommodation is located. Taxis are the most affordable and convenient option to get to the Alhambra.