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Alhambra Tips and Advice

Basically, there are four areas of the Alhambra complex, which sits at the top of a hill overlooking Granada. The place most people think of when they envision the Alhambra, with courtyards and finely worked walls and ceilings, is the Nasrid Palace, former home of the sultan and his family. Not far from the Palace is the Alcázar, the fortress-like walls and towers that once made up the primary defenses of the Alhambra. Between the two is the Palace of Charles V, which was built later, during the reign of Charles V and not completed until relatively recently. Finally, you have the gardens and buildings of the Generalife, which were once a summer palace for the Sultan and were private residences for a long time before they became part of the Alhambra historical site.

All four parts of the Alhambra are quite close to one another, and walking time from one to another is short. If you have a ticket that allows you complete access, you can see all four parts in about four hours, less if you hurry.  Be sure to get there early, especially in the summer, as it can get very hot at the Alhambra.

Of the four areas, the one that has controlled access is the Nasrid Palace. Because it is the smallest part of the Alhambra, and also the one most people want to see, the decision was made to allow only 7,700 people per day. I repeat: only 7,700 per day. Sounds like a lot, right? Even so, those 7,700 tickets go very fast. This is the way it works: half of the 7,700 tickets are for sale over the internet in advance (, where they sell out weeks ahead of time, snapped up by savvy travelers and tour agencies. The other half of the tickets are available on the day of your visit at the regular Alhambra ticket office. During the high tourist season, these tickets will sell out almost immediately and you may need to go the ticket office extremely early in the morning to get in line for them. Ask around in Granada for information about just how early to get there on any given day.

Whether you buy your tickets from the office or on-line, your ticket to the Nasrid Palaces will have a time stamped on it: you have a half-hour window in which to enter the palace (there is no set time when you have to leave, but assume you’ll be in there for about an hour).

The other three parts of the Alhambra are unrestricted, and you are free to wander around them at your leisure once you’ve seen the palace. The Charles V palace has an interesting museum, and the summer palace at the Generalife is very pleasant, and the structure will provide a taste of what the Nasrid Palace is like if you can’t get in there.

If you can’t get tickets to the Nasrid Palace online and can’t or won’t get up at three in the morning to wait at the ticket counter, there are a couple of other ways to get in. First of all, you might consider a night visit. The Nasrid Palace opens at night for those who want to go, and those tickets generally sell out more slowly than the daytime ones. There are many advantages to this: the palace is open from 10 to 11:30, perfect for after-tapas entertainment. There are less people, and the whole area is cool and silent, a marked contrast to the daytime. After you’ve completed your tour, you can walk down the hill to find a taxi.

If the night tours are sold out, you can book a guided tour. Tour agencies snap up the internet tickets, and for about 45 Euros, you can be part of a tour group. The cost includes pick up and drop-off at your hotel, guide, and entrance to all parts of the Alhambra. This is really a good option, as there is a great deal of information about the Alhambra that you won’t necessarily get without a guide.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
14 Jun 2007

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