Visit the Alhambra of Granada: tickets, rates, opening hours

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Before you head out on your trip to Granada and visit Andalusia, make sure you book a ticket to visit the Alhambra, one of the world’s most visited monuments in the world!

Located in southern Andalusia in Spain, on the south-eastern outskirts of Granada, the Alhambra is one of the few well-preserved remains of medieval Moorish architecture. Initially built in the 13th century – around 1228 -, this palatial complex is of Spain’s most high-profile attractions, attracting more than 3 million visitors per year.

Our editorial team has prepared this mini guide to help you learn everything you need to know about the Alhambra and how to book your ticket. Visit the Alhambra of Granada, and travel back in time, back to the heyday of Moorish culture in Andalusia.

Also read : The 8 best things to do in Granada

History of the Alhambra

Visit the Alhambra in Granada

The origins of the Alhambra, whose name derives from the Arabic al-qala’a al-hamra which means “the Red Castle,” is doused in mystery. The name could be a reference to the red clay of the palace’s walls. Another possible origin of the name is the tribal designation of the Nasrid Dynasty, known as the Banu al-Ahmar (“Sons of the Red in Arabic”), a sub-tribe of the Arab Qahtanite Banu Khazraj tribe.

The Alhambra, constructed initially as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, became a royal residence for Granada’s Nasrid rulers, who transformed it into a fortified palace complex, under the impetus of Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Nazar, in the middle of the 13th century. After the first palace of the fortress was completed, the complex gradually took on the appearance of a citadel.

The construction continued with the descendant of the founding king, Mohammed II (1273-1302), but also with the kings Yusuf I and Mohammed V al-Ghanî, who built between 1333 and 1354 the most prestigious parts of the Alhambra, some of which have survived to this day.

Following the 1492 Reconquista (Christian reconquest), its mosque was replaced by a church. In an effort to erase the traces of Islam under the Catholic monarchy, the Alhambra became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Though new edifices were built, many others fell into disuse.

What to do and see when you visit the Alhambra?

Visit the Alhambra in Granada

Set against a backdrop of brooding Sierra Nevada peaks, this masterpiece of Islamic art is a 140,000 m² complex of ancient palaces built on a dreamy hilltop setting, overlooking the city of Granada. The Alhambra is a medieval city on its own: with its palaces, museums, baths, mosque, and especially its extravagant and luxurious gardens. During your visit, you will actually discover three edifices in one: the Nasrid Palaces, in Moorish style, the Generalife (grouping the gardens) and the Alcazaba (the ramparts).

It is not necessarily easy to visit the Alhambra, a world-renowned treasure of Islamic history and culture, and one of Spain’s most sought-after landmark. Due to a large number of visitors from all over the world, entries are limited to “only” 3,300 visitors in the morning and 3,300 visitors in the afternoon. As you might expect, it is absolutely essential to book your ticket ahead!

The Alcazaba

The Alcazaba, the site’s original 13th-century citadel, is the oldest part of the Alhambra, built on the southern slope of the hill. The fortress of the Alcazaba belonged to the military garrison of the Alhambra, under the dynasty of the Nasrid emirs in the 14th century.

Recognizable by its towers – at the top of which all the plain of Granada, the vega granadina is observable – and its lush gardens, you can’t miss the Alcazaba. It is, in fact, the dungeon of the castle, home to the former hammams of the Moorish city.

The Palacios Nazaríes (Nasrid Palaces)

The Nasrid Palaces are the most famous complex of palaces, sitting on the top of the list of must-see edifices. It includes three palaces: the Mexuar, the Comares – the Sultan’s former official residence! -, and the Lions Palace. The complex is surrounded by two of the Alhambra’s mythical courtyards: the Myrtle Courtyard and the Lions Courtyard.

In addition to these places with impressive architecture, visit Charles V’s Palace – where he slept during his stays in Spain -, the Jardines del Partal – an area of terraced gardens laid out at the beginning of the 20th century. Discover the beautiful reflecting pool in front of the Palacio del Partal, a small porticoed edifice dating back to the early 14th century.

The Nasrid Palaces are generously adorned with the three main components of Islamic art and design: calligraphy, arabesques, and gorgeous geometric motifs.

The Palacio de Generalife

This part was the palace of the sultans and Nasrid emirs. It was here, in this inner courtyard dotted with fountains, that they came to refresh themselves.

For the Nasrid emirs who came from the desert, this exceptional site, set against snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, was like heaven on earth. With freshwater flowing abundantly from Río Genil, it became a symbol of abundance, the very definition of paradise.

How to get to the Alhambra?


There are several ways to visit the Alhambra from Granada:

  • By bus: Take lines C3 (Alhambra – Plaza Isabel La Católica) and C4 (Barranco del Abogado – Cementerio – Plaza Isabel la Católica). More information on the bus schedules is available here.
  • By car: If you have opted to rent a car in Granada or if you have your own vehicle, please note that access by car to the Alhambra from the city center is prohibited. You must take the “Ronda Sur” ring road that bypasses the city and heads towards the Sierra Nevada.

It is also possible to visit the Alhambra from Malaga:

  • By train: Several trains, with one change, depart every day from Malaga towards Granada. It will take you at least 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to your destination. Once there, you can, as mentioned above, take the bus or travel by car to visit the Alhambra.
  • By bus: About ten buses run every day from Malaga to Granada. The first departure is at 07:00 am, and the last departure at 09:30 pm. The Malaga-Granada buses depart from the Malaga Bus Station. For more information, click here.
  • By car: If you have chosen to rent a car in Malaga or if you’re traveling with your own vehicle, it will take you about 1h30 to get to the Alhambra.

Entry rates and opening hours of the Alhambra

Visit the Alhambra in Granada

OPENING HOURS

Day Tours: daytime visits include the Alcazaba, Charles V Palace, Nasrid Palaces, Generalife and Mosque Bath:

  • From March 15th to October 14th: every day from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm
  • From October 15th to March 14th: every day from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm

Evening visits

  • March 15th to October 14th: Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 pm to 11:30 pm
  • From October 15th to March 14th: Friday and Saturday from 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm

Evening visits to the Gardens and the Palacio del Generalife

  • March 15th to October 14th: Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 pm to 11:30 pm
  • From October 15th to November 14th: Friday and Saturday from 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm

Visits of the Gardens: With this ticket, visit all the areas of the monument except the Nasrid Palaces.

  • From March 15th to October 14th: every day from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm
  • From October 15th to March 14th: every day from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm

It should be noted that the Alhambra is closed on December 25th and January 1st.

RATES

Daytime visit

  • Full price: 14 €
  • Children under 12 years old: Free
  • People over 65 years old: 9 €
  • People with reduced mobility: 8 €

Evening visit of the Nasrid Palaces

  • Adults: €8
  • Children under 12 years old: Free.

Evening visit of the Palacio del Generalife

  • Adults: €5
  • Children under 12 years old: Free.

Full ticket: visit of the Gardens – Alcazaba – the Palacio del Generalife

  • Adults: €7
  • Children under 12 years old: Free.

Book your ticket to visit the Alhambra

One of the most striking examples of Islamic art and architecture during the era of Moorish rule in Andalusia, the Alhambra is one of Spain’s most visited tourist sites.

Due to the high affluence, you will have to book your ticket to visit the Alhambra at least one month in advance! Available tickets are sometimes limited even two months in advance! Also, please note that tickets are neither cancelable nor refundable, so make sure you choose your ticket package carefully.

We advise you to book online the guided tour in English which includes the Alhambra, the Palacio del Generalife, and the Nasrid Palaces. For €45, you will have access to all the landmarks including the Alcazaba fortress, the Palacios Nazaríes, and the Palace of Charles V, while your guide will explain everything you need to know about the Alhambra and the Gardens of the Palacio del Generalife.

Once you have booked your online ticket, you can pick it up either at the Alhambra ticket office or at an ATM owned by La Caixa bank.

GOOD TO KNOW
Due to the high number of booking requests and the limited number of visitors per day, we recommended purchasing your tickets in advance to visit the Alhambra and advise you to arrive on site at least one hour in advance.

IMPORTANT: access to areas open to the public – in particular, the Palacios Nazaríes – can only be granted at the times indicated on your ticket. Should you wish to enter the complex outside this specified time slot, you will be denied access to the Alhambra.

Since the Nasrid Palaces close one hour before closing time, we recommend visiting them first, before the Generalife and the Alcazaba.

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