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La Alhambra guided tours in Granada

Visit the legendary Nasrid palatine city, the last living trace of this dynasty in Spain, whose beauty has inspired travelers from all over the world for centuries.

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

16 min read

La Alhambra guided tours in Granada

Inside the majestic Alhambra | ©Cayetano Gros

When we think of Granada, the first thing that many travelers come to mind is its legendary Alhambra. One of the most beautiful monuments in Spain and a cultural icon for Hispano-Muslim art in the West. Declared a World Heritage Site, Granada received more than five million tourists in 2019, breaking its last record. Many of them traveled to the city attracted by the mythical Alhambra, its history, and its beautiful views.

1. The best options to visit the Alhambra in Granada

View of the Alhambra | © Vidar Nordli-Mathisen
View of the Alhambra | © Vidar Nordli-Mathisen

Holding status as the most popular monument in Spain, it is visited by millions of people every year, so it is almost a must to get your tickets for the Alhambra in Granada at least a month or two in advance. Since you're almost guaranteed to include this visit in your trip to Granada, let me tell you that there are several ways to discover this ancient Andalusian palatial city. I explain them below:

  • ::: link | text = Guided tour of the Alhambra, its Nasrid Palaces and the Generalife | element = pr-39399 ::: - From ::: product | id = 39399 | field = price :::
  • ::: link | text = Entrance to the Alhambra, the Nasrid Palaces and the Generalife with audio guide | element = pr-39398 ::: - From ::: product | id = 39398 | field = price :::
  • Tickets to the Alhambra in Granada for a free visit

2. Guided tour of the Alhambra, its Nasrid Palaces, and the Generalife

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If there's something I love about this activity, it is that it is a very complete :::link|text= guided tour of the Alhambra in Granada | element = pr-39399 ::: that will take you to explore this ancient fortress in just under four hours. Additionally, these skip-the-line tickets will ensure you access the monument directly and without any queues.

You will take a trip back in time to witness with your own eyes what the Islamic kingdom of Granada was like in the Middle Ages, and learn the history of the construction of the Alhambra, why it was built and how it became the residence of Christian royalty in 1492.

What will you see in this tour

  • The Nasrid palaces
  • The Alcazaba
  • The Generalife
  • The palace of Carlos V
  • The El Partal palace
  • The gardens of the Alhambra

Why I like this option

** The highlight of this guided tour is that is a semi-private activity**, with a small group of a maximum of ten people, with which you will visit the Palatine city at a slow and relaxed pace through its different dependencies, to soak in its majestic beauty.

In addition, in a semi-private activity, your guide will be able to offer a closer, more direct attention and immediately answer any question that you should have during the itinerary.

This guided tour of the Alhambra in Granada is available in Spanish, English, French and Portuguese.

3. Entrance to the Nasrid Palaces and the Generalife with an audio guide

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If you prefer to explore the Alhambra in Granada on your own but still enjoy a guided narration, I recommend you to ::: link | text = visit the Nasrid palatine city with an informative audio guide | element = pr-39398 ::: available in several languages ​​(Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Italian, German, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Korean and Japanese) that will make your tour much more enjoyable and entertaining.

With this skip-the-line ticket to the Alhambra, you will have direct entry to the monument at your chosen time. Once inside, you will have three to six hours to visit the following spaces at your own pace and following the itinerary you like.

What are you going to see following the audio guide

  • The Alhambra
  • The Nasrid palaces
  • The Alcazaba
  • The Generalife
  • The palace of Carlos V
  • The El Partal palace

Why I like this option

It is a more relaxed visit that lets you explore at your own pace while still allowing you to learn the history of the Alhambra as you go, the meaning behind its symbols, its legends, myths, etc. If you are not so keen on ​​joining a closed group, you can opt for this visit on your own and let the audio guide give you the details of everything that you see.

4. Tickets to the Alhambra in Granada for a self-guided visit

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This is not the option that I recommend the most. The Alhambra is a huge monumental complex divided into several sections, packed with details that you might miss if this is your first time visiting the monument and you are not familiar with its different spaces or its history.

Ticket sales at the box office

Also, if you decide to do a self-guided tour of the Alhambra in Granada and buy your tickets at the box office, you should know that they only sell tickets to visit the monument on the same day, depending on availability and only up to two hours before the visit, which may not fit your travel plan at all.

Given the massive popularity of the Alhambra in Granada it is very common for long queues to form at the ticket office and it is quite possible that tickets will be sold out when your turn comes. To try and avoid this, your best bet is to get up early to be at the ticket office at around 8 AM and try your luck. On some days, you may be able to get hold of some leftover tickets although I wouldn't count on it.

5. Frequently asked questions about the visit

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How long does it take to see the Alhambra?

It is difficult to determine how long it takes to see the Alhambra in Granada since visiting a monument of this size, historical importance, and artistic beauty will depend on how fascinated you are by it.

The estimated average time of a visit is 3 hours with a 30-minute wait in the access queue. If you just want to shortly visit the Alhambra to check it off your bucket list of world-renown landmarks, I'm sure this amount of time will be more than enough to give you a general idea.

Now, if you are passionate about history and art you will not want to spend less than 4 or 6 hours inside the Alhambra to be able to explore it inch by inch.

Are the tickets nominative? Do I need to show my passport or my ID at the entrance?

That is correct. Tickets to the Alhambra are nominative, personal and non-transferable. For reasons of security and conservation of the monument, each visitor is required to present their passport, or an original personal identification document issued by their country.

The Alhambra staff carry out identification checks on visitors, so to access the monument as soon as possible it is best to have your tickets and identity document ready.

How far in advance should I buy the tickets?

The Alhambra is the most visited monument in Spain and the eighth wonder of the world, so there is a great demand to see it both from locals and foreigners.

For security and conservation reasons, the capacity is limited, so you should reserve your tickets to the Alhambra in Granada as far in advance as possible. If your trip coincides with national holidays, weekends, or any other festivity, get your tickets at least one or two months before the visit.

Do children need a ticket to the Alhambra?

Yes, children are required to have a ticket to access this monumental complex. Tickets for kids 6 to 11 years old are only valid if bought along with the adult tickets. Children under 5 years old enter free.

What is the best time to visit the Alhambra in Granada?

Normally, the best time is at the opening. First thing in the morning there are usually not so many crowds at the monument and after the visit, you will have the rest of the day to wander around the city.

During the afternoon, around 3 or 4 PM the number of visitors decreases somewhat so this is also a good time to visit. In addition, you will be able to enjoy the impossible beauty of the sunset light washing the Alhambra in yellow, orange, and red.

What is the best time to see the Alhambra in Granada?

To admire the beauty of the Generalife gardens in all their splendor and enjoy good weather, spring and fall are the best times.

During the summer, the temperatures soar and the heat is quite suffocating. Nevertheless, if you dare to visit the Alhambra in Granada in summer, remember to wear cool and comfortable clothes, a fan and a hat, and always be well hydrated.

In winter the trees of the Alhambra begin to change color as flowers wilt, but the low season can also be a good time to visit this monument if your priority is to admire its architecture and take unique pictures.

6. Opening hours of the Alhambra

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The monumental complex of the Alhambra is open every day except December 25 and January 1. The schedules are as follows:

  • ** Low season ** (from October 15 to March 31) open from 8:30 AM to 6 PM.
  • ** High season ** (from April 1 to October 14) open from 8:30 AM to 8 PM.

7. How to get to the Alhambra?

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The fortress is located in the city center, on top of a hill that you will reach after climbing several slopes. There are several options to get to the Alhambra and depending on your preferences you can walk or get there by bus or by car.

Walking

Leaving Plaza Nueva, you will only have to take the Gomérez slope. When you reach Puerta de las Granadas, turn left and keep straight until you reach Puerta de la Justicia, the main entrance to the Alhambra in Granada.

Bus

Several urban bus lines will take you to the Alhambra. Some of them are the C30, the C32, and the C35. The single ticket costs € 1.40.

Car

You can access the Alhambra by car through the Ronda Sur (A-395). Go to the Granada ring road (N-323 / A-44), heading South (Motril). Once you have skirted the city you will be directed to the Alhambra (Ronda Sur) and you will reach the monument's parking lot where you can park your car. The price is € 2.35/hour.

8. Reasons to visit the Alhambra in Granada

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There are several reasons why I consider that visiting the Alhambra in Granada is essential for any traveler. The entire monument is worth admiring and just by contemplating it from one of its viewpoints, blending in with its beautiful natural surroundings, you will feel as if you have been swept into a dream.

It is the most beautiful monument in Spain

To begin with, it is a world icon, a unique palatial city in Europe, and a true icon of Islamic art and architecture in Spain. If you like cultural visits, in the Alhambra in Granada you will find a very special monument full of art and history that will leave you speechless.

To better understand its place in the history of the country, I recommend taking a guided tour that should always be much more complete and interesting than a self-guided visit.

To walk through the Alhambra is to contemplate the Nasrid splendor

Unlike Medina Azahara, the other great Andalusian palatial city located in Córdoba that was destroyed after the end of the Umayyad Caliphate, the Alhambra in Granada enjoys an excellent state of conservation and walking through its different spaces is like taking a trip back in time to the last years of splendor of Al-Andalus. You can feel the Arab essence in every building and street like nowhere else in town.

It is a source of artistic inspiration

In addition, the Alhambra in Granada is a place full of mysteries and legends that inspired many travelers and romantic artists such as Washington Irving for his famous book “Cuentos de la Alhambra”. Who knows? If you have an artistic spirit, perhaps the Alhambra will also spark your creative instincts.

The incomparable beauty of the place where it is located

Assuredly, the Alhambra in Granada is located in a privileged place, where the beautiful landscape that surrounds it and its architectural delicacy blend perfectly with each other. A dream place in which to recreate yourself taking some of the best photographs of your trip.

The beautiful and delicate gardens of the Alhambra

Enjoying its surroundings and the Generalife gardens on the Cerro del Sol hill is another reason to visit the Alhambra in Granada. The most beautiful thing about these gardens, in my opinion, are the delicate intricacies that are born between the vegetation, the light, and the pools running with water. A piece of God's promised paradise on Earth.

9. What to see in the Alhambra in Granada?

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The Alhambra is a treasure of Islamic architecture that Sultan Alhamar, founder of the Nasrid dynasty, ordered to build in the mid-13th century on the Sabika hill as a military building seeking protection from his foes.

Later it would become the royal residence of the Catholic Monarchs once the Reconquest of Spain was completed in 1492. In this moment, the Alhambra passed into Christian hands. Later, new constructions would be added to the fortress and form what we know today as the monumental complex.

The parts in which the Alhambra of Granada is divided are the following:

The Alcazaba

It is a military building used as a residence by the army in charge of defending the perimeter. It is believed to be the setting stone of the Alhambra, built on the remains of an old castle.

It includes the west end of the palatine city and is the part that stands out the most when contemplated from any viewpoint around the city of Granada.

The Nasrid palaces

The Nasrid palaces were home to the kings of Granada. They are composed of three independent buildings known as the Mexuar (audience area), the Comares Palace (official house of the king), and the Palace of the Lions (the harem and the abode of The Royal Family).

Of all the Alhambra in Granada, the Nasrid palaces are the most visited area and are among the ones that I liked the most along with the Generalife during my visit. Here you will find truly beautiful spaces such as the Ambassadors' Hall (the symbolic center of Nasrid power), the Abencerrajes Hall (the king's bedroom), the Kings' Hall (the Sultan's council room), or the Lions' Court (an impressive allegory of paradise).

These palaces are a sample of the exquisite taste and refinement of the Nasrid, the last governors of Al-Ándalus. During the tour, take my advice and observe its spectacular plasterwork, its glazed tile baseboards, and the impressive muqarnas in arches and domes.

Something that particularly caught my attention was the delicate epigraphic inscriptions in classical Arabic carved in plaster or wood that are scattered around the walls and ceilings of the Alhambra. Our guide told us that there are about ten thousand inscriptions scattered around the palace, mostly of them poems, texts from the Koran or the motto of the Nasrid dynasty: "There is no victor but Allah." Amazing!

The palace of Carlos V

It is located next to the Nasrid palaces and is one of the finest Renaissance works found outside of Italy. Emperor Carlos V ordered it to be built in the 16th century to be able to enjoy Granada and its wonderful Alhambra, for which he felt a true fascination.

The entrance to the palace is free and it is worth visiting it to admire its truly unique style. It stands out for its circular courtyard in the center of this square-shaped building, which is a nod to Roman imperial architecture.

In addition, the Palace of Carlos V houses the Alhambra Museum (dedicated to Hispano-Muslim and Nasrid art) and the Museum of Fine Arts (whose works were formerly stored in convents and monasteries like La Merced, la Cartuja or San Francisco, among many others).

The Medina

In the upper part of the Alhambra is the Medina, a residential, administrative and religious area with shops, public baths, and mosques where nobles and artisans met the needs of the palatine city. Its main streets were Calle Real Baja, Calle Real Alta, and Calle de Ronda.

The old convent of San Francisco can be found here, which has been converted into a National Tourism Parador.

The Generalife and its gardens

It is one of my favorite spots in the Alhambra. The Generalife was the summer village of the Nasrid kings located in Cerro del Sol and one of the few almunias that have survived from medieval times in all of Al-Andalus.

Its gardens were conceived for the rest and recreation of the sultans of Granada. They were filled with ornamental orchards, fragrant trees, and perfectly manicured courtyards.

The El Partal palace

In the area of El Partal you will find the remains of the former residence of King Muhammad III. In this space, you can still see the El Partal palace with a portico with five arches, a beautiful central pool, and the famous Torre de las Damas, which dates back to the 14th century and is one of the oldest buildings in the Alhambra. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful parts of the visit.

The gardens of the Partal

The Partal Gardens are a fantastic place to stroll during a visit to the Alhambra in Granada. They extend from the exit of the Rauda to the Torre de las Damas. In the past, the gardens that surrounded the royal palaces and the residences of the Nasrid nobility stood in this very place.

La Rauda

Located between the Nasrid palaces and the palace of Carlos V, La Rauda is the only cemetery of the monumental complex that is preserved today. It was destined for the Nasrid royal family but today it remains empty: Boabdil, the last king of Granada, moved all the tombs to a town in the mountains.

Had it been possible, I would have loved to see the Pantheon of Nasrid Kings. Somehow, it brings back memories of the Royal Crypt of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial where the kings of Spain are normally buried. Can't help but feel a certain melancholy.

Isabel's Traveler Tip

The Alhambra is divided into several different areas and during the visit, you will walk a distance of close to 3.5 km in total. Remember to wear comfortable shoes!

10. A bit of history

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If Granada is known worldwide, it is thanks to its impressive Alhambra, the most visited monument in Spain and the eighth wonder of the world according to the New7Wonders Foundation.

Declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 1984, this wonderful medieval fortress was built in the times of the Nasrid kingdom between the XIII and XIV centuries as a palatine city and military fort, although after the Reconquest it was also a Christian Royal House until declared a monument in 1870.

In its origins, the Alhambra in Granada was an authentic palace complex located on the Sabika hill, between the basins of the Genil and Darro rivers, isolated from the city of Granada despite its proximity. This type of location responded to a geopolitical decision very much in line with the medieval mentality of the time.

In addition, with these buildings, the Nasrid kings sought to make propaganda of their power, wealth, and sense of artistic admiration because, as happened with Medina Azahara in Córdoba, these palatine cities were conceived in the Islamic world as idyllic places to live in separated from the rest of society.

Did you know ...?

The name of the Alhambra comes from the Arabic qalat -al-Ḥamrāʼ, a word that means “red fortress” in Spanish and refers to the reddish hue that the complex takes on in the evening light.

11. Where to contemplate the most beautiful sunset of the Alhambra?

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Sunset at the Alhambra in Granada is considered the most beautiful in Spain. To better appreciate it, my advice is to go to the San Nicolás viewpoint in the Albaicín neighborhood.

From here you will get the best panoramic view of the Alhambra in Granada with the imposing Sierra Nevada in the background. In addition, you can enjoy unbeatable views of the Alcazaba, the Nasrid palaces, or the Generalife.

The sensation of contemplating how the sun slowly falls behind the Alhambra, coloring its walls, towers, and palaces in reddish tones is simply magical.

How to get to the San Nicolás viewpoint?

This viewpoint is located in the highest area of ​​the Albaicín neighborhood in Granada. You can get there by walking along the Paseo de Los Tristes or by bus taking lines C1 or C2. Another option is to cross the Plaza Larga and take the slope of Alhacaba.

12. What other places to see in Granada?

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Granada is the promised land for many travelers wishing to enjoy an unforgettable getaway.

A charming city that has charmed many with its lively atmosphere, that you can experience in its streets and bars, with the warmth of its people, and, of course, with the beautiful historical and cultural heritage that it treasures as a result of the passage of different peoples that throughout the centuries have left their mark here.

The Alhambra is the most popular monument in the city, but not the only one. Granada is full of dreamy corners waiting for you to discover them!

If you don't know where to start, I recommend you take a look at the article ::: link | text = The best excursions and guided tours in Granada | element = sc-212-1648 ::: to get some ideas. The best thing is that they are organized activities where you just have to let yourself go and have a blast.

If you fancy a more relaxing but equally authentic experience, don't hesitate to enjoy a ::: link | text = hammam ritual in the Arab Baths of Granada | element = sc-212-1775 :::.