This post should answer any questions you might have on visiting La Alhambra, but if not, please leave a comment at the bottom or shoot me a message, so I can add it!
For your visit to La Alhambra and Generalife in Granada, Spain, I suggest spending at least two days in Granada so that you can split up your time at La Alhambra and not get overloaded.
This is really helpful if, like me, your attention span is limited to about 5 hours of museum time per day. Do this by visiting the free areas one day and the paid areas another day, so you pay for only 1 day.
I spent a week in Granada and had plenty to see and do, apart from La Alhambra.
Where Should I Buy La Alhambra Tickets? – Official Website
I bought my La Alhambra tickets on the official website. This way I knew I wouldn’t get scammed. I’ve seen that Ticketmaster also might sell tickets, but then you probably have to pay a fee.
Have your passport information for each ticketed person and credit card available for your ticket purchase. If you buy your tickets at the main gate, you’ll still need a passport for each person’s ticket.
Which La Alhambra Tickets Are Best?
The two ticket options I’d suggest cost the same, €15, and include all the paid areas, but in different formats.
Alhambra General– Visit all three paid areas in a single day, including Nasrid Palace, Alcazaba, and Generalife palace and gardens. Just choose what time you want to enter the Palace– more on the best time in the section below.
Alhambra Experiences– Visit Nasrid Palace at night on day 1. Visit the other paid areas, Generalife and Alcazaba, during the daytime on day 2.
The other ticket options split up the 3 main paid areas.
You can also buy tickets on other websites, which includes an Alhambra guided tour. These tours move at a pretty quick pace. However, this might be your best (or only) option, if tickets are sold out on the official website. Just make sure you get the tour early, so you have the rest of the day to wander on your own.
How Far in Advance Should I Buy My La Alhambra Ticket During HIGH Season?
Tickets go online for sale 3 months in advance, and I definitely suggest buying them as soon as they’re available. While writing this, I had a peek at the website, and saw many days are already sold out 2 months from now, and some days even in the 3rd month!
If tickets are sold out on your preferred date:
- You can often buy tickets via an Alhambra guided tour a week or two in advance.
- Buy tickets the morning of your preferred date at the main gate. However, I hear the line is long and you still might not get a ticket.
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How Far in Advance Should I Buy My La Alhambra Ticket During LOW Season?
Through much of low season, my understanding is that you can buy tickets on the official website a day before. However, to be on the safe side, I still bought mine about 2 months in advance. I especially wouldn’t risk the waiting to buy for a weekend or holiday date, when locals descend on the place. Locals get tickets at a discounted rate.
Should I Buy the Alhambra Audio Tour for 6 Euros?
If you aren’t with a tour guide, definitely buy the audio tour guide for both days. It’s only 6 euros per day, and will make your visit immensely more enjoyable! Signage throughout La Alhambra is minimal and often in Spanish.
Get the smartphone with headphones first thing when you arrive, since they sell out, even during the off-season. The device includes audio, photos, and video and is very thorough. The device is easy to operate and is well worth the cost!
Look for the audio guide tour stands near the Gate of Justice and near the Main Gate. La Alhambra comes alive with an understanding of the history and details.
Cost: 6 euros, but you leave a deposit. The deposit can be on your credit card. If you don’t have a credit card, you have to leave 50 euros cash, which is refunded when returning the device.
Should I Get a La Alhambra Guided Tour? What if I’m a Photographer?
I think this really depends on you and your guide. Most La Alhambra tours include the paid portions (Nasrid Palace, Generalife, and Alcazaba). You can only enter these areas once (the barcode on your ticket gets scanned at each entrance). So, you may get less time than you want, because you’ll have to keep up with your guide and can’t come back later. Meanwhile, if you enter these areas on your own, you can stay in each area as long as you like– they don’t kick you out.
For photographers, I recommend you either go without a guided tour or buy a second ticket for the paid areas, so you can re-enter and have time for your photography. As mentioned above, I really loved the audio tour.
How Long Should I Plan on Staying at La Alhambra?
You could stay a year and still be learning about this place. The itinerary below is for 2 days. However, I met people who told me they saw enough in a few hours. However, they did not buy the audio tour, so I think they just got bored since they weren’t appreciating all the history and details of the place.
If you get the audio tour and are really into museums, history, and architecture plan on at least a full day– arrive when they open and bring your lunch as described in the itinerary below.
Before I went, I planned on 6 hours. On my first day, I bought the audio tour described above and had a paid ticket. I ended up staying about 7 hours! The audio tour made all the difference since I spent time looking at everything and learning so much. I ended up practically getting kicked out at the end of the day, as I spent too much time photographing during the golden hour and sunset.
Which Entrance is Best?
The Main Gate is like entering any random stadium or mall– not especially interesting and made for getting people through quickly. Also, it’s packed with people, even during low season. It’s where the tour buses and taxis drop everyone off. You should use this if you’re unable to walk easily, though. It’s a smooth, paved entryway.
I recommend the Gate of Justice or La Puerta de Justicia. I immediately felt as though I was flying back in time as I strolled through the dark, bending tunnel constructed of red bricks in 1348. That’s why I use it in the itinerary below.
It’s not smooth ground– there’s a doorway you have to step over– but possible even if you lack total mobility if you ask someone to assist you or hold onto the doorway. (There are always people there taking their selfies or looking at the amazing doorway.)
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Should I Buy a La Alhambra Ticket, Or Are the FREE Areas Enough?
Ok, I get that some people are on a super strict budget– I’ve been there, too. Here’s the thing: The paid areas are nothing like the free areas, so it’s not like you’re seeing a slightly better version of the free areas.
The paid areas are totally different. Both the free and paid areas are great, but if you have the 15 euros, this is a fantastic way to spend it.
If you want to spend less, you can get a ticket just for the Generalife gardens area, which is very cool. Really, it’s the Nasrid Palace and Alcazaba that are even more unique. And, you can’t get in on someone else’s ticket– that’s why each ticket is attached to a passport number (see the section on buying your ticket). La Alhambra has learned all the tricks of super-budget backpackers!
Day 1 at La Alhambra – FREE
An ideal itinerary starts around 7:30 am at Ras Café Bar, just near the river. Relax with a coffee and toast while waiting for your torta de patata sandwich to go. This is your ready-made picnic lunch!
From the café, walk up the wide, forested path, Cuesta del Rey Chico, to the main gate of La Alhambra. When I was there, the path was totally empty apart from a school group learning about one of the old gates. I felt as though it could have been 200 years earlier.
Make your way past the Main Gate of La Alhambra. The busloads of tourists are fun to watch for a minute, and you’ll appreciate that this itinerary never uses this gate. So crowded!
Decision time: Walk to Carmen de Los Martires gardens, which is open 10 am to 2 pm, with other hours dependent on summer/winter and day of the week. Or, La Alhambra’s Gate of Justice. La Alhambra opens at 8:30 am year round. You’ll do both today, but need to choose the order. If you enjoy photography, I suggest you do Carmen first, for early morning light.
Carmen de los Martires – Garden and Historical House
Arrive at the Carmen de los Martires historical house and beautiful gardens located about a 10-minute walk from La Alhambra’s Main Gate. At the entrance is a grotto scene with a statue of a woman standing in a waterfall. This is just the beginning of the wonderful fountains and waterways.
Go right if you’d like to see the historic house first, although you can’t enter it and can only peek through the windows. Otherwise, head left and you’ll find yourself in the gardens. In the gardens, go uphill for city and La Alhambra views. Plan on spending 1-2 hours here, especially if you bring a book or otherwise relax in the quiet gardens.
La Alhambra – Gate of Justice (Free Entrance)
Enter La Alhambra at this free entrance, Gate of Justice. Regardless of whether you have a ticket, avoid the entrance line at the Main Gate. As you walk the turns of this entrance, you’ll understand that the twisting entryway built in 1348 was a defense against attack, since attackers did not have a straight path.
First, get your audio tour guide, before they sell out in this area. You won’t be able to access the main gate from here, which is the other place the audio tour is rented. Then, head into the building with lockers, coffee machine, and restrooms. You can lock your bag and jacket in a locker for free. And, the women’s restroom upstairs has great views of the surrounding area on both sides of the building!
Walk Around the Grounds
When you have a paid ticket, it’s a little difficult to understand when you’re in a free area. That’s why I suggest you do your free day first.
- La Alhambra Museum. (Downstairs, just inside the entrance to Palace.) Check the hours! They’re odd hours and closed some days. The audio guide is really helpful in here, so you don’t have to read all the signs, which are not always in English.
- Art Gallery. Upstairs in the same building as the museum.
- Baño de la Mezquita de la Alhambra. If it’s hot outside, it’s cool inside here.
- Gardens near the Baño de la Mezquita with fishponds.
Day 2 at La Alhambra – PAID
On this day you’ll visit the paid areas of La Alhambra. A full ticket is about 15 euros per adult. Plan on spending all day here. Of course, you’ll take breaks for lunch or a rest in the garden areas, since there is so much to see. Bring a book, if you like. Store your bag in one of the free lockers in the locker / toilet / coffee machine building near the Gate of Justice.
What to Bring
Water or other drink for the entire day. Lunch. Camera. Sunscreen / Hat. Layered clothing for cool morning/evening. Watch, so you don’t miss your timed entry into Nasrid Palace. Money to purchase the audio guide for 6 euros. Passport. Entrance Ticket. (Passport is required, in case they check your entrance ticket identification—I suppose this is to prevent people entering for part of the day and then re-selling their ticket to someone else.)
What Time of Day is Best FOR PHOTOGRAPHY for Nasrid Palace and Other Paid Areas?
You can enter each of these areas only once but can stay inside as long as you like: Nasrid Palace, Generalife Gardens, Alcazaba (towers overlooking the city). Here’s the order I recommend for least crowded and best light for photography, assuming a bright sunny day: Generalife Gardens for morning light; Nasrid Palace for brightest light in a dim area; Alcazaba towers with city views for sunset
Rules: No tripods. No flash. Even on the night time ticket!
Enter as early as possible in the morning for fewer tourists. The garden spaces are tight, especially if you want a great photo of the long hedges or waterways. This space 5-10 minutes of fast walking from the Gate of Justice, and your ticket will be checked when you enter the paid area and again when you enter the gardens. Just before you enter the ticketed area of the gardens are other gardens facing west. This area is fantastic during the golden hour for flower photography!
Plan on about 1.5 hours, if you’ll be taking a lot of photos. There’s also a lot of information about this area in the audio guide.
Timed entry time is noted on your ticket—you set this time when you purchase your ticket. Line up 25-45 minutes in advance. Some of the areas are dim, so enter midday for the strongest light for photography.
If you prefer fewer tourists, enter first thing in the morning, so people from earlier entry times are not already in there. Also, most tours don’t start until 9:30 or 10 am, so you’ll beat them inside, too.
Plan on 1-2 hours, to enjoy all the little alcoves and passageways, plus more time for the gardens as you exit this ticketed area.
The towers put you at the highest points of La Alhambra. You’re out in the open, so this area is not ideal for the hottest time of day. Be there for the evening to enjoy the beautiful views and the long shadows and great light for photography.
Plan on 45 minutes at least, depending on sunset conditions.
Space of the Month
Each month a special space is opened to tourists. This area is more vulnerable to destruction, so is not open year-round.
Day 3 Sightseeing Around Granada
These locations can be done in any order. Granada is quite walkable, and buses are frequent and easy. My favorite places to eat are in this post.
This is the old Jewish area. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, who financed Christopher Columbus’ 1492 voyage also are famed for the 1492 persecution of the Jews who were given two options: Leave Spain or convert religions. All the locals I met suggested I just wander the streets. I needed a stretch and saw a poster for a free yoga class at the Community Center, which was perfect after many days of travel.
Be sure to visit San Nicolas plaza near sunset for a beautiful view of La Alhambra. Also, walk over to Sacramonte and see the caves people live inside of.
There are several small museums, all of which are FREE on Sundays. Otherwise, purchase the 5 euro ticket. The Baños was my favorite! I love the iPad interactive software, showing how the place looked originally!
Bath House – Take a Bath!
I wasn’t sure it would be worth 35 euros to enjoy a sauna and pools of various temperatures for an hour or two, but it totally was! It’s so relaxing and quiet since no one is supposed to talk loudly. There are other bathhouses, but a local recommended this one to me.
Arrive a little early and enjoy the lobby with nice tea. After your bath, there are nice showers for rinsing.
You must bring your own swimsuit. Reserve in advance, since entry is timed.
I Only Have a Few Hours. What Top 3 Things at La Alhambra Should I Definitely See?
In no particular order, and assuming you have the audio guide to explain the details, don’t miss these:
- Museum – This is the only place you’ll see the daily life details of daily life, like coins, dishes, and furniture. Check the hours on the museum door before getting in line for the Nasrid palace, as they sometimes vary.
- Nasrid Palace – This is is an all-in-1 place for intricate tile work on both walls and floors, as well as intricate plaster decorations, gardens, fountains.
- Gate of Justice – Don’t skip this, in case you entered through the main gate. Listen to the audio tour and learn the small details that make it so amazing.
If you still have more time, add these on:
- Gardens in the Generalife area. There are just so many and they’re landscaped beautifully.
- Alcazaba, but I’m a sucker for going up towers.
- Muslim Bath House – It only takes a few minutes to see the entire building. I loved the tranquility of the small space.
Other Useful Links
Official website of La Alhambra and Generalife This has so much information!!
My main Spain road trip blog post is here. It includes other information on Granada, including my favorite restaurants!
Cordoba’s La Mezquita is another amazing cultural site a few hours from Granada by bus. I also spent a week in Cordoba (so much good food!!)