Tips on Visiting the Alhambra Complex and Nasrid Palace in Granada

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by Henk Bekker

in Andalusia, Granada, NAdX, Spain

Buy tickets online in advance when visiting the Alhambra in Granada and especially the Nasrid Palace — one of the top sights to see in Andalusia and Spain.

Alhambra in Granada

Although tickets for the Alhambra complex in Granada are fairly easy to obtain, it is essential to buy time-slot reservation tickets in advance to ensure admission to the Nasrid Palaces (Palacios Nazaries) -– the Moorish jewel at the heart of the Alhambra. The Alhambra is open daily with long opening hours and occasional nighttime visits. Visits to the Alhambra commonly last three hours or more and require a lot of walking. Getting to the Alhambra from downtown Granada is easy on foot, by bus, or by car. Time-slot reservation tickets are essential to see the Nasrid Palace while the rest of the Alhambra complex may be seen at any time.

Buy Alhambra Tickets in Advance

Court of the Lions in the Alhambra Palace

Tickets for the Alhambra in Granada are best bought online in advance to ensure admission to the complex and especially to the magnificent Nasrid Palace. All advance-purchase Alhambra tickets are in effect skip-the-line tickets but all must still be scanned at the entrance and at various checkpoints inside the Alhambra complex.

Tickets for the Alhambra are valid all day (but separate tickets are required at night). Only the Nasrid Palace requires time-slot admission tickets – tickets for the Nasrid Palace are only sold for a specific half-hour entry period, which cannot be changed after purchase.

The Alhambra and Nasrid Palace may be seen without a guide (but at least have a good guidebook or audio guide to make sense out of the complex). Descriptions are a bit patchy. Pick up the free map when collecting tickets or before entering the Alhambra complex.

Online tickets are available several months to midnight the day before visiting. Pick the print-at-home option if available – some other options must still be exchanged at the main entrance for a paper ticket before entering the Alhambra.

Tickets may not be resold – use the correct names when booking and carry identification when visiting the Alhambra.

See How to Buy the Cheapest Tickets for the Alhambra for more details, tips, and guided tour options worth considering if the standard tickets are sold out.

Admission Entrance Gates to the Alhambra in Granada

Alhambra Partal Palace

Individuals may enter the Alhambra complex through two entrances. The pavilion main entrance is to the far east of the Alhambra near the Generalife and close to the parking lots. Use this entrance to buy or pick up tickets. Guided tours usually depart from near this entrance.

The Gate of Justice (Puerta de la Justicia) entrance is a bit closer to the old town but may only be used by visitors already holding QR-barcoded tickets. Admission tickets are not sold at this gate. Queues at the scanners are usually shorter here than at the main gate.

Arrive well in advance of the time for entering the Nasrid Palace. Reaching the palace takes just less than half an hour once past the ticket scanners at the main gate. Allow extra time in case of queues at the main gate (and to collect tickets if necessary). From the Gate of Justice is only five minutes to the Nasrid Palace.

Keep tickets undamaged and at hand – tickets are again scanned before entering the Nasrid Palace, Alcazaba, and Generalife. Each of these sights may only be entered once but it is allowed to exit and reenter the complex all day.

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Best Times to Visit the Alhambra and Nasrid Palace

Alhambra Court of the Myrtles

The best time to visit the Alhambra complex in Granada is basically whenever admission tickets for the Nasrid Palace can be secured.

As the number of visitors to the Alhambra and especially the Nasrid Palace is restricted, the complex rarely becomes too unpleasantly full. As the Nasrid Palace tickets frequently sell out, the numbers inside are mostly the same at any given time.

However, as with other major tourist sites in Europe, arriving early or visiting later in the day may be slightly quieter, especially as day-trip bus parties and tour groups tend to arrive a bit later or leave earlier.

Granada may get brutally hot in summer while snow is possible, and beautiful in the Alhambra, in winter. Spring and autumn have the best weather and the gardens are at their best.

Visiting the Nasrid Palace in the Alhambra in Granada

Honey-combed stucco ceiling in the Nasrid Palace

The magnificent Nasrid Palace complex inside the Alhambra is the absolute architectural and artistic highlight of the Alhambra. This palace may only be seen on time-slot tickets.

The Nasrid Palaces are a complex of mostly 14th-century palaces from the Moorish rulers that controlled Al-Andalus up to 1492. The Moorish decorations are well preserved and the complex has little in common with other European royal palaces.

Wooden ceiling in the Nasrid Palace

The entrance to the Nasrid Palace is to the west (left on most maps) of the Palace of Charles V (Palacio de Carlos V). There is no need to queue up in advance – continue sightseeing and join the queue when it gets short. Visitors may enter for up to about 30 minutes after the stated time on the ticket. Once inside, visitors may stay in the Nasrid Palace complex as long as desired. Hang back to let crowds move on bearing in mind that the following groups may enter soon. (Guided tour groups use a different entrance and time schedule.)

Allow at least half an hour to see the Nasrid Palace but most visitors stay significantly longer in its splendor.

Seeing the Alcazaba and Palace of Charles the V before entering the Nasrid Palace reduces the need for backtracking – not that it is in any sense an unpleasant walk but there is a lot of walking to be done anyway.

Time Required to See the Alhambra

Alcazaba in the Alhambra in Granada

How long visitors should plan to spend seeing the Alhambra is of course an individual choice. The Alhambra claims visitors spent on average three hours in the complex and it is easy to spend much more time here.

If time is pressing, give preference to the Nasrid Palace – rather cut out seeing all other parts of the Alhambra than rush through here.

The Alcazaba is basically the empty shell of the military fortress – impressive to see but it is easy to move through here in 20 minutes including climbing to the top of the watchtower for splendid views.

Renaissance Palace of Charles V in the Alhambra

At least peek into the Renaissance Palace of Charles V to see the architecture and open center over which the planned dome was never built. It is one of the finest Renaissance buildings in Spain but even before its completion, the royals moved to El Escorial nearer Madrid. The art museum (upper floor) is of lesser interest while the small Museum of the Alhambra (lower floor) has some interesting Moorish art. (It is closed Mondays and Tuesday afternoons and may have shorter opening hours than the main Alhambra complex.)

The best gardens are after exiting the Nasrid Palace and of course at the Generalife.

Ascend the water stairways at the Generalife Palace but any higher viewing points are more likely to tire out legs than to improve on the quality of the views.

Visitors Facilities Inside the Alhambra

Convent of San Francisco in the Alhambra

Only small bag packs are allowed inside the Alhambra complex – coin lockers are available at both entrances. Inside the Nasrid Palace, it is compulsory to carry backpacks in front or by hand. No strollers are allowed inside the Nasrid Palace.

Picnicking is allowed at appropriate sites. Food and drink are only sold at the kiosks at the Wine Gate (near the Alcazaba), or at the pricey Parador hotel. Water fountains are scattered throughout the complex.

Note that toilets are only available at the Wine Gate (in between the Nasrid Palace and Alcazaba) and near the stage of the modern open-air auditorium near the Generalife gardens. There are no toilets inside any of the palace buildings.

The Best Views of the Alhambra

Alhambra seen from San Nicolas

The best views of the Alhambra are for free and from the Albayzin area. Fine views may be enjoyed from the banks of the River Darro but the best views by far are from the Mirador San Nicolas viewing platform, especially popular at sunset. It may be reached on minibus C1 from the town center – or a long walk. Use a good map and stick to the main roads to avoid getting lost in the labyrinth of roads in the traditional β€œMoorish” old town.

The Alhambra was built on a hill so offers fantastic views in many directions. Some of the finest views are from the watchtower in the Alcazaba fort, from the windows in the Nasrid Palace, and from the Generalife Palace.

Opening Hours of the Alhambra in Granada

Court of the Water Channel

The Alhambra complex in Granada has long opening hours:

  • Mid-October to end March: daily from 8:30 to 18:00
  • April to mid-October: daily from 8:30 to 20:00

The Alhambra is only closed on December 25 and January 1.

The former system of morning and afternoon tickets is no longer used. The visit time for the Nasrid Palace is fixed but the rest of the complex may be seen at will during the same day.

Alhambra in Granada at Night

Nighttime visits are possible and require a separate ticket from the daytime admission tickets. Opening hours at night are as follows:

Nasrid Palace at Night:

  • Mid-October to end March: Friday and Saturday from 20:00 to 21:30
  • April to mid-October: Tuesday to Saturday from 22:00 to 23:30

Generalife Palace & Gardens at Night

  • April & May – Tuesday to Saturday from 22:00 to 23:30
  • September to mid-October – Tuesday to Saturday from 22:00 to 23:30
  • Mid-October to mid-November – Friday and Saturday from 20:00 to 21:30

Transportation to the Alhambra in Granada

Granada Viewed from the Alhambra

The Alhambra towers over Granada to the southeast of the old town. Two entrances are available – the pavilion main entrance to the far east of the Alhambra and near the Generalife and the Gate of Justice entrance closer to the old town but only for visitors with QR barcoded tickets.

Several parking lots are available near the Pavilion entrance – simply follow the signs for Alhambra parking. Driving is restricted in many parts of the old town – use the main roads circling around the center and approach the Alhambra by car from the south.

Generalife Palace in the Alhambra

Bus C3 connects downtown (Plaza Isabel Catolica) with the Alhambra – use Generalife stop for the main entrance or Justice Gate. This is a minibus so may get full and best not used for time-critical journeys.

It is at least a 15-minute uphill walk from Plaza Neuva to the Justice Gate and half an hour or more to the main entrance. Bearing in mind that a lot of further walking will be done inside the Alhambra, a taxi – around €10 – may be a sound investment.

See also Buying the Cheapest Alhambra Tickets and Tours for more tips on securing admission to the Alhambra and Nasrid Palaces.

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Henk Bekker in armor

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years of experience writing online. He is particularly interested in history, art, and culture. He has lived most of his adult life in Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. In addition to European-Traveler.com, he also owns a travel website on the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland and maintains statistical websites on car sales and classic car auction prices. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Development Finance from the University of London.

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