How to visit the Alhambra in Granada, Spain

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain is a must-see

Have you dreamed about visiting the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, as I have?

The Alhambra palace and fortress complex is architecturally astonishing due to the fact that Muslims started building it in 1238 but Christians won it in war in 1492. So as you walk through, you’ll see some incredible Islamic architecture — but also a lot Spanish Renaissance architecture. 

I fully admit to having had a few “what the” moments when I finally visited recently.

Here are some things you should know if you’re planning a visit:

👉🏻 Alhambra means “the red one” in Arabic (because of the colour of the walls here). But the site is always referred to as “the Alhambra” which means we’re actually calling it “the the Alhambra.”

👉🏻 Important ticket info:

Tickets are by timed entry. I’d highly recommend buying in advance.

The Alhambra General ticket gives full access and costs 19.09 euros.

Children 11 and under are free but they will still need a ticket.

You’ll need your passport, or a National Identity Document if you’re a Spanish citizen, to access the complex.

👉🏻 Bags or backpacks bigger than 40 × 40 cm are not allowed. There are free lockers onsite.

👉🏻 Random fun fact: Remember that childhood rhyme “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”? Well, 1492 is when the Alhambra became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella and this site is where Christopher Columbus received the royal go-ahead for his expedition — you know, the one that led to the founding of the Americas.

It wasn’t all perfect, though.

What would I change if I could do it over again? I’d totally skip taking a tour. Some people may disagree with me and that’s fine. But this was my experience.

I really think that unless you’re a huge fan of something — be it Islamic architecture in this case, or palaces, or fortresses — save your money and just see the sight on your own.

My tour guide gave us so much detail that I zoned out after about 10 minutes. I honestly don’t need to know that much about the architecture or rare inscriptions or any other number of factoids. 

If you’re like me, you just want to look at a sight, admire the gardens and architecture, take a few photos and that’s a great day.

On the subject of photos: My husband and I didn’t even get a good shot of the two of us here because our tour guide just kept hustling us along so she could spout more Wikipedia details at us.

So my best advice for visiting the Alhambra is: Skip the tour!

And I must repeat: Buy your tickets well in advance. On the day I was there, tickets had sold out by 2 p.m. It’s a long way to go to Granada only to find that you can’t get a ticket to visit the Alhambra.

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Find more travel inspo on my Instagram, @JuanitaNg