How Buy Tickets to the Alhambra in Spain in 2019
Spain is one of those places I see on people’s travel bucket lists. Delicious paella and tapas, cathedrals and ancient ruins, plenty of natural landscape, and art and architecture. What’s not to like?
My husband and I came back from our trip to Spain a few weeks ago so happy that we chose to visit the beautiful country. We only had time to see Barcelona, Granada, and Seville on this trip despite wanting to see so much more. Granada, in Spain’s southern Andalusia region, was the surprise highlight of the trip for me.
The most visited attraction in Spain, the Alhambra, is located in Granada. It had been a long-time dream of mine to visit it, so I HAD to get tickets. I was not going to let this chance to see it go! But when I researched how to visit several months ago, I had the hardest time finding up-to-date information on how to buy Alhambra tickets. So this post is for those who are interested in visiting the Alhambra today.
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First of all, if you think Spain and the Alhambra are out of reach for you, they may not be. I was telling my husband the other day that I can’t believe how cheap it has become to travel to Europe.
You can visit the Alhambra for less than $600 total from the US. You won't get the most optimal flights, lodging, or food, of course, but that’s pretty low-cost to cross the globe and see one of the most historic places in the world.
Rough budget estimate:
Airfare: $300 + $100 (Roundtrip from San Francisco to Barcelona in April. Round-trip from Barcelona to Granada.)
You’re likely to spend more in Spain due to visiting other cities and attractions. If you were to go for just two days to see the Alhambra, you could do it for less than a nice weekend getaway in Napa or Monterrey. So if you’re thinking at all of visiting the Alhambra one day, I highly recommend doing it!
The Alhambra and its sections
The Alhambra is its own walled city with several sections. The main three sections are the Nasrid Palaces, the Generalife Palace and Gardens, and the Alcazaba. The Alhambra General ticket will give you access to all the sites on the grounds. The only one with a timed entry is the Nasrid Palaces.
The Nasrid Palaces were the royal residences of the rulers of Granada. Even Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand lived there after their conquest of Granada in 1492. It’s been built up, destroyed, and restored in different styles over hundreds of years, making it a sight to behold.
How to get tickets to the Nasrid Palaces
A limited number of tickets are available to enter the Nasrid Palaces daily. I’ve heard roughly 6,000 tickets are available each day. That sounds like a lot, but when you consider how many people want to visit and all the tour groups that grab tickets first, it’s not a lot at all.
Entries are timed every thirty minutes during open hours. Open hours vary by season. Here are some tips to help you get access.
1 | Book your tickets as soon as possible
Once you know when you’ll be visiting Spain, check to see if the tickets are available for the date you want. Tickets are available up to three months in advance. I’m writing this post in May and tickets are available through August.
I purchased tickets in January for our trip in April and had to rearrange our itinerary a bit so that we could get tickets. You could get lucky though. I’m writing this post in May (high season) and there are still tickets available for two and three days from now, although they are the last entrances of the day at 6 PM and 6:30 PM.
2 | Book on the official website
This is the official website to purchase Alhambra tickets. There are several options for tickets. The most popular are the Alhambra General and the Alhambra Experiences.
Alhambra General - provides you access to everything during daytime open hours.
Alhambra Experiences - provides a night visit to the Nasrid Palaces and a visit to the Alcazaba and Generalife Palaces and Gardens the next day. The Nasrid Palaces are lit up at night for a different kind of experience.
After doing some research, I purchased the general ticket for a daytime visit. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to see things as well in dim lighting. I also considered that visiting twice might be an inconvenience.
Most tourists stay in or near the city center. Getting to the Alhambra from the city center is easy on foot or by bus or taxi. I wouldn’t let that keep you from visiting twice if you want to. If I were to go back to the Alhambra on a future visit, I’d want to see the Nasrid Palaces lit up at a night for another experience. I think you’ll enjoy your visit no matter which option you choose.
Both types of tickets cost 14.85 Euros per person inclusive of taxes. I was surprised how inexpensive the ticket was to see this entire city.
3 | Take a chance with late-released tickets
If you find that tickets are sold out for the day that you want, you can take a chance on purchasing tickets released at a later date. Sometimes tour groups return tickets and they’re released to the public.
You can see in the screenshot above that there are some tickets available for June 24th. There’s only one ticket left for the 2 PM and 4 PM entries and 40 left for 3 PM entry. It’s likely that those tickets were recently released to the public for sale, which is why there are so many left at a reasonable time.
You have to be on top of your search to get tickets relying on late releases. Tickets are released just after midnight Spanish time. I would check at that time every day to see if any tickets become available for the date I want. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get tickets though, which leads to the next few options.
4 | Buy a Granada Card
The Granada Card is one ticket that provides access to many tourist sites around the city. There are several options and price points depending on what you want the card to include. You can purchase one that includes a trip to the Nasrid Palaces.
When you buy the card, it will give you options for dates and times to visit the Nasrid Palaces. You’ll still likely have to book in advance. As I write this on May 25th, the next available tickets for the Nasrid Palaces through the Granada Card are on June 13th (19 days away).
I noticed though that the dates and times of the available tickets are different than those on the official sales site. You may get lucky here!
5 | Book with a tour group
There are many companies that offer private tours of the Alhambra. Their prices will be higher because they’ve procured the ticket for you and they provide a tour guide. I don’t list any tour groups here because I didn’t use one, so I can’t recommend one that would be sure to be good. A Google search or search of travel websites like TripAdvisor will help you find companies that offer this service.
6 | Don’t expect to buy same-day tickets to the Nasrid Palaces at the Alhambra
Tickets to the Nasrid Palaces almost always, if not always, sold out in advance. It’s highly unlikely that you will be able to line up at the ticket office on the day you want to visit and find that tickets are available. If it shows that they’re sold out online, then they’re sold out for the day.
You’d likely be able to get same-day tickets to the other parts of the Alhambra like the gardens, but not the Nasrid Palaces.
7 | You don’t have to pick up early tickets in advance
When I was researching, I came across all kinds of information that I needed to go to the ticket office the day before my visit to pick up my tickets. I read that I needed to use the same credit card I made the purchase with for confirmation.
This caused me a lot of worry and was one of the reasons I booked our visit to the Alhambra on the last day of our 3-day visit to Granada. It was all for naught.
The tickets I purchased through the official website mentioned above came with a QR code. That was all I needed for entry. The employee scanned the QR code on my admission ticket and I was admitted without any hassle.
What to do if you have an 8:30 AM ticket
I booked us tickets for the first time slot of the day at 8:30 AM. If you have the first timed entrance of the day, don’t take the main entrance to the Alhambra. It’s far (about half a mile) from the entrance to the Nasrid Palaces. Instead, enter through the Puerta de la Justicia (Justice Door).
The walk up from the street to the Justice Door took about 10 minutes. The walk is inclined (the Alhambra is on a hill), but the road is zigzag so you won’t find yourself walking straight upward. I enjoyed the walk because it took us through a park with lots of trees and some people on their morning runs.
If you don’t want to walk up the hill, there’s the option to take the bus or catch a taxi. Just note that buses can be busy during peak hours and high season. I found this Love Granada post to be helpful for information on transportation options and prices.
Once you enter through the Justice Door, keep walking toward the Carlos V Palace. There’s a large open area where you can get an audio guide and line up for entrance to the Nasrid Palaces.
We arrived at about 8:15 for the 8:30 entrance and we were first in line. The audio guides were available for rent at a kiosk nearby. They weren’t ready until a little later. My husband went to the audio guide kiosk while I kept our place in line.
Some people don’t like the idea of an early entry, but I really enjoyed it. We got first access to the Nasrid Palaces so we could take pictures without many other people in them. We walked through quickly taking pictures with no one around.
After we covered much of the palace, we backtracked to the beginning and turned on our audio guides. By then, only about 20 minutes later, lots more people including tour groups had arrived.
What to do if you have a later ticket
We spent about 3.5-4 hours total at the Alhambra. If you have a midday entrance time, you have the option of visiting the rest of the Alhambra complex before and/or after you enter the Nasrid Palaces. I would try to see the other parts of the Alhambra first if I had a late ticket to the Nasrid Palaces at 5 PM or later.
During high season, the line to enter the Nasrid Palaces can be long even with the timed entry. Arrive at least a half an hour early so that you don’t miss your thirty-minute window to enter.
You don’t want to miss your time while waiting to rent an audio guide either. The line can be long as only two people handle the rentals and returns. You have people exchanging money, asking questions about the audio guides, and generally taking their time.
I’ve heard of them running out of audio guides during peak times too. You’d then have to wait for someone to return theirs in your language. If you get there early, you can get an audio guide and get in line in time for your entry without worry.
Overall, I’d recommend to set aside at least 4 hours to explore all of the Alhambra. We saw almost everything in about 3.5 hours. If I didn’t get tired and hungry, I might’ve stayed longer to see more or taken a more leisurely pace.
Some people stay and have lunch on the grounds. By the time we left at nearly noon, the grounds were packed with tourists and even school children.
Visiting the Alhambra was the highlight of my trip to Spain. It’s worth visiting if you’re staying in Granada or just passing through Andalusia. The most challenging part of the visit is procuring tickets. Once you have that, you’re set and can enjoy one of the most beautiful attractions in Spain!