As one of Spain’s crown jewels, more than 2 million people visit the Alhambra each year. People travel to Granada in southern Spain just to visit the Alhambra. But what many people don’t know is that you need to plan well ahead to secure tickets for the Alhambra – two to three months ahead sometimes!
On our recent Southern Spain road trip, I planned our entire trip around the Alhambra to make sure that we didn’t miss this stunning monument. But, despite trying to plan ahead, I was left in a panic when I discovered all the Alhambra tickets online were sold out for the days we’d be in Granada. Every single day!
Luckily, after doing a lot of anxious research, I figured out how to buy Alhambra tickets, even if they’re sold out online. If you’re planning a trip to the Alhambra, here are my tips for buying tickets for the Alhambra – as well as what to do if you discover all the Alhambra tickets sold out.
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What is the Alhambra?
If I were to describe the Alhambra with the help of Wikipedia, I would say that it is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada in southern Spain.
If I describe the Alhambra in my own words, it’s a mind-blowing piece of architecture that left me speechless and wide-eyed at times. It’s full of lush, manicured, green gardens that offer respite from the heat, arches covered in plaster ornaments studded with beautiful detailed Arabic script, and ancient towers that offer stunning views of Granada and the surrounding mountains.
Originally constructed in AD889, it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Alhambra has been in the hands of many, including the Nasrid Dynasty and the Christians following the Reconquista. You can clearly see the influence of each of these rulers in the various additions made over the centuries.
The Alhambra has three distinct parts:
The Nasrid Palaces
The Nasrid Palaces are the main attraction of the Alhambra and a must visit. This was the residence of the many rulers who made their home here over the past centuries. Here you can wander through many of the palaces and courtyards full of fountains, arches and stunning ceiling ornaments.
The oldest part of the Alhambra, the Alcazaba was once a fortified military enclosure. In the ruins you can see where the soldiers used to live, and there are great views of Granada from the various towers that you can climb. There are quite a few stairs to scale to get to the top, so do keep this in mind if you are travelling with children or people with mobility issues.
These gardens were once used by the Sultans of Granada as their summer residence. The gardens are extensive and a wonderful place to take a break as you wander around the Alhambra.
How to buy tickets for the Alhambra
Only 6,600 Alhambra tickets are sold each day. That may sound like a lot, but as one of Spain’s most popular attractions, those tickets get snapped up quickly!
Alhambra tickets are only sold online or by phone. Each ticket is timed to restrict the number of people inside the Nasrid Palaces at any one time. While you can arrive at any time to see the rest of the Alhambra grounds, you can only enter Nasrid Palaces at the allotted time.
This can be confusing. But the main point to remember is that if your ticket states 9 a.m., that means you need to be entering the Nasrid Palaces at 9 a.m. – not the Alhambra complex itself. The allotted time slot refers to the specific time you need to enter the Nasrid Palaces.
Pay close attention to this time shown on your ticket. You must enter within 30 minutes of the stated time, as they don’t allow in latecomers.
Below, you’ll find an outline of how to buy Alhambra tickets online. If you prefer to order by phone, call +34 858 953 616 (operators speak English and Spanish).
As I mentioned, the only way to buy tickets is via the Alhambra official website. Some blogs on the web still contain outdated information about buying tickets for the Alhambra via the Ticketmaster website. This is no longer possible, so only buy from the official Alhambra website that I’ve linked to here.
You can buy tickets between two hours and three months in advance.
Types of Alhambra tickets available (and cost)
- General (€14) – Alhambra general tickets include access to the entire Alhambra grounds, including the Alzacaba, Nasrid Palaces and Generalife
- Night visit (€5-8) – access to the Alhambra at night, which I think would be a beautiful way to see the Alhambra! These tickets are split into night visit to the Nasrid Palaces and a separate night ticket to the Generalife and gardens
- Generalife and Alcazaba (€8) – cheaper than the general Alhambra ticket, but doesn’t allow access to the stunning Nasrid Palaces
- Alhambra Experiences ticket (€14) – this ticket includes a daytime visit to the Generalife and Alcazaba, and separate nighttime entrance to the Nasrid Palaces
- Special tickets like the Dobla de Oro (€14.65-19.65) – a cultural tourism route that links the Alhambra and the Albaicín, Granada’s old quarter. This ticket has both a daytime and nighttime option
When purchasing general tickets for the Alhambra, follow the steps online.
- Step 1: Select the number of tickets required and the date you’d like to visit
- Step 2: Select your preferred time to visit the Nasrid Palaces. The website will show only those time slots still available
- Step 3: Enter your contact details and payment method and voilà, you’re heading to the Alhambra!
You can bring your tickets printed to show the staff at the entrance gate, or show them on a mobile phone.
All the tickets for the Alhambra are sold out! What do I do?
Given the popularity of the Alhambra, it’s common for online tickets to sell out weeks or months in advance, particularly during high season. Arrgghh!
That’s exactly what happened to us! It was devastating for someone who is normally so well organised and who plans well ahead. But never fear! If Alhambra tickets are sold out on the date you wish to visit, here are some alternative options:
Check online again
You can buy tickets for the Alhambra online up to two hours in advance so you never know if new tickets have been made available or someone has returned tickets. Tickets that weren’t sold or were returned will appear back on the official Alhambra website at midnight. So try your luck again, you just never know if you’ll score some last minute Alhambra tickets!
Purchase another type of ticket
As outlined before, there are tickets for day and night visits. Check to see if any of those are available. I imagine seeing an Alhambra night tour would be stunning.
You can also buy Alhambra tickets that don’t include the Nasrid Palaces. Personally, I wouldn’t bother doing this. In my opinion, the Nasrid Palaces are the most fascinating and beautiful part of the Alhambra. It really can’t be missed.
Line up early at the gate to get tickets
Unfortunately, this is no longer an option if Alhambra is sold out! Tickets are only sold online or by phone, so you’re out of luck if you try to line up early at the gate to get Alhambra tickets on the day.
Choose an Alhambra guided tour
If Alhambra tickets are sold out, try a guided tour instead. Tour companies will generally reserve a whole lot of tickets in advance. Although two to three times the price of a regular Alhambra ticket, a guided tour of the Alhambra comes with the benefit of a knowledgeable guide who can share the history of the Alhambra and point out things you wouldn’t see by yourself. This tour comes highly recommended and means you can skip the line, as does this private tour.
Purchase a Granada Card
This is what we ended up doing when I left the purchase of our tickets to Alhambra to only a few weeks before we visited. The Granada Card often has tickets for the Alhambra available even if the Alhambra site is sold out, although there aren’t as many options for times to enter the Nasrid Palaces.
The Granada Card is more expensive than a general Alhambra ticket at €40, but it also grants access to many other sights in Granada including the Cathedral, the Royal Chapel, the Sacromonte Abbey and many other points of interest in Granada, as well as tickets to ride on the tourist train and local bus. If you’re planning to spend a few days in Granada, it could likely end up being great value.
Simply visit the website, check if there are Alhambra tickets available for your desired date and follow the easy steps to purchase your tickets. It’s important to check that Alhambra tickets are still available before you make your purchase!
Collect your tickets at the tourist office in the city centre when you arrive in Granada. It’s a super easy process.
Tips to make your visit to the Alhambra even more amazing
How much time do I need to visit the Alhambra?
You will need a minimum of three hours to see the entire complex, so plan your day accordingly. Having said that, you could easily spend a whole day here!
What time of day is best to see the Alhambra?
Morning is the best time to visit the Alhambra to avoid the crowds and enjoy your visit in cooler temperatures.
If you book Alhambra tickets in advance, you’re more like to get an early morning ticket to the Nasrid Palaces. This means you’ll have ample time to explore the palaces so you’re free to spend the remainder of your time exploring the rest of the grounds. You may also be lucky enough to have the palaces to yourself for a bit before the tour groups arrive at around 10 a.m. The first tickets are at 8 a.m.
How do I get to the Alhambra?
To get to the Alhambra, you can take the C3 bus up to the Alhambra and get off at the Puerta de la Justícia.
Alternatively, you can walk up to the Alhambra through the forest. Start at Plaza Nueva and follow the street signs. It’s a fairly steep walk.
Taxis also regularly go up and back to the Alhambra.
Are audio guides available for hire? Can I get a map of the Alhambra?
Audio guides are available to hire for an additional fee if you’d like more detail about each area you’re visiting. There’s barely any signage at the Alhambra, so this is a good option.
Maps aren’t handed out at the entrance, but if you ask, the security guards will direct you to a small office (not clearly signed) where you can pick one up.
How far in advance should I line up to visit the Nasrid Palaces?
Get in line 15 to 20 minutes before the designated window to visit the Nasrid Palaces, as the lines can be long. That means that if you’re ticket allows entry at 2 p.m., you need to be waiting in line around 1.30-1.45 p.m. (earlier if you’re in Granada during high season).
Are food and drinks sold at the Alhambra?
There are a couple of cafés and shops to buy snacks and drinks. You can also bring your own food and drinks and have a picnic in the grounds.
What to do in Granada (besides the Alhambra)
While the Alhambra is the main drawcard for visitors to Granada, Spain, there’s plenty more to keep you occupied. I’ve written a whole post about how to spend 2 days in Granada, so make sure to check it out and plan your Granada itinerary.
Where to stay near the Alhambra
If you want to stay really close to the Alhambra, the closest you can get is actually inside the grounds! There are two hotels inside the Alhambra complex:
- Parador de Granada – This former 15th century convent now hosts guests from all over the world who want to stay right in the heart of the Alhambra. Compare rates online now.
- Hotel América Granada – Full of Spanish charm, this hotel has all the modern amenities necessary to make your stay comfortable. And it’s only a 10-minute walk to the Generalife! Book your stay online.
Other hotels near the Alhambra include:
- Alhambra Palace – While it’s not inside the Alhambra grounds, this 5-star hotel is very close. It’s also the oldest 5-star hotel in Spain, but don’t worry, all the rooms have been renovated and are very modern and spacious. Compare rates and book a stay online.
- Hotel Casa 1800 – This lovely boutique hotel (with a gorgeous internal courtyard) gets great reviews for its location, staff and great food. Check the latest rates online before booking your stay.
We stayed in the Albaicín area, the city’s historical neighbourhood. Our Airbnb had a gorgeous view of the Alhambra – we could even see it out the window while showering! (Get $40 in credit if you sign up with Airbnb using this code!)
Have you visited the Alhambra in Granada, Spain? Do you have any tips for visiting or buying tickets for the Alhambra? Let me know if you have questions in the comments below.
This post was published in July 2018, and was updated in September 2019.