Nine years working at a tourist office goes a long way. Many happy faces, some others mad and a few -the least- sad ones. The Alhambra is the main monument in Granada, the most visited and the main reason for dissatisfaction for those who visit Granada. Many of those dissatisfactions are caused by the lack of information that tourists generally have in regards to the Arab citadel. Based on my experience, and in order to avoid a sad face leaving Granada, here are five things you need to know about the Alhambra of Granada before your visit.

1. What is the Alhambra of Granada?

Alhambra de Granada

Before even looking for tickets for the Alhambra of Granada, we need to understand that this Wonder of the World is not just a single monument. It is actually a citadel, a fortress city. So don’t think you’ll be visiting a building and that’s it. The Alhambra has its streets, squares, gardens, businesses and walls. Be prepared to visit a series of monuments located in the same complex, each with its own access point where you’ll need to show your ticket.
Let’s distinguish between paying areas and free areas.
The most important part (paying, of course) is the Nasrid Palaces where we can find the most iconic images in the Alhambra: the Courtyard of Comares and the Courtyard of the Lions.
The other two paying areas are the Alcazaba (the fortress) and the gardens of the Generalife.
The free zones are the Palace of Charles the Fifth, (hosting  both the Museum of the Alhambra and the Fine Arts Museum), the Calle Real -or Royal Street-, and the terrace where we can admire the Puerta del Vino -or Gate of the Wine-.

2. Do I have to book my tickets for the Alhambra in advance?

¿Reservar entradas para la Alhambra?
Unless you’re coming on a week day in December, the answer is: yes, you do. Book it in advance and you’ll avoid the risk and possibility of not being able to visit it.
If you’re visiting during Spanish national holidays, the Holy Week, Easter, Christmas and other crowded days, book them as soon as possible: meaning -at least- one month in advance. Better safe than sorry.

3. How can I book my ticket for the Alhambra?

Entrada Granada Card Alhambra

You have several options:

 – The«regular one»:
The general ticket. As of 2016, Ticketmaster is the webpage that sells them. With this ticket you’ll visit the Nasrid Palaces, the Gardens of the Generalife and the fortress of the Alcazaba. Ticketmaster also offers other options:
Alhambra and Rodríguez Acosta Foundation: You’ll visit the whole of the Alhambra and the fundación Rodríguez Acosta, located nearby.
-Alhambra Gardens Generalife and Alcazaba: For visiting the Generalife and the Alcazaba, but you’ll be missing the Nasrid Palaces: the most important part.
-Alhambra at Night Palaces: Many tourist want to see the «Alhambra at night» and this is the option they go for. No doubt one gets a different and evoking view of the citadel. But take this into consideration: you’ll only visit the Nasrid Palaces and not the other paying zones (neither Alcazaba, nor Generalife). This type of ticket is not available every day.
-Alhambra at Night Generalife: Similar to the previous one, but it only grants access to the Generalife.
-Alhambra Specialists: As its name indicates, it is aimed at specialists. It is not recommendable if it’s your first time visiting the monument as you won’t be visiting the whole citadel not focusing on a global view of what it is all about.
-Alhambra Experiences: Do you want to visit the Alhambra at night? This is the best option for it. You can visit the Nasrid Palaces with their night illumination and the other paying zones on the next day, on a morning shift. You won’t be missing anything this way.
-Dobla de Oro: It is a new option on Ticketmaster. Besides visiting the whole complex of the Alhambra and Generalife, you can visit the main Muslim-Spanish monuments in the Albaicín, the Arab district of Granada. It is one of the best options for getting to know all the World Heritage Sites in Granada.
– Granada Card, not to be bought on Ticketmaster, but in the City Tourist Office webpage. If there aren’t ticket available on Ticketmaster it is possible there are still tickets on sale with the Granada Card. It includes all the paying areas in the Alhambra and Generalife. Furthermore, it also gives access to the main monuments in the city: Cathedral, Royal Chapel, Monastery of the Cartuja, Monastery of San Jerónimo, Science Park Museum and Museum Caja Granada. It also includes public transportation. If you want to ride the Tourist Train, it is also included (only in the Granada Card Plus). It is the best option if you’re planning to stay several days in Granada as you’ll be able to access the main tourist points in the city and visit the whole of the Alhambra with just one ticket.
– Travel agencies: there are plenty with ranging prices from 40 to 60 euros. My recommendation is Get Your Guide. You can click here to see their offers.

4. Can I go without reservation?

¿Puedo ir sin entrada a la Alhambra?

A limited number of tickets are put on sale every day. These are the tickets that the Alhambra has left from other sales channels. They are available to the public when the Alhambra ticket office opens, that is, at 8 am.
Depending on the season and the date you want to visit, you’ll have more or less possibilites and/or you’ll have to wake up earlier or later. If it’s a Thursday November 15th, for instance, you can go to the ticket office after they open and you’ll have no problem. If it’s Friday during Easter it may be possible (it has actually happened) that you go to do the line at 6 am and you still don’t get tickets for the monument. Between these two extremes: every shade of gray.

5. What if I don’t get any kind of ticket for the Alhambra? May I still visit something?

El palacio de Carlos V es gratuito
You can visit the free zones. You won’t need tickets for visiting them. As it is stated on the first point: the Alhambra is a city itself. You can cross the wall gates without problems. There is no control point through there. You can enjoy seeing the Gate of Justice (Puerta de la Justicia) -the most iconic of the walls- without paying. Once you enter the complex, you can visit the Palace of Charles the Fifth hosting two museums: the Alhambra Museum and the Fine Arts Museum. On the terrace in front of the Palace you can admire the Gate of Wine (Puerta del Vino) and you can also take a picture with the Albaicín in the background. A stroll through Calle Real which goes across the citadel and where we can find the Tourist Information Point can end with a nice coffee at the Parador Nacional de San Francisco (an old monastery converted into a hotel). Coffee is not cheap there, but the atmosphere is wonderful. As you can see, you can still visit many places without ticket or paying, but don’t get it wrong: you need to come back and visit the whole of the Alhambra and its rich palaces.


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