ALHAMBRA PALACE of Granada, Spain

What is the Alhambra?

The Alhambra Palace is one of Spain’s most important tourist attractions and rightfully so. This massive palace and fortress complex is a testimony to the refined and elegant Moorish civilization of Al-Andalus that flourished here between the 9th and 15th centuries. It also tells the unique history of Granada, Andalusia and even Spain.

You won’t find anything like it in all of Europe.

Patricia Palacios, co-founder of España Guide
España Guide Co-Founder
Patricia is an engineer turned content creator who for over a decade has been helping travelers navigate her native Spain. In addition to her own website, her tips and recommendations have been featured on BBC Travel, CNN, El País & Lonely Planet, just to name a few.

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What to See in the Alhambra



Patio de los Leones (Lions Patio) in the Nasrid Palaces of the Alhambra of Granada (Spain)
Patio de los Leones in the Nasrid Palaces of the Alhambra

The 14th century the Nasrid Palaces are the jewel of the Alhambra. Visiting this Moorish royal palace complex will give you the opportunity to see most important remains of a culture that flourished and thrived, while the rest of Europe lived through dark times.

Alhambra Tickets Icon    Book tickets: Get your Alhambra tickets here!

Inside the palace you will find some of the finest examples of Mudejar style architecture (hybrid between Islamic art and Gothic architecture).

Patio de los Arrayanes in the Nasrid Palaces of Granada's Alhambra – Spain
Patio de los Arrayanes in the Nasrid Palaces of Granada's Alhambra

The most majestic room of the palaces is the “Salón de Embajadores” (Ambassadors’ Hall). This is where the throne was located and where official receptions took place. It’s where Boabdil, the last Moorish King of Granada, gathered his men together and decided to surrender Granada.

Alhambra Tip Icon - Catholic Monarchs meet Columbus    Did you know? Christopher Columbus met with Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in the Nasrid Palaces in 1492, right after Granada was captured from the Moors.
Detail of the Nasrid Palaces – Alhambra, Granada (Spain)
Detail of the Nasrid Palaces – Alhambra

Another highlight of the Nasrid Palaces is the “Patio de los Leones,” (Patio of the Lions) built during the peak of Granada’s emirate. The showstopper of this patio is the impressive fountain formed by 12 lions sculpted from marble.



Patio de la Acequia in the Generalife of the Alhambra of Granada (Spain)
Patio de la Acequia in the Generalife

The word “Generalife” translates as “paradise’s garden,” or “garden of feasts” and this place lives up to its name. The Generalife was designed as the leisure residence for the kings of Granada and was surrounded by agricultural land.

It was also a hunting lodge and country retreat where the rulers and their families could escape.

The Generalife is made up of two buildings connected by a beautiful courtyard called “Patio de la Acequia,” which itself is the main highlight. It's still possible to see the “Acequia Real” (Royal Irrigation Channel) that brings water to the Alhambra complex and its gardens.

Thanks to its beautiful gardens and fast-flowing water, the Generalife might very well be one of the most charming corners of the Alhambra.

Alhambra Things to See Icon - Top things to do in Granada    Don't miss: Check out our full list of The Best Things to Do in Granada


Defensive tower in the Alcazaba of the Alhambra of Granada (Andalusia)
Defensive tower in the Alcazaba

The Alcazaba is the oldest part of the Alhambra. This citadel, together with the towers called “Torres Bermejas,” has served to watch over and control the city since the 9th century.

Gardens of the Alcazaba in Granada's Alhambra (Spain)
Gardens of the Alcazaba in Granada's Alhambra

The largest tower of the Alcazaba is the Torre de la Vela. Its name is given by the great bell that hangs above it. It was brought by the Catholic Monarchs when they reconquered the city in 1492 (bells were symbols of Christianity).

Today, it is possible to climb to the top of the tower and enjoy some great views of Granada and the surrounding nature.

Alhambra Hotels Icon - Best hotels in Granada    Where to stay? Check out our curated list of The Best Hotels in Granada


Court of the Palace of Charles V inside the Alhambra of Granada (Spain)
Court of the Palace of Charles V

The Palace of Charles V is one of the first Renaissance buildings to be constructed outside of Italy (16th century). Its style is however, very different from the rest of the Alhambra and it feels very out of place.

Charles V was the grandson of Isabella and Ferdinand. He and his wife, Isabella of Portugal, visited Granada during their honeymoon in 1526 and fell in love with the city so much that they decided to have a great palace.

Unfortunately, the project was ill-fated from the very beginning. One summer day in Granada while the couple was visiting, a large earthquake struck the city. Isabella was so scared that she left and never returned to Granada.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the project was also short of money and construction lasted 110 years – Charles V died 80 years before it was finished! Three architects worked their whole careers until each of them died of old age. But it was eventually completed…

Besides featuring an impressive circular courtyard, the palace of Charles V currently houses two museums:

  • The Alhambra Museum (closed on Mondays // free entrance) is located on the ground floor and contains some of the Alhambra’s best surviving Moorish art.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts (closed on Mondays // free for EU citizens; 1.50€ others) is comprised of nine exhibition halls showing the history of art in Granada, from the fall of the Nasrid kingdom up to the present day.

History of Granada's Alhambra

Panoramic views of the Alhambra palace at sunset in Granada, Spain
Panoramic views of the Alhambra palace in Granada

The original Alhambra fortress has existed since the 9th century but it wasn’t until the 13th and 14th centuries when it was heavily expanded upon, becoming the crown jewel of the Moorish empire and more specifically, the Nasrid dynasty.

When Granada was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs (Isabella and Ferdinand) in 1492, the Alhambra became a Christian court and was expanded upon once again – new additions were completed including a church and monastery.

Picture perfect courtyard at the Generalife in Granada's Alhambra – Granada
Picture perfect courtyard at the Generalife in Granada's Alhambra

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Alhambra slowly fell into decay. When Napoleon’s troops invaded Granada (1808-1812), they seized the Alhambra and used it as a barracks, causing a lot of damage.

It wasn’t until Washington Irving wrote his book “Tales of the Alhambra” (1832) that attention was brought back to its remarkable beauty. This lead to it being declared a national monument in 1870. Since then, the Alhambra has been and continues to be restored and preserved. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Alhambra Tip Icon    Did you know? The word “Alhambra” comes from the Arabic “al-hamra” and means “the red one.” Its orangish-red facades can best be observed at sunset from the San Nicolas Lookout of the Albaicin neighborhood.

Alhambra Visit – FAQ

Rose in the Generalife gardens – Alhambra de Granada
Rose in the Generalife gardens – Alhambra de Granada

How Long Do I Need for my Alhambra Visit?

Plan around 3 hours for seeing everything. But realistically plan on a little longer. You will want to take your time and have several breaks.

Guided tours last around 3 hours and usually end at the Generalife which is still a decent walk to the exit. After the tour ends, you can still stay longer and check out the Charles V Palace which has an Alhambra museum inside.

If you book a complete admission ticket – and not a tour – take note that the whole complex closes down at 8 PM in the summer and 6 PM in the winter. So do not buy a ticket too close to closing time. If you buy a ticket for 7PM in the summer for example, you will only have 1 hour to see it all. That’s not enough time and you will be sadly disappointed.

In Which Order Should I Visit Each Area within the Alhambra?

Check out this map of the Alhambra. It shows a circular path which is recommended so that you do not have to do any backtracking.

Normally, we suggest to start off with the Charles V Palace and the Alcazaba to then enter the Nasrid Palaces during your time slot. From there, head to the Generalife. If you are pressed for time at the beginning, you can always see the Charles V Palace at the end since you can leave and re-enter at your own leisure.

Where Can You Eat in the Alhambra?

For lunch or snacks there are a few possibilities. A kiosk located next to the Alcazaba sells drinks, sandwiches and other simple food.

If you prefer a nice sit-down meal, the only other option within the Alhambra complex is the restaurant of the Parador Hotel. It has a terrace with fantastic views to the Generalife and its gardens.

How Do I get to the Alhambra?

If you are in the city center of Granada, the easiest and most affordable way to get to the Alhambra is by public bus or simply walking.

Alhambra directions icon - how to get to the Alhambra    For more info, see our How to get to the Alhambra page.

What is the best time to visit the Alhambra?

Best time of the day: The number of visits allowed in the Alhambra is capped. That means that the site receives a steady flow of visitors throughout the whole day.

Is there a particular time that is better than others for visiting? Some will claim that the morning is best, others at lunch time and still others say in the late afternoon. But in our opinion, the best time to visit is whenever best fits your schedule.

Best time of the year: For the best weather and the pretties garden conditions, we find that spring is the best time to visit – particularly in April and May before the intense summer heat intensifies.

Alhambra tip icon - best time to visit    Avoid the crowds: Check out our detailed page about the Best Time to Visit the Alhambra.

Alhambra – Opening Times

Opening Times icon indicating when the monument is open

From April 1st to October 14th:
Day visits:
- Monday to Sunday: 8:30am to 8pm
Night visits:
- Tuesday to Saturday: 10pm to 11:30pm

From October 15th to March 31st:
Day visits:
- Monday to Sunday: 8:30am to 6pm
Night visits:
- Tuesday to Saturday: 8pm to 9:30pm

The Alhambra is closed on December 25th and January 1st

Icono de horario de apertura indicando cuando esta abierto el monumento

From November 1st to February 28th:
from dusk until 2am

From March 1st to October 31st:
from dusk until 4am

During Easter week, Corpus Christi and Christmas (December 24th to January 5th):
from dusk until 6am

Top Hotels around the Alhambra

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