I usually book my travels way ahead. Sometimes so far ahead, I forget there are certain must do’s to be able to secure a spot at must see attractions. This was 100% the case with my trip to Granada Spain. I knew in the back of my mind that I had to buy Alhambra tickets, but by the time I actually sat down and wanted to book the tickets for the Alhambra, my preferred time slots were sold out! And this was 3 months in advance for a visit in November!
Can you imagine what it is like if you want to visit the Alhambra in Granada in the summer?! But, after some digging and forking over some cash, I discovered a good way to secure my Alhambra tickets at my preferred time slots: I bought tickets for the Alhambra with the Granada Card!
Do you travel to Granada Spain and is a visit to the Alhambra on the top of your bucket list? But are you already too late to find the right tickets? I’ll explain what the Granada Card is and how you can use it to buy Alhambra tickets and see more of Granada Spain.
Read more: 10 day Andalusia Road Trip
The Alhambra- Granada, Spain: A must see
When you google image search for Andalusia in Spain, the first things that show up are images of the Alhambra in Granada. This ancient fortress and royal palace is on the Unesco World Heritage List and a top attraction in Spain. The current structure has remains of the fortress from 889 AD, you can visit the palaces that were built by the Sultan of Granada from 1333 onwards and you’ll find the additions made from 1492 by the Royal Spanish Court.
A visit to the Alhambra in Granada is an attack on your senses with all the detailed ornaments, the lush and colourful gardens and the dazzling views of the city and mountains around Granada.
Nasrid Palaces at the Alhambra
The Nasrid Palaces at the Alhambra are the true gem of the Alhambra. These 14th century palaces consist of patios, gardens and are overflowing with fragile ornaments that dazzle before your eyes. This structure is so rich in decoration and tranquil beauty; you get a true feeling of the time of the Arab rulers.
The Nasrid Palaces have a limited visitor quota. You need to book allocated time slots to visit the Nasrid Palaces and need to be at the entrance of the Nasrid Palaces as indicated on your Alhambra ticket. I’ll explain later about the time slots and how it works on your Alhambra tickets.
Read more: Explore more cities in Southern Spain
Gardens of the Alhambra
Once you go through the entrance of the Alhambra, you’ll find yourself almost in a park. Manicured hedges, cobble stones walk ways and lush gardens to wander around aimlessly. The Generalife gardens of the Alhambra are part of the Alhambra but they have their own place. Here you’ll find the summer palace of the royals and strolling around the gardens is a great experience to escape the hustle and bustle of modern day Granada.
Alhambra tickets: how does it work?
With all major tourist attractions, the ticket situation can be complicated and complex. When you search for information about tickets to the Alhambra, you’ll find an array of tour companies offering tickets and options. I’m going to focus on how to get Alhambra tickets online as an independent traveler.
General Alhambra Tickets
You can buy a general admission ticket for the Alhambra online. With this ticket you can visit the Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Generalife gardens, Carlos V Palace, public baths and the mosque. You have free access to the gardens.
There are numerous options for discounts, but the standard entrance fee for Alhambra tickets is €14. Alhambra at night is €8.
The General Alhambra tickets come in different types:
Morning tickets for the Alhambra: Monday to Sunday from 8.30 am till 2 pm
Afternoon tickets for the Alhambra: Monday to Sunday from 2 pm till 6 pm (Nov till Feb) or 8 pm (March till October)
Evening tickets for the Alhambra: Tuesday to Sunday from 10pm to 11.30 pm (summer) or Friday and Saturday from 8 pm to 9.30 pm (winter).
During your time frame, you can stay as long as you want, but keep in mind the time you need to be at the Nasrid Palaces.
Important: When you buy your tickets for the Alhambra, you need to choose a time slot to visit the Nasrid Palaces.
Alhambra time slots: why is it so important?
What is the best time to visit the Alhambra? The answer would be: whenever there are tickets available. But if you want to enjoy the gardens, you obviously need to visit during the day. When you want the place to yourself, then the best time to visit the Alhambra is as early as possible. I didn’t want to feel rushed and check the time every 5 minutes, so I wanted to go to the Nasrid Palaces before I’d visit the rest of the Alhambra.
Early risers own half the world
Every half an hour, a group of people is being led through the Nasrid Palaces. The earliest time slot is 8.30 am when the whole of Granada is sleeping. Although these early ticket sell out quickly, they are never at maximum capacity because people oversleep or don’t make it to the entrance on time.
And that is exactly what you’re looking for. The Alhambra can get super crowded with tour groups arriving around 10 am and filling all streets and sights with hordes of people. But not when you go super early.
When you visit the Nasrid Palaces first, you still have the whole day left to explore the rest of the Alhambra and you do not have to keep an eye on the time and you’re free to roam around.
And that was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to visit the Alhambra as early as possible but all morning time slots were sold out. Should I compromise by an afternoon time slot? I decided to look further and that’s when I discovered you can visit the Alhambra and book a time slot at the Nasrid Palaces with the Granada Card!
Read more: How to see Pisa without the crowds?
Granada Card: what is it and how to get it?
The Granada Card is a tourist pass that gives you free entrance and discounts to numerous sights and activities in Granada. The biggest perk and the reason why I bought it, was the ability to use it to buy last minute Alhambra tickets.
There are 2 types of Granada Cards: the Básico (Basic Card) for 3 days and the Plus Card which is valid for 5 days. Both include the entrance to the Alhambra; the Plus just has more other options.
What is included in the Granada Card?
5 (Basic) or 9 (Plus) journeys on the local red buses
Granada Plus Card only: 1 city tour with the Tourist train
Entrance to the Alhambra and Generalife
Royal Chapel and many more sights and attractions in Granada.
How much does the Granada Plus Card costs?
The Granada Card also has discount options, but the standard rate is 37€ for the Basic Cards and 40€ for the Plus Card when bought online in advance.
Obviously, these prices are considerably higher than the single entrance free for the Alhambra, but I knew I’d use the extras and wanted to take the bus and visit the Cathedral and Royal Chapel. And I really wanted to have an early morning time slot for the Nasrid Palaces.
How to buy tickets for the Alhambra with the Granada Card?
Another advantage of the tickets for the Alhambra with the Granada Card is the ease of buying them online. If you want to buy Alhambra tickets, you need to go to the Spanish Ticketmaster website. That is the only point where you can buy legit Alhambra tickets online. But it starts in Spanish, it has many options, you cannot search for best available dates, it jumps back to Spanish language each time and all in all I found it very user unfriendly. If you still want to give it a try, here is the link.
Read more: Visit the Hammam in Granada Spain
If you buy your Alhambra tickets as part of the Granada Card, you just go to the website of the Granada Card. Super easy and very user friendly. You click purchase a Granada Card either for the Básico or the Plus Card and you can select the date you want it to be valid. After this you need to select the number of adults and children and the schedule loads immediately. You see how many tickets are available and you can select the time slot for the Nasrid Palaces by clicking on the button.
Different dates of the validity of the Granada Card pop up and you can select the date when you want to visit the Alhambra and the Nasrid Palaces. 2 time slots pop up, the day time and the evening time. If you select the day time, more options with all the different time slots pop up and you can immediately see how many tickets are available. This is particular useful when you book for a larger group.
Select your desired time slot (9 am is the earliest) and continue to pay. Easy does it. When the Alhambra tickets are sold out, you might get lucky if you buy the Granada Card instead!
All you have to do now is bring the confirmation and pick up your Granada Card at the City Tourist Information Office at Granada City Hall.
Why do I recommend buying the Granada Card if you want to visit the Alhambra?
Now I understand, the difference between €14 or € 37 is huge (it is 23€ or a nice tapas meal with drinks). And especially for budget travelers this might seem like a bad choice.
If your only reason to travel to Granada in the South of Spain is to see the Alhambra, you better buy the entrance tickets for the Alhambra for €14.
But if you’re like me and would like to visit the Cathedral of Granada and the Royal Chapel and get to use the bus and the tourist train for a number of times AND visit the Alhambra at your desired time slot, then the Granada Card is a life saver!
Quick costs breakdown of the Granada Card
The Granada Card costs 37€ is you take the basic one.
Tickets for the Alhambra are €14
Tickets for the Granada Cathedral are €5
Royal Chapel entrance free €5
Regular bus ticket in Granada is €1,20 per ride. You get 5 on the Basic Granada Card (6€) and 9 on the Plus Card (€10,80)
Tourist Train (hop on hop off system) of Granada is €8
There are many other things included, like the Monastery of La Cartuja, the Monastery of San Jerónimo, Science Park Museum, the Caja Granada museum, the House of Zafra, the Cuarto Real and the Sacromonte Abbey. As I didn’t have enough time in Granada, I cannot tell you what they are like, but when you have the full 3 or 5 days to use the Granada Card, I’m sure you’ll find more value for your money.
In total I paid €40 for my Granada Card but used €42,80 of its worth in free entrance fees and bus rides. But the most important thing for me: I was able to buy Alhambra tickets at my desired time slots, when tickets to the Alhambra were already sold out via the main website.
Have you ever been to Granada? Did you visit the Alhambra? What was your favourite part? How did you buy your tickets? Let me know in the comment section below!