Visiting the Alhambra in Granada, Spain – Gardens, Generalife, Alcazaba
I could go on and on about Granada and how great of a city it is. It is the city that you visit to go to the Alhambra – a gorgeous palace built in 1238 that definitely is a must see when visiting Spain. The word, "Alhambra," partially means, "Red Castle." It gets its name due to the red tones that are visible in the towers and walls. Besides seeing the famous and well-known Nasrid Palace inside of the Alhambra, make sure to dedicate time for the other parts of the Alhambra as well. The Gardens, Generalife, and the Alcazaba are definitely worth visiting.
Touring the Alhambra (especially if it is your first time there) will take an entire day. Dedicate a whole day to that and nothing else. You can purchase tickets on their website here, choosing to visit each section during the day or during the night. If all the tickets are sold out, and you want more information on how to get last minute, day-of tickets, read my post here. We toured the Gardens, Generalife, and the Alcazaba during the day and then toured the Nasrid Palace at night for their 10 PM showing. Read my post here for more info on our night visit to the Nasrid Palace.
You can choose to visit the different sections of the Alhambra whenever it is convenient for you, except for the Nasrid Palace. You have to visit the Nasrid Palace during your designated time slot that you chose when you purchased your ticket. If you don't go during that time slot then you aren't allowed in during a different time. They do this to have control over how many people enter at once so it's not too crowded. About 2 million people visit the Alhambra each year and about 8,500 people visit every day! These numbers make it the most visited monument in all of Europe.
What to Bring?
Once you get inside of the Alhambra, there is nowhere to buy any essentials for a day out. Come prepared with things that your family needs. Here is a list of things that I threw into my backpack to spend the day at the Alhambra that ended up being very helpful.
Water Bottles –
There is nowhere to buy water on the grounds of the Alhambra once you have entered into the palace. To get water you have to exit completely and buy it at a near by store near the entrance. It isn’t convenient. I would recommend bringing water.
Same as water, there are no food stands, ice cream stands, nothing like that on the grounds of the Alhambra. If you’re traveling with little ones, or even if not, I’d recommend packing some snacks to last you throughout the day.
Jimmy fell during our visit to the Alhambra and skinned up one of his knees. I was so glad that I had packed some Bandaids and Neosporin. I don’t know what I would of done without it that day. If you have a toddler, come prepared for the frequent falls with all the walking that you’ll be doing.
If you’re visiting during the summer, bring sunscreen. The majority of the visit is outside so be ready to be in the sun all day.
Of course you need to bring a camera. The pictures and views are very picture worthy! Get ready to say cheese.
Good Walking Shoes –
You will be on your feet all day during your tour of the Alhambra. Come wearing comfortable walking shoes that you can wear for an entire day.
How To Get There
The Alhambra is located up on a hill. You can either choose to walk to the Alhambra or take a taxi. If you choose to walk, make sure that you are prepared for a long walk that is completely uphill. If walking uphill isn’t your thing, then taking a taxi might be the best option.
Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n
If you’re a history buff and want to learn a little more than from just reading the signs, I would recommend renting a headset and wearing that during your tour. I did this and it was a great addition to an already great visit! The cost is €6 for one headset and you need to leave an ID of some sort with them. You’ll get it back when you return them at the end of the day.
As we walked through the outside area of the Alhambra, I felt like I was in the Secret Garden. So many colorful flowers, so many lush orange trees, so many gorgeous things to look at. The colors are all so bright and the smell of flowers greets you everywhere you turn. I loved all the fountains. I especially loved all the trees and bushes that were groomed into a perfect square shape. They were all perfectly trimmed. Everything was immaculate. I could of stayed wandering for hours because there is just so much to see.
Jimmy loved all the orange trees. His favorite color has been orange for a while now so naturally he gravitates toward oranges. He finds oranges fascinating. I think he thinks oranges are like a small orange ball but one that is edible, which makes it even cooler in his little two year old mind. He loves peeling them. It's like a hidden surprise inside for him, almost like opening a present. You will often find him wandering around the house eating oranges or carrying an orange in his hand or backpack. Sometimes he even begs us to let him sleep with one.
One of the coolest things that we saw during our visit was the Water Stairway. It is part of the Generalife, leading from the top most highest point of the Alhambra, all the way down to the bottom of the stairs. It was so cool to see water running down on each side of the staircase in the hollow handrails. Jimmy loved running his hands in it as we climbed up to the top.
Where to Eat?
Food options are limited around the Alhambra. All of the good restaurants that are highly reviewed in Granada are not close to the Alhambra but are closer to town. Once you get to the Alhambra, it isn’t logical to leave for lunch. I would recommend packing a lunch and snacks. If that’s not your thing, then maybe try one of the sit down restaurants that is near the Alhambra. They are ok, but very busy, expensive, and touristy.
We ate at a restaurant that was outside of the entrance and around the corner a bit. Unfortunately I don't remember what it was called but it was fine. Nothing special. We ordered an egg, jamón, and potato dish and split it, just to hold us over until we could eat something really good later on that night. The outside seating area was nice with tables set up under large umbrellas. It wasn't a bad choice, especially since there wasn't much else that was better. If I were to do it again, I'd probably just eat a large breakfast, pack snacks for lunch, and then later on in the evening eat a good dinner in town.
Where to Stay?
There is an amazing hotel that is on the grounds of the Alhambra called, Parador de Granada. It is an old convent that has been transformed into a hotel and is incredibly beautiful. It is quite expensive and fills up quickly, but how cool would that be to sleep in an actual convent? We didn’t stay here this trip but I would love to stay here in the future. The only downfall I see is that it is far away from the city of Granada with all the best restaurants and shopping. But, if your visit to Granada is focused primarily on seeing the Alhambra, then this hotel would be the perfect location for you. If you stayed here, you could visit the Alhambra in the morning, take a nap at your hotel, then be right back again later on to see more of the Alhambra without any inconvenience at all. It would ideal for families with little ones.
Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n
If you love a good view, Granada is a great place to visit. From the Alhambra, seeing the views of the city of Granada were my favorite. You can see the whole city lined along the mountain. It's stunning. While you're in town, seeing the views of the Alhambra is also incredible, because you can see the whole palace and how massive it really is. Seeing the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains behind the Alhambra makes it even more fabulous.
The word "Alcazaba" means, a walled fortification within a city. The Alcazaba within the Alhambra is just that – the main form of defense when the Alhambra was under attack. It is the oldest part of the Alhambra, built in the 13th century. In the two pictures below, you'll see what looks like a large maze of some sort. This system was built and used to collect rain water. Underneath this area is where the dungeon is located.
The tower in the picture below is called the, "Vela Tower." It has four floors, an underground floor, and an underground dungeon. The bell at the top of this tower was very important for informing the people of disasters that were coming. There is a legend that says that any single female that rings the bell on January 2nd will get married by the end of the year. January 2nd is the day that the Catholics took over the city of Granada. So attention ladies! Unless you want to get hitched, stay away from that bell.
I hope reading my post and seeing all of the photos, inspires you to book tickets to Granada to see the Alhambra for your next trip. You won't be disappointed! Feel free to leave any questions or comments below.