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How to order the sights at the Alhambra

I am hoping that experienced visitors to the Alhambra can offer advice on how to best order a first-time visit. We will be staying in Albacain near the start of Cuesta del Rey Chico that ends near the main entrance to the Alhambra, and plan to visit on September 18. I have read that booking the Nasrid Palace at opening and seeing the Palace first is the best plan. The host at our accommodation says that it is a 15 minute walk to the Generalife and 30 minutes to Nasrid Palace. He strongly recommends starting at the Generalife. Given that recommendation, I am struggling with how to time and order our visit to the complex: Best time to begin walking up? How long to plan for the Generalife? What time to book the Nasrid Palace? Is heat in mid-day likely to be an issue and/or should we plan for a mid-day break? We will have all day so can visit leisurely…once we have a plan. Thanks, in advance, for any experience-based help.

Posted by
8489 posts

In general, I think that listening to the advice of a local host has merits most of the time. The Nasrid Palace is capacity controlled throughout the day, so I am unsure if starting there first thing really matters that much.

Two possible suggestions:
1) If you plan on eating lunch at the Alhambra, there is a sit down lunch spot at the Parador de Granada that has a lovely terrace overlooking the gardens.
2) If you are interested, I recommend Margarita as a guide. We really felt that it made a huge difference to our enjoyment and understanding of the Alhambra. Her email is [email protected]

Posted by
4574 posts

Asking how long to spend at Generalife is all relative to your interest in gardens and views. Yes, heat can be an issue, and I actually found it difficult to find a place to eat on the grounds. But then, I am cheap. There is a little bar set up right in front of the Nasrid Palace with good tortillas (the Spanish potato egg 'quiche' pie). I think they had sandwiches, but being gluten free, I didn't retain that info. It is in a small shaded garden area. So, that may be a consideration - start with the garden, take a shaded lunch and then the Nasrid Palace. Alternatively, book Nasrid first thing (as that is the only thing 'timed') and do everything on your own schedule after that. I see opening time is 8:30. If you decide to do garden first, you could consider a 1pm Nasrid entry. That gives you a heat of the day break, but if you missed anything in the gardens, you can visit on the way out....as you have to back track to the main entrance anyway. And if you are done beforehand, than just enjoy the shade and a cool drink at the bar (not just a booze bar, but they have coffee and half beers as well as food) and bide your time for the Palace.
I personally really enjoyed going up for a night visit of the Nasrid Palace first, then I booked first entry to Nasrid with garden afterwards.
It is steep from your street to the site. I was happy to take the little bus up.

Posted by
27328 posts

You are limited to just one entry into the Nasrid Palaces (and that one is timed, as you know), the Charles V Palace (the museum) and I think also the Generalife. There are other areas you can wander around at will. I would be very, very nervous not to do the Nasrid Palaces first, for fear of somehow missing my entry time. I certainly wouldn't want to leave the Generalife or the Charles V Palace before I had seen everything I wanted to, in order to be on time for the Nasrid Palaces. For me, this would trump the logistics involved in getting around the complex, but there is a lot of walking, and folks with mobility issues would be advised to weigh the advantage and disadvantages of different options.

From the standpoint of enjoying what you're doing, I think the order of things doesn't matter except for the potential problem of high temperature. I think if you start at 8:30 AM, you may well be finished by 2 PM or even by 1 PM, which would be a very good thing on a super-hot day.

One other thing: Every day some things are open and some are closed (not the Nasrid Palaces, of course), and the hours can vary. I stopped at the Visitor Center on my way in to get the scoop for the day. I particularly wanted to know about things open only in the morning or only in the afternoon. I don't know whether the Visitor Center opens before the first entry period at the Nasrid Palaces.

Posted by
2345 posts

One thing that I didn’t realize with the Generalife: once you make your way through the gardens to the palace, you can’t retrace your steps. Take your time exploring the gardens. Once you go through the palace, you are funneled out a separate path with no views of the gardens.

If you have the time, I would book both day and night tickets. For the day visit, wander through the gardens and book the Nasarid palace before lunch. See it in the daytime, then if it’s too hot, take a break (assuming your lodging has ac). Then return for the night viewing, either that night or another day.

Posted by
4574 posts

Interesting note about not being able to retrace steps. I don't recall that being a limitation in 2017. Maybe those are new restrictions.

Posted by
265 posts

Thank you so much for the super helpful tips and suggestions. Perhaps our best bet is to book the first slot for Nasrid Palace and, later, figure out the logistics for getting to the Alhambra. It sounds as though there is a steep walk from our location, possibly access to the red vans or, as we will have a car, drive and park is an also option.

Posted by
6702 posts

The only important one is the Nasrid palace since it is the only times entry. Everything else can be seen either before or after depending on how you feel. Nobody even checked tickets for the Generalife last time I was there.

With regard to parking, the parking lot is a good 15 minutes downhill walk from the complex. Walking from your B&B would take about the same amount of time.

Posted by
8489 posts

The only place you can’t retrace your steps is the Nasrid Palace. I’m not sure what the other poster was trying to express.

As far as the uphill climb goes, there is a taxi stand at the Alhambra. You can take a taxi that will drop you right at the top of the Justice Gate for very little money.

Posted by
46 posts

If you have the opportunity, take the night tour too. We did day and night tours, starting with the latter. Very unique in their own way(s), and we're so glad we did both of them. And if you take the night tour, arrive a bit early, as the sunsetting over Granada from that vantage point is spectacular.

Posted by
1652 posts

We bought tickets for the Nasrid Palace for 9;30am. We took a taxi from our hotel to the Alhambra, and I asked the taxi driver to drop us off at the Puerta de la Justicia. It was an easy and short walk from here to the Nasrid Palace.

After touring the Nasrid Palace, we sat on benches in the Partal Gardens and had a light lunch we had purchased the night before (meat pies and bottled water).

Then we took the path to the Generalife Gardens (about a 15-minute walk). After visiting the gardens, we headed towards the Alcazaba and stopped for drinks and some tapas at the Hotel America before continuing on to the Alcazaba.

So this order worked well for us. You are smart to allocate all day for a leisurely visit. We didn't leave until 4:30PM!!! The Alhambra is meant to be visited slowly and savored. It is gorgeous!

We returned that evening for the night tour which I highly recommend.

Posted by
265 posts

I so appreciate all of the helpful responses, thanks to all!

kmkwoo mentioned that booking Nasrid Palace at 9:30A worked out well. Would being an early bird at opening time, 8:30A, be preferable? Any other advice about entry time?

Posted by
5444 posts

We were in Granada and were advised by our host to walk up the Cuesta del Rey Chico. We got 1/3 of the way up and the path was entirely closed due to construction. Make sure it is open again when you visit as we nearly missed our time for the Nasrid Palace and we had to walk back down and take a taxi.

Posted by
4574 posts

I would go as early as possible to avoid the additions of bus tours. They restrict the numbers, but often tours move in packs which creates impediments in front of interesting things. Particulsrly frustrating if you can't see over them or get close enough to see details.

Posted by
265 posts

Again, thanks to all for your help. We look forward to our trip.

Posted by
4279 posts

I have no idea how crowds will be in September, but I was there Monday, with a 2:00 Nasrid Palace entry (for irrelevant to most people reasons) and it was not crowded at all. None of the Alhambra was, although there were a number of tour groups.

We spent 2:00-6:30 there and actually could have used another hour, if we had included time to rest. That 4 1/2 hrs was about all I could absorb (and walk) at one time.

Heat would definitely make a difference in my stamina, though.

One thing I didn’t know was that once we had entered with ticket QR (not printed) and passport, no one looked at the ticket again - anywhere. From then on they scanned our passports instead.

And yes, you can go to the gardens after (or before) the palace. No one checked our tickets there at all.