Alhambra is Spain's most visited monument for a reason. Beautifully located on the al-Sabika rocky hill overlooking the city of Granada, the fabulous complex is not just another architectural treasure in an already incredibly rich country, but the last remaining Moorish stronghold in Europe, as well as the oldest Muslim palace in the world. One of the finest monuments of Islamic architecture in Spain, Granada's most popular tourist attraction consists of a gathering of splendid Moorish palaces and landscaped gardens. It is one of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are so many things to do at Alhambra.
Things to do at Alhambra
1. The Alcazaba
The first thing to do at Alhambra is to visit the Alcazaba. The Alcazaba consists of buildings dating from the thirteenth century in grounds used solely by the military. The first thing you see when you enter is the Plaza de Armas (Armoury Square), which contained lodgings for the troops. All that remains is the foundations of these buildings, marked with a small wall. In the basement are where the aljibes (water reserves) were kept. The best thing about this tower is the view it offers over of the city, from one side, and of the Alhambra from another angle. If you move around the Alcazaba clockwise, you will reach the Puerta de las Armas, the main entrance to the Alcazaba during the Arab period.
2. La Casa Real
Next thing to do at Alhambra is to see the La Casa Real. This name is given to all Nazari palaces. It can be divided into three main categories, The Mexuar or Meshwar, the Comares Palace, the Palace of the Lions, and in addition the later Christian buildings. The Mexuar was where matters concerning the administration of justice were dealt with. This is the first thing you will see when you enter the area, and one of the most affected by the Christians following their arrival.
3. Palacio de Comares
This palace completely surrounds the Patio of the Myrtles, myrtle being the plant which forms the hedges of this court. The Palace of Comares is considered one of the jewels of the Alhambra, with a beautiful pond flanked by two rows of hedges. On the left is the Tower of Comares, the highest tower of the Alhambra (45 meters).
4. Patio de los Leones
Upon entering, one is struck by the forest of 124 columns that surround the courtyard. Everything in this garden has a symbolism representing paradise, surrounded by four rivers, while twelve lions at the centre represent the twelve signs of the zodiac. The Partal Gardens are one of the most beautiful areas in the Alhambra. This land was occupied by the military quarters.
5. Palacio de Carlos V
This is the great edifice near the entrance to the ticket office, which for many people breaks the delicate harmony of the Alhambra. Despite the above, it is one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture. It's a beautiful palace and is one of the top things to do at Alhambra.
How to Get Tickets?
It is recommended that tickets be purchased in advance. There are three types of tickets: Day Tour, Garden Tour and Night Tour. There are different ticket prices depending on the type of tickets you wish to purchase. All tickets must still be scanned at the entrance and at various checkpoints inside the Alhambra complex, so make sure you always bring your tickets with you. Booking and purchase of tickets are done online in the system of management and sales of tickets of the Council of the Alhambra and Generalife, by telephone or on TVRs. These tickets can be purchased through 'print at home”, on the TVRs or at the ticket office.
How To Get Around?
Alhambra can be explored on foot. It's easy to get around this area. However, not all areas in Alhambra are accessible by wheelchair.
What Should I Wear?
Most people might think that Alhambra is a religious site, but it actually isn't. Therefore, you don't have to dress modestly when visiting Alhambra. People go to Alhambra wearing t-shirts and shorts in the summer.
Best Time to Visit
Spring and summer are the best time to visit Alhambra, when the garden is beautiful with blooming flowers and the weather is perfect to stroll around. It's also better to get the morning ticket so if you are already in Alhambra you can wander around and leave whatever time you like. Also, make sure you arrive 30 minutes before the schedule on your ticket. If you are let, you will not be let in.
Will I Need a Guide?
You do not need a guide for the Alhambra. Exploring Alhambra by yourself is much better and you can choose you own pace and stop longer wherever you wish. Typically a visit to Alhambra takes between 3 hours and over 5 hours. Pick up the free map when collecting tickets or before entering the Alhambra complex.
How To Get There?
You can take the red minibus Alhambra Bus C3, which leaves every 10 minutes from Plaza Nueva to the Alhambra. The stop where you need to get off is called 'Generalife'. You can buy the bus ticket directly on the bus. The most desirable way is to walk down the Cuesta de Gomérez from the Plaza Nueva, enter the grounds of the Alhambra through the Cuesta de Gomérez and subsequently through the beautiful Gate of Justice, after passing through the woods.
Tickets and tours to Alhambra are fully booked most of the year. If fully booked, purchase a Granada Card which usually has availability. Tickets may not be resold – use the correct names when booking and carry identification when visiting the Alhambra.