Our Visit to the Alhambra

Alhambra
 It’s a name you’ve likely heard before, even if you don’t remember what it means. Seeing a photo would impress you, but being there in person will blow your mind.

The Alhambra is one of the largest, most intricate palace complexes in the world and upon arriving in Granada this week, it was ours to explore.

The architecture and history runs through Moorish emperors, Islamic sultans and Spanish royalty. Parts of the Alhambra date as far back as 889 and many of the features and palaces were expanded upon and renovated multiple times throughout the centuries. Once you wrap your head around this place, you can see why many refer to it as one of the wonders of the world.

The scale is enormous. We’re talking about more than one and a half million square feet of palaces, gardens, towers, and underground tunnels. It’s more than you can comprehend could be built, even with all that time.

The Alcazaba is the oldest part of the Alhambra
The Alcazaba is the oldest part of the Alhambra
The Alcazaba was originally a fortress and dates back to the 9th century
The Alcazaba was originally a fortress and dates back to the 9th century
View from the Alcazaba
View from the Alcazaba
Taking in the view and a faint rainbow
Taking in the view and a faint rainbow

Now, this isn’t a post about the vast history of the Alhambra, or the different architectural features of the palaces. Nor is it a post on “How to visit/ get tickets to the Alhambra” because all of those things are well documented. But I thought I would share how we ended up with tickets to the Alhambra because the process can be daunting to say the least.

As we started to plan our trip to Granada, everyone kept asking “Have you got your tickets to the Alhambra?” the answer up until the day of our visit was a resounding “No”. We had done a little research in the days leading up to going to Granada, and were immediately overwhelmed with what we found.

First off, we realized that we didn’t know much about the Alhambra. We knew it was Spain’s number one tourist attraction, and it was a former fortress and palace-complex with rich history, but that was about it. We had no idea until we started reading about it that it’s divided into three main sections: the Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, and Generalife. This is where the ticket purchasing got confusing.

As we scrolled the website for tickets we quickly realized there isn’t just “one” ticket. Now, there is an “Alhambra General” ticket, but there are also a half dozen other types of tickets, check them out here. We decided since we knew so little the best bet was to purchase a General Admission ticket so we clicked on “Buy Tickets” and discovered….

They were sold out until mid-May. Damn.

We knew it was popular, but mid-may? We had no choice but to just go to the Alhambra and give it our best shot. We decided that with a little insight from a local, the best thing to do was get up early and try to get our hands on a ticket.

We woke up early Thursday morning (April 16), walked up the hill to the entrance and were pleasantly surprised upon our 7:30am arrival. The line-up wasn’t overwhelming. There were probably about 50 people in line for tickets. Instead of lining up for the direct sales/ cash queue, we were tipped off that heading to the semi-hidden automated machines would beat the line. Lo-and-behold, when we arrived at the machines we were the fifth couple in line. Not bad. Not bad at all.

We had a half hour to wait until the machines opened at 8am, then another half hour before the gates opened to the Palace at 8:30. Luckily, the weather was nice and the cafe was open so we were able to grab a hot coffee while we waited.

The ticket machine was easy to operate, accepts a variety of credit cards (no cash) and offers different ticket options. We were able to get our hands on two General Admission tickets for 15.40€ each (taxes included).

Our case might be one of the rare ones, but leaving tickets to the last minute had absolutely no effect on getting into this magnificent place. I’m not saying everyone, or anyone, should try our method, but I am saying it worked for us, and it might work for you.

If you would like to learn more about visiting the Alhambra Katie from Wandertooth wrote a very informative article you should check out: Tips for Visiting the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain

The Court of the Myrtles- Nasrid Palaces
The Court of the Myrtles- Nasrid Palaces
The Palace of the Lions- Nasrid Palaces
The Palace of the Lions- Nasrid Palaces
Intricate stone work- Nasrid Palaces
Intricate stone work- Nasrid Palaces
The detail was overwhelming- Nasrid Palaces
The detail was overwhelming- the walls took hundreds of years to build by hand. Nasrid Palaces
Hall of the Abencerrajes- Nasrid Palaces
Hall of the Abencerrajes – Nasrid Palaces
Breathtakingly Beautiful- Nasrid Palaces
Breathtakingly Beautiful- again, pieced together by hand. Nasrid Palaces
The gardens throughout the Alhambra are kept in pristine condition
The gardens throughout the Alhambra are kept in pristine condition
The Generalife became a leisure place for the kings of Granada
The Generalife became a leisure place for the kings of Granada

 

No matter what your interests, I can’t help but believe everyone would be blown away by the beauty and the sheer magnitude of the Alhambra. For instance, as a bonus to this post, here’s what Andy enjoyed, in his words 🙂

Andy’s Favourite Part:
Geek alert! I have an engineering-nerd mindset, so what excited me made Sarah laugh in my face. As I tried to imagine the logistics of building these palaces and enormous grounds, I tried my best to picture how you’d go about the task 1,000+ years ago. One of the ultimate displays of power at this time was control of water. It was rare for anyone to have it, let alone in abundance.

See what I mean?!
See what I mean?!

Not only did the architects of various Alhambra palaces find ways to access the water, but I was shocked to see that they brilliantly pushed it into pools and through brick shafts, using gravity to achieve perfect pressure for a pool/fountain/drinking tap. They displayed it beautifully throughout the different buildings, with rain runoff flowing tastefully down staircases, feeding plants along the way, naturally warming and filtering using ingenuity that seems hard to imagine for the day.

Have you ever seen a modern building with a huge ugly water stain on the side? I was truly alarmed to see that these ancient builders had taken the time to drain the water from castles in a manner that wouldn’t run down the sides. Yes, it seems simple (and nerdy), but it shows me that in an otherwise unstable and sometimes barbaric era, someone cared enough to think about the beauty and art of their design. I think that’s worth taking note.

Have you visited the Alhambra? Did you have any trouble getting tickets?

 

Comments

  1. April 20, 2015 / 9:41 pm

    This is definitely a place I would love to visit someday, your photos are gorgeous. Thanks for the tips 🙂

    http://www.mintnotion.com

  2. April 21, 2015 / 2:38 pm

    it’s stunning! I love the repeating star mosaic throughout the architecture and gardens.

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