Sunday, September 24, 2017


Full shot of Alhambra

I sighed a little when I wrote the title to this post. Queue the sound of lightly flowing water, the enchanting smell of roses, and breathtaking architecture. I have yet to hear of this site failing to amazing any traveler.

What is it: Alhambra (or "The Red Castle" in Arabic) is believed to be first formed by the Romans, but really began in the 13 century by the Moors, or more specifically Mohammed bin Al-Ahmar. Al-Ahmar came and built his palace, starting the tradition of sculpting fantastic Islamic Calligraphy into the walls. His predecessors, Yusuf I and Mohammed V, continued the construction and is a large part of what we can see today. The Alhambra palace was ruled by the Moors for approximately 600 years, and was one of the last places in Spain to be reconquered by the Spaniards in 1492. The landscape and structure of the palace prolonged the Spaniards from conquering Alhambra, as the palace was well positioned. Now a World Heritage Site, the palace is flooded with daydreamers, wishing for a simpler, more magnificent time. For more indepth information on the history of Alhambra, visit the city's website.

Where is it: Granada, Spain. Granada is in Southern Spain, in the the Andalucia region.

Downtown GranadaAlhambra, Granada on a map

Getting there: Granada can be accessed easily by bus or train from most cities, specifically Seville, Madrid and Barcelona. If coming from Madrid or Barcelona, consider taking a flight as it can save you some time and be comparable in price. A great search engine to get you started in the logistics is

The details: The most important thing when planning for Alhambra is to book your tickets as soon as you know you are going to be there. Once your date is settled, buy your tickets! Ticketmaster is probably going to be the best route, especially for people out of town; however, look at the different options on the city's website. Just make sure the ticket you are purchasing includes the Nasrid Palace. This ticket covers all the main attractions: the Nasrid Palace, Generalife, gardens, and Alcazaba. The Charles V Palace, the Moorish bath, and church are free without a ticket.  Also be sure to note the entry time for the Nasrid Palace; missing your entry time, means missing the Palace all together.

Nasrid Palace outsideInside Nasrid Palace

Having not listened to my own advice, the only way I could get tickets to any part of Alhambra was to book a guided tour with a third party. We bought the tickets through Viator with blind faith, and nervously waited at the provided meet up point. Fears of no one coming to take us, quickly melted away after we met our tour guide, Lucia. I have been to Alhambra twice and enjoyed it so much more with the tour. Lucia had a bachelor and masters in art history, and then did a postgraduate course specifically focusing on Alhambra.

When walking the grounds it is helpful to have someone who can paint the picture of the palace during the 13th century. Someone to provide historical stories of the room you are standing in, and remind you of the lessons you learned so long ago in school. If possible spend the extra money and book a tour; you won't regret it!

Inside the Nasird Palace
Gardens of Generalife

The Alhambra grounds have so many sections that it can all get muddled together and be difficult knowing which sites are which. To help eliminate confusion I have created a walking tour with details on each section. Take a look at this for even more detail on the specific sections.

Alhambra Free Walking Tour

As the walking tour provides more of the historical detail, this is just to focus on the need to know of Alhambra overall. Below are the highlights to consider when preparing to visit this fantastic site.

  • Pack a lunch - as many tourist sites, the food is expensive and not anything to write home about. You will pass several bakeries and cafes on your walk to Alhambra palace, so stop by and grab a sandwich. There is no eating in the Nasrid Palace; however, there are several park benches throughout that are a great place to refuel and people watch. 
  • Pack water - you may be surprised how long you are at the site and that the sun can get hot up on the hill. Make sure you have plenty of water with you and are drinking throughout the day. 
  • Think about attire - make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes as the grounds are large and it all must be walked. Also bring layers if the weather could be cool, or a hat if it will be hot. Up on the hill the temperature can be slightly different, so it is important to consider the factors.
  • Careful for pickpockets - not all of the site needs a ticket and there tend to be free areas that get congested with people. Be aware of your surroundings in these places and keep an eye on your purse, camera, and pockets. 
  • and finally, Buy your tickets early! I can't say it enough; tickets go fast! Once you know when you want to go, buy your ticket immediately. Don't procrastinate! 


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