One of the challenges of long-term travel is that it’s hard to do short-term planning. If I’d been planning a trip to just Spain, I’d have researched in detail how to get tickets for the Alhambra. Instead I’m booking flights to Romania and figuring out the best overland route from Bucharest to Sofia to Istanbul. Additionally, we are making up our itinerary on the fly so we never know the exact dates we’ll be in any specific place. Once we’d set the dates for Granada, I started looking into Royal Alhambra Palace tickets online. I quickly discovered that the online advance tickets were completely sold out for the next three weeks. Apparently the online tickets sell out weeks in advance, even in October. Enter Plan B. or C.
There are only 6600 visitors permitted into the site each day. Thankfully, some of those tickets are reserved for same day purchase at the ticket office. Children are free, but you must get them a ticket.
If you are like us, and missed out buying the online tickets, you have a few options. Here are the ones we discovered:
- Book a guided tour. The downside is that it is very expensive.
- Group tour: €52 for adults 12+, €28 for children 6-11, age 5 and under free
- There are also more expensive options like private tours
- Tours are not a great option for us, as I think our 9 year old would be bored. Maybe not, but I’m not spending €132 to find out. The tours also sell out ahead of time.
- Go to the Tienda de la Alhambra at Reyes Católicos 40. They sell advance tickets. Unfortunately for us they were already sold out until Oct 8. We are only in Granada until Oct 6..
- Purchase a Bono Turístico Granada card. The card gives you entrance to a number of attractions in Granada, including the Alhambra. Slightly cheaper than the group tour option, it costs €33.50 for adult, €10.50 for children under 11 (under 3 free). Plus, you get access to a number of attractions, including the Cathedral, Royal Chapel, Science Centre and more. Cost effective if you plan to do a number of things in Granada.
- Head to the ticket office at 7AM to wait in line to buy same day tickets.
We weren’t going to miss visiting the Alhambra so we weighed our options. We’d been told several times over that it is the most spectacular site in Spain. I’d even read one blogger that compared it to Angkor Wat. Pack a big lunch because we are going in and not coming out for hours!
We managed to get last minute tickets by going to the ticket office at 7am. I crawled out of bed at 6:30, Darren and Swanson opted for a little extra sleep. I hadn’t realized it would be so dark at 6:30. What a difference 12 degrees latitude make! Fortunately, a nice German couple from our hotel were also going so I didn’t have to do the walk alone.
We arrived at the ticket office at about 7:05. At about 7:15 they announce that there is a separate line for credit card purchases around the corner. Oddly, nobody leaves to go to the credit card line.
Darren and Swanson arrive at about 8AM and Darren buys me a much needed cup of coffee. An hour later the ticket office opens at 8AM sharp, but the line does not move at all for at least a half an hour. Our German friends notice that there is still no line up for the credit card purchases. One them zips over to the credit card line and comes back minutes later with tickets in hand! Short cut! Darren strolls over to the credit card line and buys our tickets at around 8:45. Damn! I could have slept in. I’m not sure if this happens every day, but it seems the credit card line up is the place to be. TIP: if you are travelling with a partner, split up and have one person in the credit card line and the other wait in the cash only line up. Be careful not to buy two sets of tickets! Though if you do end up with two tickets, I’m certain there would be a number of folks in line willing to buy them from you.
All is good, we made it in by 9AM.
The Alhambra did not disappoint. Some highlights:
Like all amazing sites these days, it is crowded. Even though they limit the number of people visiting, it still meant the unavoidable tourist heads bobbling in your photos:
A shot of some of the intricate plaster:
The Alhambra is set high above Granada, so you can get some spectacular views.
The view of the Alhambra Palace from the Albayzin area is also quite beautiful.
I have more photos on our good camera that I’ll post to flickr once I get a cable for it.