The Alhambra sits atop a hill overlooking the city of Granada, just an hour’s drive from the Costa Tropical. Often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex of the Moorish monarchs of Granada, in southern Spain (known as Al-Andalus when the fortress was constructed), occupying a hill on the south-eastern border of the city of Granada. It was the residence of the Muslim kings of Granada and their court. A Renaissance palace was also added by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The Alhambra and the surrounding area – including the gardens of the Generalife – is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and museum exhibiting exquisite Islamic architecture.
The name Alhambra derives from the the Arabic words “al hamra”, meaning “the red”, a reference to the colour of the red clay of which the building is made. (The English word “amber” is derived from a related word in old Arabic: “anbar”).
The first reference to the Qal’at al Hamra was during the battles between the Arabs and the Muladies during the rule of the Abdallah (who reigned from 888-912). In one particularly fierce and bloody skirmish, the Muladies soundly defeated the Arabs who were then forced to take shelter in the Alhambra. According to surviving documents from the era, the red castle was quite small at that time, and evidence from Arab texts suggests that the building was extended to its present size some time later, almost certainly during the Nasrid Dynasty.
There are no further historical references to the Alhambra until the eleventh century when its ruins were renovated and rebuilt by Samuel ibn Naghralla, vizier to the King Badis of the Zirid Dynasty, in an effort to preserve the small Jewish settlement also located on the Sabikah hill.
Ibn Nasr, the founder of the Nasrid Dynasty, was forced to flee to Granada in order to avoid persecution by King Ferdinand and his supporters during attempts to rid Spain of Moorish Dominion. After retreating to Granada, Ibn-Nasr took up residence at the Palace of Badis in the Alhambra. A few months later, he embarked on the construction of a new Alhambra fit for the residence of a king. According to an Arab manuscript published as the Anónimo de Granada y Copenhague, “This year 1238 Abdallah ibn al-Ahmar climbed to the place called the Alhambra inspected it, laid out the foundations of a castle and left someone in charge of its construction.” The design included plans for six palaces, five of which were grouped in the northeast quadrant forming a royal quarter, two circuit towers, and numerous bathhouses. Over the reign of Nasrid Dynasty, the Alhambra was transformed into a palatine city complete with an irrigation system composed of acequias for the lush and beautiful gardens of the Generalife located outside the fortress. Previously, the old Alhambra structure had been dependent upon rainwater collected from a cistern and from what could be brought up from the Albaicín. The creation of the “Sultan’s Canal” solidified the identity of the Alhambra as a sumptuous palace-city rather than a defensive and ascetic structure.
Tickets are often sold out days or even weeks in advance, so it is advisable to book early to avoid disappointment. Tickets can be purchased on the Alhambra ticket office website, or by telephone at (34) 858 889 002.
Same day tickets can be bought from machines located in the Alhambra and in the Andalusi monuments (Corral del Carbón, Bañuelo y Palacio Dal al Horra), subject to availability.
We strongly recommend booking an official guided tour which includes an entrance ticket. Click here to view our list of guided tour options.
Interactive audioguide: Once you arrive at the Alhambra, you can rent the interactive audioguide service. This is is available on the premises, or for download on iOS and Android devices. This tour guide includes an interactive map of the complex, audios, historical images, videos and 360º panoramic views. The visitor can choose between several routes adapted to different itineraries, tastes and available time. The price is 6 euros and it is available in German, Arabic, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, French, Dutch, English, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian.
Bring you passport. Tickets are personal and non-transferable. Each visitor must carry his own ticket during the whole visit, and it must be presented with a personal identification document.
General ticket: 19.09 euros. The general visit to the Alhambra takes around three hours.
Only Generalife Gardens and Alcazaba: 10.61 euros
Dobla de Oro ticket (includes Alhambra and 4 Andalusian monuments in Albaicín: 27.30 euros.
This is the “illuminated Alhambra” visit. Itinerary: Alhambra interior, Nasrid Palaces and Charles V Palace. To buy tickets on the official page, click here.
Public guided tours
The ideal way to visit the Alhambra is as part of a walking tour group with an official guide who is a member of the Provincial Association of Guides of Tourism of Granada (A.P.I.T.). Click here to view our selected list of guided tours.
Directions: If you are driving from the Costa Tropical to Granada, take the A44 motorway, which becomes the GR30. Take exit 16, Ronda Sur/Sierra Nevada/Alhambra/Campus de la Salud. Follow signs to the Alhambra.
By Bus: There are buses to Granada every hour from Almuñécar, Salobreña, Motril and most of the other towns in the Costa Tropical.
From Granada city centre, take the number 30 or 32 bus to the Alhambra.
Our gift to you. “Tales of the Alhambra” is a collection of stories by the American author Washington Irving, inspired by, and partly written during his visit to the Alhambra in 1828. Irving was a guest at the ancient fortress, where he found himself in the company of several colourful residents. During his stay, Irving became increasingly enamoured with the grand palace and its wealth of history and folklore. The result is this captivating collection of essays, sketches, and anecdotes. “Tales of the Alhambra” is must-read for modern-day visitors to the Alhambra. Click the link below to download in either Epub or PDF format.
A visit to Granada wouldn't be complete without seeing the Alhambra. Click the button to check out our suggested guided tours.