Should you visit the Alhambra? This was the question on my mind when I was first sketching out our trip to Spain. Should we spend one of the precious days we had in the South of Spain at the Alhambra? Would it just be overcrowded and overrated?
If you stumbled on to this post with the same burning question, the answer to that is Yes! Definitely add the Alhambra to your Spanish itinerary – but keep reading for tips to help you get the best experience. Also, I have to mention the gorgeous city of Granada – which I had totally overlooked before. We went to Granada for the Alhambra, but we loved the city for everything else it has to offer.
How many days should you spend in Granada? At least two, but you could easily spend a couple more. The Alhambra itself takes at least half a day.
I recommend staying at the Hotel Alhambra Palace. It might be a bit of a splurge, but definitely worth it for a night or two. Book a room with a city view – throwing open your window and watching the sun rise over the city in the morning already helps you feel like a Princess!
The first thing to do when you plan your Spain trip is to book tickets to the Alhambra. They sell out fast, and the best tickets are those with the earliest entrance time to the Nasrid Palace, 8:30 am. Use the link above to take you to the official page. Tickets cost €14, do not over pay on other sites.
The best part about staying at the Hotel Alhambra Palace is that you can walk to the Nasrid Palace in under 10 minutes! The important thing is to get there by 8:15 am so you are earlier in line to get in. Lack of crowds in the Nasrid Palace are key to enjoying it!
The architecture and beautiful details in the Nasrid Palace are truly stunning! Being the door lover I am, I couldn’t stop taking pictures! Remember your goal though – stay ahead of the tour groups!
The Nasrid Palace gardens and courtyards gave us the first taste of how beautiful the Moorish gardens were. The stunning views over Granada only enhanced their beauty! I loved how the palace was designed to improve the opportunity to view the outside world.
From the Nasrid Palace we decided to wander around the Gardens of the Generalife. We bought audio guides, but were tiring of them very quickly. I suggest skipping those and just reading up beforehand. The entrance to the Generalife Gardens is enchanting! A fitting set up for some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve seen.
Roses galore, aromatic orange trees and stunning views at every corner. We could have spent hours in the Gardens but we were getting hungry and it was getting crowded!
We decided to head back down to eat lunch in the town of Granada. Of course we had to soak in some last views before we left!
The walk down to town from the Alhambra (and the Hotel Alhambra Palace) is delightful! The narrow cobbled slopes, the pretty houses and doors, and the gorgeous flowers set such a romantic mood! It wasn’t crowded at all, so get lost (very easy to do!) and explore to your hearts content. This area is called the Albaicín, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The doors are so pretty too, as are the cute little stairs that help you up and down the slopes.
We had kebabs on the brain, and had read that the best kebab shops hang out on Calle Elvira. However, we couldn’t find some immediately, so we decided to start off with tapas!
Bodegas Castaneda is a rightfully famous tapas bar in Granada. We had wandered over there the night before, finding it absolutely packed and bustling. Unfortunately, the wait was too long for us that evening. After wandering across it on our search for kebabs, I persuaded the others to try our luck again.
It was definitely not as full, but there were no outdoor tables either. Having my heart set on sitting in a pretty alley, eating cheese and sipping wine, I managed to string together some Spanish words to ask the server for a table outside. He left. For what seemed like a long time, nothing happened, but then he went into the building across the street. It was an open concept, so we saw that he went into the bathroom. Quite puzzled, just as we were debating whether to leave, he emerged with a folding table and some chairs! He was making our (mine) outdoor table dreams come true! This is really why I love Spain – their wonderful hospitality and amazing habit of serving a bowl of olives before every meal!
Of course, I HIGHLY recommend eating at Bodegas Castaneda. The food is absolutely delicious, you must try the Iberian ham if you haven’t already.
We wandered around the area a bit, a little stuffed. However, our kebab craving was still not satisfied. We kept walking down on Calle Elvira and eventually saw a whole line of kebab restaurants. Each originated with a different country in the Mediteranean and the Middle East, and I’m so happy we kept ambling along till we saw La Puerta de Syria.
It was a quirky little place with lovely tiled tables and pet birds. We ordered a plate of chicken kebab and rice, and immediately had to order another because we loved it so much! It was fresh, well spiced and finger licking delicious. I think our host and server liked us much better after the second plate, even catering to our inexhaustible appetite for olives!
Now thoroughly stuffed, we had to make our way back to the Hotel Alhambra Palace to collect our car and luggage. Our next stop was Seville, and we were already late. It was so hard to tear ourselves away from Granada!
Note : The Alhambra ticket is valid for the entire day, so you could go back to complete the Alcazaba if you get hungry like us and wish to take a break. There is so much more to explore in Granada too! Worth staying an extra day or two!