When Is Best To Visit the Alhambra – Day or Night?

When Is Best To Visit the Alhambra – Day or Night?


Granada’s Alhambra needs no introduction – this fascinating testament to the legacy of the Moors in Spain is famous the world over. It’s open both at night and during the day, but when is best to visit the Alhambra? Well give you the inside scoop so that you can make up your own mind.

Fly into Malaga airport and it’s a short hour and a half drive on a  motorway to Granada. We’d booked a Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 Z for our road trip with Auto Europe which had ample storage space for our luggage. It handled the road in style and made for a really comfortable ride. Picking it up was an easy process and soon we were on our way.

auto_europe_andalucia_road_trip_bull_signWe’d reserved the Hotel Alhambra Palace via Keytel, the knowledgeable Spain specialists who also look after the Paradors. where we’d be staying for the next part of our trip. We chose it partly for its location a few minutes walk from the Alcazar and partly for its stunning Moorish inspired decor. Most of the hotels are located down the hill in town, but it’s a great time and energy saver to be so close. Then we headed into town to pick up our tickets to the Alhambra.

alhambra_palace_hotel_granadaThe view from our bedroom towards the town and over the valley was impressive. As for the room itself, it was comfortable and well appointed with a flat screen TV.

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The bathroom tiles really fitted with the Moorish atmosphere of the hotel.

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And the lobby was magnificent – little wonder that the hotel’s panoramic lounges have actually been landmarked by UNESCO.

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The Alhambra itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its name means Red Castle in Arabic. A palace was built on the site in the 11th century and in the 13th and 14th centuries, Nasrid emirs created the fortress-palace that we know today. After the Christian reconquest, the mosque was replaced with a church. To make sure that you obtain tickets to the Alhambra, which are in high demand, make sure to book at least several weeks in advance. There are actually a few hundred tickets available each day for those who queue first thing, but you wouldn’t want to take that chance, would you? You can of course pick your tickets up from the main Alhambra entrance but if you happen to be in town anyway then you have two options for collection:

1) Alhambra Bookshop at Calle Reyes Católicos nº 40, open 09.30 to 20.30, where there’s a collection machine – it was broken on the day we visited so we went to the next option:

2) Caixa Bank branches and cash machines if you have pre-paid online. We found one near the Cathedral and picking up the tickets here also meant that we could head straight in via the Justice Gate in the evening and skip any queues.

Whilst in town, we admired the old bridge over the Rio Darro…

andalusia_granada_bridgeAnd the local sense of style – they learn how to good from a young age here!

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We then walked back up the hill…where I spotted this mural that matched my outfit rather well!

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To Carmen Aben Humeya restaurant, where we feasted on tapas whilst admiring the incredible view of the Alhambra.

We then met up with the lovely Molly of Piccavey for a cocktail at our hotel before our evening Alhambra visit. She’s originally from the UK but has lived in Andalusia for many years and her blog is a mine of information on the area.

alhambra_palace_hotel_terraceOur Alhambra evening tickets were booked for 10 pm so we first headed to the nearby Parador hotel for tapas, where we had a prime view of the Generalife during the mythical golden hour…it was literally glowing. Wrap up warm if not visiting in Summer as most of the palace is exposed to the elements.

alhambra_generalife_granadaIt was indeed a cold evening and there was nowhere to wait inside close to the Alhambra and no toilet facilities. They do open those up eventually, but only at 15 minutes to ten, so I’d either recommend taking a taxi up just before your visit or having a late dinner close by…although that’s actually quite early by Spanish standards! The palace itself does look spectacular by night, from the Alcazaba military fort, the oldest part of the Alhambra…

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…to the Palacio de Carlos V, the most important Renaissance style building in Spain. The emperor Carlos had a wing of the palaces destroyed in order to construct this palace.

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Once you’re inside the Nasrid Palace itself, there’s no time limit on how long you can stay so it’s worth letting the crowds go first and hanging back a little. The intricate medieval wood and stucco carvings display phenomenal attention to detail.

visit-the-alhambraAnd of course, the colourful tiles are great photo opportunities 😉

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The next day, after a hearty breakfast in the magnificent dining room, we returned to the Alhambra for our 10 am slot.

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The selection of food at our hotel was fantastic – salmon, meat, cheese, cereals, bread, cake and healthy salad.

alhambra_palace_hotel_breakfastThe advantage of a day time visit is that it’s considerably warmer, though likely to be more crowded. There is courtyard after courtyard to explore, including the Court of the Myrtles, the focal point of the Comares Palace, one of the Alhambra’s three palaces – the other two being the Palace of the Lions and the Partal Palace.

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It’s easier to see the detail of the carvings during the day too.

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Plus you’ll get to see parts of the gardens that are closed at night time.

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And in the daytime, you can also book entrance to the Generalife. This palace was used as a retreat by the occupants of the Alhambra.

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Whilst the interior is considerably smaller than the Alhambra, the gardens are gorgeous and irises were out in force at the time of our visit.

generalife_granada_gardensAlthough we enjoyed both visits, I personally preferred the day time visit and if short on time I’d go for that one again. Have you visited Granada and when do you think is best to visit the Alhambra? Now it’s time to move on to the next destinations on our road trip – Jaen, Ubeda, Carmona, Cordoba and Seville for our DSLR photo tour!

  • I can’t believe I have never heard of here before, it looks fabulous! I really liked the lobby and the bathroom, those tiles are so pretty!

    Ash | Liakada

  • Loving all those gorgeous tiles!

  • I really enjoyed your article and loved the photographs. I have been to the Alhambra a few times (some years ago) and for me the time of year was important as my best visit was in the late Spring when the snow was still on the mountains in the distance. We had no guide, there were few people there and we spent hours sat in the garden playing backgammon on a sunny day, just savoring the scents of the flowers and the views and the melody of the fountains. Though I have to say I would now be tempted to return and do the night visit. Best. Peter Horrocks

    • That’s a really good point, Peter – Spring is an excellent time as you can still see snow on the mountains and although it was getting busy when we visited, I’m sure it’s much busier at the height of Summer. I hope you get to make that return trip!

  • Kasha Dubaniewicz

    I only visited the Alhambra during the day, but the night views look incredible too! I really want to get back to Granada soon.

  • This is the second post I read about the Alhambra this week, plus a friend spoke to me about it recently. Guess that this is a sign that I have to visit! Love the architecture and the history that comes with it. I would probably prefer a visit during the day.

    • I think it’s definitely a sign, Anouk! I agree that a day visit is best if you only have time for one

  • I’ve been to the Alhambra once before, making a quick day trip out from Malaga… I’d love to visit again for the night-time experience and this time stay in the area, the views look incredible! xxx

  • It is both look amazing at night and day
    I would love to visit it if I had a chance

    Have a great day!

    http://www.thebandwagonchic.com/

  • I’ve been to Alhambra once, in Summer, and it was absolutely gorgeous! I drove up from Seville and it was one of the most wonderful summers I had. I’m loving your striped top (and Mr Luxury Columnist’s sort-of-matching scarf) – you both fit so well with the colours of your surroundings 😉 x

    Jasiminne: Posh, Broke, & Bored

    • We certainly did our best to blend in ;-). We headed to Seville afterwards, loved it there too

  • Nina

    Amazing pictures. The bathroom in the hotel looks gorgeous.
    Nina
    http://www.ninasstyleblog.com

  • Corinne Vail

    I did not know you could even go to the Alhambra at night. Now I’ll have to go a third time!

  • Loving the striped top you’re wearing here, lady!

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

    • Thanks Ashley, I bought it the day before I went and it’s a godsend, perfect for Spring weather

  • Wow what a wonderful place. It’s enchanting beauty. Gemma x
    http://www.jacquardflower.uk

  • @KarenBurnsBooth

    STUNNING photos and wonderful write up Suze! Now that’s ANOTHER place to add to my list of “must go” places!

    • You definitely should go, Karen and incidentally Granada is one of only two places that give you free tapas with a drink,though we tended to go for huge meals instead 😉

  • Day or night, this looks like a truly stunning destination!

    Tenz

    http://www.shesabouthatlife.com

    xxx

  • Coco Cami

    Amazing post, I would love to visit the Alhambra! Thanks for sharing, have a great week 🙂

    Camille xo

    http://www.cococami.blogspot.co.uk

  • Frank Thomae

    Gorgeous photos – we’ll be in Spain for at least a month at the end of summer and really look forward to seeing Granada. So beautiful…
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Ooh you’ll have an amazing time – by the way I loved your recent Business Insider post, so honest compared to some that you read!

      • Frank Thomae

        Thank so much Suze. I saw you had commented on the post – really appreciate 🙂

  • I have to see this someday! It’s so gorgeous and inspiring! I love the tile work and the Moorish feel. Your photos are beautiful too

    http://leftbankgirl.blogspot.com

  • This is officially on my bucket list, it is pure bliss!!! The place is beautiful both during the day and the night, so it is hard to choose. The buildings, the hotels, the people, the food….everything is just amazing!!
    http://www.fashionstylemogul.com

    • It was very atmospheric at night, I must say! Although a lot warmer in the day time

  • That architecture is incredible! And those tiles!!! I’d be obsessed with taking photos of everything I saw.

  • Alhambra has just been added to my must-travel list! What a stunning place and all of that architecture is incredible 🙂 And don’t get me started on how amazing this hotel is

    Rachel xx
    http://www.thedailyluxe.net

  • Great contrast! I never thought about visiting at night, but it sounds like a great experience to compare it to a day visit.

  • Well, you got the best of both worlds by visiting day and night! How nice to be staying so close by too – the hotel looks charming. The Alhambra (and its gorgeous architecture and gardens) has been on our travel wishlist for some time now. Hopefully it won’t be too long before there’s a Seville/Granada trip in our future…

  • The Alhambra is one of the most beautiful palaces I have ever visited. We had a girls weekend in Granada and I would love to go back with my husband as it is such a romantic place! I did not even know that you can visit at night too – very good to know. Would love to visit at night as well.