On a corner of the Alhambra Museum is a picture which shows tourists fighting outside the entrance before ticket numbers were limited ;-)
OK, maybe that is not entirely true. But, now I have visited the Alhambra I can appreciate what a good idea it is to limit visitor numbers. With wall-to-wall visitors it would be unbearable!
We bought our tickets in advance from a branch of the BBVA bank in Malaga. At 10am the day before hand, in November, there were no morning tickets left for earlier than 12 noon. There is a limit of 3300 morning tickets and 2100-3300 afternoon tickets and this is controlled by computer.
You can buy your tickets in advance at any branch of the BBVA bank, or via the Alhambra website. There is a small commision to pay for this service (BBVA charges 90 cents per ticket). The person that makes the purchase will need to bring their receipt and their passport to the ticket office in Granada, to collect their ticket(s) before entering the walls.
In actuality it did not matter that we had a noon ticket - this is only the time we had to enter the Nasrid Palace. We were able to arrive at 8.30am and visit the gardens and castle in the 3 hours beforehand. It probably worked out better than visiting the Nasrid Palace first.
The Alhambra is the most visited sight in Spain and ticket sales are strictly controlled so as soon as you know your schedule, you might look into purchasing your tickets in advance to ensure a slot.
You can prepurchase the tickets on the internet through the BBVA website OR
In any BBVA bank branch OR
via telephone through BBVA bank, 902 22 44 60 calling from Spain and
00 34 91 537 91 78 calling from outside Spain.
If you are ordering via the internet it is a little misleading, you must enter your credit card number and select a day in order to see what time slots are still available. By the time I was ready to commit, the only tickets available were 18:00 and later but it appeared like all time slots still had available tickets. You still have the opportunity to cancel AFTER you enter your credit card.
You can still
a) wait in line on the day you want to do it, you'll probably want to go when the ticket office opens, when we got there at 2 pm, everything but the garden only tickets were sold out
b) pay a bit extra and go on a guided tour
c) visit the section of the Alhambra open to the public and Generalife (the summer palace and gardens)
d) get a ticket for the night visit, I understand those rarely sell out
The star attraction of the Alhambra is Nasrid Palace, for which the tickets are mostly sold-out. Sadly, many still queue up for hours only to discover to their dismay that they'll have to return the following day.
Best is to purchase from any BBVA bank, or better still at www.alhambra.com; choose the time slot you prefer from the ones available and buy. Cost is 10EUR + a fee of 0.88 EUR per ticket. You'll get a reference number that you must note down. The physical tickets still need to be collected in person, when proof of ID & that ref no is required.
Even to pick up prepaid tickets purchased this way, there is quite a queue; though it moves fairly quickly.
If no slots for the Palace are available, you can still buy tickets to view the Gardens & other sections of the complex, for 5EUR each.
The visits are divided into two time sessions : 0800-1400 hours & 1430-2000 hours. If you buy the Palace portion, you get a specific time slot & 30 minutes from that printed time to enter the Palace. If you miss your slot, you're stuffed!! Once in, however, you can spend as long as you want upto the end of your time session.
This sounds complicated, so it's best to give an example. Say you buy an evening session, with Palace entry of 1830 hours, as I did. You can queue up and receive your ticket at 1430, & can see all the other parts, eg Gardens, Fort, Carlos V Palace, etc till 1830 hours. But to see Nasrid Palace and must enter it's gate only between 1830 & 1900. Once in, you can stay till 2000 hours.
Though you may have your Nasrid Palace tix, the complex is so large, that you really need some sort of guide to explain the significance & history of each section.
To address this, at the ticket booths there is a desk offering headsets & media sets for 3EUR each, and a deposit of some valuable (eg credit card), which would be returned when you return the media set.
Alongwith your media sets you will be given a map showing the various parts of the complex as numbered sections. As you arrive at these mapped areas, even those actual sections have boards displaying their corresponding numbers. You then simply key in that number to hear an explanation of what you are seeing around you.
I would advise anyone planning to see the Alhambra to book well in advance. We tried to book tickets three weeks before our trip but there were no advance booking tickets available through the ticket office.
This may have been exceptional demand as there was a festival on in Granada during the weekend of our trip and even getting a hotel room was difficult. We did get into the Alhambra in the end, however, this entailed waking at 6am and joining the queue for about 2.5 hours. And it is definitely worth the queuing though you can save the pain by booking as early in advance as possible.
Full instructions for pre-booking tickets are available on the web-site below.
Buy your tickets in advance or you will find yourself in long queues or even dissappointed if you cannot get them. The number of visitors to the Alhambra is limited each day to about 5000. Tickets can sell out fast, best to book by telephone or over the internet and just collect them from the entrance on the day. See the phone number and websites below.
WARNING FOR ANYONE CONSIDERING BOOKING OF THEIR ALHAMBRA TICKETS ON-LINE:
(PLEASE READ THE LAST PARAGRAPH!!)
Before visiting Alhambra, Granada we decided to follow various on-line recommendations and book the tickets in advance online.
On a www.ticketmaster.es we didn't managed to get over first two steps (the page just went blank), so after a couple of attempts, alas, we moved to www.ticketmonument.com. At first we happily made a booking for the date we wanted. But after a couple of days (we were already travelling by that time), we received an non-reply auto-generated e-mail asking for a confirmation through a certain link. However, we were on the road by that time, so we were not able to view our e-mails in html and thus to click on that link in time. THEY CANCELLED OUR RESERVATION.
We tried to get some info on alternative dates then, but they told us no other tickets for our stay in Granada were available, only perhaps for one date, a very inconvenient for us. Finally, believing there was no other option to get to Alhambra in the span of our Granada visit, we purchased very expensive guided-tour tickets.
But when we got to Alhambra, not only did we realize (it was May 2012) there were plenty of tickets for sale on the spot - MEANING THAT THE INFORMATION ON AVAILABILITY OF TICKETS GIVEN US BY THE TICKETMONUMENT.COM WAS FALSE - but we also found out that the TicketMonument CHARGED OUR CREDIT CARD with the COST OF TICKETS we actually DIDN'T WANT and HADN'T CONFIRMED (because of the wrong date). MOREOVER, THEY DIDN'T MAKE THE CANCELLATION of unwanted tickets POSSIBLE, even though we explained our situation and lots of locals ingluding the tourist office staff tried hard to help us and to solve our problem.
We hope this review will prevent some of the others to try and buy their tickets via www.ticketmonument.com
when i purchased my ticket online it was for admission at 2:00. i picked up the ticket right at 2:00 and wandered around the beautiful alhambra. when i went to the nasrid palaces my admission was denied because i was late. it turned out that my ticket was for the nasrid palaces at 2:00 not just for the alhambra in general. i had to go back and buy another ticket for a later time that day. you have a 30 minute window to enter the palaces and this time window is strictly enforced. don't make the stupid mistake i did.
Check the hour on your tickets, if you buy it on line they will give it to you late (expired) and you may not be able to enter to the nazrie palace. Ask, ask, and ask, you may be able to buy another ticket. I do not understand why they let you in, make you walk, and then won't let you enter. Good luck.
If you are planning to visit the Alhambra and Generalife, BOOK IN ADVANCE THE TICKET, you run a serious risk of not being able to get in until the next day.
This is because the number of visitors is restricted to 400 every half hour.
Tickets can be bought from any branch of the BBVA.
If you reach Granada without having bought tickets, you will find it easier to go to the BBV branch office at Plaza de Isabel la Católica, 1, during normal opening hours (until 2.00 p.m. for most banks) than to go directly to the ticket office of the Alhambra.
To make it even easier, the bank has a telephone service whereby you can buy tickets up to a year ahead: 00 34 13745420 from outside Spain or 902 22 44 60 from within Spain.