We decided to head back to the hotel immediately in order to purchase tickets online but when we logged on, all online tickets were sold out until days after we were to leave Granada. We had no idea it would be this difficult to get in to the Alhambra but we resolved to get up early the next morning to be in line before the ticket office opened as we were due to depart that afternoon.
The next morning we arrived close to 1 hour before the ticket office opened and were surprised to find the line even longer than the day before. Our fate looking grim, we joined the line anyways. As we were waiting, we saw a number of people leave the line for the concession but coming back smiling and leaving the line completely. Joe went to take a look and while I waited for him to return the announcement came that there were only 50 tickets left for the morning viewing. There was definitely more than 50 people in line so I resigned to the fact that we'd come all the way to Granada but wouldn't be able to see the Alhambra.
And then Joe walked up, joined me in line, turned to me, smiled and produced 2 glorious tickets. Past the concession and the gift shop stood 2 automated ticket machines that apparently no one knew about. It felt like we won the lottery.
We sort of did - the Alhambra was amazing. Known as 'The Red Fortress,' construction began in 1237 by the founder of the Nasrid dynasty. In continued under Nasrid rule until 1492 when it was surrendered to the Catholics. It continued to be used for various purposes and in 1984 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The compound itself is fairly large containing several palaces, military quarters and gorgeous gardens and grounds.
The Nasrid Palaces are truly breathtaking. The intricacies on all surfaces of the palaces are mindblowing and even moreso, that they are still standing to this date. I would have assumed when the Christians took control, all signs of Muslim rule would have been destroyed.
This was certainly one of the highlights of our entire stay in Spain and I'm so glad we lucked out and got in.
(While we were there, they were setting up for a Rufus Wainwright concert on the grounds of the Alhambra - I can't even imagine. Unfortunately, it was taking place a couple of days after we left.)
-As explained above, it's not easy to get tickets. If you know you are going to Granada, book your tickets well in advance.
-Allow yourself at minimum, 2 hours. We took about 2 hours to tour the entire grounds before our entry to the Nasrid Palaces and it was just about the perfect amount of time to see everything without feeling rushed.
-We entered the grounds minutes after they opened and the first hour was perfect. Crowds hadn't gathered, tours hadn't arrived and we had plenty of time to linger and take photos. Near the end of our tour, it was definitely much more crowded.
-You are given an exact time to visit the Nasrid Palaces. Ours was 11:30 and it was really busy with tour groups. If you have the choice, perhaps one of the earlier start times would be better.
-There aren't really any information signs around so if you don't take the audio guide or a guided tour, you don't really get the history behind everything.
-If you are in a small group, it might be beneficial to look up a private tour guide. It seemed expensive for 2 of us but if there were even 4, it might be worth it.