While planning my family trip to Granada, Spain, I learned that the Alhambra was a must-visit site. I also learned that numerous people visit there each day. I wasn’t sure if it was worth visiting or whether I should pay for a tour. In the end I decided to book the tour for my whole family and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. We could have gotten lost in that huge compound that is Alhambra.
Did you know that the palace and fortress complex known as the Alhambra is the number one attraction in Spain? I didn’t! It is located in the city of Granada and over 8,000 people visit it each day.
Pretty much anyone who visits the area comes for a tour of the palace. I really wanted to go too but I kept wondering – is taking the tour necessary?
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I travel with my sons and it can be difficult at times for them to handle tours. They get bored easily and most of the time the tours are not geared towards stimulating kids.
After a lot of research and reading tons of reviews I decided to go for it.
A few important facts I learned during my search:
1. Buy the tickets in advance – Because of the number of people that visit the palace daily, don’t even think of arriving the day of the tour to try to buy a ticket. It’s almost 90% guarantee you will not be able to get in.
2. “It’s easier to get out of prison than get into the Alhambra!” – Make sure you always have your ticket safe and in an accessible pocket. During the tour you are in and out of many areas which are monitored for time.
3. Time permits – The tickets only allow you to walk into certain areas up to a determined schedule. So try to play with those schedules as best you can to be able to spend as much time as possible in the areas you are most interested in.
Touring Granada Alhambra Palace Solves Many Worries
I spent so much time trying to decide whether I should do the tour or not that I almost missed the window of getting in at all.
The thought of being piled up with 8,000 people was not very exciting but I finally decided to book the tour and decided on Viator’s Skip the Line: Alhambra and Generalife Gardens Half Day Tour.
I absolutely loved the ‘Skip the Line’ advantage. You get to buy tickets for any day you chose. Plus, they have groups of up to 30 people. It is a big group but not as daunting as 8000.
The tour lasts 2.5 hours, which can be too long for kids. However, it takes you through gardens and open areas where they can have some fun. My boys didn’t get bored because of that.
Granada Alhambra Tour – What To Expect and What You Get
We got picked up at our hotel and taken to the main office of the Alhambra.
People from all over the world come here so the staff separated us into smaller groups by languages. This eased all of my concerns about being in a group with too many people.
Our guide’s name was Gustavo. He told us that his tour groups are usually up to 30 people. Luckily we were only SEVEN. He was even a bit shocked because this was the first time that he had such a small group. I was super grateful!
During the first couple of minutes of the tour I noticed that coming here without a guide would have been like going to a library and not knowing what book you want. You can also choose the audio tour, but that is totally impossible with kids since they need to be entertained.
As I mentioned before, you have to present your ticket several times in different places to be able to access the separate areas of Alhambra.Thus the famous saying – “It’s easier to escape from prison then to enter the Alhambra without a ticket.” I actually saw a ton of people lost, not knowing where to go next and asking our guide for recommendations.
Gustavo was great with my sons. He made sure to make the commentaries fun and easy to follow so my boys stayed interested. Everywhere we went he had some fun story for us, bringing the place more to life.
We had tickets for the full morning, and some areas allow you to stay all day but we chose to go back to the hotel once the tour ended. Whenever we got to choose between taking a bus or walking, we walked. Everything in Granada is about ten minute walk.
The Alhambra is located on a high hilltop so going down is fun.
To me there is absolutely no point in visiting Alhambra Palace without a guide, even if you are not traveling with kids. It’s worth every penny and more.
Fun Facts About Alhambra and Generalife Gardens
- The Alhambra is much more than a palace. It is a city inside the main city of Granada.
- Sacromonte and Albaicin were the original muslim and Arab quarters that were there before the Palace was built.
- The Alhambra is one the greatest palaces left of the Islamic take overs which had most of Spain for well over eight centuries.
- The Christian take over was one of the easiest, no blood shed at all. It happened on January 2, 1942.
- It was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 and then got abandoned.
- Its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid dynasty who converted it in a royal palace.
- The Nasrid Kingdom was the last Islamic sultanate on the Iberian Peninsula.
- After the conquest of Granada by the “Catholic Monarchs” in 1492, some portions were used by Christian rulers.
- The Palace of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor was built in 1527 within the Nasrid fortification.
- It later fell into disrepair until the 19th century.
- In the 1800’s many ‘starving’ artists made it their home. One of them was a writer called Washington Irving.
- Irving fell in love with the Alhambra and returned many years. He eventually wrote in detail the famous book of essays- ‘Tales of the Alhambra‘.
- By order of the Regency of the Kingdom in 10 February 1870 the Alcazar of the Alhambra of Granada, as well as their gardens and accessory structures, are declared national-artistic monuments.
- In the twentieth century, by Royal Decree the gardens of the Alhambra and the Generalife are declared Historical Gardens.
- It is currently an artistic-historical monumental group with four areas: the Palaces, the military zone or Alcazaba, the city or Medina, and the villa of the Generalife.
- It became a UNESCO world heritage site on 1984.
- Today it is Spain’s most visited attraction.
- Generalife can be translated into “the garden of the architect”.
- It dates from the 14th century.
- The palace was used by the Muslim royalty as a place of rest.
- Generalife palace was outside the fortress.
- There were four main vegetable gardens separated by thick walls, the remains of which can still be seen.
- After the conquest in 1492, the Catholic Monarchs assigned a keeper to watch over the area and make improvements.
- In 1631 the keeper’s charge was given to the Granada-Venegas family, until 1921, when the state was finally awarded custody of the premises.