First Blog: Alhambra Palace World Heritage Site: Top Tips to Plan Your Visit

by | Mar 16, 2016 | Alhambra Palace, Europe, Spain | 22 comments

Instead of a magic carpet ride, you can float over Granada in a hot-air balloon

Well, you don’t know what we can find. Why don’t you come with me on a magic carpet ride (Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride)

Do you like your job? Have you ever dreamed of ditching it, even if you like it? I did. Now I am a travel blogger and this is my first blog.

These are my photos (except where otherwise noted). You can click on any photo to enlarge it. Click the X in the top right of the photo to return to the blog.

Where to go first? To a place I have wanted to visit for a very long time: The Alhambra in Granada in southern Spain. I wanted to go to the Alhambra because this is where M.C. Escher got his inspiration for his life’s work. I wanted to see his elixir. I convinced my sister to come with me. it was easy! I just sang a line from the Beatles:

The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away

Our magical mystery tour started when we awoke to see a hot-air balloon drifting by our window.

Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon.

This scene just seemed to shout that we were ready for a grand adventure at the Alhambra.

If this was your new adventure as a travel blogger, would you:

a) Take the picture and sing Dionne Warwick’s Up Up and Away;


b) Book a balloon ride;

The Alhambra Palaces: The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a very popular tourist destination. It is stunningly beautiful. It was built by the Moors to be paradise on earth; a place of physical and spiritual beauty. The magic in the monumental complex of palaces and gardens is created by symmetry between air and water, light and shadows, full and empty spaces.
We experienced the intense emotion that the Moors created as soon as we entered the Alhambra Woods that surround the palaces. We felt very content and very happy.
The Lion Courtyard: Water is the core of the Alhambra: the symbol of life in a desert. The Courtyard of the Lions is an oasis surrounded by palm trees in the form of 124 intricately carved marble columns. The splendour of the Courtyard reflects an exuberant fusion of Persian, Christian and Jewish influences. The Lion Fountain is the centre of the oasis, where 12 majestic marble lions, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, support an alabaster basin. Controlling water for pleasure was new when the fountain was constructed in the 14th century. This was a magnificent display of wealth and technology. The fountain concealed an innovative water circulation system designed around a massive hydraulic system that brought water through a series of channels and aqueducts from a mountain river six kilometres away in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The Lion Courtyard is a treasure trove for mathematicians and architects, who debate whether the courtyard and its columns were designed in accordance with the golden ratio or in accordance with a ratio derived from square roots and irrational numbers. In any event, it is clear that principles of mathematics created beauty, harmony and serenity.
I took this photo of the portico in the Lion Courtyard. John Singer Sargent, best known for his portraits, painted this wonderful picture of the Lion Courtyard, now held in a private collection. If I had seen the painting before visiting the Alhambra, I would have tried to line up my photo to be exactly like the painting.

The Court of the Myrtles: A spectacular reflecting pool forms the centrepiece of the Court of the Myrtles. The reflections in the pool emulate a desert mirage. The myrtle hedge is clipped to hand-height. Brushing the myrtle releases a wonderful scent. (However, signs ask visitors not to touch the hedge).

This is a picture of water! I took the picture by standing directly over the reflecting pool. The upside-down tourist on the right is a clue that this is a photo of the reflection. The reflection shows an overbearing brick castle in the background. This is the palace of Charles V, erected after the Moors were expelled in 1492.

Civilization V: Gods & Kings: This is a painting of the Court of Myrtles that is featured in the strategy game, Civilization V.

The Hall of Two Sisters: The Hall of Two Sisters is incredibly beautiful. I wanted to lie on my back to get a better picture of the cupola of prisms, but it was too crowded. (should have done it anyway!) This picture is the best I could get.

The Hall of Two Sisters shows the intricacy of the artwork on the floors, walls, windows and ceilings.

We saw room after room with stunning decorations, unlike anything I have ever seen before. I was so very happy that this was the destination for my first blog. I could have spent many more hours in the palaces, but we had no time to linger. Our entrance tickets gave us a four-hour window to visit both the Alhambra and the magnificent gardens of Generalife.

Getting Alhambra Tickets 

Buy your tickets before you go.
Get your tickets before you book your flight!
Tickets are sold through ticketmaster.
Here are useful links:

My plan was to be super-organized for this trip, so I went to the ticketmaster site for Spain three weeks before our departure, only to discover that advance tickets were ALL SOLD OUT for the entire two weeks of our trip. PANIC ATTACK.

Tickets for Alhambra are allotted in a number of ways:

  • Advance sales through ticketmaster
  • Advance sales through Granada City Pass
  • Advance sales through tour companies
  • At the gate on the day you wish to attend.

Do not travel to Granada with the hopes of getting a ticket on the day you wish to visit.
We met someone who lined up at 6: a.m. for two days in a row, hoping to get tickets…..He did not get tickets.

Here is the solution that worked for us:
We bought a three-day City Pass for Granada. A timed entrance for the Alhambra is included in the Pass. Even for dates that were sold out through ticketmaster, there were times available through the City Pass. It cost more to get our tickets but at least we had tickets. We got to Granada the day before our timed visit for the Alhambra. We went to City Hall to pick up our City Passes. This site describes what you get with a Granada City Pass.
You can purchase a City Pass online. The site to buy is buried in the description and it is not linked. Here is the site:
The site is in Spanish. There is a dropdown menu in the top right corner where you can switch to English.

You are allotted a four-hour window to visit the Alhambra and Generalife. It is a lot to absorb in one session. On my next trip, I will buy tickets for two successive days and visit the palaces on one day and the gardens on the following day.

This is the end of my first blog. If you like my blog, please use your email to sign up so that you will automatically receive a new post every Friday morning. Please forward the blog to anyone you know who may be interested in my blog. Many thanks.

Next blog: The Magnificent Gardens of Generalife

Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray

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