I find there can be a bit of a Law of Diminishing Returns for popular tourist sites. The more popular it is, the more amazing it has to be to counteract how annoying the crowds can be.
I also say that with the full realization that, just by being there, I add to that crowd, and possibly somebody else’s annoyance factor. Still, there are places where, due to their nature, you can’t get away from it.
Alhambra is one of those sites. At 3 million visitors a year, it’s Spain’s most visited attraction. You’re not totally avoiding a crowd, especially in the summer.
Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely beautiful! You should go out of your way to see it if you’re in Spain. Even after spending two weeks and a bit in Morocco, the marble and woodwork in the Nasrid Palace are beyond compare. It doesn’t look the 700 (or, in some parts, 1000) years old that it is. The Patio de Arrayanes, with its giant reflecting pool, is suitably iconic, as is the Patio de los Leones. In fact, I’m going to say that the Nasrid Palace was probably our favourite part, not just due to its beauty, but because we got there early.
|I can only hope her boyfriend didn’t get
the “Slippery Floor” sign.
See, because the palace is so popular, they stagger entry into half hour slots. Even having had tickets for the 2nd slot (9:00 am), we were still bumping into tour groups from the 8:30 slot, and I’m sure it got more crowded for the 9:30 crowd, and so forth. So if you want to get some alone time, or get a good picture, or just avoid the crowd, there’s a bit of strategizing, hanging back, but not too long, in order to get the experience you want.
There were, of course, the completely oblivious, who were enraptured with having their own little photo shoot in the palace, usually at the expense of everybody else. Today’s highlights involved a lone Korean girl who walked through Generalife Palace videoing her facial reactions on her phone, a couple who had what I would generously call a “Selfie-Baton” (self-sticks are supposed to be outlawed, but nobody was enforcing it), and a couple who had multiple cameras and lenses and all the longing, wistful looks at the Patio de los Leones.
Yes, you did see a little bit of the “worst” of tourism here, but if you were patient, you could also see some of the best of the palace. For instance, the Palace of the Portico, the oldest palace in Alhambra, with its reflecting pool, were mostly empty when we got there, and the garden setting actually made it seem somewhat quite. The views from the Alcazaba over the old Muslim quarter were breathtaking, as the white houses filled the nearby hills. You’d even get some moments of quiet walking through the Generalife, though those were broken up by security guards yelling at people who tried to crawl onto the fountain area.
When you go, because you should, get there early. It’ll be cooler, you’ll have more time, and there will be less people. You’ll have to deal with some yahoos, for sure, but… less.
We wandered back down the hill towards the Calle Navas to fully indulge in the “Free Tapas with Drinks” side of things. Food offerings included fried baby octopus, some kind of egg-and-potato ball, back bacon on french bread, and breaded dogfish. For a third of what a night out of drinks and apps would cost you in Toronto. Nap back at the hotel, then another trip out for non-tapas at 100 Montaditos, before heading back to pack.
I definitely like Granada’s vibe as a city. I wouldn’t move here or anything, but could definitely stay here for a few weeks. Even today, as we wandered to Montaditos, we found new parks, unexplored roads, new side streets that looked interesting. This place keeps opening itself up.
Again, when you go to Alhambra, try to make some time for the city, too. Granada is worth it.