The Real Alcázar of Seville

The Real Alcázar of Seville | A Guide to the BEST 22 Unmissable Highlights in the Alcázar Complex

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A rich history, stunning architecture, exquisite tile work and glorious gardens, the Real Alcázar of Seville is a breathtaking spectacle and a joy to explore.


Visiting the Real Alcázar of Seville

The Real Alcázar of Seville is an exceptional and the most popular attraction in the Andalusian city, therefore long queues at entry are expected. To reduce waiting time, pre-purchasing a ticket is advisable at www. alcazarsevilla.org/

In either case, this perfect guide has all the information you are looking for to plan and accompany you on your visit to the Real Alcázar in Seville. So, come, walk along with me …

Real Alcázar of Seville  | timelesstravelsteps.com


The Real Alcázar of Seville, Andalusia

Part I | A brief history on the Real Alcázar in Seville

Let’s begin with a brief history …

The Alcázar was born as a fort to the then Cordoban governors of Seville but an angry revolt in 913 led to its destruction and the occupation by the first caliph of Andalusia, Abd al-Rahman III. He built a stronger and dominant fort on a site where a Visigothic church had once stood to protect the city of Seville from attacks. The major rebuild came in the 11th century when the fortified construction was enlarged, stables and storage facilities were added along with a palace, known as Al-Mubarak which means “the Blessed” was built. The Al-Mubarak is on what’s now the western part of the royal palace complex.

When the 12th century came along, another palace was added to the east of Al-Mubarak by the Almohad rulers, and what is now known as the Patio del Crucero.

There are still some archaeological remains of the Almohad palaces and these are preserved under the slabs of the Montería Courtyard (Patio de la Montería), the main courtyard of the Real Alcázar of Seville.

In the mid 14th century, between 1364 and 1366, King Pedro I built the magnificent Mudéjar Palace, which remains to this day as the core of the Real Alcázar complex. He was known as Pedro the Cruel and lived in the palace with his mistress, Maria de Padilla. Some referred to him as Pedro the Just because he defended the Muslims and the Jews. Whether he was Pedro the Cruel or Pedro the Just, he left a remarkable legacy in the form of a majestic palace for all to relish.

Later, the Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and his wife, Isabella I, Queen of Aragon came to rule Seville (1474 – 1504). They extended the upper floors and converted these into their main residence. These upper floor royal apartments are still in use and open to viewing by the public with a special timed ticket.

What is in the ‘name’ – Real Alcázar

The word “alcazar” originates from the Arabic word “al-qasr” meaning “the castle” while “Real” means “Royal” in Spanish. Hence, Real Alcázar means Royal Castle/Palace.

The official name is “Reales Alcázares de Sevilla” or Royal Alcázar of Seville. The palace name aptly represents the very many palace complex and gardens that evolved over time reflecting the rich history of the Muslim and Christian cultures in its architecture.

No matter how you reference it, Real Alcázar de Sevilla, Royal Alcázar of Seville, Real Alcázar of Seville or simply as the Alcázar, the royal palace in Seville is one of the most exceptionally enchanting places to visit.

Part II | The Best 22 Unmissable “see and do” in the Real Alcázar palace complex in Seville

The Royal Alcázar of Seville is vast! The gardens alone are said to be over 24,000 acres plus the 4.2 acres of opulent and historic buildings, though not all is accessible to the public. It can take almost half a day, if not more to explore this majestic place to your heart’s content. Every part of the palace is absolutely wonderful but there are some sights which you must not miss. From its many architectural styles, grand halls, majestic courtyards to mystical secret baths, the Royal Palace of Seville will captivate you and take you on a journey through the ages.

* The architectural styles of the Real Alcázar in Seville

While there still exists some remnants of the ancient architecture of the Al-Mubarak, the Real Alcázar of Seville has seen many architectural styles succeed one another throughout the centuries.

1 | A unique blend of architectural styles

horseshoe designs - Moorish architecture the Royal Palace of Alcazar

The Moorish style encompassed rectangular centre with four corners of living spaces. Decorated with horseshoe and interlacing arches, intricate ornamentation of Islamic art with arabesques, calligraphy and geometric patterns using plaster and tiles.

Other parts of the Real Alcázar underwent a series of 19th century renovations, including the alluring Courtyard of the Maidens.

Added to the Alcázar’s unique architecture, is its tile decorations.

2 | Intricate designs on the Tiles

The Royal Alcázar exhibits one of the best tile decorations in the world combining three traditions: Islam, Gothic Europe and Renaissance Italy. A distinctive melting pot of cultures is evident in the art of arista and majolica ceramics developed in the 16th century.

The arista style was developed in the early 16th century during the Renaissance period. An aesthetic of Andalusian architecture especially during the reigns of the Catholic monarchs (Ferdinand II and Isabella I) and the Emperor Charles V was one of colour! Bold, rich colours of green, yellow, and blue were brought together to form a design on either a single tile or four tiles. The body of the tile has different motifs, sizes and shapes with each segment having raised ridges. The tiles were placed on walls and decorated to form either vertical or horizontal panels.

A beautiful selection of the timeless pieces are exhibited as part of the Carranza Collection at the Real Alcázar in the House of Trade.


* Entering the Royal Palace of Seville

The palace complex is accessed through the historic 12th century gate, Puerta del León (The Lion’s Gate) located at Plaza del Triunfo.

3 | The Lion’s Gate | Puerta del León at the Royal Palace of Seville

Above the doors, there is a depiction of a lion with a crown, a cross in his claws bearing Gothic script across. A grand reminder that despite the influences of Islam represented by the Mudéjar style, it is a palace very much owned by Christians.

4 | Patio del León at Alcázar Seville

Once you are through the Lion’s Gate, a beautiful corridor welcomes you, Patio del León leading to an ancient arched wall structure. This was the garrison yard of the original Al-Mubarak palace. Just before the arches, on the left, is the Sala de la Justicia (Hall of Justice), and beyond this, is Patio del Yeso which was part of the 12th century Almohad palace.

Beyond this ancient arched wall, you shall enter into a large courtyard. This courtyard is known as Patio de la Montería or the Hunting Courtyard).


Begin with the Hall of Justice

5 | Hall of Justice, Alcázar Seville

The Hall of Justice was the first Moorish work in the Alcázar and was built in 1311 by Alfonso XI. The walls have stone benches, providing seating spaces, a feature that do not exist in any other room of the palace complex. There is a delightful fountain in the middle, and inviting sense of calmness in the room. The Hall of Justice connects to Patio del Yeso.

6 | Patio del Yeso at the Royal Palace of Seville

The Real Alcázar Seville

Patio del Yeso is a small courtyard which was part of the Almohad residence from the 12th century. It is believed to be the oldest part of the palace. Also, it was the residence of Pedro I before the Mudéjar Palace was built. The courtyard was rediscovered in late 19th century and restored between 1918-1920.

There is a sense of calmness here despite there being several people around.

7 | Patio de la Montería | The Hunting Courtyard

Below the slabs of the courtyard lies archaeological finds of the Almohad palaces from the 12th century.


* Casa de Contratacion | House of Trade

The House of Trade was established in 1503. The current front patio was added in the 17th century.

Casa de Contratacion was the centre from whence the Spanish Empire once ruled from early 16th century to 1717. This was the headquarters where ‘top secrets’ were stored, voyages were planned, crews assembled, contracts signed, navigational maps and charts drawn up. It was here that Christopher Columbus signed his famous contract to sail to the Indies with Queen Isabella I of Aragon in 1492.

8 | Staircase to the Upper Palace of the Alcázar Seville

Take the staircase that leads to the upper palace. It is an important part of the palace that was built in the 16th century during the reign of King Philip II. The decorative tiles that adorns the walls are copies of the originals, presently at “Madre de Dios” Convent, in Seville.

9 | Admirals’ Room at the House of Trade, Real Alcázar Seville

9.1 | Virgen de los Navigantes (Virgin of the Navigators) at the Royal Palace of Seville

At the northern end of the Admirals’ room, is the Chapterhouse (Sala de Audiencias), which was restored in 1967. The central altar piece is the celebrated Virgen de los Navigantes (Virgin of the Navigators) by Alejo Fernandez from around 1536. Sailors pray to her before embarking on their voyage. She is surrounded by four saints. Saint Sebastian and Saint James on the left; Saint Telmo and Saint John the Baptist on the right.

Also displayed in the Admirals’ Room is a model of “Santa Maria”, Columbus’ flagship. The Fan Room houses some rare fans made of ivory, feathers and pearls. As well, at home here is the Carranza Collection (mentioned above), a little museum dedicated to a collection of 171 priceless Moorish ceramics.


Next explore the resplendent Pedro’s Mudéjar Palace.

* Pedro’s Mudéjar Palace, Seville

The facade to Pedro’s Palace is the quintessence of Mudéjar architecture. Moorish features such as arches, columned windows and Arabic lettering sits harmoniously along Christian words and Kingdom of León coat of arms. The inscriptions declares in Spanish that the palace’s creator as “the highest, noblest and most powerful conqueror Don Pedro, by God’s grace King of Castilla and León” while in Arabic, it indicates “there is no conqueror but Allah”

Unusually, oriental styles are incorporated as well. There is the square roof and projecting portico with carvings in green, red and gold which gives a somewhat Asian feel. The fascinating combination of styles sets a tone to what to expect when you venture indoors — splendour, magnificence and a walk through various centuries.

10 | Courtyard of the Maidens | Patio de las Doncellas Real Alcázar, Seville

Courtyard of the Maidens is an enchanting rectangular patio with a sunken garden, an elegant long reflecting pool, painstakingly crafted marble columns and 24 elaborate arches with intricate designs, surrounded by lavish royal rooms. The delightful details on each arch and the carvings are akin to delicate lace. The layout is balanced and geometric in design, displaying harmony. Utterly spellbinding.

The Maidens’ Courtyard was built in the 13th century when Christians returned to rule Seville. The upper floors were added in the 16th century by King Charles/Carlos V. These were primarily of Renaissance design and some mudéjar decorations were incorporated also. It took some 32 years to complete, from 1540 through to 1572.

The sunken garden was discovered recently in 2005 by archaeologists and restored to its original 14th century form. It was paved over in 1570s after Pedro’s death.

“Courtyard of the Maidens” takes its name from rather a degraded old legend. Apparently, the Moors demanded 100 virgins every year from the Christian rulers!

Take your time to walk around.


11 | Royal Quarters around the patio

Around the rectangular patio are royal quarters. All rooms feature stunningly beautiful ceilings, tiles and stucco.

The Infant Room looks out to the Galley Garden, has wooden shutters with metal works that carries Arabic calligraphy. Charles V Ceiling Room was designed as a chapel, and has a Renaissance ceiling from 1543. The Royal Chamber has a winter room designed to receive sunlight and a much cooler summer room with a barrel-vault ceiling.

Across the Maidens’ Courtyard is the spectacular Ambassadors’ Hall.

Read: An Enticing Courtyard of the Maidens

12 | Hall of Ambassadors | Salón de los Embajadores at the Real Alcázar

The Hall of Ambassadors is a melting pot of Seville’s historic cultures and has its origins in the 11th century.

One can see the influences of both the Islam and Christian religions as well as their cultures. A squared room, symbolises the earth and the dome above, the night sky, the universe. Remarkable decorations forming a star joins the circle to the square, upholding the Mudéjar aesthetic delights. The arches have frieze work, along with motifs of castles and lions. The architect was inspired by the Hall of the Pleiades, built by the poet-king al-Mutamid, ruler of Seville in the 11th century.

The room was the centrepiece of the palace during the reign of King Pedro I. Known as the ‘Throne Room’, it was here that Pedro received his elite guests.

Pro tip: When visiting here, don’t forget to look up (pictured above) and use the angled mirror in the room to see the designs close-up.

The dome was added in 1427 and is distinctly regal, exuding a touch of dominance.

On the western side of the Ambassadors’ Hall sits the beautiful Peacock Arch (Arco de Pavones) named after the peacock, animal and floral motifs introduced to decorate this flamboyant room.

The Arch leads onto Felipe II Ceiling Room. The ceiling is Renaissance, known as “half round.” Decorated with geometric motifs from 1589 – 1591. Beyond this is the Prince’s Garden.

Read: The Hall of Ambassadors at Royal Alcazars of Seville

From the Ambassadors’ Hall, you will reach the Patio de las Muñecas.

13 | The Courtyard of Dolls | Patio de las Muñecas Alcázar Sevilla

The Courtyard of Dolls is much smaller than the Maidens Courtyard but is equally exquisite. The Courtyard gets its name from the doll faces that adorns the arches.

If you find a doll’s face on the arches, you are lucky as it is said to bring good fortune when found.

Each of the columns are unique, and originate from Italica, an ancient Roman settlement outside of Seville. The tops of each column bears inscriptions from the Quran, and comes from Medina Azahara, a Moorish palace abandoned by the Caliphs outside the city of Cordoba.

This small courtyard was designed to accommodate the palace’s private quarters, for the use of the king and his family. It opens to 3 bedrooms and the Prince’s Garden.

The Dolls Courtyard had undergone extensive renovations over the years. The top two floors are 19th century additions with plaster work brought in from Alhambra. The rooms were also completely refurbished. It has an awesome glass ceiling that lights up the room!

13.1 | The Catholic Monarchs’ Room | Salon de los Reyes Católicos

Also known as the Moorish Kings’ Bedroom, the Catholic Monarchs’ room has a beautiful wooded ceiling, decorated with ribbons and heraldic symbols.

13.2 | Prince’s Suite

The Prince’s Suite has one of the finest Renaissance styled ceilings, an elaborate gold ceiling creating a starlight night sky effect. Along with exquisite scalloped plaster arches, Arabic quotes and lattice tiles. The room was initially used as the Queen’s bedroom until the Catholic queen, Isabella I built the upper floors. Her son, Prince Juan de Aragon was born here, but sadly died at just 19 days. Hence the name of the room.

* The Gothic Palace at the Real Alcázar of Seville

The Gothic Palace can be reached via the porticoed gallery crossing connected to the Patio de la Monteria (the Hunting Courtyard) or via a narrow staircase located on the southeastern side of the Maidens’ Courtyard.

This section of the Real Alcázar is very different to the rest of the palace and does not encompass Mudéjar artwork. It underwent much remodeling in the 13th century by Alfonso X, over the remains of the old Almohad palace, turning it into a beautiful Gothic palace.

The echoing halls were designed for King Carlos V and were added in the 16th century. The stone baroque entrance was added in the 18th century. There are a series of rooms such as the tapestry room, garden room, party room and a Chapel. The most striking of them all is the Hall of Tapestries.

The remains of a child who lived 700 years ago was found in a coffin under the floors of the altar in the Chapel at the Gothic Palace early 2021.

Learn more about the rich Gothic Palace and the archaeological discovery >>

14 | Tapestry Room

tapestry room alcazar seville

In the Hall of Tapestries, there are a series of twelve large tapestries representing the invasion of Tunisia by Carlos V in 1535. It carries extraordinary details of ships carrying sailors, ranks of soldiers, emitting flumes of smoke from cannons. These tapestries are said to be one of the best in the world today.

The original vaulted ceiling in this room was damaged in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. It was later replaced by a baroque design.

Beyond the Hall of Tapestries, is the Courtyard of the Cruise.

15 | Courtyard of the Cruise | Patio del Crucero

The charming Courtyard of the Cruise owes its name to its cross-shape and is considered one of the the most important part of the Almohad palace from the 12th century. It’s initial design consisted only of raised walkways along its four sides and two crossed walkways that met in the middle. At the bottom, there was a central swimming pool surrounded by underground gardens. All kinds of fruits and aromatic trees is said to have grown here. The fruits were basically at one’s fingertips and could be plucked from the platforms.

The lower level medieval garden was buried in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The present lower level of the patio, along with the corridor leading to the Hunting Courtyard as well as the facade to the Gothic Palace were built in the 18th century in the Baroque style.

Below the raised walkways are vaults that leads to the picturesque secret Baths of Doña Maria de Padilla, mistress to Pedro I.

Beyond the Patio del Crucero, you are met with endless, fragrant, serene oasis of the Alcázar Gardens.

* The Real Alcázar of Seville Gardens

The Gardens at The Real Alcázar of Seville are extensive, unique and reflect the passing of history. Home to at least 20,000 plants, and over 180 plant species to be found in this 60,000 metres square of gardens are some of Europe’s oldest, from Moorish times. The English Garden, the Poets’ Garden and Garden of the Marquis de la Vega Inclán are from the modern 19th century era.

Water plays an important role in the concept of the Alcazar gardens which are the epitome of Moorish garden design. The gentle trickle, gurgle sounds of the fountains and ponds invites you to slowdown and to appreciate the moments in the pleasurable greenery of orderly hedgerows, towering palm trees and oranges.

Linger among the palm trees, cypresses, myrtle, mulberries, magnolia, pomegranate, orange and lemon trees. The scent of oranges were noticeable even in late November when I visited. I can only imagine the scent of marmalade in spring when the orange trees drop their fruits and the ground is covered in them.

There are small courtyards with glittering pools, fountains, ponds, arches and pavilions wherever I turned! The Ladies Garden has an elegant fountain with a statue of Neptune which was totally mesmerising. Secluded shady corners with dainty colourful tiled benches to steal moments and be lost in my faerie world.

I assure you, you will be delightfully lost in this lush and exotic labyrinth of a paradise, soaking into the moments in quiet contentment. To thoroughly enjoy the gardens, give yourself at least 3 hours.

Here are some of the unmissable highlights of the Gardens at The Real Alcázar of Seville.

Begin your garden walk with Mercury’s Pool (Garden of the Pond).

16 | Mercury’s Pool | Garden of the Pond

The Mercury’s Pool is a large pool with a fountain filled with fish. Formerly it was a cistern supplying water to the palace brought from Carmona, a town on the outskirts of Seville. In the centre of the pond is a bronze statue of the Greek god, Mercury, sculpted in 1576. The pond is surrounded by railings and spikes.

On the east side of the Mercury’s Pool, is Galleria de Grutesco.

Recommended read: Mercury’s Pool at the Royal Palace in Seville

Originating from the Almohad era, the wall of Gallery of the Grotesque was lavishly reimagined in the late 16th and early 17th century to as far as the 19th century, giving it the appearance it currently has. The Gallery was constructed using different stones, plastering and painting in between of classic mythological scenes, giving the wall a cave-like look. Known as the Italian Grotto, this wall has an upper gallery of 160 metres that can be accessed via narrow steps, offering incredible vista over the gardens. It was lovely to walk along the corridor, in the shade with the occasional cool breeze.

While here, you may hear tiny little notes of music coming from somewhere … follow it and you will be rewarded with a little treasure at the Fountain of Fame.

18 | Fuente de la Fama Water Organ | The Fountain of Fame at Real Alcázar of Seville

The Fountain of Fame is really something special. It’s a water organ or fountain organ and plays music every hour. The music is generated by the flow of water through its various pipes.

Water organs have been around a long time, since the 3rd century in Alexandria. This one at The Real Alcázar of Seville was built in the 17th century and is the only one of four in the world and the only one in Spain.

19 | Dance Garden at Alcázar of Seville

Next to Mercury’s Pool, on the west, via some stairs down, is the Garden of Dance, curated in the 1570s. The graceful little metal staircase dates from 1610. In the centre, there is a low fountain from the 16th century. The botanical elements constitute magnolias, acanthus, pitchardias, as well as Canary Island palms, trumpeters, spireas, celestinas and wire vines.

From here, you can access the secret Baths of Doña Maria de Padilla.

20 | Baths of Doña Maria de Padilla at The Real Alcázar of Seville

One of the most picturesque, sensational and an obligatory stop is the Baths of Doña Maria de Padilla when visiting the historic Real Alcázar of Seville. The fresh air, infinite arches, reflections on the water and the subject of many legends makes this mysterious underground bath an unmissable spot at the Alcázar.

Built around the 12th century to a medieval Almohad structure, the vaults were used to store rainwater and food. During Pedro’s rule, these were turned to underground bath and used by Doña Maria de Padilla, his mistress. The temperature inside is about 15°C lower than the outside. Sunlight seeps through the sides, and the reflections of the arches on its clear water makes this a surreal scene.

Recommended read: Baths of Doña Maria de Padilla at The Real Alcázar of Seville

21 | Carlos V Pavilion | Charles V Pavilion at the Royal Palace in Seville

The square tiled pavilion in the lush gardens of the Alcázar was formerly a qubba (an oratory) and was known as Jardin de la Alcoba. It was converted between 1543 and 1546, in Mudéjar style. The Spanish Emperor, Charles V had his dinners here in the summer months. Home to splendid tapestries and is said to be the oldest building in the gardens. Its walls, as well as its benches are covered in 16th century tiles. The exterior is surrounded by four semicircular arches supported on marble columns.

Take a breather and sit on one of its beautiful benches for a moment or two. Soak in the nature and sanctuary this garden of eden bestows. You can’t go into the Carlos V Pavilion at the moment.

Nearby the Pavilion, there is an orange tree, said to be planted by Pedro I which makes it over 600 years old! Orange trees were favourite of the Arabs and were used for ornamental purposes. The fruits are sour and not for consumption. Don’t eat them.

Carlos V Pavilion was another location used for Game of Thrones .

22 | Garden Cafe

The Garden Cafe at the The Real Alcázar of Seville is hidden in the corner of the English Garden, obscured by trees and plants. Not a great selection of snacks but it is a nice place for a quick coffee and to watch a peacock or two strut their stuff.


There is so much more to the gardens at the Alcázar that I decided to dedicate an entire post on it which will be published soon. Stay tuned. Ensure you are Subscribed! Read > Gardens of the Royal Alcázar in Seville


Finally …

As autumn leads into winter, colour does not fade from the scene in the Real Alcázar gardens. The sky remains blue, the famed tiles glisten in the sun and brighten many a corner but the colour orange seems to prevail. Orange doors, orange steps, orange walls, orange gateways and oranges on the ground. There are orange structures peeking in-between the greens of the lush gardens, The view, from the corridors of the Grotto Gallery portray a surreal panorama.

So, when you are at the Real Alcázar of Seville, leave your hurries behind. Immerse in the surroundings, take photos for the Gram, daydream. Let your gaze linger on the palm trees, cypresses, orange trees, oaks … Do a perfect walk of the palace and the gardens — the paths once walked by the Spanish Kings themselves.

this is just me, found my happy corner … enjoyed my visit very much xoxo

Spain Travel Advice

Seville Spain 37.3891° N, 5.9845° W
Seville Spain
37.3891° N, 5.9845° W

Essential Information on the Real Alcázar of Seville :

UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Seville Cathedral, & General Archive of the Indies.

Where: Plaza del Triunfo

Nearest Metro station is Puerta de Jerez.

Phone: 954 50 23 24

http://www.alcazarsevilla.org/

Hours: Apr-Sept: 9:30 am to 7 pm | Oct-Mar: 9:30 am to 5 pm


Essential Information you need to know before your visit:

Visitor capacity

The Palace has a maximum capacity of 750 visitors. When it is full, it is full! Waiting times can be extremely long during peak times. Avoid the queues, save time and book ahead your skip-the-line tickets.

TICKET OPTIONS 2022:

General ticket to the Ground Floor: €13.50

Admission to the ground floor for EU citizens seniors over 65 years old, students from 14 to 30, or holders of European Youth Card: €6.00 (valid identification required)

Free Admission:

Disabled persons, children younger than 13, and residents of Seville (identification required);

Monday from 6 pm to 7 pm (April to September) and from 4 pm to 5 pm (October to March)

SKIP-THE-LINE TICKETS:

Seville Alcazar Priority Entrance + Guided Tour

Guided Tour of Seville Alcazar, Cathedral & Giralda

Skip the Line Ticket to the Real Alcázar of Seville

More ticket options >>


TRAVEL ADVICE

Due to recent global health and safety issues, please adhere to travel guidelines in the country you are travelling to. While we at TTS work hard to be accurate, and provide the best information possible, we also encourage you to please always check before heading out, as some attractions may be closed due to local restrictions.

For the latest on Travel Guidelines, please go to the following Official portals:

Travel abroad from England Advise

Travel abroad from Scotland Advise

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USA Travel Advisories

Travel between European Countries

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



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Responsible Tourism in Amsterdam – 12 Eco-friendly Initiatives That Comes Naturally

responsible tourism in Amsterdam | timelesstravelsteps.com

Responsible Tourism in Amsterdam – A City Where Responsible Tourism Comes Naturally

Visiting Amsterdam is a breath of fresh air — a haven for eco-tourists! There’s a lot more to the beautiful and whimsical city of Amsterdam than freedom, coffee shops and world renowned museums. With a deeply ingrained eco-conscious attitude amongst Amsterdammers, the never ending bike-paths, the array of sustainable hotels and quirky vintage shops, together with a comprehensive green transport system, responsible tourism in Amsterdam makes it a city where responsible tourism comes naturally.

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Ranked fifth as the most eco-friendly city in the world for workers following London, Frankfurt, Oslo and Cambridge in Massachusetts, Amsterdam boasts fascinating facts and sustainable eco-friendly activities as regards responsible tourism.

This article takes a look at what ‘responsible tourism’ means, and aims to give an overview of the 12 eco-friendly initiatives that comes naturally in the Dutch capital along with ways on how visitors can enjoy their visit whilst contributing to the green city.

Responsible Tourism in Amsterdam | timelesstravelsteps.com

This article and related articles are sprinkled with affiliate links. This means that we may earn a commission from qualified purchases and bookings at no additional cost to you. These links have no influence on the editorial content we produce.


BEST TIPS: Book tours and tickets in advance: Best tours in Amsterdam. Select the I Amsterdam City Card for free entrance to 60 museums, one free canal cruise, discounts and unlimited use of Amsterdam’s public transport. Discover what’s more is included.




Responsible tourism in Amsterdam

WHAT IS RESPONSIBLE TOURISM?

The widely accepted definition of Responsible Tourism (Cape Town Declaration) is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” Responsible Tourism requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility, take action to make tourism more sustainable. Responsible tourism comes in a variety of forms and includes:

1 | Maintenance of the world’s diversity by making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage;

2 | Opportunities for tourists to enjoy more meaningful experiences, connections with local people, and understanding of local culture, social and environmental issues.

One’s behaviour can be more or less responsible and what is responsible depends upon environment and culture.


RESPONSIBLE TOURISM IN AMSTERDAM

With these being said, Amsterdam takes its responsibilities seriously. Amsterdam leads the way on responsible tourism on many fronts. From a complete commitment to achieving Zero CO2 emission by 2050 to actively exploring ways to lead in creating an eco-friendly environment for Amsterdammers to live in, and making Amsterdam a better place for visitors — a city for everyone to enjoy.

AMSTERDAM’S COMMITMENT TO ZERO CO2 EMISSION — AN OVERVIEW

Amsterdam. responsible tourism

With our planet on a ‘climate emergency‘ and in line with the European Parliament’s resolution passed in November 2019, Amsterdam is committed to tackling the global warming situation. The Dutch capital aims to be the first European city to achieve zero CO2 emissions by 2050. It has implemented a number of strategies focusing on sustainable mobility, in particular, eliminating CO2 emissions from public transportation.

A picture of the future Amsterdam is succinctly laid out in the city’s Roadmap to Climate Neutral in 2050, appended below. You could read the document in its entirety by clicking on the citation link.

By 2030, Amsterdam’s streets will be free of exhaust-emitting cars.
By around 2040, every home will have switched from natural gas to sustainable heating.
And by 2050, we will have ended our dependence on coal, gas and oil. We will instead
get all of our energy from the sun, wind, plants and the heat of the earth itself. For some,
this is future talk or even an alarming prospect; for others, it is already daily practice.
In any case, the transition to clean energy has begun and can no longer be stopped.

Roadmap Amsterdam Climate Neutral Roadmap 2050

12 BEST INITIATIVES WHERE RESPONSIBLE TOURISM IN AMSTERDAM COMES NATURALLY

With a clear roadmap aimed at climate neutral, Amsterdam has pioneered several initiatives on the tourism front in support to achieve their goal. Among these are the following 12 initiatives where responsible tourism comes naturally:

1 | A ‘green’ Airport

The first ‘taste’ of eco-friendliness awaits a visitor at Schiphol Airport. Schiphol Airport has been making the airport more sustainable each year for years. It takes a lot of energy to keep Schiphol running 24-hours a day and measures are continually adapted to ensure energy is used as efficiently as possible.

As from January 1, 2018, Schiphol Airport has been running on 100% wind power generated by local Dutch company, Eneco. The airport had also installed solar panels, with some on the airport’s roofs, parking areas and along the runways. This means energy saving wherever possible and using the cleanest possible electricity. Thus, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol runs solely on renewable energy generated in the Netherlands.


Along with the initiatives on renewable energy usage at the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the Dutch capital has so many cool things that contribute to the enjoyment of tourists as well as being one of the greenest and environmentally friendly cities in the world.

Responsible tourism in Amsterdam

2 | Getting about Amsterdam by bike

The capital city of Netherlands boasts the never ending 500 kilometres of bike lanes, covering every corner and every canal of the city. Getting about Amsterdam on a two-wheeler is popular and a way of life for the Amsterdammers. As a visitor to the Dutch capital, you could get around Amsterdam by bike and keep your carbon footprint to the minimal as possible.

Recommended read: Cycling in Amsterdam – 19 Useful Tips

Bike rentals are dotted all over the city to encourage cycling. Hire one, and explore the main landmarks of the city or venture a little further along River Amstel onto the city’s outlaying cycle network to nearby quaint and picturesque villages.

The unmissable quaint 12th century village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel is worth exploring and so is the picturesque Broek in Waterland, once a haven for the high-status city-dwellers.

Plan ahead, pre-book your ride — rent a bike in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam.responsible tourism

The generous bike paths around the city means you can explore Amsterdam very quickly. While some paths have specialised traffic lights with illuminated green cycle sign to support safety of cyclists, just be aware of some daring cyclists who weave in and out of bike paths. Some even run red lights! Always wear a cycle-helmet even if most Amsterdammers don’t.

However, if you are not confident to explore Amsterdam by bike independently, then perhaps joining a guided bike tour of Amsterdam is best. You will be led by an experienced tour guide and your fellow cyclists may not be as daring as Amsterdammers are!

Recommended read > Explore Amsterdam by bike in 2 best rewarding ways.

3 | Explore Amsterdam on Foot

Responsible tourism in Amsterdam

Amsterdam.responsible tourism

4 | Canals, boat cruises and paddleboats | Responsible tourism in Amsterdam

Amsterdam.canal.cruise.responsible.tourism

There is one bridge in the central canal belt that offers visitors the beautiful sight of fifteen bridges across its canals. This particular spot is viewed from the corner of Reguliersgracht and the Herengracht and best seen from the water level on a boat. Day time views are lovely but it is a spectacular sight in the evening/night when the bridges are lit up.

The are a number of sustainable ways to experience Amsterdam from the waters. You could do a canal cruise in one of the 200 electric boats offering canal tours, hire a kayak or a pedal boat (pedalos, water bikes). If you elect to hire a kayak or a boat, you can explore the city by waters at your own pace.

You could hire a pedal boat using your I Amsterdam City Card but you need to book a time-slot for your activity. Ensure that your City Card is valid at the time of your activity.

Recommended read > Fun Canal biking in Amsterdam | 7 reasons to explore Amsterdam’s sustainable highlight

5 | A comprehensive Green Transport system

Public transport in Amsterdam is already highly sustainable. Trains, buses, trams, metros and ferries make up the city’s comprehensive public transport network that transport lots of people at the same time. Use of public transport is much encouraged and this is evident from the frequent and timely services as well as the generous bicycle storage at stations. All electric passenger trains have been powered using green energy since 2017 and it is mandatory for all new buses to use renewable energy.

The public transport system in Amsterdam is easy to navigate although the ticketing system can be confusing. A comprehensive guide is available on the best tickets to purchase to navigate around the city, and a regional pass if venturing out to the surrounding areas of Amsterdam.

The I Amsterdam City Card is an all encompassing pass of great value as it includes public transportation operated by GVB in Amsterdam city only, along with free access to attractions. Take a look at what it includes and does not include before purchasing one to suit the duration of your visit.

6 | Extensive Green spaces in Amsterdam

Amsterdam.Bos.forest.responsible tourism

Amsterdam city is not all urban. It is surrounded by an abundance of lush and open green spaces – parks, gardens and a forest!

Amsterdam’s parks and gardens are beautiful, has its own charm and interesting history. These green spaces are all located within a stone’s throw of the city centre and offer a great space to relax, unwind with lots of activities for kids.

Walk to the east of the city to De Plantage in the Jewish Quarter, a district where history, nature and culture intertwine or take a short ride to Vondelpark to experience all genres of music. Whichever green spaces you decide to visit, Amsterdam Bos, should firmly top your ‘to visit’ list for timeless experience.

Check trains to/from Amsterdam to any destinations in and around Amsterdam


7 | Amsterdam’s Green Places to Eat | Responsible Tourism in Amsterdam

Green eating is quite a buzz in Amsterdam and you can easily find restaurants and cafés offering organic products. Walk along De Negen Straatjes (the Nine Little Streets) and the Jordaan district where cafes are aplenty serving organic food. Head to the farmers market at Noordermarkt Square to shop for some fresh, locally grown produce if you are planning a picnic in the park.

For a unique experience, head to De Kas, a prime example of Amsterdam’s sustainability culture. A high-end restaurant located inside of a former greenhouse, built in 1926. With vast magnificent windows and airy high ceilings, De Kas spoil their clients with ingredients tendered and cared for from their very own vegetable garden, with no-fuss Mediterranean cuisines that often changes to the seasons harvest.

De Kas, Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3 1097 DE Amsterdam | E: info@restaurantdekas.nl

Noorderlicht Cafe is a simplistically beautiful dining destination housed inside a two-storey greenhouse with a large riverside terrace. The cafe hosts regular musical and cultural events which are often free of charge. It’s menu offers plenty of organic based dishes with a lean towards vegetarian and vegan dietary needs. This cultural and sustainable cafe is located on the NDSM yard along River IJ.

Noorderlicht Cafe, NDSM plein 102
1033 WB Amsterdam

8 | Meat-free restaurants in Amsterdam city

The Amsterdam restaurant scene these days certainly seems a world away from its once popular Brockwurst on mash potatoes smothered with rich gravy! Plant-based dining is the trendy option now with so many eateries popping up across the city.

Mr & Mrs Watson in Oost, Amsterdam is a “plant based food bar for vegan food lovers and cheese addicts”. Although there are some options on all vegan menu, the Watson Cheese Platter, featuring cashew fondue is the one to go for.

Besides enjoying the best comfort food, you would also be contributing towards Mr & Mrs Watson’s commitment to give back – a tree is planted for every dish they serve.

Mr & Mrs Watson, Linnaeuskade 3H, Amsterdam.

Dine in style at Restaurant Vermeer, the creative culinary lab of 1* Michelin Chef Chris Naylor who experiments on the daily fresh produce brought to him by the local farmers. Beetroot, and white asparagus feature liberally on his menu. A prettily laid out plate of robust, pure, and clean flavours awaits anyone on an evening of high-end fine dining.

Restaurant Vermeer | Prins Hendrikkade 59-72, 1021 AD Amsterdam


Recommended read – Best places to eat stroopwafel in Amsterdam


9 | Amsterdam’s initiative on food surplus | Responsible tourism in Amsterdam

With 1.3 billion tonnes of food wastage per year across the world, Amsterdam is no stranger to food surplus. Food waste has a high impact on the environment and Instock Restaurant in Amsterdam rescues food from being wasted. They collect food from growers/farmers, fishmongers, packaging companies and producers. Instock then runs a final quality check and prepares them for restaurants and caterers. These ingredients are turned into culinary delights for breakfast, lunch and dinner by their creative chefs. Instock is open seven days a week, serving-up anything from a cup of coffee to a four-course-meal.

Restaurant Instock | Czaar Peterstraat 21, Amsterdam.

Visit Persijn, on the ground floor of QO hotel for a hearty brunch. Fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs are sourced daily from their rooftop greenhouse and features in their innovative dishes of salads with blossoms and wholesome vegetable soups. Hence, with their ‘farm-to-table’ creative approach, there’s hardly any food wastage.

Persijn | Amstelvlietstraat 4, Amsterdam

10 | Amsterdam Eco-hotels | Responsible tourism in Amsterdam

Stylish, and sustainable accommodations with energy efficient amenities, organic towels, and recycled furniture are all part of the Dutch capital’s initiatives on responsible tourism in Amsterdam. Some of the environmentally-friendly accommodations throw in bike rental as part of their service as well.

Stay at the cozy eco-conscious hotel around the corner from Vondelpark. Conscious Hotel Vondelpark has 81 rooms and is completely sustainable – from furniture to green roof! Food is 100% organic and the building is powered by renewable energy.

For budget hostels that combines conscious living with simplicity, look no further than Ecomama although it may not be for everyone. Ecomama is designed with sustainability and “just enough” of the basic amenities while being committed to re-purposing everything it can.

More classic choice could be NH Amsterdam Schiller , a Green Key Certified accommodation.

Alternatively, grab yourself one of the following last minute best deals:

Booking.com

11 | Sustainable shopping in Amsterdam

Shopping in Amsterdam takes you to a whole new level! From excellent luxury shops, designer outlets, unique boutiques, and sustainable stores, the city is a shopper’s dream come true. However, more and more people are adopting a sustainable lifestyle and this is showcased in their eco-friendly fashion choices.

In Amsterdam, there are so many choices and varieties if you choose to shop green. De Negen Straatjes is a famous shopping district and you will find most of the shops here are vintage stores.

Episode is a popular store and pioneers a serious concept as a sustainable alternative to fast fashion. They take clothing that is donated to charity, washed them in their warehouse, repair if necessary and distribute to the vintage stores.

Episode, Waterlooplein 1, 1011 NV Amsterdam

LENA Fashion library is another interesting concept where it allows you to shop differently. You could borrow vintage styles to suit and you could return them at the end of the borrowed time.

Lena Library, Westerstraat 174h
1015 MP Amsterdam

12 | Alternative to traditional tourism – Explore Amsterdam with a difference

Amsterdam is a popular touristic city and it may present problems of sustainability. The Untourist Guide to Amsterdam suggests alternative ways for tourists to explore the city with a difference.

Among its suggestions are ways to explore the streets, the street markets, gardens, flea markets and spaces away from the usual tourist trails. You are also invited to plant vegetables, participate in cookery classes and have fun wedding ceremonies with the locals.

The Untourist Guide to Amsterdam, @IAmsterdam Store, De Ruijterkade 28 A t/m D (Behind Amsterdam CS), 1012 AA Amsterdam


A final note on responsible tourism in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is green to its very core! This is evident from the many initiatives highlighted above, which by no means is an exhaustive list. The city’s affinity with cycling, the array of pleasant green spaces, green eating, sustainable shopping and low waste dining are all reflective of a city that is so much more than the whimsical city of freedom, coffee shops and museums that Amsterdam is often associated with. The laid-back and progressive values of green culture showcases the Dutch capital as a natural ‘living’ hub of sustainability combined with social consciousness. Amsterdam really is a great green city to visit in Europe, a city where responsible tourism is taken seriously and comes naturally.


What do you think?

Was this article helpful to you in your search on sustainability and responsible tourism in relation to Amsterdam? Is there an initiative that should have made the list on this article but did not? If so, share your thoughts in comments below, we would love to hear from you.


You may like to read the following related articles on Amsterdam:

Ultimate Travel Guide to the Best of Amsterdam

10 Important practical travel information for Amsterdam

Beautiful places to stay in Amsterdam

Explore Amsterdam with the superb value I Amsterdam City Card

Best Food Walking Tour in Amsterdam

Rent a bike in Amsterdam green city

Best places to eat stroopwafels in Amsterdam

10 best typical Surinamese cuisine in Amsterdam

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Unmissable 28 best things to do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam in a nutshell – 18 experiences in 48 hours

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Amsterdam Bos – 10 things to do in this glorious forest of wonderland

Uithoorn – A serene haven where nature, wildlife and history comes together

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Finally…

Sincerely wish that this article has been helpful to you in planning your visit to Amsterdam. Plan ahead and book your accommodations, buy your I Amsterdam City Card, sign-up to guided tours and activities using the links in this article and related articles on Amsterdam. TTS earns a commission on qualifying purchases, or you could support TTS in other ways also. As always your continued support is much appreciated.

Have a splendid time in Amsterdam 🙂

xoxo

Quick facts on Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam on world map
52° 22′ 40.6416” N and 4° 53′ 49.4520” E
Amsterdam flag
Amsterdam flag
Amsterdam Coat of Arms
Amsterdam Coat of Arms

City: Capital of Netherlands

Population: 1,149,000

Mayor: Femke Halsema (since 2018)

Zone: Central European Time Zone | Central European Summer Time

Elevation: -2m (-7ft) – Dam Square

Nearest Airport: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)

Train Station: Amsterdam Centraal Station

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Responsible Tourism in Amsterdam – 12 eco-friendly Initiatives that comes naturally first published at timelesstravelsteps.com Updated May 15, 2022

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