The Real Alcázar of Seville: A Guide to the BEST 22 Unmissable Highlights in the Alcázar Complex
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 …
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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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
14 | Tapestry Room
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
17 | Gallery of the Grotesque | Galeria del Grutesco at The Real Alcázar of 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
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
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
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:
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)
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)
More ticket options >>