Seville’s royal palace is called the Real Alcázar de Sevilla. The Arabic term al-qasr (fortress or palace) is the source of the Spanish word “Alcazar,” which means castle in Spanish.
The Mudéjar architectural style, from which the royal complex takes its inspiration, combines elements from Moorish and Christian traditions. It is the official home of King Felipe V of Spain whenever he travels to Seville and is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
There is no question that the Real Alcazar Palace is the must-see attraction in all of Seville. During the peak months, we advise purchasing tickets online in advance to avoid the hassle of waiting in line and the potential for missing out on entry due to a lack of availability (since only 750 people can tour the palace at once).
There is a lengthy pond in the ‘patio of the virgins’ that is bordered by sunken gardens and a corridor with serrated arches that leads to the various living areas. The majestic cedar wood dome at the Salón de Embajadores (Ambassador’s Hall) is equally remarkable.
The Casa de Contratación is yet another old structure. Columbus was welcomed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella at this contract palace in 1503. This was the nerve center for all New World trade conducted by the Spanish. In addition, Vespucci founded a maritime academy there.
Gardens ranging in style from Moorish to Renaissance can be found throughout the Alcazar palace complex and include several ponds, exotic plants, shaded walkways, and pavilions.
History of Royal Alcazar of Seville
So, what, precisely, is an “alcazar”? Its literal translation is “fortress palace.” It was borrowed from the Arabic phrase “el qasr.”
The Alcázar dates back to the Moorish conquest of Seville in the eighth century. On top of the ruins of a Visigoth church, they constructed a stronghold. As a result, Islam came to be the city’s most influential religion.
Construction on the Alcázar increased throughout the 12th century when the Almohad caliphate of Morocco was in power. Arabesques, calligraphy, and geometric designs in plaster and tile adorned the space in the style of Islamic art.
In 1248, King Ferdinand III and Queen Isabella defeated the hapless Moors and retook the city of Seville, marking a turning point in the Spanish Reconquista. They took back the Alcazar and completely renovated it. Seville’s status as a royal city and Alcazar’s status as a royal residence both began during this period.
The core of the Alcázar is a palace constructed in the Mudejar architecture by King Don Pedro the Cruel in the 14th century. He governed the region with his lover Maria de Padilla, and several spouses.
Because of his stance in defense of the Jewish and Muslim communities, he was given the name Pedro the Just. Whether harsh or just, he had an appreciation for Islamic art, a fondness for Seville, and the ability to construct one of Europe’s most beautiful palaces.
The Alcázar is the longest-inhabited royal palace in the world. The top levels are reserved for the Spanish royal family. Additionally, authorities and dignitaries are frequently welcomed. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee designated it as such in 1987.
The architectural style of Royal Alcázar of Seville
The Alcázar is commonly regarded as the pinnacle of Mudéjar design and construction. The “Mudéjar” style combines Moorish and Spanish Christian influences and was developed in Spain during Christian rule.
The art of the Moors was largely adopted by the Christian conquerors, who utilized it to adorn and express Christian themes after their conquest. Mudéjar architecture often has horseshoe arches, crenelated (notched) arches, intricate plaster latticing, and colorful geometric tile patterns. Only the Iberian Peninsula has this phenomenon.
The Alcázar spans several centuries due to its history of renovation and alteration, including the Moorish (12th century), Gothic (13th century), Renaissance (15th century), and Baroque (17th and 18th century). Its combination of disparate aesthetics sets it apart.
12 Must-Visit Highlights of Royal Alcázar in Seville
- The Lion’s Gate
- The main Courtyard
- House of Trade
- Admiral’s Room
- The Maidens Courtyard – Patio de las Doncellas
- The Sumptuous Pedro’s Palace
- The Ambassador’s Hall
- The Gothic Palace
- Royal Alcázar Gardens
- Baths of Maria Padilla
- Pavilion of Carlos V
- Courtyard of the Dolls
1. The Lion’s Gate
The Lion’s Gate is the entrance to the Alcázar from the Plaza del Triunfo, and its namesake is a lion that wears a cross and offers another in its paw. It probably served as a reminder that the Christians, despite the Mudéjars’ presence, were the true owners of the land.
2. The main Courtyard
There’s an old wall in the hallway once you enter. After that, you’ll find yourself at the Patio de la Monteria, also known as the Hunting Courtyard. This plaza connects the Palace of Pedro with the Palace of Justice and the Palace of Commerce in the Alcázar.
Beautiful stucco work and arches dating back to the 10th century set the Hall of Justice and Patio del Yeso, located to the left, apart from the Mezquita in Cordoba. This 12th-century section of the Alcázar is the sole relic of the Almohad monarchy that has survived to the present day.
3. House of Trade
The Renaissance-style Casa de la Contratacion (House of Trade) stands to your right. This was the palace’s official commercial district. Goods from the New World would first arrive in the House of Trade. Here, authorities processed trip permits, collected taxes, and kept “top secret” files.
The historic treaty between Columbus and Queen Isabella authorizing his voyage to the Indies was signed here in 1492.
Before delving into the bowels of the Alcázar, there are a few chambers worth exploring.
4. Admiral’s Room
The Admiral’s Room was dedicated in 1503, just a year after the discovery of America. It was here that Amerigo Vespucci, Ferdinand Magellan, and Juan de Elcano planned their first circumnavigation of the globe.
The Admiral’s Room is home to the Carranza Collection as well, a small museum showcasing the development of Trianese ceramic tile in the shadows. One of the world’s most significant ceramic collections, it has been on exhibit in the Alcázar since 2010.
The Chapel of the Navigators features a coffered ceiling adorned with stars. To commemorate Christopher Columbus’s travels, Isabella built a church. Inside is a well-known picture depicting the Virgin Mary beside Christopher Columbus and King Carlos V.
The picture is one of the few known contemporary depictions of Christopher Columbus. The neighboring Seville cathedral contains a fragment of the adventurer and a memorial to his interment.
5. The Maidens Courtyard – Patio de las Doncellas
After passing through the grand foyer, you’ll find yourself in the heart of Pedro’s stunning Mudejar palace, the Maiden’s Courtyard. All the major rooms of the palace’s first level are accessible from there.
King Carlos V, a Renaissance architect, added the second floor to the Courtyard in the 16th century. (He renovated a good deal of the place in a Renaissance style.) It can only be visited during specific times and for an additional fee by way of a guided, security-escorted tour.
During the 13th century, when Seville was once again ruled by Christians, the Maiden’s Courtyard was constructed. The notion that the Moors required a payment of 100 virgins from the Christians each year led to the rather negative term, which was likely spread during the Reconquista.
A large rectangular reflecting pool and attractive sunken plants may be seen inside the Courtyard. In the 16th century, it was covered up with marble because it was deemed “dirty.” In 2004, it was discovered during excavations.
6. The Sumptuous Pedro’s Palace
The magnificent Mudéjar Palace of King Pedro, the Alcázar’s most prized possession, lies just ahead. An ornately carved front with delicate columned windows, a stalactite frieze, and an arching wooden roof serves as the palace’s entry.
The construction of Pedro’s Palace took place between the years 1360 and 1364. The Moorish design of the palace revolved around courtyards and gardens.
According to the Quran, only God is allowed to have “eternal” constructions. Thus, he constructed this one out of “perishable” materials like clay, plaster, and wood.
7. The Ambassador’s Hall
The main attraction of the Royal Alcázar of Seville is the Ambassador’s Hall, also known as the Throne Room. I mean, come on, that’s really incredible. Given its gilded cedar dome ceiling, this space is fondly referred to as the “Half Orange” Room. The dome, covered in gold and reflective surfaces, stands in for the sky.
Everything is intricate and convoluted, and its purpose is to convey dominance. Despite Islam’s ban on depicting living things, the inclusion of bird representations among the calligraphic designs proves that this is authentic Mudéjar artwork.
The Caliphs hosted their highest-ranking visitors in this magnificent hall. To show that God had chosen him to govern, the monarch would stand on the central stone underneath the dome when receiving guests.
The room is the most luxurious one in the palace. It has ornate details from the Gothic and Renaissance periods, including carved wood and gold leaf.
8. The Gothic Palace
The Gothic Palace, constructed by Alfonso X, Ferdinand’s son, may be found to the north and left of the Maiden’s Courtyard. It stands out greatly from the rest of the Alcázar in terms of design. The palace has two long, parallel rectangular chambers with two smaller rooms on either end.
The Celebration Room has many tapestries hanging on the walls. And it was there that King Carlos V of Spain wed Portuguese Queen Isabel. Their marriage was a dynastic enterprise that brought Spain and Portugal closer together.
9. Royal Alcázar Gardens
You’ve finally made it to the fragrant, winding Alcázar Gardens. They are a peaceful haven even in the dead of winter. There are countless avenues to explore, and being lost will be a pleasant experience.
Gardens have been dated to Moorish times and the nineteenth century in England. The seeds of several of these plants were brought back from South American explorations.
It occupies 80 percent of the Alcázar grounds and is 60,000 square meters in size; it is a verdant, exotic, labyrinthine wonderland. There are palm trees, cypress trees, myrtle trees, mulberry trees, magnolia trees, orange trees, lemon trees, and, at the correct time of year, hibiscus and agapanthus, which bloom cornflower blue and cerise pink, etc.
The area of the Pond, also known as Mercury’s Pool, was built in 1733 and is the first area visitors encounter when entering the grounds. There are fish in Mercury’s Pool, a big pool and fountain with elaborate frescoes and brickwork.
Behind the Puerta de Marchena and to the left of the pool is a charming outdoor café.
A magnificent Italian Grotto Gallery stands on one side of the pool, resembling a cave since it was hewn from volcanic sea rock. The upper level allows access to the grounds and the Cathedral itself.
The Fuente de la Fama may be found along the grotto’s wall. The cascade in the fountain forces air up through the pipes of the hydraulic organ, which is housed within the fountain. On the hour, it automatically plays soothing organ music.
10. Baths of Maria Padilla
Perhaps the most eye-catching and popular feature of the Alcázar Gardens is the Baths of Dona Maria de Padilla.
They may be found in the palace’s gothic quarter, directly beneath the Patio del Crucero. They were first used to collect rainwater. The baths were a source of comfort and relaxation for Pedro’s mistress Maria back in their day.
According to urban legend, he fell in love with Maria and plotted the murder of her husband. She might have been his secret wife, and the two of them raised four kids together. Maria’s control over Pedro was widely believed to be maintained by the use of dark magic.
Sadly, Pedro did not get to spend much time in his magnificent palace or with Maria. His half-brother Enrique, who would later become Henry II, assassinated him.
11. Pavilion of Carlos V
The Pavilion of Carlos V, located further out, blends in beautifully with the surroundings. It was established in 1543 under the name La Alcoba. It’s covered with beautiful ceramic work and boasts an impressive tapestry collection.
A sour orange tree, maybe 600 years old and established by King Pedro, can be found next to the pavilion. The Arabs brought sour orange trees to Spain for decoration.
In the Alcázar gardens, the color orange stands out against the lush greenery. The entire area is decorated with orange elements, from orange trees to orange buildings to orange walls and even orange gates.
12. Courtyard of the Dolls
The Courtyard of the Dolls, which spans three floors, may be reached via a little passageway. It’s a lot more compact than the Maiden’s Courtyard but just as beautiful and evocative of the Alhambra in Granada’s delicate ornamentation.
The era of the Caliphs is represented by the columns. It is said that Pedro kept his harem in this little Courtyard, which was located in a more secluded part of the castle.
The name comes from the dolls’ faces painted on the inside of the arch. It’s over in the blink of an eye.
There is no better spot than the Royal Alcazar of Seville to experience the splendor and history of Spain. The Alcazar, or Reales Alcázares de Sevilla as it is more often called, is one of the most impressive buildings you will ever see. Several dynasties, from the Moors to the Christians, left their mark on the city as it served as Andalusia’s political epicenter for hundreds of years.
In this quick guide, we cover Alcazar Seville’s extensive history, attractions, and insider tips in only 10 minutes. Let us know if you find it helpful.