Upon entering the Alcazar Seville, I was immediately struck by how much it reminds me of our visit to Marrakesh. The Moorish design is quite obvious. The color and design of the tiles are reminiscent of the ones we saw at the Bahia Palace and the Ben Youssef Madrasa school of Koran. The colors, the style and the workmanship were almost identical. It makes sense of course, as Seville was ruled by the Almohades thousands of years ago.The Alcazar is considered one of the most beautiful palaces in Spain.I totally believe it. Sure it’s smaller than the Alhambra of Granada, but it wows you nonetheless.
Real Alcazar of Seville:
The Alcazar is done in a style known as “Mudejar”. This was a name given to Muslims who lived in Andalusia and remained there after the Christians conquered it, but who did not convert to Christianity. The “Moriscos” on the other hand converted to Christianity. Mudejar is also an architectural style that is strongly Morrish influenced. The Mudejar people were later expelled anyway in latter years along with the Moriscos as their allegiance were questioned.
The Alcazar is still the official residence of the Spanish royal family when they visit Seville. It became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987, same time as the Seville Cathedral.The official name of the Alcazar in Spanish is Reales Alcazares de Sevilla. Just like it happened in tons of other places, there was an original palace there called Al-Muwarak that was built by the Almohades. Going into the Alcazar is like going back in time, Muslim with a Christian twist.
On the podcast:
Patio de la Doncellas (Courtyard of the Maidens):
The Legend of the name :-) as it is also called courtyard of the virgins. Featured in Alcazar Seville Game of Thrones.
There is a long, reflecting pool down the middle and it has sunken gardens on both sides. The courtyard used to be all marble with a fountain in the center. Evidence showed that the original plans had the pool and gardens, and they were therefore restored. The lower level of the patio was built for King Peter I. He is described as a “Sultan” in some of the inscriptions.
Baths of Lady Maria de Padilla:
Los Banos de Dona Maria de Padilla are rainwater tanks that are under the Patio. Unfortunately, we did not get to see these. We wandered around the palace and it’s gardens for almost four hours on a very hot Sevilla day and we completely forgot to go back inside and check this out. I guess we have to save it for our next visit. I hear they are incredibly beautiful :-). The baths are named for Maria de Padilla who was the mistress of Peter the Cruel.
Alcázar of Seville La Casa de Contratacion (House of Trade):
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Built in 1503 by the Catholic Monarchs to conduct trading with the New World colonies, meaning the Americas, Caribbean and Bermuda islands. Amerigo Vespucci, for whom America was named, was the originator of the phrase “New World”. There is a lovely chapel inside. Trade disputes were settled in the building. Christopher Columbus actually met with Ferdinand and Isabella in the chapel. It used to be a lot bigger than it is now. There was a major demolition in 1964, with a lot of the offices either torn down and some more moved to the city of Cadiz. **Podcast misidentifies Columbus as the first man to use the phrase..sorry..it was Vespucci.**
Seville Palace: Charles V Ceiling Room:
Constructed between 1541 and 1543 under the reign of Emperor Charles V. It has 75 octagonal caissons. It also has the coat of arms of the Habsburg empire with inscriptions “Plus Ultra” and “Under the rule of Emperor Charles V never the sun sets”. How’s that for confidence???
Mercury Pond at Royal Alcazar Seville:
It was the old swimming pool that collected water from the roman aqueduct, recycled to water the plants in the gardens. It became a pond in 1575. There is a sculpture of the god Mercury done by Diego Pesquera. The same artist also did the bar work all around the pond. It was known as the Canos de Carmona during the times of the Muslim rulers. It is sorrounded by benches where you could take the load off and people watch.
Alcazar Sevilla: Tapestries Hall
I loved this gigantic room. It had the biggest tapestries l have ever had the pleasure of seeing. The covered the whole wall!!! The original hall was completely destroyed after the earthquake of Lisbon in 1755 and was remodeled by Sebastian Van Der Bocht who was a military architect and engineer whose work can be seen in the design of The Tower of Gold in Seville among others. The ones hanging now are exact replicas of the ones destroyed.
Halls of Charles V: Featured in Game of Thrones Seville scenes
By my calculation, l would say he had the most influence of all the rulers. It seems quite a majority of the rooms are named for him. This room is also known as the “Celebration Room”. It was where the wedding celebration of Charles V to Queen Isabel of Portugal. There is a portrait of the couple in the room. It has a gorgeous view as it overlooks the gardens. The paintings on canvas were done by Gustavo Bacarisas under the order of King Alfonso XIII to decorate the palace in time for the Iberia exhibition that was held in Seville in 1929.
The Staircase to the Upper Palace at the Real Alcazar:
It was built in the 16th century during the reign of Phillip II. The wall tiles covering the space are exact replicas of the ones at the “Madres de Dios” convent in Seville. The coffered ceiling is a polygonal shape decorated with flowers. It is considered to be the most important thing in the whole palace. Go figure.. :-). It was nice, but it wouldn’t have been my pick!
Upper Palace at Real Alcazar Seville:
The royal residence of course were not open to the public. It would have been lovely to see it. I can just imagine its opulence. There were however a portion of rooms open for us to explore. What a welcome relief to go inside of these air conditioned rooms. There were displays of original tile work and some amazingly detailed chinaware that were really, really old. I am assuming they need to be kept at the right temperature to protect their integrity. I find the workmanship of these tiles incredible.
These days, you are lucky if tiles last a couple of years without cracking, at least the ones l have used in various houses. It seems nowadays, everything is made to be disposable, from tiles, to washers, dryers and cars even. They all have a short life span by design. The whole consumerism attitude, forcing you to upgrade whether you like it or not.. :-). Some of the royals that have resided there are King Pedro I of Castile, Phillip II, Phillip V and of course Emperor Charles V.
Grotto Gallery at Real Alcazar:
This was transformed into a Loggia and extends out to the garden of the Maze. The style is actually called Grutesco, not mannerist as l said on the podcast. Sorry, it’s hard to remember everything. The brain is getting older after all :-). Vermondo Resta did the transformation work at the beginning of the 17th century. There is a lot of white and red marble used.
The Apeadero (Alighting Area):
The site of the old royal stables. It has a lounge that was an old Armory on the top, considered one of the main parts of the palace. The center part was wide enough for at least two carriages side by side, then there were 2 narrower aisles, one on each side with a total of 32 columns on each side. Told you it was huge, befitting a king one might say. It leads out to the Patio de Banderas courtyard which in turn brings you out of the Alcazar and onto the street.
The Gardens at Real Alcazar Seville:
Related reading: Seville Cathedral
These were just some of the rooms l remember seeing. I am positive we missed a few more places in addition to the Baths underground. One of the most joyful things was just wandering aimlessly through the various gardens. It is extremely large, and it’s amazing that this is right in the middle of town too! From the outside, it looks like a little place and l was pleasantly surprised once inside.
I understand that the Alhambra in Granada is way, way bigger, but you know what? I would be pretty happy with this if l were a royal :-). The gardens had a lot of fountains on the walkways. There were also ponds with big fish swimming happily. We did not see any peacocks, but l understand there are some about. We did see the ducks though, and a lot of kids seemed to be having fun feeding them.
When you think about it all, you realize how efficient the Moors were in making everything accessible. The Alcazar had residential buildings, administrative, service, reception and even religious areas like the chapel. There were community gathering spaces like the gardens. How different from nowadays where you have to go to 3 or 4 different places to get one thing done :-(.
Fun facts about the Real Alcazar:
– Lawrence of Arabia , the movie was partially filmed here.
– The palace was the birthplace of Infanta Maria Antonietta of Spain.
– The Courtyard of the Maidens was used as the court of the King of Jerusalem in the movie Kingdom of Heaven. The director Ridley Scott made them change the courtyard back to marble again temporarily while they filmed and then it was changed back..again..to the present day courtyard. I can’t even imagine how much that cost..and l don’t remember that movie making a lot of money either. What waste! :-)
– Season 5 of the Game of Thrones or “Juego de Tronos” in Spanish was filmed on the grounds of the Alcazar. That show seems to be following us..or vice versa. It was also filmed in Malta where we lived.
– Peter the Cruel actually secretly married Maria de Padilla in 1353. This guy was a scamp :-). He married 3-4 times after her, each time denying that his previous marriage was legal, and the Bishops were afraid to say otherwise. His great love seems to have been Maria though, and they carried on until her death. She bore him four children. He was also known as Peter the Just, and his rule started at age 16.
Related Seville things to see post: Metropol Parasol of Seville
Royal Alcazar Seville Admission price:
Admission into the Alcazar is €9.50 for adults. Free entry for under 16
Students between ages 17-25 is €2
Royal Alcazar Seville Hours of Operation:
Hours: 9.30 am – 5 pm October through March
9.30 am – 7 pm April through September
Free admission to the Royal Alcazar is once a week on Mondays from 4-5 pm (double check because it changes)
If your travels find you in Seville, l definitely the Royal Alcazar is must visit in Seville. Perhaps if you’ve seen the Alhambra (I have not), you might give it a miss. I wouldn’t , as l really never get tired of seeing palaces and parks. It is quite important l think while you are exploring the Alcazar to look up, as well as down. You don’t want to miss the ceiling, which to me are worth the price of admission alone.
When you think of all the manpower and hours spent designing, hand manufacturing, and installation of the tiles, it really is mind blowing. Everything is painstakingly planned out. The precise placements of the fountains in the gardens for instance or the shapes of every little bush planted in the various gardens. They all add to a very pleasing, and very satisfying feast for the eyes. Now that l have paid once, l think future visits will be confined to the free entry times :-), just because we expect to have frequent visitors, such as this time. We went with my mother in law. I don’t feel like shelling out €20 each time we bring someone to the Royal Alcazar, not when we can spend the same amount on really good tapas and beer :-).
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What about you? Would you consider Seville or Andalusia in general if you visit Spain? Or are you a stickler for the presumed exciting cities like Barcelona and Madrid? If you have been to Seville, did you visit the Alcazar Sevilla? If so, did you enjoy it? Would you recommend for others to see it? We would love to hear from you below…