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Visiting the Alcázar of Seville, Spain

By alison - November 23, 2012 (Updated: December 3, 2014)

This entry is part 17 of 24 in the series Portugal & Andalusia 2012.
Reales Alcázares de Sevilla or Royal Alcazars of Seville

Façade of the Peter of Castile’s Palace in the Alcázar of Seville

The final Moorish palace of our travels in Andalusia was the Real Alcázar of Seville. Just when we thought we were ‘palaced out’, we realised we saved a great one for last.

By the time we reached the last city on our road-trip through Andalusia, Spain, we had jokingly dubbed it ‘the Palace and Cathedral tour.’ Seville had fine examples of each, so we rounded out our Moorish Palace tour with a visit to the Alcázar of Seville (Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, in Spanish).

The word Alcázar comes from an Arabic word that refers to a type of Moorish castle or fortress existing in Spain and Portugal.  The Alcázar of Seville is one of the best-preserved examples and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The original palace, called Al-Muwarak, was built by the Almohades in the 12th century. The Almohad dynasty was made up of Berber-Muslims from Morocco. As with the other Moorish palaces we visited in Spain, the Alcázar of Seville has been added to and adapted, by each successive ruler who resided there.

As we passed through the Alcázar’s entryway, I wondered if I was becoming blasé about the architecture of Andalusia. How many elaborately mosaic-ed walls and gilt ceilings can one person admire in two weeks? It turns out, at least one more. The Real Alcázar is stunning.

Like many of the palaces we visited, one of the picture postcard views is the courtyard. At the Alcázar of Seville, this is the Patio de las Doncellas or The Courtyard of the Maidens. The name refers to a myth, propagated by the Christian re-conquest movement, that the Moors demanded a tribute of 100 virgins from the Christians, every year.

The Courtyard of the Maidens, Real Alcazar, Seville

[Main and Top Left] The Courtyard of the Maidens, [Top right and bottom left] – The gothic palace [bottom centre and right] Hall of the Ambassadors
Despite the degrading context of the name, the Courtyard of the Maidens is beautiful. Ornate arches and shady corridors surround a long reflecting pool. You can easily imagine Kings and Queens strolling by the pool and contemplating the fate of their kingdoms… or maybe just what to have for lunch.

The other showstopper of the Alcázar of Seville is the Salón de Embajadores, or Hall of Ambassadors. This confection of dripping carvings and brightly painted archways is topped off by one of the most dramatic domed ceilings we have seen yet.

Hall of Ambassadors, Real Alcazar, Seville

The impossibly ornate Hall of Ambassadors

Inside the Palacio gótico, the gothic palace built for Alfonso the Wise, the architecture lost its Moorish flavour. It still had its own sense of drama, however, particularly the floor to ceiling tile mosaics, the likes of which we hadn’t seen since the Azulejos of Portugal.

Wandering through the Real Alcazar, Seville

Wandering through the Real Alcazar, Seville

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise; my favourite part of the Real Alcázar was the immense garden. Stepping out of the palace, we found ourselves in front of the Estanque de Mercurio, a large pool and fountain decorated by frescoes and stonework.

The gardens and grounds of the Alcazar

The gardens and grounds of the Alcazar

From there we headed down the stairs and into the main garden, formally laid out with hedges, palm trees, fountains and statuary. Scattered throughout the lush green garden were flashes of colour provided by flowers and free-roaming peacocks. It was easy to find a shady and quiet corner; the perfect place to relax with a good book. If only we lived in Seville.

I could explore the gardens of the Alcazar of Seville with my camera for days.

I could explore the gardens of the Alcazar of Seville with my camera for days.

While not as large and sprawling as some of the palaces we had visited on our adventure, the Alcázar of Seville was definitely worth visiting and a lovely last look at the Moorish castles of Andalusia.

What’s the best palace you’ve visited on your travels? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Love castles, palaces, and ruins like in this article? Us too! Don’t miss the full listing of Castles we’ve visited in Europe and beyond.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She is currently slow travelling through Europe in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
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3 comments

  1. Comment by Derek

    Derek November 23, 2012 at 18:21

    There was always “one” more!! ( But they just got better and better. )

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison November 24, 2012 at 11:22

      True, and Seville was pretty darn good 🙂

  2. Pingback: Our 10 Favourite Photos from Seville, Spain | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb

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