The Alcázar of Seville promises a surreal, out-of-body experience, a world where the flowers bloom, gardens flourish and peacocks may end up in the same place as you. The warmth of the Spanish summer is heightened in Seville. The palace has more than one significant room or courtyard that you must visit such as the Courtyards of the Maidens with an intriguing history of its own, or the ‘Lion’s Gate’ that challenges you under the rising sun. Don’t miss out on the chance to observe a magnificent blend of diverse cultural influences.
Here are the top highlights that shouldn’t be missed out on:
With an image of a crowned lion holding a cross and a gothic script inlaid into the looming stone walls, the entrance to the Alcázar is stately and daunting. The locals call it ‘The Lion’s Gate’ and rightly so. Puerta del León was built in the 12th-century on Plaza del Triunfo and leads to the Lion’s Courtyard or Patio del León. The arch is significant for its threatening structure owing to the history of this fortified castle. Built by the Almohads, Puerta del León stands as a monolith to an earlier time.
Known as the Contractor’s Room at Alcázar, it was founded in 1503 as the meeting place for trade discussions between Spain and its colonies in America; to visit, one would first have to go through this room. The Contracting House is where voyages were planned and approved; one of these was the great voyage of Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world in 1519. It is now home to the painting The Virgin of the Navigators. Casa de la Contratación played a significant role in developing a relationship between the New World and the Natives.
The Palace of Peter I was constructed in the 14th century, at the start of the reign of King Peter. Due to King Peter’s relationship with Mohammed V, who was behind the grandiose decorations of Granada’s Alhambra, the palace invokes the latter at first glance. Palacio del Rey Don Pedro still depicts a similar opulence and Mudéjar architecture with both Moorish and Christian features. A frieze on the palace’s façade is an epigraph to the origins and culmination of the palace with etchings that hint at this symbiotic venture.
The Palace of Peter I wraps around what is also known as the Courtyard of Maidens, a waiting room for maidens before their duties began. A legend or a myth surrounding the courtyard claims that the Moors would demand a hundred virgins from their colonies as a tribute. A reflecting pool stands in the center with a sunken garden that was discovered in 2004 by archeologists, prior to which the entire ground was covered in marble. The courtyard is a flourishing architectural treat with Mudéjar plasterwork and tiles depicting inlays from the 16th-century.
The opulence of the Hall of Ambassadors appears like a juggernaut of power. As the former room of Peter of Castile, Salon de Embajadores, or the Throne Room, has a gorgeous gold-foiled dome that soars high above. It is said the hall represents both heaven and earth depicting the superior role assigned to the King. This was also where the wedding of Charles I and Isabel of Portugal took place in 1526, the balconies that were designed for this were later used to spy on dignitaries who would visit the king.
In the same manner as the Palace of Peter I, the Patio of the Dolls features similar arches and plasterwork reflective of Granada-esque architecture. Patio de Las Muñecas lies in the depths of the most private quarters of the Alcázar. Courtyard of the Dolls was designed with intricate details and gossamer finishes for its owner, Queen Isabel II. The architecture is truly historic as each of its columns is unique. Also, the former play area for children of the palace, the Courtyard of the Dolls was preeminent in its own right.
Also known as the Baths of Maria de Padilla, this is another interesting area of the Alcázar. Named after the mistress of Peter of Castille, Maria de Padilla, these baths earlier served as a vast pool and now have been converted into rainwater tanks. These baths are located beneath the Patio del Crucero with an almost eerie ambiance with its arches that tower overhead. According to some stories, Maria de Padilla frequented the Baths to find some peace and quiet. This is also where some scenes from Game of Thrones were shot.
Familiarly known as the Water Gardens of Dorne from Game of Thrones, Alcázar Gardens are resplendent, flourishing and a sight for sore eyes. Teeming with rich flora and fauna that thrive in the Spanish warmth, they feature exquisite plants, trees, ponds, and fountains, ideal for a romantic day. Pruned to perfection, you can easily get lost amid its maze-like hedges. The gardens served as an extension of the kitchen, and now it is mostly an attraction with various areas such as Troy Garden, Maze Garden, and the Garden of the Poets.
The Grotto Gallery is an arresting addition to the Alcázar Gardens. Galería del Grutesco was designed in the 16th century to reinvent an old Moorish-era wall. With a raised roof and columns creating porticos, the Gallery is a superbly-designed attraction and a must-visit. It even features an adventurous maze for children. The significance of this particular spot is the unmatched view it offers of both sides of the garden, lending an entirely spell-binding view to visitors. It has been constructed using volcanic stones and mock rocks by architect Vermonda Resa.
The private quarters of the Royal Family, the eleven rooms of the Cuarto Real Alto form an opulent, luxurious, and regal part of the palace. These rooms occupy the first floor, where the royal family resides to this day when visiting Seville. Entry to the Royal Apartments remains strict and under supervision as photography is prohibited and visitors may only enter with a pre-paid ticket. You will find an exquisite collection of books, paintings and wall tapestries that adorn the rooms signifying the rank of the Royal Family.
Alcázar of Seville is a pristine, well-maintained, and symbolic destination that has been invoked time and again in modern popular culture besides the yellowing-pages of a history book or even a postcard. Its dazzling beauty is no longer concealed under a veil of inaccessibility as many visitors frequent its hallowed lands and verdant gardens every summer to witness its splendor in person.