Marveling At The Historic & Gorgeous Real Alcázar Of Seville, Spain

April 28, 2024
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Seville's Historic, Gorgeous Real Alcázar...Why It's a Must on Your Andalusia Itinerary | Real Alcázar is a true cultural & architectural treasure (and UNESCO World Heritage Site)...a beautiful complex of palaces, fortresses, & lush gardens, full of vivid, intricate patterned tiles. It's a feast for the senses! Why this is the #1 thing you should do in Seville, & deserves a spot on your southern Spain itinerary!

The Real Alcázar of Seville is like something out of a fairytale.  Or, perhaps more accurately, out of the famous, mysterious Arabian tales of “One Thousand and One Nights”.

Even if you have a short time in Seville, the centuries-old complex of palaces, fortifications, and beautiful courtyards HAS to be on your itinerary.

Seville's Historic, Gorgeous Real Alcázar...Why It's a Must on Your Andalusia Itinerary | Real Alcázar is a true cultural & architectural treasure (and UNESCO World Heritage Site)...a beautiful complex of palaces, fortresses, & lush gardens, full of vivid, intricate patterned tiles. It's a feast for the senses!

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The Real Alcazar is absolutely stunning and vast…and also quite confusing and hard to figure out a logical path through.  If you’re looking for a detailed guide to every piece of the castle, what it’s called, the history, and how best to navigate it, this is not the post for you.

Lol, I wish I could tell you I figured it out.  Instead, check out this post for that type of info (and, I’d recommend a really good guided tour).

So this is more of a photo essay along with some tips for your visit, to help you get a sense of what you’ll see (and definitely prove that it’s worth a spot on your itinerary, even if you’re rushed).  What I *can* tell you is that it is DOPE.

Why Seville's Real Alcazar is a must on your Andalusia itinerary...this beautiful complex of palaces, fortresses, & lush gardens, full of vivid, intricate patterned tiles

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Tips for visiting Real Alcazar

  • I definitely would recommend booking ahead.  If you’re coming in peak season, FAR ahead.  We visited in late January which is very much off-season, and so only bought ours a day or two in advance (I kept checking the site to make sure they weren’t selling out).  We bought our tickets on the official website.
  • However, if you’re either on a tight schedule, want to really get a sense of the history and what you’re seeing, or just hate waiting in line, consider taking a “skip the line” guided tour like this one or this one, or one that includes the Cathedral.
  • Check the opening times on the official website, but it was open 9:30-5:00 when we were there mid-winter.  And my 10-year-old nephew got in free.
  • How much time you spend here will very much be up to you, but I think it would be hard to get out in less than an hour and a half, and some people will spend an entire half day.  We were there probably 2 hours and definitely missed some key rooms and corridors.
  • Important info:  The line to enter the Alcazar is for ticket holders—the ticket office itself is in a different part of the complex, around a corner.  The ticket has your entry time on it, and you’ll probably want to get in line 15 to 30 minutes early (more on that below).
  • If getting beautiful photos is a focus, consider the time of day you visit.  The best lighting will vary based on time of the year, but I’d generally say that midday will be more harsh…early/mid morning and late afternoon will be ideally a bit less crowded, but also have softer lighting.  On the other hand, tour groups are lighter midday as they all go have lunch.

Where to stay in Seville:  We stayed in a lovely apartment that was super central to everything and had a great rooftop patio view of the cathedral.

I’d strongly considered (slightly) splurging on the gorgeous Hotel Colon Gran Melia, the luxury Casa del Poeta, Casa 1800 Sevilla (I’m obsessed with that patio), or EME Catedral Hotel (a bit more affordable but still amazing rooftop).  Ultimately with three people and sleeping configurations, we ended up in an apartment.

Why Seville's Real Alcazar is a must on your Andalusia itinerary...this beautiful complex of palaces, fortresses, & lush gardens, full of vivid, intricate patterned tiles

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No matter when you visit, there will be a line.  We arrived at 1:25p for a 1:30 ticket time (meaning we could enter as early as 1:30), and thought we were in the right line.  There are no labels or signs, or much info.

After waiting for a while, we found out that we should have been in a line hugging the wall (which we couldn’t see), and had to go all the way to the back of *that* line.  The one we were in originally was for the entrance time before ours.  So it’s worth sending someone to the front of the line to ask the person in charge.

As I mentioned above, the line here that snakes around the building is for ticket holders only.  If you haven’t bought a ticket yet (why???), the office is in another part of the complex.

queue to enter Seville's Real Alcazar

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Still, it didn’t take forever to get in, and we initially entered through a series of smaller courtyards and arches, including the bright-red Lion’s Gate.

Part of what makes the Real Alcázar so amazing is that it’s still used…it’s the oldest Spanish royal palace still in use today, so the royal family uses the upper floors while tourists can explore the lower part.  It was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.  (And it’s one of the prettiest Game of Thrones filming sites in Spain.)

Lion's Gate at Real Alcazar in Seville

One of the many courtyards at Real Alcazar of Sevilla

Why Seville's Real Alcazar is a must on your Andalusia itinerary...this beautiful complex of palaces, fortresses, & lush gardens, full of vivid, intricate patterned tiles

Why Seville's Real Alcazar is a must on your Andalusia itinerary...this beautiful complex of palaces, fortresses, & lush gardens, full of vivid, intricate patterned tiles

Here are other posts to help you plan a southern Portugal & Spain itinerary!

What To Do With A Half Day In Cordoba: Is This Day Trip From Seville Worth It?

Why You Have To Take A Ponte de Piedade Boat Tour In Portugal’s Algarve

Why Carvoeiro Boardwalk is One Of The Must-See Places In The Algarve

Or, check out all my Portugal posts & Spain posts for a full country itinerary!

Alcazar basically means “fortress palace”, a linguistic evolution from the original Arabic.  The palace’s origin can be traced back to the 8th century conquest of Seville by the Moors, but it was more like the 10th or 11th century when construction began in earnest and all the incredible decoration was added.

The whole process took a few centuries, and King Pedro gave it a Mudéjar update in the 14th century (basically a blend of Isalmic and Gothic styles that was popular in Moorish Spain).  But because it was added to over centuries, it includes Baroque, Romantic, and Renaissance elements as well.

one of the many courtyards at Real Alcazar in Sevilla

Why Seville's Real Alcazar is a must on your Andalusia itinerary...this beautiful complex of palaces, fortresses, & lush gardens, full of vivid, intricate patterned tiles

Why Seville's Real Alcazar is a must on your Andalusia itinerary...this beautiful complex of palaces, fortresses, & lush gardens, full of vivid, intricate patterned tiles

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But it’s when you start exploring inside the various palaces that you realize why Seville’s Alcázar is one of the world’s great cultural treasures.

I was completely mesmerized by the detailed geometric patterns in the plaster and tile, the Islamic art with arabesques, intricate calligraphy, incredibly detailed carvings, and more.

It’s more amazing the closer you look at it, but when you pull back, the effect is breathtaking!  And, the mixing of different patterns, vivid colors, and textures is dizzying and yet works completely.

The amazing vivid, intricate patterned tiles, calligraphy, carvings, and textures make Seville's Alcazar a feast for your senses

The amazing vivid, intricate patterned tiles, calligraphy, carvings, and textures make Seville's Alcazar a feast for your senses

The amazing vivid, intricate patterned tiles, calligraphy, carvings, and textures make Seville's Alcazar a feast for your senses

The amazing vivid, intricate patterned tiles, calligraphy, carvings, and textures make Seville's Alcazar a feast for your senses

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Narrowing down which photos to include in this post was SO hard because I had a ton, and each showed something unique and beautiful!

The amazing vivid, intricate patterned tiles, calligraphy, carvings, and textures make Seville's Alcazar a feast for your senses

The amazing vivid, intricate patterned tiles, calligraphy, carvings, and textures make Seville's Alcazar a feast for your senses

The amazing vivid, intricate patterned tiles, calligraphy, carvings, and textures make Seville's Alcazar a feast for your senses

The amazing vivid, intricate patterned tiles, calligraphy, carvings, and textures make Seville's Alcazar a feast for your senses

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I was definitely obsessed by the juxtaposition of the colors and patterns all throughout the complex.

The amazing vivid, intricate patterned tiles, calligraphy, carvings, and textures make Seville's Alcazar a feast for your senses

up close with some of the colored tiles and patterns at Seville's Real Alcazar

up close with some of the colored tiles and patterns at Seville's Real Alcazar

up close with some of the colored tiles and patterns at Seville's Real Alcazar

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We wandered through the Hall of Justice, the Palace of King Peter, Courtyard of the Maidens, the absolutely amazing Ambassador’s Hall (or Throne Room), Courtyard of the Dolls, and more (though I know we missed some things).

up close with some of the colored tiles and patterns at Seville's Real Alcazar

up close with some of the colored tiles and patterns at Seville's Real Alcazar

patterned floor at Seville's Real Alcazar

delicate green metal gates at Seville's Real Alcazar

Andalucia (including Seville) was on my “must visit” list for 2024! 

But despite how much we were loving the inside portions of the Alcazar, the outdoor gardens beckoned.  Eventually we couldn’t resist the siren’s call of burbling fountains, lush leafy plants, fragrant orange trees, and all the vibrant little tiled alcoves.

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting - girl in pink flowered dress by pool

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

orange trees at Real Alcazar

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

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We definitely spent as much time exploring the exotic labyrinth-like paths of the gardens (which take up about 80% of Alcazar’s grounds) as we did the palaces.

On a beautiful day, there is probably nowhere better in Seville to spend your time.  And even when it’s crowded, you’ll feel like you have the gardens to yourself.

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting - peacock's plumage

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

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If you’re a fan of the show Game of Thrones, these gardens became Sunspear, the ancestral home of the Martels in Dorne.  The show filmed scenes from the balconies of Pedro’s Palace, the Ambassador’s Hall, the Charles V Pavilion, and the Maria Padilla Baths.

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

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We weren’t looking for specific things in particular in Alcazar’s gardens, but just soaking in the rambling, fragrant, hushed beauty.  Again, I know we missed things, but we didn’t *feel* like we were missing anything.  We were just enjoying.

If I’d been on my own, I would have pulled up one of the lovely tiled benches and read my Kindle for a while.

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

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There is a garden cafe where you can buy a bottle of water, or actually get some food and drink and sit down to enjoy.  It’s over here by this gate.

The lush, exotic gardens, fountains, and grounds of Seville's Real Alcazar are one of the best parts of visiting

An intricately carved gate at Real Alcazar

The morning we spent at Seville’s Real Alcazar was one of our favorite things of the entire trip, and even if you only have a day in the city, I believe you need to find a way to visit!

Other amazing historic architectural spots you’ll love:

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Seville's Historic, Gorgeous Real Alcázar...Why It's a Must on Your Andalusia Itinerary | Real Alcázar is a true cultural & architectural treasure (and UNESCO World Heritage Site)...a beautiful complex of palaces, fortresses, & lush gardens, full of vivid, intricate patterned tiles. It's a feast for the senses! Why this is the #1 thing you should do in Seville, & deserves a spot on your southern Spain itinerary!

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