If you only visit one monument in the Andalusian capital, make it the Real Alcazar of Seville! The Royal Palace is both historic and stunning, a joy to explore. Read on for the ultimate guide to visiting the Real Alcázar in Seville, Spain!
Originally built by the Islamic rulers of the region and later modified and enhanced by the Catholic monarchs of Spain, the Real Alcázar de Sevilla is known as one of the world’s best examples of Mudéjar architecture.
Seville’s Alcazar is part of Seville’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Seville Cathedral and the Archivo de Indias.
The complex of buildings and the gorgeous gardens together make for an unforgettable experience, especially if you love history, architecture, art, and culture.
And if you are a photographer, there are an incredible number of beautiful photo spots in the Alcazar!
A Guide to Visiting the Real Alcazar DE SevillA
Although the Royal Alcazar of Seville is known by many variations of its name, its official name is the Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, since it is a complex of many palaces (and gardens) that evolved over time.
But by whatever name you reference it, it is one of the most extraordinary places you will visit.
Located in the Plaza del Triunfo in the historic core of Seville, just across from the equally historic Seville Cathedral, the Royal Palace still functions as a royal residence: members of Spain’s royal family stay in private apartments in the upper floor of the palace when they visit the Andalusian city.
We spent 3 days in Seville and the Royal Alcazar was at the top of our itinerary for the city. It blew us away with its beauty and we would return to Seville in a heartbeat just to be able to explore the Alcazar again.
While you can tour the Seville Alcazar on your own, your experience will be significantly enhanced if you opt for a guided tour. One economical option that allows for skip-the-line entrance is this highly-rated combined tour of the Royal Alcazar and the Seville Cathedral and La Giralda, its bell tower.
So, are you ready to learn more about the Real Alcazar Sevilla and plan your visit to this fascinating monument? Let’s get started!
A Brief History of Seville’s Real Alcazar
The word “alcazar” comes from the Arabic al-qaṣr, meaning “the castle.” And the Royal Alcazar was initially a castle-fortress, the origins of which can be traced all the way back to the beginning of the 8th century. At that time, the Caliphate of Córdoba was established.
In the year 913, Abd al-Rahman III, the Caliph, built a fort here, on a site where a Visigothic church had once stood. Later in the 10th century, the Al Mubarak palace, stables, and storage areas were added.
In the 12th century, the Almohad Caliphs (Berbers from Morocco) made Seville, the city on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, their European capital and established residence in the Alcazar. Many existing structures were razed and new palaces built in their place.
In the year 1248, Seville was captured by the Christians as part of the Reconquista, and the Catholic rulers made the Seville Alcazar their residence.
In the mid 14th century, King Pedro I built the Mudéjar Palace. Later, Ferdinand and Isabella expanded and converted the upper floor of the Alcazar into their residence.
It was in the Royal Alcazar of Seville that Christopher Columbus met with Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella after his second expedition to the New World.
And it was here that Carlos V, the first Holy Roman emperor, married Isabella of Portugal.
In 1962, the Alcazar of Seville was used as a set for the film Lawrence of Arabia.
And if you are a Game of Thrones fan, you may recognize parts of the Real Alcazar and the gardens from the show. The Alcazar represented the Water Gardens of Dorne in the hugely popular show.
The Architectural Styles of the Seville Alcazar
Of the original Islamic construction, only a few areas remain at the Real Alcazar: the Patio de Yeso, the Sala de Justicia, the Patio del Crucero, and the Casa de Contratación. The ruins of the Al Mubarak palace from the Moorish era are conserved under the Patio de la Monteria.
Much of what you see today at the Seville Alcazar is Mudéjar art and architecture: a style incorporating Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance elements, in conjunction with Islamic embellishments and techniques.
The Mudejar style is unique to the medieval kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula, and the Seville Alcazar is one of its foremost examples.
At the Palacio Gótico, which was restored following earthquake damage in the 18th century, you can see some Baroque elements as well, making the palace a unique blend of styles.
Poetry in stone, wood, plaster, metal, and tile, the Royal Alcazar Castle-Palace in Seville will take your breath away.
What to See and Do at the Alcazar of Seville
Every part of the Alcazar complex is gorgeous, but there are some sights in the palaces you absolutely must not miss when you tour the Alcazar. From grand halls to courtyards, and even baths, these spots will captivate you.
Snap a Photo of the Puerta del León
The Gate of the Lion, the main entrance to the Alcazar, is impressive. The 19th century tile mural of a crowned lion above the gate, framed by a dusty pink facade, greets you even before you enter the monument.
Gawk at the Patio de las Doncellas
With its lacy arches and formal reflecting pool, the Patio de las Doncellas is, without a doubt, one of the most Instagrammable spots in the Alcazar.
The Courtyard of the Maidens is reported to have got its name from a tale that the Moors demanded an annual ransom of 100 virgins from the Christian Iberian kingdoms.
The main interior courtyard in the palace, the Patio de las Doncellas is surrounded by important salons in the palace.
The long rectangular reflecting pool and sunken gardens in the center, built during the reign of Peter I of Castile, were paved over following his death, and only re-discovered in the early 2000s.
The upper floor of the courtyard was built later, during the reign of Charles V. Mostly built in the Renaissance style, the addition incorporates some Mudejar elements. Although the upper floor was added later, the entire structure still looks stunning as a whole.
While the courtyard was an important stop on our guided tour of the Alcazar, and we learned a lot about its architecture from our guide at that time, we could not help returning after the tour on our own, to examine the detail of the decorations and inscriptions at greater length.
The courtyard gets quite crowded during the day, so if you want photos without other people in them, you might have to wait and be patient. Or visit early in the day and head to the courtyard right at the start of your visit!
Admire La Salon de Embajadores
The Hall of the Ambassadors, accessed from the Courtyard of the Maidens, is one of the most spectacular rooms in the Seville Alcazar.
Built originally in the 11th century, the salon was given a makeover by King Pedro I, who made it the central showpiece of his royal palace.
With an ornately decorated multi-arched entrance and gorgeously decorated walls in white and gold, the salon’s grandeur and intricate beauty will take your breath away.
The gilded domed artesonado ceiling is made of interlaced wood, with red, green, and gold decorations.
Visit the Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla
Located underneath the Patio del Crucero, the rainwater tanks are a great photo spot at the Royal Alcazar. They are named after the mistress of King Peter I, who is reported to have bathed here when she was the royal consort.
Although the king had several other relationships, he is reported to have truly loved Maria, and their relationship endured until she died. Visiting the baths is like walking through history, and they are a spot you must not miss when you visit the Seville Alcazar!
Marvel at the tapestries in the Salón de los Tapices
In the Gothic Palace built by King Alfonso X the Wise, the enormous tapestries that line the Hall of Tapestries are stunning. Architecturally, this palace is much more austere, with a vaulted ceiling and no ornamentation.
Depicting the expedition of King Charles V to Tunis, which he conquered in 1535, the series of Flemish tapestries was made in the 18th century.
Featuring beautiful colors and exquisite detail, the tapestries are a must-see when you visit! The ceramic tile plinths are also gorgeous.
View the art in the Casa de Contratación
The House of Trade features beautiful candy-pink striped walls and displays of art. The 16th century altarpiece is magnificent. From this room, the Spanish government managed sea transport and trade between Spain and her colonies.
Seville was chosen to govern maritime activities because of its location on the Guadalquivir River, which allowed ships to navigate inland and remain more protected.
Seville became an important port city, and a major European financial center, until the river silted and ships could not travel inland.
Admire the Courtyard of the Dolls
The Courtyard of the Dolls is a part of the Palacio del Rey Don Pedro, and gets its name from the four doll faces that feature on the entrance arch.
The Courtyard of the Dolls has been substantially renovated, and bears little resemblance to the way it looked originally. Upper floors were added in the 19th century, with lots of ornate plaster work.
Enjoy the tile and ceramics exhibition
In the Admiral’s House, you can view a permanent collection of Triana ceramics and tiles. Seville is known for its azulejos (decorative tiles) and its ceramics and this collection, while not huge, holds some quality pieces.
The exhibits represent part of the Carranza Collection, which belonged to Vicente Carranza Escudero and is considered one of the foremost tile and ceramics collections in Spain.
There is beautiful tile work to be seen all over the Alcazar, both inside and outside. The rich jewel-like colors and designs are exquisite!
Tour the Royal Apartments
You can tour the Cuarto Real Alto, the furnished royal apartments on the upper floor of the palace, with special tickets. Entry is generally only permitted in the mornings, and time slots stamped on tickets are strictly enforced, especially in high season.
The eleven rooms are beautifully furnished, with elegant furniture, paintings, and tapestries. No photography is permitted in the Royal Apartments, and you have to check in large bags into lockers.
Tour the Gardens of the Alcazar of Seville
The gardens of the Seville Alcazar are some of the most beautiful I have seen anywhere. They are also quite extensive, so allow yourself plenty of time if you want to explore in depth.
With formal hedges boxing in a variety of flowering plants, fragrant climbers draped over walls and gates, and a variety of architectural features, the gardens invite you to linger and take in their beauty at leisure. You might even see some of the resident peacocks!
In the tradition of Moorish gardens, the Alcazar gardens historically contained both flowers and produce, along with ornamentals in neat rows and a variety of fruit trees.
The gardens supplied the royal kitchens with fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, just like the gardens at the Alhambra of Granada.
Water features are everywhere, and the gentle tinkling of fountains and the therapeutic sound of flowing water contribute to the serenity and beauty of the gardens.
Still water ponds with reflections create meditative spaces, making for small oases where you can sit quietly and savor the enchantment of your surroundings.
As with the palaces, the gardens of the Seville Alcazar underwent changes over time, especially after the Christian monarchs took control.
Influenced by many styles over the succeeding centuries, from Italian Mannerism to English landscaping, today’s gardens at the Royal Alcazar of Seville are a pleasing aesthetic blend.
Here are some of the sights in the gardens you must not miss!
Take in the views from the Galeria de Grutesco
The gallery offers aerial views of the formal gardens, palm trees, and architectural elements, and is a great place from which to take photos of the rust-orange walls of the Alcazar as well as the flower gardens.
Admire the Mercury Pond
One of the most photographed subjects in the gardens of the Seville Alcazar, the statue of Mercury stands in a pond in front of a beautifully-textured wall decorated with murals. The statue was sculpted in the 16th century by Diego de Pesquera.
Take a photo of the Pavilion of King Charles V…
One of the elegant structures in the garden, the Pavilion of Charles V features multiple arches and a striking roof. It is a good place to enjoy the shade for a few minutes: the heat of the Andalusian sun can quickly wear you down.
… and the Orangerie!
If you visit when the orange trees are in bloom, in early spring, you will be blown away by the heady scent wafting out from the Orangerie.
The trees, with their beautiful orange fruit, are pretty any time of year, so make sure you stop by to take some photos!
Nights in the Gardens Of The Royal Alcázar
If you visit in the summer, nights are the perfect time to enjoy the beautiful Alcazar gardens, when it’s cooler. Enjoy outdoor concerts: jazz, blues, flamenco, and swing. Strolling the lit gardens is a fabulous experience.
Concerts generally take place from Mondays to Saturdays, starting at 10.30 p.m. Seating is arranged.
Have fun in the maze!
If you visit with kids, or if you just enjoy mazes like we do, be sure to try and find your way through the boxed-hedge maze at the Alcazar gardens.
Traditionally, finding your way out of the maze was felt to represent making your way from darkness to light, or stress to serenity. Isn’t that a beautiful way of looking at a maze?
Visiting the Royal Alcazar of Seville: What You Need to Know!
While the Real Alcazar of Seville should definitely be at the top of your Seville itinerary, know that it is a hugely popular Seville tourist attraction. Expect crowds during the day, especially in high season.
To maximize your time at the monument, and to have an enjoyable visit, advance research and advance booking of tickets or a tour are highly recommended.
Seville Alcazar FAQs
We loved our visit to the Alcazar of Seville. We started with a 90-minute guided tour, which allowed us to see all the important areas in a structured and efficient manner. We also learned a lot: our guide was fabulous.
After the tour, we pottered about the palaces and gardens on our own for another couple of hours, lingering at spots that appealed to us and just savoring the beauty of the monument and the gardens. Frankly, we could have spent the entire day in the complex!
I have compiled all the information you will need to plan your own visit to Seville’s Royal Alcazar. I hope your visit is as enjoyable as ours was!
Where is the Real Alcazar of Seville located?
The Royal Alcazar of Seville is located off the Plaza del Triunfo in the historic center of Seville. The official address is Patio de Banderas, 41004 Seville, Spain.
If you plan to stay in the Barrio Santa Cruz, El Arenal, or the Centre when you visit Seville, you can walk to the Seville Alcazar.
If you plan to stay further away, you can take the tram, bus, or metro, or you can bike or take a taxi.
There is no parking at the Alcazar, so I would not advise arriving in your car.
Map of the Royal Alcazar of Seville
Here is a map of the complex. You can obtain a hard copy map at the gift shop at the Alcazar when you visit.
1-Lion’s Gate 2-Justice Room 3-Patio de la Montería 4-Admiral’s Room 5-Palace of Pedro I
6-Gothic Palace 7-Mercury Pond 8-Gardens 9-Apeadero 10-Patio Banderas
Should I do a guided tour?
I say yes! Seville’s Alcazar Palace is arguably the most fascinating and complex attraction in the city, and if you are going to splurge on a guided tour anywhere in Seville, it should be at the Alcazar.
A knowledgeable tour guide can make the rooms and gardens come alive with their passionate narrations, and can answer questions.
Your guide will point out spots and features of special significance, making for a much enhanced experience. And with a guide, you can also rest assured that you will not miss anything of import.
Combined Tour of the Seville Alcazar and the Cathedral
You can choose to do a combined guided tour of the Royal Alcazar, the Seville Cathedral, and La Giralda, and it is a great option if your time in Seville is limited.
The entire tour lasts about 2.5 hours and ends at the Alcazar, so you can spend more time in the gardens after the tour if you like!
Dedicated tour of the Seville Alcazar
You can also choose a dedicated 90-minute small group guided tour of the Alcazar, for a more in-depth tour of the palaces and gardens. After the tour, you can wander the palaces and gardens on your own: this is what we did!
What about an audio guide?
You can pick up a map and an audio guide at the gift shop on-site for €2,00. While I would recommend the live guide option as a first choice, an audio guide is definitely better than nothing.
What is the price of admission for the Seville Alcazar?
The price of general adult admission at the time of writing is €11,50. Seniors and students 17 to 25 years old can visit for a discounted price of €3,00. Children 16 and under can enter for free. Minors must be accompanied by adults.
On Mondays, you can visit the Seville Alcazar free from 4-5 p.m. (October through March) and from 6-7 p.m. (April through September). Even if you plan to visit during this time, make an advance reservation for priority entrance. The booking fee is just one Euro.
The price of admission for the tour of the Royal Apartments is €4,50 at the time of writing. The Royal Apartments can only be visited on a tour, with a 30-minute timed slot indicated on your ticket.
Neither the Royal Apartments nor the Alcazar gardens can be visited on their own: a general admission is necessary.
Night tour of the Alcazar and summer nights in the Alcazar gardens are special events that run during certain times of the year and admission must be purchased separately. Current information can be obtained at the official website.
Where can I buy tickets for the Seville Alcazar?
Booking your tickets in advance is highly recommended, especially if you plan to visit in season. And make sure you opt for priority or skip-the-line entrance tickets to avoid wasting precious time standing in line.
We use GetYourGuide to book tickets and tours for Europe, and we’ve never regretted any of our purchases.
You can also buy your tickets online at the Seville Alcazar website, or in person when you visit. There are generally 3 lines at the monument entrance: one for guided tours, one for purchasing tickets, and one for visitors with pre-purchased tickets.
What is the best time of year to visit Seville’s Royal Alcazar?
Spring is the ideal season to visit the Royal Alcazar, and indeed all of Andalusia. Daytime temperatures are pleasant, and perfect for wandering around outdoors.
All kinds of fragrant flowers are in bloom, contributing to the sensory experience of the gardens. In early spring, the heady scent of citrus wafts everywhere. Jasmine and roses add to the allure.
Early fall daytime temperatures in Seville tend to be on the warmer side, but late fall is a nice time to visit. From a weather perspective, winter is a great time to visit the Alcazar, since daytime temperatures tend to be in the high 50s and low 60s.
Summers in Seville are incredibly hot. If you visit in the summer, time your visit for the early morning or late afternoon, and pay the fee to experience the gardens at night!
April-May and September-October tend to be popular months, so if you visit during these times, expect crowds at the Alcazar of Seville and other major attractions.
What is the best time of day to visit the Alcazar of Seville?
Early or late in the day are the best times to visit, if you plan to visit independently. Tour groups generally visit the Alcazar between late morning and early afternoon, and the palaces get super crowded, especially in high season. Avoid weekends and holidays if you can.
Note that the number of visitors in the complex at any given time is limited. While you have to enter at the time indicated on your ticket, once inside, you can stay as long as you wish.
What are the hours of operation for the Alcazar de Sevilla?
The Royal Alcazar of Seville is open every day of the year other than New Year’s Day, Three Kings Day (January 6), Good Friday, and Christmas.
From October until March, the Royal Alcazar is open from 9.30 a.m. until 5.00 p.m., and from April until September, from 9.30 a.m. until 7 p.m. The Alcazar Gardens are open during these same times as well.
The Royal Apartments are open for tours between 10.00 a.m and 1.30 p.m. Visitors are limited to 30-minute timed slots, with 30 people in each slot. Your ticket will show the start time of your slot for the Royal Apartments.
How long should you allow for the Real Alcazar de Sevilla?
There is a lot to see and do at Seville’s Royal Alcazar, so you should plan on at least 1.5-2 hours even if you just have one day in Seville. It is by far the most beautiful and extensive of Seville’s many monuments and you will be doing yourself a disservice by allowing for too little time.
If you are planning to spend a few days in the city (and you should: Seville is a super fun and exciting destination!), allow an entire morning or afternoon (about 4 hours) for the Seville Alcazar, to enjoy the palaces and the gardens at leisure.
Do you have to check large bags and backpacks?
Large bags and backpacks have to be left in a luggage locker provided at the Seville Alcazar. The fee for a locker at the time of writing is one Euro. Tripods are not permitted in the Alcazar.
What amenities are available at the Alcazar of Seville?
You will find restrooms off the Patio de la Monteria just outside the Palace of Don Pedro, the main palace in the complex. You’ll also find them in a couple of other locations in the palace complex; look for signs.
There is a restaurant/cafe inside the Alcazar complex, where you can rest your feet and enjoy a snack or a drink. And don’t forget to browse for souvenirs in the gift shop just by the entrance!
The Alhambra of Granada or the Alcazar of Seville?
The Alhambra of Granada and the Seville Alcazar are both definitely among the top places to visit in Andalusia. Although it was photos and stories about the Alhambra Palace in Granada that enticed me into planning our Andalusia trip (and it was even better than my lofty expectations), I have to say that I fell in love with the Alcazar of Seville.
I would not want to choose between the two spectacular monuments, and if you have the luxury of time, I would suggest you visit both! But if you had to pick just one, your choice would depend on logistics.
The Alhambra complex is located on a hill outside the Granada city center, and requires a long uphill trek or a bus or taxi ride. We caught a bus from the city center up to the Alhambra and walked back. The Seville Alcazar is right in the historic center and within easy walking distance of the neighborhoods in the historic core.
The Alhambra complex is much larger and more spread out than the Seville Alcazar, which means more walking and a longer time investment. You would need the better part of a day to do full and unhurried justice to the Alhambra, whereas a half day would suffice for the Seville Alcazar.
And finally, although the Mudejar Palace at the Seville Alcazar is magnificent, the Nasrid Palaces at the Alhambra should be on everyone’s bucket list: they are that gorgeous.
The Seville Alcazar or the Seville Cathedral?
The Royal Alcazar of Seville and the Cathedral of Seville are both spectacular, and with a combined guided tour, you can visit both even if you just have one day in Seville.
While the Seville Alcazar features stunning palaces and gorgeous gardens, the Seville Cathedral is worth visiting just to gape at the cavernous interior: it is one of the largest cathedrals on the planet. Plus the altarpiece in the Capilla Mayor is jaw-dropping beautiful.
But if must choose one or the other, I would opt for the Real Alcazar, with its rich history, diverse sights within the complex, intricate architecture, and beautiful gardens.
So there you have it: the ultimate guide to visiting the Real Alcazar de Sevilla. Have you been? I would love to read your thoughts if you have! Comment below to respond.
If you have not yet visited, I hope I have inspired you to plan a visit! The Royal Palace of Seville will captivate you with its beauty, and the city of Seville is a fun destination as well.
Planning a visit to Andalusia? Check out all my posts on Spain’s southern province in the Spain destination guide: from city guides for Seville, Malaga, Cordoba, and Granada to a two-week detailed itinerary for Andalusia, you will find lots of ideas to help you structure your own trip.
More Information for Your Spain Trip!
Granada: 3 Days in Granada, Spain
Seville: The Ultimate 3 Days in Seville Itinerary
Cordoba: The Best Things to Do in Cordoba
Ronda: One Day in Ronda, Spain
Malaga: The Top Things to Do in Malaga
Day Trips: The Best Day Trips from Seville
Itinerary: The Ultimate Andalusia Itinerary for First-Timers
Day Trips: The Best Day Trips from Malaga
Day Trips: The Best Day Trips from Barcelona
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Photo License: Map of the Seville Alcazar by Anual (from Wikimedia Commons) CC BY-SA 3.0