Andalusia comprises the very heart of the Spanish Golden age, and among its greatest monuments is Seville’s Alcazar, Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, conceived by Moorish kings. The Alcazar palace compound forms one of three important monuments at Seville’s center; the other two being the Cathedral and Archivo de Indias which houses archival documents.
The Alcazar dates to the 10th century, but was primarily constructed during the 1300s when the rest of Europe was deep into its dark age. The complex was declared a World Heritage site in 1987. Its origins began as a fort for governors.
The ticket office lies just behind the Patio del Leon, or Lion Gate, through which visitors enter the complex. Beyond the Hall of Justice lies Palacio de Don Pedro, created by Pedro I in 1364 using the area’s finest artisans who favored the Mudéjar style, a blending of Islamic and Christian architectural and decorative elements.
The Court of the Maidens lies at the center of the Alcazar with its soothing assemblage of decorated arches, mesmerizing wall tiling and intricate plasterwork. A central sunken garden was unearthed in 2004. Marble flooring dating to the 1500s covered the garden that had been plumbed with an innovative irrigation system.
In many ways the Alcazar is a miniature Alhambra, since artisans copied many of the architectural and decorative elements found in Granada’s Nasrid Palaces. In that, the Alcazar can seem more manageable, more intimate, and somehow even more exquisite a jewel.
Royal ceremonies are yet held at the Alcazar; its second floor was the site of a wedding banquet celebrating the nuptials of the daughter of King Juan Carlos in 1995. The complex’s extensive gardens are also used for events, and feature an Italian Mannerist style.
Perhaps the most renowned painting in the complex is The Virgin of the Navigators, by Spanish artist Alejo Fernandez. The Virgin Mary is shown protecting Portuguese navigators as she straddles two seas that span continents. Ferdinand II of Aragon and Emperor Charles V are shown along with who may be Christopher Columbus. Indigenous people, shown as shadowy figures, back the group. It’s a rich, striking rendering, which dates to 1531-1536.
- Tickets can be purchased at the Alcazar website, or at the main gate, Patio del Leon.
- The Alcazar is located just off Seville’s Plaza del Patio de Banderas.
- View of gallery of Alcazar images, courtesy of Unesco.
- For more information on touring Spain, visit the country’s tourism website.
After tour dining
Don Juan de Alemanes, is an easy stroll from the Alcazar, located adjacent to Seville’s cathedral. Set along a string of shops, the courtyard-style interior is done in a Parisian Art Nouveau style, and is matched by sidewalk tables with cathedral views.
Extensive displays of desserts are found in the courtyard interior, and are matched with a traditional tapas menu, along with such intriguing experiments as black sushi, a clam dish set on a bed of coconut rice topped with pesto and fine herbs, and risotto with Iberian ham. Dinners range in cost from €15 to €25.
Owner Pedro Robles heads the family enterprise, Robles Restaurants, which dates to 1935.
Don Juan de Alemanes location: Calle Alemanes, 7, Seville Spain.