The Real Alcazar of Seville is undoubtedly one of the top 3 things you should visit in Seville. With centuries of history to uncover, incredible architecture, and beauty that only the Alhambra can match, it’s easy to see why this attraction is so popular. From stunning gardens and grand halls to intricate details and fascinating stories, a whole world awaits you at the Alcazar.
Here’s everything you should know about this UNESCO World Heritage site (including dress code and fun facts)
- The Real Alcazar of Seville is definitely worth visiting. It is, as a matter of fact, one of the absolute best things to see in the capital of Andalusia.
- It takes about 2.5 hours to visit the Real Alcazar and its gardens.
- The Patio de las Doncellas, the Salón de los Embajadores, and the Patio de las Muñecas are the clear highlights of the royal palace. Don’t forget your camera!
- The gardens of the Real Alcazar are a destination of their own, especially wonderful in the springtime.
How to visit the Real Alcázar of Seville
Tips for visiting the Real Alcázar
- Grab a pamphlet on your way in as you’ll definitely need the map! The palace is really big, and it’s easy to get lost if you don’t have a guide as the signs can be confusing. If you’re not careful, you might end up retracing your steps or missing parts of the site. It really is like navigating through a labyrinth at times.
- Even though they have a cafeteria onsite, it’s a good idea to bring your own water and snacks.
- Remember that you can’t go near the Alcázar with your car, so you have to walk.
- Don’t worry about restrooms; while the palace is very old, they have modern bathrooms for visitors.
- Coming early in the morning, head straight to the back and visit the Palacio del Rey Don Pedro before the Patio de Doncellas gets crowded.
- Don’t forget to see the Fuente de la Fama, the famous water organ, play in the garden! It’s one of the only hydraulic organs in the world. As it usually starts about 5 minutes late. (At 10:05 instead of at 10:00.)
Getting tickets to the Alcázar
To make the most of your visit to the Alcázar of Seville and avoid long wait times, it is highly recommended to book your tickets online in advance. By doing so, you can access the fast track entry. People start lining up as early as 9:00 AM, and sometimes they wait up to 2 hours just to enter.
When you buy your tickets ahead of time, you have to choose the day and time you want to visit. For popular attractions like this, going in the morning is usually the best option. If you want to avoid big crowds, it’s also recommended to visit on weekdays.
Make sure you have at least 2 hours to spend at the Alcázar of Seville. That’s why I wouldn’t suggest bookING a time slot after 3 p.m. because you might run out of time. The place is really big, and you won’t be able to see everything in one visit. You can easily spend 3 hours there without getting bored.
History of the Alcázar of Seville
The Real Alcazar in Seville has a rich history spanning over 500 years. This magnificent palace stands as an oasis of calm in the middle of Seville. Different architectural styles (Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance) were coimbined over time to create this masterpiece.
The Alcazar used to be an old Moorish fort called Al-Qasr (you see the resemblance with the word Alcazar!), which was later turned into a royal palace for the Castille and Leon family. Originally a square building of 100 by 100 meters, many parts were added to it over time.
Interestingly, when the royal family visits Seville, they still stay in the palace.
Inside the Real Alcázar
Puerta del León (Lion’s Gate) and the Patio del León
The entrance to the Alcázar of Seville is at the Puerta del León (Gate of the Lion). It gets its name because there is a beautiful painting of a lion on top of the gate. You can’t miss it!
Surrounded by bright red walls, the entrance is easily recognizable from afar.
When you visit the Alcázar in Seville, your journey begins by entering the Patio del León.
This first garden offers a glimpse of the wonders you’ll encounter later during your visit.
The patio is encircled by a set of mismatched towering walls. The sheer magnificence of the surroundings makes you feel small in comparison. This is precisely the effect that the Alcázar has on its visitors—it leaves you in awe of its majestic beauty.
This courtyard takes you to the historic Patio del Yeso and the Patio de la Montería. I suggest you visit the former first because you won’t come back here until the very end, and you might miss it if you don’t.
Patio del Yeso (Gypsum Courtyard)
After having visited the Patio del Leon, you’ll enter the Palacio del Yeso (which includes the Patio del Yeso and the Sala de la Justicia) and where you can admire the Facade of the Palacio del Rey Don Pedro. The Patio De Yeso is the the oldest preserved garden and the oldest part of the Alcázar.
walking into this patio, you’ll likely realize that everyone was telling you the truth. It takes a long time if you want to fully explore (ad admire) this huge historical site.
The Patio del Yeso might have been built by the same architect who designed a big part of the Giralda back when it was the minaret of Seville’s mosque.
On clear nights, you can see the stars reflected in the pool alongside the star-shaped flowers of the water lilies.
Palacio del Rey Don Pedro
Even though it’s linked to one of the first Catholic kings after Seville was taken back from the Moors, you could be mistaken for thinking that the palace is Moorish in origin.
Visiting the Palacio Rey Don Pedro is a treat for the eyes. Exquisite tile decorations adorn every surface that catches your eye. However, since there is no furniture inside, it’s hard to imagine how people lived in the past and what their daily lives were like. (An audioguide might help you with that!)
The Palacio includes the most recognizable parts of the Alcázar of Seville: namely the Patio de las Doncellas, the Patio de las Muñecas, and the Salón de los Embajadores.
Patio de Las Doncellas (Patio of the Maidens)
A visit to the Alcázar of Seville would be incomplete without having seen the famous Patio de las Doncellas.
This courtyard undoubtedly steals the spotlight as the highlight of the entire palace. Considered one of the most stunning patios in the Alcázar, and perhaps even in all of Spain, you’ll want to spend some time admiring it.
It has a lovely central pool that adds a peaceful feeling to the already enchanting atmosphere.
Interestingly, there is a debate regarding the term « maidens » in its name. Some say it’s because of the particular type of flower that used to decorate the courtyard, not because of any actual maidens.
Want to explore more of Seville?
Patio de Las Muñecas (Patio of the Dolls)
The Patio de Las Muñecas gets its name from the charming doll faces delicately placed in the bottom of the arches surrounding the courtyard.
You may notice this Patio is on the smaller side. It is in fact smaller because it was part of the palace’s private quarters, meaning only a few people at a time were allowed here.
One interesting feature of the space is the columns made of white, black, and pink marble. The alternating colors create an interesting visual effect.
Note that the courtyard was originally designed by Pedro’s architects, and later modifications included the addition of upper floors and a skylight.
Cuarto del Principe (Royal Bedroom)
Even though there is no furniture inside, the real attraction of the Cuarto del Principe is its beautiful decorations.
The intricate designs all around the room make you feel like you’re in a lush garden inside the house. What’s particularly impressive is the wooden ceiling, which was carefully crafted to look like the vast starry sky.
Salon de Los Embajadores (The Ambassador’s Room)
Just a step away from the Patio of the Maidens, you’ll come across the Salon de Los Embajadores.
This impressive hall was used as the throne room in Pedro’s palace, which is why it received so much attention in its design. The room has a square shape and a beautiful wooden half dome on top. If you look closely, you’ll notice a fascinating mix of Arabic writings and Christian decorations on the walls. There are also delicate shells and graceful birds hidden within the designs.
As you stand beneath the magnificent dome, you can picture yourself as a king (or a queen if you’re feeling liberal), warmly greeting important guests.
The Chapel of the Gothic Palace
When you go inside the Chapel of the Gothic Palace, you’ll be greeted by a spacious area characterized by its pointed arches. The main attraction is the altarpiece of the Virgin de la Antigua, made by Diego de Castillejo. (It’s, in fact, a copy of the original one found in the Seville Cathedral.)
What really makes the palace special is the stunning yellow ribbing on the ceiling, which stand out from the rest of the Alcázar’s Mudéjar architecture.
Besides the chapel, as you explore the Gothic Palace, you’ll find the Tapestry Room, a salon filled with a remarkable collection of – you guessed it – tapestries. It’s important to note that these tapestries are replicas, but they still are beautiful to look at.
Baños de Doña María de Padilla
One of the highlight of the Alcazar of Seville for me is the Baños de Doña María de Padilla. It’s a partially underground room beneath the palace. Inside, there is a tank used to collect rainwater.
The Baños are rather plain when compared to the rest of the Palaces, but the way the water reflects the vaults of the ceiling in the dim light is simply beautiful. However, you can only see it from the front and you’ll not be able to go through the sides.
The best part is that it’s much cooler underground, making it a perfect spot to beat the heat of the Sevillian sun halfway during your visit.
The name of the place comes from the story of Doña María de Padilla, the lover of King Pedro I. Legend has it that she used to walked naked through the palace and bath in this very tank.
The Alcazar Gardens
Visiting the gardens of the Alcázar of Seville can take up a lot of your time. . The gardens are quite expansive, and even after spending 2 hours wandering around, you may have seen everything there is to see. (It’s said that it takes about six hours to see everything, but if it’s your first visit, take it easy.)
Surprisingly, even on busy days, you can find peaceful spots within the large grounds. You’ll find yourself surrounded by tall palm trees, myrtle hedges and balmy roses. Even if you’re not particularly interested in botany, don’t skip the gardens. Many people think they’re the most beautiful part of the Alcázar, and they’re the perfect way to end your visit.
The gardens have some nice surprises, so keep your eyes open. If you’re lucky, you might see one of the six peacocks that live there. There’s also a maze garden called Jardín del Laberinto, which I always enjoy.
Note that spring is probably the best time to visit because all the flowers blooming during these months.
Map of the Real Alcázar of Seville
Cuarto Real Alto
Tickets to the Cuarto Real Alto
The Cuarto Real Alto is not included in the regular admission to the Alcázar. To visit the Upper Royal Quarters, you need to buy a separate ticket called « General Admission and Cuarto Real Alto. » This ticket allows you to explore the Cuarto Real Alto, which are not accessible otherwise and also gives you express entry if there is a long line at the entrance. (Remember, you can’t take photos in this section of the Alcázar.)
The stairs to the Cuarto Real Alto are on the right side of the Patio de la Montería.
The tickets to the Upper Royal Quarters are timed, and you don’t want to miss your time slot. Before the tour, you’ll need find the designated area, have your bags checked, and store your belongings in a locker (don’t forget a €1 coin for the locker!) It’s a good idea to be at the Lion’s Gate (Puerta del León) at least 60 minutes before your scheduled time since the tour starts exactly 15 minutes before your timeslot.
You should visit Cuarto Real Alto?
It depends on your interests.
Inside, you will find lavish furniture, elegant chandeliers, exquisite carpets, and striking portraits showcasing the nobility of the 19th century. One of the main highlights is the Audience Room, a Mudejar-style space that provides a breathtaking view overlooking the Patio de la Montería.
It’s interesting to know that the Spanish royalty still uses the Cuarto Real Alto when they stay at the Alcázar.
FAQ on the Real Alcazar
Where is the entrance to the Real Alcázar?
As I mentioned before, you can enter the Real Alcázar at the Puerta del León, near Plaza del Triunfo. However, if you want to buy tickets in person, you can’t get them at the same place as the entrance. You’ll have to go to a different spot called Alcázar de Sevilla in the Patio de Banderas, which you can find on Google Maps.
Guided Tour of the Alcázar of Seville
Not everyone is familiar with Spanish medieval history, and that’s where a guide becomes invaluable. They can fill in the gaps of your knowledge and share captivating stories that truly bring the palace’s history to life. You don’t need to have prior knowledge; the guide will provide all the necessary information.
Additionnally, I highly recommend booking a guided tour of the Real Alcázar that includes fast-track entry to the palace.
You are looking for an audioguide, there are tour companies offering audioguides as an alternative to the official ones available at the Real Alcázar. After asking around, I was told that the official audioguide offers a better experience.
What to visit if you are short on time?
If you don’t have much time to explore the Real Alcázar of Seville, there are two must-see places: the Salon de Los Embajadores and the Patio de Las Doncellas. While it’s not a complete visit, at least you won’t miss the most beautiful spots in the palace.
Of course, take a peek in the gardens afterward.
The Alhambra in Granada vs the Real Alcázar of Seville
Both the Alhambra and the Real Alcázar are worth seeing, but in my opinion, the Alhambra is more impressive. The Alcázar is nice, but it doesn’t have the same stunning impact as the Alhambra. The gardens at the Alcázar are beautiful, but they’re not as breathtaking. That’s why it might be better to visit Seville and the Alcázar before going to Granada, so you can fully appreciate the amazingness of both sites.