The Real Alcázar of Seville is an architectural and historic feast. This jewel box of patios and halls with its gardens perfumed with the scent of jasmine and myrtle is one of the most glorious palaces in Europe.
Even if you are in Seville for just one day, you should make visiting this palace a priority.
But what do you need to know before visiting the Real Alcázar of Seville? Make the most of your time at this extraordinary royal palace with these essential facts and tips.
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The Real Alcázar of Seville goes by several names. Other ones include Reales Alcázares (Royal Palaces) and the Alcázar Palace. Or some people simply refer to it as Seville’s Palace. Take your pick.
Essential Real Alcázar of Seville Cathedral Facts & Tips
1. Learn a little about the history of the Real Alcázar before your visit.
Knowing a little of the history of the Alcázar will help you contextualise what you see. Otherwise, you will just be admiring and photographing pretty patios, rooms and gardens.
Seville was the favoured city of residence of Spanish kings for four centuries after the reconquest in the early 13th Century. None more so than Pedro I, or Pedro the Cruel as he was also known, who built this palace between 1350 and 1369 on the site of a former Moorish alcázar (fortress).
Much of what we see today is Pedro’s palace.
Did you know that several scenes from David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia (1962) were shot in and around the Real Alcázar of Seville?
2. Appearances can be deceptive
The Real Alcázar may look Moorish but don’t be fooled. Whilst it was designed and built by Muslim workers from Granada, it was commissioned by a Christian king more than 100 years after the reconquest of Spain.
The Alcázar is one of the best surviving examples of Mudéjar architecture. This fusion of Moorish and European tastes and techniques was developed by Moors working under Christian rule.
3. Visit the Real Alcázar at opening time
Reales Alcázares of Seville is not only one of the most popular sights in Andalusia, but one of the most visited sites in Spain. To avoid bumping elbows with countless other camera-wielding tourists, plan to visit at the quieter times of the day.
Although the site limits the number of visitors at any given time, tour groups tend to descend on the Alcázar between late morning and early afternoon. The palaces are especially busy at the weekends, holidays and in high season.
Visit Seville’s Palaces as they open their doors in the morning, preferably in low season and on a weekday. High season at the Real Alcázar is April-May, September and Easter week.
I was one of the first people through the Puerto de Léon on a chilly February morning and had a mercifully crowd-free visit.
Or you can’t make it first thing in the morning, aim for an afternoon slot after 3 pm when the site starts to empty.
Once you are inside the palace complex, you can stay for as long as you wish.
4. Allow enough time for your visit
How long do you need to spend at the Alcázar of Seville?
The answer will largely depend on how much of a history fangirl/fanboy you are and your shutterbug tendencies. But what is beyond doubt is that this historic palace deserves much more than a cursory visit.
As a bare minimum, I recommend at least two hours to visit the palaces and to explore the gardens. I spent close to four hours there but I am a complete history fangirl and a shutterbug.
5. Buy your ticket for the Real Alcázar of Seville in advance during the busier times of year
If you visit early on a weekday morning in winter, you should be able to get away with buying your ticket from the ticket office. But try this on a Saturday lunchtime in May and it’s likely to be a different story.
To avoid being stuck in an epic queue under the blazing Sevillian sun, buy your ticket in advance. If you are planning to visit the Royal Apartments, for which there is a surcharge, buy your ticket in advance regardless of the time of year that you are visiting.
6. Come armed with guide
As there is minimal information displayed around the site, having some sort of guide is essential. Otherwise, you will just need to be content with looking at pretty buildings and architecture.
Trust me; having a guide will enrich your visit to the Royal Alcázar of Seville no end.
Bring a decent guidebook or pick up an audioguide for €6 at the entrance. Better still, book a guided tour. I bought an audioguide which was very informative but I sort of wish I’d gone for a guided tour.
Let’s face it; you can’t ask an audioguide questions.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR GUIDED TOUR OF THE REAL ALCÁZAR
If you plan to visit Seville Cathedral – and you should – why not take a combined tour of the Royal Alcázar, Cathedral and La Giralda? This highly-rated tour takes around three hours and is perfect if you are short on time in Seville.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR GUIDED TOUR OF THE ALCÁZAR, CATHEDRAL & LA GIRALDA
READ THIS NEXT: 10 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Seville Cathedral
7. Make the Patio de las Doncellas your first stop
Gracing many a postcard and tourist brochure, the Patio de las Doncellas (Patio of the Maidens) is the showstopper of Pedro I’s palace.
This courtyard, which was the centre of palace life, takes its name from the Christians’ tribute of one hundred virgins presented each year to the Moorish kings. Its delicately carved stucco, azulejos (tiles) and doors are considered to be amongst the finest examples of Granada craftsmanship.
Therefore, it’s little surprise that visitors clamour here to capture that postcard perfect shot of the patio.
To beat the crowds, don’t linger around the entrance when you enter the Royal Alcázar. Instead, make a beeline for the Patio de las Doncellas to absorb its beauty and take a few photographs when there are fewer people.
You can then retrace your steps to take a look at the attraction near the entrance.
As a one-way system has been introduced at the Real Alcázar of Seville, its staff may prevent you from backtracking. Just tell them that you need to use the bathroom, which is located near the entrance.
8. Gaze in wonder at the ceiling in La Salon de Embajadores
Rivalling the Patio de las Doncellas in the beauty stakes is the Salon de Embajadores (Salon of the Ambassadors).
Featuring a stupendous cedarwood dome of red, green and gold cells and horseshoe arcades, this is the most sumptuous room in the palace and is not be missed. It also has the original Mudéjar tiles with their Moorish geometric patterns expressing the harmony of creation.
Beyond here is the Patio de las Muñecas (Patio of the Dolls), the last great room of the Alcázar. It takes its name from two tiny faces carved on the inner side of one of the smaller arches.
9. Allow yourself time to enjoy the gardens (and don’t miss Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla)
When you are visiting the Royal Alcázar, give the gardens around half of your time. There’s a lot to explore.
The eclectic style of the rambling and relaxing Alcázar gardens is the product of different eras.
Traditional Moorish garden design is evident in the abundance of water features. Fountains tinkle, water gushes from spouts and reflective, still ponds create meditative spaces.
Visit in early Spring, as I did, and you can breathe in the sweet scent of the garden’s orange trees in bloom.
Later styles from Italian Mannerism to English landscaping, are thrown into the mix.
You can sit and rest on one of the stone benches embellished with azulejos. There are even resident peacocks strutting around the garden.
Visit the Mercury Pond, named after its 16th Century bronze statue of Mercury by Bartolomé Morell.
Don’t miss Baños Doña María de Padilla, the vaulted baths in which the mistress of Peter the Cruel is said to have bathed.
But whatever you do when you visit the gardens of the Seville Alcázar, don’t leave before you walk along the Galeria de Los Grotescos. From here, there are amazing views of the garden, the Alcázar palace and La Giralda.
If you are visiting during the hotter months of the year, make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen for walking around the gardens.
The Royal Alcázar gardens form the backdrop to concerts in the summer months (July – September). A true Midsummer’s Night Dream.
10. Don’t miss the view from the Patio de Banderas as you leave
Last but not least, when you exit the Reales Alcázares into the Patio de Banderas take a moment to admire the classic view of Seville Cathedral and La Giralda.
Did you know that Real Alcázar of Seville was a filming location for Game of Thrones? It doubles as the Water Gardens of Dorne in the hit TV series.
Planning your Visit to the Real Alcázar of Seville: FAQs
Where is the Real Alcázar in Seville?
Seville’s Royal Palace is located at Patio de Banderas, 41004 Seville, Spain. This is located off Plaza del Triunfo in the historic city centre.
What are the opening hours of the Alcázar, Seville?
The Real Alcázar of Seville is open every day of the year with the exception of January 1st (New Year’s Day), January 6th (Epiphany or Three Kings Day), Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Opening hours are seasonal. From October 29th until March 31st, the Royal Alcázar ((palace and gardens) is open from 9.30 am until 5 pm. Between April 1st and October 28th, it is open from 9.30 am until 7 pm.
The Royal Apartments (Cuarto Real Alto) are open for 30-minute tours between 10 am and 1.30 pm.
Night tours of the Alcázar operate at certain times of the year Check the official website for further information.
How much does it cost to visit Real Alcázar of Seville?
As of February 2022, it costs €14.50 for a general admission ticket to the Royal Alcázar when bought online. Including a tour of the Royal Apartments will increase the cost of your ticket to €20.
Neither the Royal Apartments nor the Alcázar gardens can be visited on their own: you need to buy a general admission ticket that covers both. Buying your ticket on the day will save you one Euro.
Discounts are available for EU senior citizens and students. Entry is free for those aged 13 years and under.
Your ticket includes a free visit to the Bellver Museum, Antiquarivm, Triana Ceramic Museum and San Jorge Museum.
Can you visit the Reales Alcázares for free?
There is free admission to the Seville Royal Palace during limited timeslots on Mondays.
From October to March, you can visit the Royal Alcázar for free between 4 pm and 5 pm. Between April and September, free access is restricted to 6 – 7 pm.
Unless you are on a tight budget, this is not very useful as it will be busy and you won’t have much time to explore the Alcázar. But if you do plan to take advantage of this free access, book in advance for the princely sum of just one Euro.
What are the best months to visit the Real Alcázar of Seville?
I have visited Seville’s Alcázar twice. Once in September; the second time in early spring.
Spring is the best time of year to visit the Real Alcázar. Although it can be chilly in the morning, daytime temperatures are comfortable and it is not as busy as peak season.
In early Spring, the orange trees create a vibrant display. If you visit later in Spring, other fragrant flowers will be in bloom, including jasmine and roses.
When I visited the Reales Alcázares in September it was brutally hot during the day, only cooling at night. I learnt from my mistake.
What facilities are available at the Real Alcázar?
There are limited food options inside the complex. A café serves snacks and drinks.
Toilets are available off the Patio de la Monteria, just before you enter the main palace of Pedro I.
As you might expect, there is also a gift shop.
Which is Better? Granada’s Alhambra Palace or the Real Alcázar of Seville?
It’s only natural to compare the merits of the Alhambra Palace in Granada and the Real Alcázar of Seville. These UNESCO-listed sites are world-famous for their architectural beauty and many of the workmen were responsible for both palaces.
In terms of access, the Real Alcázar is located in the heart of Seville, making it a breeze to get to. Reaching the Alhambra Palace involves a steep uphill walk to its location on a hill overlooking Granada’s city centre (or a bus journey). I walked up there twice and my leg muscles didn’t thank me.
You need to set aside more time to visit the Alhambra.
As the Alhambra complex is larger and more spread out than Seville’s Alcázar, you need to set aside the better part of a day to get the most out of your visit. Half a day should be an ample length of time to spend at the Real Alcázar of Seville.
But for every yin there is a yang.
To my mind, the Alhambra, and especially its Nasrid Palaces, is the most spectacular of the two palaces. And from its lofty height, there are spectacular views of Granada and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada.
I also love the sheer romance of the Alhambra. You just need to try to distance yourself from the thousands of other visitors who pass through its gates every day.
In my view, the Alhambra just about trumps the Real Alcázar but it’s a close call. Why not visit both palaces and make your own decision?