The Royal Alcazar of Seville is an architectural and historic feast. This jewel box of patios, halls and gardens perfumed with jasmine and myrtle is one of the most glorious palaces in Europe.
Even if you are in Seville for just one day, you should prioritise visiting Seville’s Royal Palace. I love it so much that I’ve been twice.
Make the most of your time there with my top tips for visiting the Real Alcázar of Seville
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TOP TIPS FOR VISITING THE REAL ALCÁZAR IN SEVILLE
- Buy your ticket in advance
- Visit at opening time
- Allow at least two hours for your visit
- Have a guide
- Allow plenty of time for the gardens
ADDRESS: Patio de Banderas, 41004 Seville, Spain. This is located off Plaza del Triunfo in the historic city centre.
OPENING HOURS: The Royal Alcazar is open daily with the exception of January 1st, January 6th, Good Friday and Christmas Day.
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Spring
BEST WAY TO BOOK TICKETS: Via the official website here.
A Brief History of the Royal Alcazar of Seville
The Real Alcázar of Seville is one of the best surviving examples of Mudéjar architecture, a fusion of Moorish and European tastes and techniques. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its historical and architectural significance.
In 913 AD, the Moorish Caliph of Córdoba built a fortress on this site. The word “Alcázar” is derived from the Arabic word “al-qasr,” which means castle, palace or fortress.
After Spain’s reconquest in the early 13th Century, Seville was the favoured city of residence of the Spanish kings for four centuries, none more so than Pedro I.
Pedro the Cruel, as he was also known, rebuilt the Moorish alcázar as an opulent palace between 1350 and 1369. Much of what we see today is Pedro’s palace.
Further additions were made to the Alcazar during the 16th Century, incorporating elements of Renaissance architectural style.
Tips for Visiting the Real Alcázar of Seville
1. Buy your ticket in advance
If you visit early on a weekday morning in winter, you should be able to get away with buying your ticket for the Alcazar from the ticket office. But try this on a Saturday lunchtime in May and it’s likely to be a different story.
Trust me. Standing in an epic ticket queue under the blazing Sevillian sun is not a joy. Do yourself a favour and buy your ticket in advance.
If you are planning to visit the Royal Apartments (Cuarto Real Alto), buy your ticket in advance regardless of the time of year that you are visiting.
2. 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 Alcazar between late morning and early afternoon. Visit Seville’s Palaces as they open their doors in the morning, preferably in low season and on a weekday.
I was one of the first people through the Puerto de Léon on a chilly February morning and had a mercifully crowd-free visit.
If you can’t make it first thing in the morning, aim for an afternoon slot after 3 pm when the site starts to empty.
3. Try to visit at quieter times of the year
Try to visit Seville’s Alcazar in low season and on a weekday.
The palaces are especially busy at the weekends, holidays and in high season. High season at the Real Alcázar is April-May, September and Easter week.
4. Allow enough time for your visit
Once you are inside the palace complex, you can stay for as long as you wish. But how long do you need to spend at the Alcazar 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. Come armed with a guide
As there is minimal information displayed around the site, having some sort of guide is essential.
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 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 Real 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
6. 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 superstar of Pedro’s palace. Therefore, it’s little surprise that visitors clamour here to capture that postcard-perfect shot.
To beat the crowds, don’t linger around the entrance when you enter the Real 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.
When I last visited, the Real Alcázar of Seville had a one-way system. If staff try to prevent you from backtracking, just tell them that you need to use the bathroom, which is located near the entrance.
7. Don’t miss La Salon de Embajadores
Rivaling 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 to 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.
8. Allow enough time to enjoy the gardens
When you are visiting the Royal Alcazar, I recommend giving the gardens around half of your time. 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 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.
Later styles from Italian Mannerism to English landscaping, are thrown into the mix.
Visit in early Spring, as I did, and you can breathe in the sweet scent of the garden’s orange trees in bloom. 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 the Baños Doña María de Padilla. These are the vaulted baths in which the mistress of Peter the Cruel is said to have bathed.
9. Take in the views from the Galeria de Los Grotescos
Don’t leave the Alcazar’s gardens before walking along the Galeria de Los Grotescos. From here, there are Instaworthy views of the garden, the Alcázar palace and La Giralda.
10. Don’t miss the view from the Patio de Banderas as you leave
Last but not least, as you exit the Reales Alcázares into the Patio de Banderas take a moment to admire the classic view of Seville Cathedral and La Giralda.
Plan Your Visit to the Real Alcázar in 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.
Night tours of the Alcázar operate at certain times of the year Check the official website for further information.
Buying tickets for the Royal Alcazar in Seville
You have a choice of two tickets: a general admission ticket to the Real Alcázar and one that Includes a tour of the Royal Apartments (Cuarto Real Alto). Both tickets include the gardens.
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.
Buy tickets in advance at the Alcazar website here. You can also queue for tickets on the day of your visit.
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 here.
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 learned from my mistake.
Facilities 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?
Thank you for reading my guide to Seville’s Royal Alcazar
I hope that these tips help you have a wonderful visit.
For broader travel in Spain, take a peek at some more of my guides:
- 2 Days in Barcelona: Itinerary & Best Things to Do
- One Day in Barcelona from a Cruise Ship: Itinerary & Best Things to Do
- Top 10 Things to Do in Tarragona: Spain’s Roman City by the Sea
- 15 Fabulous Reasons for Visiting Valencia, Spain
- Solo Travel in Portugal and Spain: 10 Unmissable Places to Visit
Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.
Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.
To get in touch, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on social media.