Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Alcazar of Seville (Spain) - A Historical Survivor

guest post (and photography) from Sandra Vallaure, editor of Seville Traveller, a website providing useful information on Seville for independent travellers

Seville is the most beautiful city in Spain. Actually, Spaniards often compare it to a woman and always define it as elegant, majestic and gorgeous.

Additionally, it was one of the first Spanish cities founded by the Romans. As you can imagine, History has left its trace in Seville. As a result, the city is a combination of impressive monuments and narrow streets where you can wander as long as your feet permit it.

Among all the monuments Seville has, one stands out: the Alcazar.

The Alcazar is, together with the Cathedral and its bell tower, the Giralda, one of the main symbols of the city.

A little bit of history

The area was initially occupied by the Romans and of the first Christian basilicas was built there. However, it not until the Arab occupation (844-1248) that the Alcazar was built, or at least part of it. When the Arabs finally conquered the city, they decided to create a structure for the governor that would be both a palace and a fortress. In fact, the Spanish word alcazar comes from the Arab al qsar that means palace, castle or fortress.

The Alcazar had the usual Arab architecture, and it was full of beautiful patios surrounded by thin columns supporting horseshoe arches. With the arrival and reconquest of the Christians leaded by King Ferdinand III, the Alcazar became the Royal Palace. From there on, the following kings ordered to perform alterations to adequate the complex to their needs and added further pavilions and structures.

Consequently, the Alcazar evolved into a unique place where you can find -and will actually see if you happen to visit it, a melting pot of Arab, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque styles.

The Alcazar has been inhabited by most of the main kings and queens of Spanish history: Ferdinand III himself, the Catholic Monarchs, Charles V and many more. Even today, the King Juan Carlos I occupies the Alcazar when he is in Seville.

Don't miss...

I particularly recommend to pay attention to the Ambassador's Hall (Salón de los Embajadores) located inside Don Pedro's palace, also known as Palacio Mudéjar. Every little detail has been taken care of and the ceramics are absolutely spectacular.

Moreover, spend some time at the Maidens' Courtyard (Patio de las Doncellas). It has been recently restored and it is one of the finest examples of an Arab patio that can be found in Seville and, I dare to say, Spain.

Finally, don't miss the gardens. They are magnificent. In truth there is not only one big garden but multiple small ones, every one with a different style and plants. There is even a labyrinth!

The smell of the orange trees, spread everywhere and the sound of the water flowing at the various fountains will charm you. I believe that one of the highlights of the Alcazar is to seat for a while and relax while observing all this nature surrounding you.

The Alcazar is an architectural masterpiece that explains on itself a large period of the history of Spain and Seville. On top of it, it is one of the finest examples of the Arab style of the 10th century. Sometimes how, after earthquakes, wars and fires, it has managed to survive.

So why not going to Seville during your next holiday? You will have the opportunity to enjoy one of the nicest European climates while devoting your time to discover wonders like the Alcazar.

Are you planning to visit the Alcazar? Have you done so already? Share with us your experience in the comments below!


Barbara Weibel said...

I missed Sevilla when I was in Spain and wish I hadn't. Instead, I opted for a drive to Grenada (also lovely) to see the Alhambra, but when we got there, they were letting in no more guests for the day. After reading this, I wish we'd gone to Sevilla instead. Just a good excuse to return!

MarkH said...

@barbara: My regret too when I read this article - sounds a very special city.

Donna Hull said...

I have always wanted to visit Sevilla, after reading this post, even more so.

Sandra said...

Hello Barbara,

Oh, what a shame! La Alhambra is a very popular attraction in Spain (actually the one that receives the highest number of visitors) and you have to book your tickets well in advance. Anyway, as you say, now you have the perfect excuse to come back to Spain and visit Seville. Not only the Alcazar is wonderful: you can visit the Cathedral, plenty of museums, gorgeous neighbhoods, beautiful churches and my favorite, getting lost wandering around the narrow streets of the city center.

Sandra said...

Mark, you too have no excuse now! ;)

Travle Guide said...

I love to know more about history. And your post has add many new things of history about Spain and its beauty in history.

Sandra said...

Donna, I hope you can make it and come to discover Seville as soon as possible. You won't regret it!

Sandra said...

Travle Guide, thanks, that's very kind of you.

goodwitch said...

40 years ago I was privileged to live in Seville for several years. My daughter was born there. No place I've ever been is better. The people, the places, the food the sounds of music & dance. I have always wanted to go back! Alas, so far it is only in my dreams. Well stories & pictures online help too. I encourage everyone to have it on their "bucket list!"

Mark H said...

@goodwitch: Seville is a place where the culture emerges so well in every aspect of the city's life. You sound like you enjoyed every moment of it.

Anonymous said...

I just returned from spain, and visited both Seville and Granada. If I only had time for one of those cities, I would definitely choose Seville. The Alcazar is breathtaking. It is also less crowded than the Alhambra. Seville is an amazing city, and you can walk everywhere. Definitely stay in a central location and walk or use public transportation.

Mark H said...

@anonymous: Thank you for your valued comparison between Seville and Granada. Tough choice between the two in my view.

Sandra said...

@goodwitch: I am sure that Seville has kept the same essence and magic it had 40 years ago. I hope you can come back one day.

@anonymous: Hard choice! Both Granada and Seville are spectacular. But thanks for your insight.

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