Alcázar - Alcázar Gardens

The magnificent, fragrant gardens of the Alcazar Seville. © Michelle Chaplow
The magnificent, fragrant gardens of the Alcazar Seville.

Alcázar Gardens

The grounds of the Alcázar are extensive and fascinating, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to wander around the whole palace and gardens - two to three hours minimum.

These were the orchards of the palace in Moorish times, providing food for the royal court, as well as aesthetic value: scented plants and herbs, geometrically laid-out gardens, and pools fed by flowing channels for cooling, pleasant sounds of running water, and beautiful reflections.

The gardens provided inspiration for artists such as Sorolla , and was also used as a location for Game of Thrones – see below.

The café, through the Marchena Gate and past the Grutesco Gallery, has lovely outside tables where you can watch the peacocks strut. Service is patchy though, and the choice of food is limited.

Varieties of plants

In the gardens there are more than 20,000 plants of 187 different species, including:

Flowering plants and trees: bougainvillea, agapanthus, oleander, wisteria, jacaranda, acacia.

Fruit trees: almond, carob, orange, lemon, grapefruit, quince, persimmon, fig.

Palm trees: Washington palm, Mediterranean dwarf palm, date palm.

Herbs and fragrant plants: lemon verbena, honeysuckle, jasmine, laurel, lavender, myrtle, rosemary and sage.

Origins of plants: Mediterranean 22%, Oceania 8%, Africa 10%, America 27% and Asia 33%.

See this site for more details of the plants in the Alcázar Gardens.

There’s an app called Kleos Seville which plays music from the native country of each plant.

Like the rest of the Alcázar, the gardens date from different periods – Moorish, Mudejar, Renaissance, and modern.

The closest to visit are the six Historic Gardens, along the front of the palaces of King Pedro and Alfonso. They originated in Muslim times, but were remodelled in the late 16th and early 17th century to follow Renaissance style.

(from the western end of the palace, at the far right as you look out):

- Prince’s Garden has a Renaissance gallery leading to the King Pedro’s palace.

- Flower Garden is laid out in a typical Islamic cross shape; wall figures have water-jets in their mouths. Look out for the tiles inserted in the floor.

- Galley Garden is reached from the royal salons of King Pedro’s Palace down tiled steps, with myrtle bushes and a column dedicated to the Poet King Al-Mutamid who built the original Al Mubarak palace.

- Troy Garden has a central fountain dating from Islamic times, and a Mannerist gallery by Vermondo Resta.

- Dance Garden is the largest, with two levels and tiled benches, and the entrance to Maria Padilla’s baths (See below).

- Pond Garden, with Mercury’s Pool backed by the Grutesco Gallery. This pool was used as a cistern to collect the water carried from Carmona along the Roman aqueduct (look out for Calle Agua in Barrio Santa Cruz). From the late 16th century the pool was only decorative, and the statue of Mercury was added - the Roman god of trade symbolised Seville’s status as a prosperous port.

Baños de Maria Padilla (Maria Padilla’s baths)

These are located under the Crossing Courtyard (grills in the ground allow light and air in) and are entered along a tunnel, whose entrance can be found in the Dance Garden.

The groin vaults were built by Alfonso X in the late 13th century, reinforcing the old Almohad structure. The arches sit over a long rectangular alberca (water tank), with a grotto at the end: the reflections made by the arches in the water are stunning.

Maria Padilla was Pedro I’s mistress, who is said to have enjoyed bathing here in private.

They were only discovered after the 1755 earthquake, when the lower level of the Crossing Courtyard collapsed, revealing the baths underneath.

This was one of the locations used for Game of Thrones, when the Alcazar was the Water Gardens of Dorne.

The peaceful gardens of the Alcazar in Sevilla. © Sophie Carefull
The peaceful gardens of the Alcazar in Sevilla.

Renaissance gardens

Ladies’ (or Damsels’) Garden and Grutesco Gallery.

This large area, next to the Grutesco Gallery, is where the orchard of the Moorish pavilion once stood. The garden was expanded in the late 16th/early 17th century to offer more privacy to the royal family and their guests, since next-door neighbours could see into the smaller gardens.

The gallery was converted and extended from an Almohad wall. In the early 17th century Italian architect Vermondo Resta made it into an L-shaped gallery with pillars and arches, offering views from both sides onto the garden.

Walk along it to the end, to get a new perspective of these beautiful gardens, best visited in spring or autumn.

The Fountain of Fame in the gallery originally had around 15 statues of mythological figures, of which six remain. Additionally, an organ pipe played when the water flowed.

Also in the gallery is the Privilege Gateway, leading to the Ladies’ Garden.

Modern gardens

The Garden of the Marquess de la Vega-Inclan and the Garden of the Poets are both on the far side of the Grutesco Gallery (left looking out from the palace).

The Maze Garden, the English Garden, and the Sultanas’ Grotto are all towards Calle San Francisco (to the right as you look out).

Pabellon de Carlos V (Charles V Pavilion, or Alcove Bower)

This square tile-covered pavilion in the garden dates from Moorish times, and was probably built as a qubba (oratory). It is the oldest building in the gardens.

Although you can’t go in, you can see through its doorways, and the pillared arcade is very pleasant. It is surrounded by benches, where you can sit and soak in the gardens .

This was another of the locations used for Game of Thrones, when the Alcazar was the Water Gardens of Dorne.

Next to it is the Lion Bower, a small 17th century building topped with blue and white tiled dome. Its fountain is a stone lion, from whose mouth flows water.