Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

If you read our blog – which I’m assuming you do, since you’re reading this – you probably know that we’re into exploring a city on foot, seeing what there is to see, sitting in cafés, meeting people, eating good food, and the like. We don’t do a whole lot of grand visits to tourist sights.

It’s not that we don’t like them. We simply know that we can never see everything, and we’d much rather walk around a city and take it in than step into museums, churches, and all that.

However…You know there had to be a ‘however.’ My folks recently came to visit us in Seville, Spain, and we knew this would give us the appropriate chance to do things that follow the typically tourist approach.

As we like the idea of having a guided tour so we can really get to know a specific sight, we called upon Concepción, who runs Sevilla Walking Tours. She came recommended by our friends at Veo Apartment, but is also a fave of Rick Steves. The latter is what makes my mom a very happy camper, so it was easy to decide who we’d like to book for a guided tour.

After a few friendly email conversations, we booked a slot with Concepción, and headed down to Plaza del Triunfo to meet up and get this thing going. It’s low season, which means we had her all to ourselves. Our inquisitive nature and childlike curiosity made that a very good thing.

Our target was the Real Alcázar in Seville, which is the oldest royal palace still in use – in all of Europe. How about that? It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and once you go there, it’s easy to see why.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

We had heard of its interesting Mudéjar artistry and architecture, its lavish gardens, and how the palace itself is actually a palace with a palace with a wing with a wing, and so on. Builders gotta build, conquerors gotta conquer, conquerors gotta build, kings gotta have palaces, and descendent kings gotta one-up their fathers with palaces in palaces. And so goes the pattern of those with blue blood.

So, on we go!

When you first pass the main gate and step into the front courtyard, you’re greeted with an ancient wall. We were told that this was actually rebuilt, and you can’t really even visually see the oldest part of the palace anymore.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

Do a 180, and you’re greeted by the ‘front’ of the palace, above which is where the royal family resides when they’re in town.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

Parts of their residence can only be seen at certain times, so we skipped that and headed inside. We were instantly greeted by a room that was once used for trading and other business, which is decorated with paintings and pews.

Adjacent to that is another room that possibly features one of the only paintings that includes Christopher Columbus himself. No one is 100% sure of this, but he’s supposed to be the dude on the left side of the center painting. Rock on, curly locks.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

As we moved farther into the palace, the Mudéjar artwork immediately struck us from every angle. Mudéjar is the term used for either Muslim artists who were hired by Christians (they did once live in peace, y’know), or Christian artists that tried to replicate the intricate Moorish style.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

One of the funniest things that Concepción told us is that a lot of the Arabic text carved into the walls here is poor Arabic at best, or gibberish at worst. This is because the Christian artists who were replicating the style often spoke poor Arabic, or none at all. Think of it like a medieval version of Google Translate. Ha.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

Either way, the work in here is astounding.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

Onward into the first atrium, we were greeted by an intricate glass ceiling, which was once open-air to keep things warm and/or cool depending on the season. We noticed right away that the pillars which hold everything up are all different. We were told that this is because they were recycled from other places, which is a fairly common trait among architecture in this region.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

One reason for this is due to a lack of raw materials in the region; another is that, well, there were ancient ruins and other old buildings around that had materials ready for the taking. See? Repurposed materials aren’t only for the latest home renovation show on HGTV.

We then moved along to a room that is even grander. This is where visitors would be greeted by the king, and one of them actually had another floor added to make it higher and more, um, echo-y. (My version of the story.)

On said floor, one can see paintings of all of the kings of Spain, which go all the way around the atrium.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

Next to that is a courtyard that should easily make the wealthiest of one-percenters jealous with design envy. I mean, really.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

This is where the aforementioned visitors would wait for the king. Imagine sitting out here, hundreds of years ago, talking about princely things or sipping tea or whatever it is that fancy people did back in those days.

During a renovation to replace some tiles a few years back, some unfinished pools were actually found underneath the courtyard. As this is a UNESCO site, permission had to be obtained to tear out all of the marble tiles and rediscover the pools and unfinished garden below. I personally think it looks a lot better now. (Not that I ever saw the old version.)

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

Back inside, we were treated to more rooms that were added on throughout the years. One can see the motto of Plus Ultra in the tiles…

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

…and Christian artwork displaying the royalty of Castile and Léon.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

And hey, why not throw in some random wild-animal cuddling and mixed-and-matched creatures for good measure?

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

There are also a handful of tapestries on the walls, which were apparently the most expensive tapestries ever created back in their day. I can’t remember the number, but let’s just say that a whole bunch of stitching houses in Flanders were commissioned to do these pieces. They are ridiculously detailed, and take up space on entire walls. Not entire walls in your two-bedroom apartment. Entire walls in a castle. This is one very small section of a very large piece.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

After making our rounds through the interior, Concepción left us to explore the gardens on our own. But, not before we made her take pictures with us.

Did you ask for God rays, terrible lighting, and the destruction of human skin? No problem!

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

And that’s why you don’t give your camera to a random person. Especially when that camera is a smartphone with a touchscreen.

Good thing we took a separate picture of her with my parents.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

This is where you should know that Concepción rocks. Like, really rocks. She is the best storyteller. I’m telling you. She had us laughing and interested the entire time, and even quizzed us on things she had told us during earlier parts of the tour.

So, after a two-hour tour, she threw us into the gardens of the palace. This is often what people think of or see when the Real Alcázar is mentioned, and even in winter, these gardens do not disappoint.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

They are separated into sections with different names, and included fountains and pools…

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

…an elevated walkway…

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

…a labyrinth…

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

…hey, babe!…

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

…gazebos…

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

…and most notably, flora that will keep you taking pictures the entire time.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

This is also where we saw a lemon tree with oranges. An orange tree with lemons. A lemorange tree? An oramon tree? Um…a tree that was growing both lemons and oranges. From the same tree. Apparently this is normal when it comes to splicing and dicing different species. No matter how “normal” this is, we were utterly fascinated.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

Also, peacocks. I tried to sit down to have a conversation with this guy…

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

…but he left me sad and alone.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

That didn’t keep my dad from having a conversation with one of his friends, though.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

I’m not exactly sure we saw all of the gardens. They’re huge. Really, really huge. Imagine all the secret trysts, fights, royal agreements, and other craziness that must have gone on here back in the day. Bananas.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

Also, more glorious flora.

Real Alcázar in Seville by Jets Like Taxis

And that’s a wrap! After spending well over four hours here during our tour and self-guided exploration of the gardens, I have to say that I was simply impressed. To hear the tales of how each additional piece was added to the palace, all the things that went on here over the centuries, and have time to walk around aimlessly in the gardens was certainly a treat.

While we don’t always spend so much time at tourist sights, it was well worth it and we highly recommend a guided visit with Concepción. We guarantee that you will not forget it!

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Have you ever been to the Real Alcázar in Seville? Any desire to go? Just stopping by to peruse? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!