3 reviews from the community
Review of "Alcazar, Seville"
Whee - thank you for diamond number 6.....
We go and see friends on the coast in southern Spain a couple of times a year, and for a change for our February visit, we explored the opportunity to spend a few days in Seville. It’s not easy (or cheap) to fly direct to Seville from Northern England particularly in winter, but fortunately there is a fast bus which goes to Seville from the centre of Malaga. There are countless cheap flights to Malaga and so it was all systems go. It was a tiny bit of a phaff but after our cheap flight hop from Manchester to Malaga Airport, we took a bus to the bus station and then waited a couple of hours (with a leisurely lunch just up the way) before hopping on the 10 Euro direct non-stopping bus to Seville. OK, we could have flown to Dubai in the time it took us overall, but it was hardly a hardship having a doze on a comfortable bus to sleep off the exhaustive lunchtime salad and glass (!) of wine.Rather bizarrely the bus company wanted our passport numbers both on booking the tickets and also sight of our passports before we could board the bus. I guess security is king in these anxious, paranoid, unfriendly times of ours.
Our primary reason for visiting Seville was to go and have a look at the Real Alcazar, the royal palace in the centre of the city. I’m not really one to kowtow to royalty so I wasn’t particularly interested that the upper floors of the palace are still used by the Spanish Royal Family today (why be interested in tax avoiding inbred parasites?) but the public rooms and gardens were what we were after. Tickets cost a very reasonable 9 E each.The palace was originally built by the Moorish North African Muslim royals who ruled this part of Europe in the 1200’s. Today the palace is a mishmash of different buildings from different times (largely from 1300-1700), but all of them display the stunningly beautiful classical Moorish architecture.
What’s to see?
I won’t class myself as an expect but a couple of years at a student house sharing with some heavy duty pot smoking trainee Architects opened my eyes to the appreciation of a functional and beautiful building. The particularly eye-catching element of the architecture here comes with the richly coloured geometric tiles which spread up the walls and the Arabic writings from the Koran incorporated into plasterwork. There are plenty of wide open tiled floors, symmetrical rectangular pools of water and central water channels. It’s worth keeping an eye out both for the intricate ceilings and just to make sure you don’t fall into a shallow water filled channel in the floor. That would be a “totally awks” moment.The designs of the buildings themselves are often square and boxy, but broken up by use of plain columns and intricate arched windows and archway entrances into rooms. In a warm country the net result is lush colours in the bright light and a feel for an airy, cool and moist atmosphere. I guess the style wouldn’t work for my particular little home space where we are almost 1000 foot up in a cold, dank and wet bit of Yorkshire Moorland, but in bright, sunny and hot Spain it feels perfect. It’s “horses for courses” dear reader.
Entrance to the Alcazar is from a small opening gate through a grandly thick and high wall in the centre of Seville. I’m not saying you will miss it (there’s plenty of signage) but it seems you are entering through one of the smaller original doors and little prepares you for the feast for the eyes inside. Expect to be body scanned through an automated scanner before you get in.I do have to say that the more memorable elements of the Alcazar Palace came for me from the extensive and beautiful gardens outdoors, rather than the line of connected palaces indoors. If you have been to Granada then the internal part of the Alhambra has much more about it. That said, there are still plenty of tiles and public hallways to admire. There is also a room full of old slightly moulding and rather faded tapestries. I don’t really like traditional art but I could stare at the detail in old tapestries forever and a day. It’s history and myth staring back at you, and nuns and young girls ruining their eyesight and taking painstaking hours to show you that vision through the ages.
Henry VIII with sunshine
There isn’t a lot of signage which I guess is a positive given that the buildings are quite busy with fellow explorers and more detail would only encourage more of us to linger and ponder. It’s probably better to look at each of the buildings in the complex and to see which one interests you. Quite a lot of the buildings seem to have an association with Peter the Cruel from the 1300’s (note he’s not called Peter the Builder or Peter the Tiler, so I suspect the toil and hard work was completed by others). It would seem that Peter was less cruel but somewhat hapless and incompetent and a man who had a burning desire for the ladies. Peter had a habit of agreeing to get married to form allegiance with other countries and families, and then unfortunately finding better and prettier offers. Peter was perhaps lucky that black death had a habit of seeing off his wives before too long, but unlucky in that it became expedient for his successors to discredit him after his death as a nasty man (hence “the cruel” description). I’m sure the story of Peter the Cruel would make a good TV mini-series; it would be like Henry VIII with sunshine.For the gardens, again it would seem that it wasn’t Peter the Gardener with the green fingers, but I adored the way the huge space was split and constructed and reconstructed by different occupiers and kings over the centuries. It felt amazing that there was all this quiet beautiful greenspace right in the centre of Seville.
Through the round window
I often see gardening programs where it is said good planting and wall and arch lay out encourages the visitor onwards to explore, and the gardens at the Alcazar indeed has that feel to it. I wanted to trot through every gate and archway to see what is beyond. At the one side of the garden space, it would seem they got a little bored with all the planting and a massive city centre orange grove fills the space. Come back in 50 years and Pedro Barrett the housing estate builders might have got permission to plonk identical tiny houses and called all of them “the Orangery” in memory of what used to stand there (why do developers do that?).As well as ground level walkways through the gardens, rather handily is a long first floor level walkway which runs almost the length of the gardens and from where you can get a great overview of the gardens and their layout. We were visiting the gardens and palace with friends; it has to be said they don’t really have an interest in such places but on the back of this experience they were keen to go and see Granada’s Alhambra too.
All this touring makes one thirsty
As is often the case, the museum tea rooms often offer a good, reasonably priced and fairly peaceful option. This proved to be the case here too, and we ate an inexpensive sandwich and soft drink looking out over some of the garden space. The museum shop wasn’t particularly exciting and my beloved’s purse had a rare neglected feeling on this particular trip.After a couple of hours in the palace, we moved back into Seville and had some fun looking down a couple of real ale bars; fresh locally brewed IPA is just the thing after a hard day’s exploring.
I can particularly recommend the Maquila Bar. I wouldn’t tell you how to get there; we used the phones GPS and it took us down lots of little Seville back streets which was a journey in itself.We live within hiking distance of a great brew pub in Huddersfield (Magic Rock) and given there seems to be a growing interest in real ale in Europe just had to hunt down a Spanish pretender. We experienced both pleasure and disappointment when we spotted their special guest beers were cans of imported Magic Rock! Had I known I could have popped a few cans in my suitcase to supplement their supply.
Fortunately, they also sold their premises brewed Son Beer and it was one of the better continental Spanish beers that I've sampled. The prices aren't cheap (particularly given you are in Spain) so this is something of a bar full of richer Spanish kids and corpulent foreign beer drinkers. Given I was in there I guess that figures.There is food at the bar, and it looked lovely although again it felt quite expensive for Spain. The food seemed to be a posh twist on traditional tapas.
We were pleased to have made the extra effort to go and hunt out Seville; a city that I’ve hankered after visiting but never quite managed to for over 20 years. The Alcazar is well worth the 9 Euros entrance fee, and even our ex murder squad detective friends softened with the view of the gardens and the architecture inside. It may not be quite as grand as Granada, but it remains well worth a visit.
Product Information : Alcazar, Seville
Manufacturer's product descriptionCastle/Historic House
Type: Castle/Historic House
Listed on Ciao since: 02/08/2005