Garden with orange and palm trees
Gardens,  Monday walks,  Seville

A walk in the gardens of Seville’s Real Alcázar

The most intriguing gardens to explore often feel like a series of rooms, each with a distinctive style of decoration. We wander from area to area, never knowing what might be around the next corner. We get glimpses through trees and over hedges, and sometimes wider views that draw us on, ever eager to see more. Such are the gardens of the Real Alcázar of Seville.

The palace claims to be the oldest royal residence in Europe still in use; its gardens have been cultivated for more than a thousand years. Just as the building does, they blend Moorish and Hispanic styles with ease. Eastern style courtyards are ornamented with classical statuary; Renaissance trends modify the Arab designs. What was once the Moors’ orchard is now an informal garden where peacocks strut.

Let me take you on a stroll through some of the main sections of the garden, for the final Monday Walk of 2021!

Small stone carving of a lion

We entered the gardens through the Puerta de la Marchena which was formerly the entrance to the palace, erected during the time of Isabella I of Castille. I liked the little lion crouched above the doorway. The gate has an interesting history. It was put up for sale by public auction in 1913 and purchased by the US press magnate William R. Hearst. But Alfonso XIII intervened and claimed the right of first refusal, thanks to which the gate remained in Seville. It was reinstalled at the Alcázar in this new location in 1914.


Coloured tiles depicting a saint surrounded by flowers

Tucked away in a corner near here is an azulejo panel depicting San Fiacre. He is the patron saint of growers of vegetables and medicinal plants, and of gardeners in general.


Path between hedges with water channel through the centre

The Jardín del Marqués de la Vega-Inclán is on the site of the former orchards at this eastern end of the garden. It is laid out in a geometric style, with low hedges bordering the paths. Narrow water channels flow down these paths, linking a series of small fountains.


The gardens are dotted with palm trees …


And with orange trees, laden with fruit on the November day when we visited.


The central area, known as the Jardin de las Damas or Garden of the Ladies, is the most formal of the larger gardens. It is overlooked by the gallery seen in my featured photo, which separates it from the Jardin de la Danza / Garden of the Dance. The planting is interspersed with fountains, pools, statues and pavilions.


Statue silhouetted against blue sky with palm trees

The most striking fountain is the Fuente de Neptune, Neptune’s Fountain. It is made of Genoese marble and topped with a 16th century bronze statue of the god.


Bright yellow and orange wall with a small statue of a boy

At the eastern edge of this garden is another fountain, the Fuente de la Fama, the Fountain of Fame. This is an ‘organ fountain’ from the 17th century, the only one of its kind in Spain and one of only three in Europe. Above the small terracotta statue in my photo is another, of a trumpeter. The system uses water pressure to provide air to the statue’s trumpet, making it sound. The ‘organ’ plays hourly according to the Alcázar’s website, but we didn’t hear it sound during our visit. Perhaps, like so many things, it has been silenced by the pandemic?


Window with a grille in a wall decorated with small tiles

At the far end of the Garden of the Ladies is the Pabellon de Carlos V or Pavilion of Charles V. This is the oldest building in the gardens, dating from Moorish times. It was probably originally built as a qubba. Charles transformed it on the occasion of his marriage to Princess Elizabeth of Portugal into a Renaissance garden retreat.


Rectangular pool with fence and small yellow building at the far end

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


Wherever you go in this part of the garden there are attractive views back towards the palace. I even caught a glimpse of La Giralda, the cathedral’s striking bell tower (formerly the minaret of the mosque that once stood there).


Parakeet in bare branches of a tree

The local parakeets are attracted to the date palms in particular. They were hard to photograph there but I caught some resting briefly in a bare tree nearby. These are Argentinean or Monk Parakeets; they are an invasive species which the city council here is trying hard to control, as they threaten local kestrels and giant bats. They are different from our London ones, with an even louder screech it seemed.


Peacock on a lawn with pink petals

In the English Garden beyond, peacocks were strutting across the lawns, strewn with the vivid petals of bauhinia trees.


Wall decorated with paintings in arched recesses, with a pool in front

The gardens closest to the palace are known as the Historic Gardens. They were laid out in Muslim times but were remodelled in the late 16th and early 17th century in the Renaissance style. We followed the series of small courtyards, their flower beds rather bare at this time of year, back eastwards to one of the gardens’ highlights, the Galeria de Grutescos or Grotto Gallery. This is the result of the transformation of the old Almohad wall into a gallery lined with grotto-like stone work (the grutesco) and Renaissance paintings. The path on top affords a view across the gardens.


Bronze statue of god in front of colourful painted wall

The pool here is where the water was collected from the city’s Roman aqueduct, rebuilt by the Almohads to provide water to the palaces and gardens. Water still spouts into the pool from somewhere beneath the palace, and a statue of Mercury stands in the centre. This, like the one of Neptune we had already seen, was the work of Bartolomé Morell. He was also responsible for casting La Giraldillo, the huge weather vane on the top of the cathedral’s bell tower, La Giralda.

Of course we visited La Giralda and the cathedral during our visit to Seville. But that is a post for another day!

I visited Seville in November 2021

31 Comments

  • thehungrytravellers.blog

    I absolutely loved Seville and so want to get to see it again, and take Michaela as she hasn’t been. Your post brings back so many memories. We had peace, sunshine, oranges and really enjoyed the dreamy gentle feel of the city. Also went to see Betis v Villareal which was highly controversial and anything but gentle!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Sunshine and oranges yes, although rain one day of the three. It’s a lovely city for strolling, but I can imagine the match was something else! The only stadium I’ve been to in Spain was the Nou Camp when Newcastle played Barca in the Champions League (those were the days!), but it was short on atmosphere because their fans boycotted the match – they were annoyed at a lack of ambition and a run of poor results in La Liga.

  • wetanddustyroads

    Ah Sarah, what a beautiful stroll through these gardens in Seville! So many things to enjoy here … and for some reason, I found your photo of the orange tree to be one of my favourites!
    Merry Christmas to you and your family 🎄.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much 🙂 I was very taken with those orange trees and spent ages trying to get good photos of the fruit! So much so that I realised when putting this post together that there were other things I’d omitted to photograph at all 😆

      Merry Christmas to you both and all your family 🎄🎅✨

  • bitaboutbritain

    Simply fabulous, Sarah. Somewhere I would love to go and explore – if I can stop visiting places in Britain for a bit! The blend with Moorish culture is fascinating and produces such an exotic, to my eyes. I’d interested to know what is meant by an ‘English’ garden. Informal? Litter everywhere? People playing football? Anyway – a very Merry christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 😊 Yes, it’s that mix of Hispanic and Moorish that makes these places so fascinating and so beautiful. The English garden is the most informal area, basically lawns and trees, but many of the latter would be unlikely to be found in our gardens, such as the palms and bauhinias. It was also the area we saw the most peacocks but that could be coincidence as they’re free to roam anywhere.

      Merry Christmas to you and your too, and all the best for 2022!

  • Rose

    Walking the gardens in Seville seems so warm, relaxing, and vibrant. A vast contrast from the snow and cold we’ve experienced here. When I dress in multiple layers to go for our daily walk, my imagination pretends we’re about to traipse across an Arctic Tundra. Our weather is not that extreme, yet, but it is cold.

  • Nemorino

    I vaguely remember some of these gardens from a visit 59 years ago. But the main thing I remember from that visit was when two men greeted me by name in Spanish on the street, which was surprising since I didn’t think I knew anybody in Seville. I took me a minute to realize who they were: two men I had met a few days before on a sherry-tour-and-tasting in Jerez de la Frontera.

  • restlessjo

    The gardens are beautiful, Sarah, and one of my favourite places in Seville. It’s quite wet in our part of the world this week and I remember one time when we planned to visit and were turned away because the floors were wet and slippy. Health and safety! Who’d have thought?
    Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and happy travels next year 🤣🎅🎄⭐💗

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Jo 🙂 I can easily see why this is one of your favourite places there. I would love to go back and explore further, as we probably only saw about half of the gardens on this visit!

      • maristravels

        How I wish I were there now! There’s a love;ly sense of peacefulness about the gardens in Seville, isn’t there? My favourite place for just wandering is the Maria Louisa Park (I think that’s it’s name), I could spend all day there. Seville is a place where I don’t want to do anything, it makes me lazy and I can become quite Spanish and just sit in the shade and gossip. You did an awful lot on your weekend, thanks for this lovely walk.

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