The Real Alcázar de Seville, originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings, is a palace renowned as one of the most beautiful in Spain and is regarded as one of the most outstanding examples of mudéjar architecture found on the Iberian Peninsula. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as the official Seville residence. It is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, and was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, along with the Seville Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies.
Originally founded as a fort for the Cordoban governors of Seville in 913, the Alcázar has been expanded or reconstructed many times in its 11 centuries of existence. The 12th-century Almohad rulers were the first to build a palace, which was called Al-Muwarak, on the site of the modern day Alcázar. The palace saw its biggest expansion during this time. Christian Fernando III moved into the Alcázar when he captured Seville in 1248, and several later Christian monarchs used it as their main residence. Fernando’s son Alfonso X replaced much of the Almohad palace with a Gothic one. Between 1364 and 1366 Pedro I created the Alcázar’s crown jewel, the sumptuous Mudéjar Palacio de Don Pedro.
The gardens are a green oasis within the city and its three distinct areas reflect styles of gardening from three respective eras. The Hispano-Arab area is the earliest and nearest the Palace comprising small patios connected by stairs. The central area dates from the Renaissance and includes the Garden of the Prince, the Charles V pavilion and other architectural features. The area developed in the 20th century is the largest and includes what is known as the English garden, complete with its resident peacocks.
As well as orange and lemon trees, there are exotic plants from each corner of the globe. At present there are over 170 species. The 6 hectares of gardens are punctuated throughout by fountains, pools and other architectural features.
The Alcázar was used as a filming location for Laurence of Arabia and most recently, it appeared as the water gardens of Dorne in the Game of Thrones TV series.