I never tire of seeing the Alcázar of Córdoba from across the street as I’ve written several times before on this blog, it makes me feel like I’ve stepped back in history to the al-Andalus era.
Its full name, the ‘Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos’, comes from the very people who re-built the once Visigothic structure in order to commemorate Spain’s reconquest from Islam back to Christianity in the 13th century.
Two centuries later, Christian Monarchs, Isabella I and Ferdinand II of Aragon lived here in the 15th century, secure behind the fortress walls as they plotted the reconquest of Granada. It was also instrumental in Christopher Colombus’ crusade to India as here, at the Alcázar, he proposed his strategies to these power-hungry leaders.
Today, it serves as a beautiful respite away from the heat in the middle of Córdoba’s UNESCO World Heritage historical centre.
The omnipresence of water in various pools and fountains, along with ceramic bowls over-spilling with red, pink, yellow, white and orange roses provides a refreshing sensation as you traverse the splendour of the patios and gardens.
In the cooler months, it seems to serve as something of a sun trap, as I once visited in February and felt unusually warm and the low winter sun cast everything in the most beautiful glow.
The picture above, of my Dad visiting the Alcázar, was taken in July. This was an exceptionally hot day so standing in the shade of the towering trees was a good way to take a break. Out in the open patios, the sun has no barrier so bear this in mind… it might be best to time your visit earlier in the morning. In fact, it is only open until 15:00 most days in the summer months so this should work out ok anyway! (See below for opening times throughout the year)
You can tell this picture above was taken in the winter by how many oranges are on the trees- the heat kills them off and they fall from the trees all along the streets in an avalanche of oranges which the council have to come and remove. This makes way for the spring blossom to come through which fragrances the streets with its potent yet delicate scent. Anyway, back to the Alcázar…
In my opinion, the interior does not have much of the ‘wow’ factor, such as with the ornate wall engravings its architectural cousin, the Real Alcázar de Sevilla, possesses.
You can read about the Real Alcázar of Seville in my post on Sevilla HERE.
The real eye-catcher of this site is the abundance of beautifully manicured gardens and Mudéjar style patios, paved with white marbled tiles and lined by a rainbow of flowers, all giving off their own scents. I think of the gardens here in my mind’s eye as a sort of ‘Garden of Eden’, due to the sun, the fruit trees, flowers, foliage and butterflies; bees and birds mingling around. It sounds like I’m over-romanticising here but it’s true!
“The omnipresence of water in various pools and fountains, along with ceramic bowls over-spilling with red, pink, yellow, white, and orange roses provides a refreshing sensation as you traverse the splendour of the patios and gardens.”
I once visited on my own, and spent countless hours wandering around, taking in all of the sights and sounds. I had only been living in Spain for 6 months and it had been a tumultuous period of culture-accustoming, language-learning, people-meeting and acclimatisation. Bureaucracy here can be incredible at times and the whole upheaval of the initial bedding process was physically and mentally exhausting sometimes. Getting lost in these gardens for a few hours helped to clear the mind for a while.
In a little poetry book I own called ‘Andalus- Moorish Songs of Love and Wine’ selected and translated by T. J Gordon, there is a poem by the al-Andalus poet Ibn Zaidun entitled ‘Ode in the Letter Nun’ which references the Alcázar:
‘May rain-clouds of plenty shed their grace all around the Alcázar,
Amid cooing of the doves on every branch-
In beguiling Córdoba, home of all that’s noble,
The land where youth sprouted like a lucky charm,
And where the noblest race of all sprang forth.
How many evenings, how many mornings have I spent there
Besides how many sweet gazelles, of luminous countenance?
The cups are proffered, their mouths fragrant as apples,
While the wine-stars seem to rise up out of them,
As we do rise before our superior, the wine!’
[Copyright of this translation belongs to T.J Gordon and Eland Books- his website can be viewed here: https://tjgorton.wordpress.com/andalus/]
This was also a very positive and exciting time for me as everything was a novelty and the learning process, although highly challenging, was all a part of the adventure. Every weekend I ensured I would go and see something new to really appreciate the new place where I had come to live.
That first solo trip to the Alcázar stays in my mind as one of those early experiences which coloured my image of this city. It is only a 10 minute walk from where I used to live, my first flat here in the middle of the Jewish district. After visiting the Alcázar, I knew I would always have a local respite to go for a walk and a ‘breather’ from the full-on realities of a new job and all the newness and hurdles I had to jump over (sometimes several times over the same one!).
This is also a venue for weddings! I can only imagine that this must make the most stunning setting and quite unique too. The word on the street though is that the waiting list can be around 2-3 years long so a bit of foresight would be needed to acquire the desired date here!
I would advise you to allow yourself around two hours to see all of the Alcázar and its gardens. As of May 2018, the opening times and entry fees are as follows:
September 16th- June 15th- Tuesdays to Fridays: 08:30- 20:45. Sundays- 08:30-16:30.
June 16th to September 15th- Tuesdays to Saturdays: 08:30- 15:00. Sundays- 08:30- 14:30
Children under the age of 14 enter for free and a ticket for adults is 4.50 euros.
So! The only thing left is for you to visit the Alcázar for yourself!
Which one do you prefer? The Alcázar of Córdoba or Seville?
Leave your comments below 🙂