Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos

Córdoba, Spain

The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos ('Castle of the Christian Monarchs') served as one of the primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. It forms part of the Historic Center of Córdoba that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994.

In early medieval times, the site was occupied by a Visigoth fortress. When the Visigoths fell to the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, the emirs of the Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus rebuilt the structure. The Umayyads fell to the Abbasid Caliphate and the surviving member of the Umayyad Dynasty, Abd ar-Rahman I, fled to Córdoba. Abd ar-Rahman I's successors established the independent Caliphate of Córdoba and used the Alcázar as their palace. The city subsequently flourished as a key political and cultural center, and the Alcázar was expanded into a very large and widely used area with baths, gardens, and the largest library in the West. Watermills on the nearby Guadalquivir powered water lifting to irrigate the extensive gardens.

In 1236, Christian forces took Córdoba during the Reconquista. In 1328, Alfonso XI of Castile began building the present day structure on part of the site for the old fortress. Other parts of the Moorish Alcázar had been given as spoils to the bishop, nobles, and the Order of Calatrava. Alfonso's structure retained only part of the Moorish ruins but the structure appears Islamic due to Alfonso's use of the Mudéjar style.

The Alcázar was involved in the civil war where Henry IV of Castile faced a rebellion that backed his teenage half-brother Alfonso. During the war, the Alcázar's defenses were upgraded to deal with the advent of gunpowder. At the same time, the Alcázar's main tower, now known as the 'Tower of the Inquisition' was constructed.

Henry's successor, Isabella and her husband, Ferdinand, used the Alcázar for one of the first permanent tribunals of the Spanish Inquisition and as a headquarters for their campaign against the Nasrid dynasty in Granada, the last remaining Moorish kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula. The Inquisition began using the Alcázar as one of its headquarters in 1482, converting much of it, including the Arab baths, into torture and interrogation chambers. The Inquisition maintained a tribunal here for three centuries. Boabdil was held prisoner here in 1483 until he promised to make Granada a tributary state. When Boabdil refused to surrender his kingdom in 1489, the Christians launched an attack. Isabella and Ferdinand's campaign against Granada succeeded in 1492. The same year, the monarchs met Christopher Columbus in the Alcázar as he prepared to take his first voyage to the Americas.

The Alcázar served as a garrison for Napoleon Bonaparte's troops in 1810. In 1821, the Alcázar became a prison. Finally, the Spanish government made the Alcázar a tourist attraction and national monument in the 1950s.

What to see

The architectural ensemble has a sober character in its exterior and splendid in its interior, with the magnificent gardens and courtyards that maintain a Mudéjar inspiration. The outdoor area of the Alcázar is situated within the walls of the four towers (Paloma, Leones, Homenaje and Inquisición), this creating an almost square shape to the building.

The main hall of the building, constructed in the 18th century, is referred to as the “Hall of Mosaics”, given the impressive Mosaics that can be found within the hall. The mosaics on show were discovered at the Corredera Square (Plaza de la Corredera) and formed part of the Roman Circus, as well as a sarcophagus from the 3rd Century. Beneath the current floor of the hall, it is still possible to discover the remains of which are believed to be from the Royal Baths which were used by high dignitaries during the Muslim era.

The Royal Baths were constructed in 1328 by King Alfonso the 11th. They were structured into four rooms: the changing room, the cold room, the temperate room and the hot room.

The old Alcázar orchard has been transformed into an impressive area of approximately 55,000m² of magnificent gardens with forest species including palm, cypress, orange and lemon trees, which surround a number of elegant fountains and ponds. The gardens are structured on three levels: the upper garden, the middle garden and the lower garden.

The King's walk (El paseo de los reyes) is a walk bordered by a line of cylindrical cypress trees and is also divided into two paths by two narrow ponds. On this walk, there are several sculptures of the Kings who built the Alcázar, which are located on pedestals aligned between the hedges.

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Details

Founded: 8th century AD
Category: Castles and fortifications in Spain

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ana Costa (2 months ago)
Beautiful garden with several types of plants and flowers. The fountains help cool down the place, especially in the scorching summer days. The palace is not as interesting and there is little labelling so either you look it up on the internet or ask for a guided tour, or you'll feel a bit lost as to the history of this palace and garden. You can easily spend 2 hours here, but if you're not into gardens, you'll probably spend far less time; it'll depend on your interests.
agules ' (3 months ago)
A magnificent palace and castle located in Cordoba. It combines a variety of architectural influences, including Roman, Visigothic, and Arabian. Located in the center of Cordoba and easily accessible, it is a place not to be missed. There is not much inside the building. This is a place to be seen mostly for its garden. The garden is quite magnificent and beautiful. There are various plants and pools. When you come to Cordoba, you can stop by here if you have time.
Jon Young (4 months ago)
After reading a few reviews which seemed to say there wasn't much to see, I was hesitant of what to expect. But, I thought for the price it was definitely worth seeing. I think it helps to see on a warm (Hot) sunny day, but it really is an oasis, if you take your time and ensure sit down in the gardens for a bit and watch the world go by. Agreed, in the building not a lot to see but has some great mosaics on show. For the price definitely worth a visit.
sssjoe (5 months ago)
You start the tour walking around the alcazar which has parts that date back to Roman occupation. After touring the rooms for a while you pop out into the garden area. It's not a huge space you can walk from end to end in 20 minutes but it is really beautiful. The pools reflection of trees makes for some amazing pictures.
Karolina Palussek (7 months ago)
Absolutely not questioning the historical value of this place, however, we expected something more. The gardens are indeed beautiful, but the time in the historical buildings I can only describe as max. 10 minutes spent and the lack of English translations made it difficult to understand the events that took place there in the past. In addition, it was clearly stated that students enter for half price, but at the checkout I was informed that I must have a special international card to get this discount. Queue all day long for 30min-1h standing even with an electronic ticket. A simple comment at the end - one big disappointment.
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