Exploring The Alcazar Of The Christian Monarchs, Córdoba

Orange trees at the Alcazar, Córdoba
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The gardens at the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs in Córdoba may be smaller than those of rival palaces in Seville and Granada, but they are still impressive. Even in the rain.

It is easy to spend a day in Córdoba. I had already walked through the UNESCO listed historic centre, from the magnificent La Mezquita to the little winding streets where Spanish culture vies with Moorish influences to create an eclectic mix of tapas bars, Moroccan tea houses and bazaar-style souvenir shops. Now it had begun to rain in earnest and I sought shelter at the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (literally the Fortress of the Christian Monarchs).

The Long And Bloody History Of The Córdoba Alcázar

The Christian monarchs in question were Ferdinand and Isabella, who united the Spanish provinces of Aragon and Castile in 1469. They were also, incidentally, the first parents-in-law of England’s King Henry VIII, who married their daughter Katherine of Aragon.

Alcazar of Córdoba
The Castle of the Christian Monarchs

The fortress was built by the Moors in the 14th century, taking in the ruins of earlier Roman and Visigoth structures. Ferdinand and Isabella took it over a hundred years later, for use as a royal residence and as the headquarters of the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Walking along the rooftop battlements, I reflected with a shudder that the thick stone walls of the end tower must have been ideal for muffling the screams of suspected heretics.

Gardens of the Alcazar of Córdoba
The formal gardens of the Alcázar of Córdoba

The Alcazar was later used as a prison, but it now serves as a centre for Córdoba’s municipal government. Some of the building is off limits to tourists but there is still plenty for visitors to see. You can walk along the towers and battlements, see the old Moorish baths, and marvel at the Hall of Mosaics with its sarcophagus and 2nd century Roman mosaics.

The Alcazar Gardens

The battlements offer a view over the courtyards and the magnificent gardens that are the real attraction for visitors to the Córdoba Alcazar. Long ponds are flanked by carefully manicured cypresses, and on either side of the water are formal gardens with geometric borders, fountains and fruit trees.

The rain had eased off by now, and I wandered into the grounds, enjoying the flamenco music that followed me through the first courtyard. I walked by groves of orange and lemon trees, their branches groaning with the weight of ripe fruit, and past gardeners who were picking up bucket loads of oranges and loading them into a wagon.

A Peaceful Walk

I stopped to listen to the tinkling of the fountains. It was quiet and peaceful: visiting during a wet lunchtime meant I had the place almost to myself. I ambled slowly alongside the water, pausing now and then to look at a tiled pond or a group of bushes sculpted into leafy jugs.

Fountains at the Alcazar of Córdoba
One of many fountains in the gardens of the Alcazar

Eventually I came to a great plinth, where statues of the Catholic monarchs gazed majestically down the Avenue of the Monarchs towards the fortress where the Inquisition plied its ignoble trade. Looking now at the orderly and peaceful gardens, with their fountains and treeloads of oranges, I found it hard to imagine that this place could ever have been home to such savagery.

Visting The Alcázar Of The Christian Monarchs

  • Allow around two hours to explore the palace and the gardens.
  • Skip the line tours are available.
  • Córdoba is 138 km from Seville (44 minutes by train) and 161 km from Granada (2 hours and 45 minutes by train).
  • If you are staying overnight in Córdoba have a look at the recommendations for accommodation on booking.com.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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