On a square in front of high walls, there is a rather inconspicuous sign indicating the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos with its unique garden. Early on, visitors stand in a long queue until they can enter the beautiful complex.
Even though we don’t like queuing and waiting, I’m quite happy that we didn’t do without this time and visited the fortress. If you don’t want to wait in line, you can definitely get to the gardens of Córoba faster with a guided tour.
Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos translates as “Palace of the Christian Kings”. This already suggests a little about the history, which begins as early as the 8th century. At that time, a predecessor building stood on the same site, which served as the caliph’s residence. Cordoba was occupied by the Moors until 1236, after which the Christians took over the city.
King Alfonso XI had the present building erected in 1328 and took over the gardens already laid out by the Moors. Even then, these gardens were unique and impressed residents and visitors alike.
There have been quite a few visitors over the centuries. For example, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon resided in the fortress for about 8 years. In 1486, Christopher Columbus is said to have visited the kings there and asked for support for the “Voyage to India” project. Some “visitors” stayed rather involuntarily in the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. For many years, this was the site of a prison where, for example, the Moorish caliph Boabdil was held captive.
Visit the Alcázar
One enters the palace grounds through the Lion Tower (Torre de los Leones), built in the 13th century. This is one of the original 4 towers of the Alcázar. Three of the towers still stand today: Torre de los Leones (the oldest tower), Torre del Rio (round tower) and Torre del Homenaje (octagonal tower). The octagonal “Tower of Homage” is where Christopher Columbus is said to have met the kings.
The Lion Tower, which owes its name to a gargoyle on the upper floor, is the most archaic building in the complex, with a square section, two storeys and wide Almohad-style bands. The outer walls are crowned with terraces and battlements.
Once the visitor has passed the entrance, he finds himself in a fortress complex with thick and high walls. On a tour, you will discover Roman and Visigothic architectural forms as well as Arabic influences. These have been partly preserved despite the complete devastation of the old caliph’s palace during the reconquest and subsequent restoration.
Following the signposted tour, we first entered the palace building. Some of the rooms were unfortunately closed to visitors. So unfortunately we couldn’t take a look at the Arab baths, which are supposed to be worth seeing. However, we were able to see impressive mosaics and get a small impression of the interior. The mosaics on the walls of a former chapel were discovered during excavations in 1959. They date from the 2nd and 3rd centuries and were originally seen as flooring in a Roman villa.
The rooms of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos are situated around small courtyards, as is typical of Arab buildings. These are equipped with small fountains and water channels that create a pleasant climate. Trees grow everywhere and small herb beds exude a pleasant smell. If you are looking for some shade, you will find it in corridors with stone domes.
However, we were drawn to the famous gardens of the fortress complex.
The fortresses of the Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs
The Moors laid out the gardens in the Alcázar and the Christian kings took over the complex largely unchanged. The entire complex is divided into several areas and a leisurely stroll through the individual gardens can take some time, the area is a good 55,000 m².
The grounds are divided into a series of terraces and gardens, some of which can be reached via a few steps. The individual areas are designated High Garden, Middle Garden, Low Garden, Paseo de los Reyes and Moorish Courtyard. Each level is designed differently, but they all have in common that they are green and full of water. Everywhere you will find small benches that invite you to take a break in these beautiful surroundings.
In the garden we heard fountains and small fountains splashing, birds chirping in the trees. With a bit of luck, you can spot them in the orange trees, for example. There are many native plants growing, such as palms, cypresses, orange and lemon trees, but there are also planted flower beds.
I particularly like the cypress-lined path that leads to a large sculpture. It depicts the Catholic Monarchs meeting Christopher Columbus.
We were lucky in March that it wasn’t so crowded and you could walk past the created water pools in peace and quiet and were sometimes even all alone in some corners of the garden.
Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos
Campo Santo de los Mártires
Provinz Córdoba, Andalusien
Opening hours may vary. During our visit, these times were posted at the entrance. The current times can be found in the shop at the advance ticket sales.
16 September- 15 June
Tuesday-Friday: 8.30 – 19.30 h
Saturday: 9.30- 16.30 h
Sunday and public holidays: 8.30 – 14.30 h
16 June- 15 September
Tuesday-Saturday: 8.30 – 16.30 h
Sunday, public holiday: 9.30 – 16.30 h
Ticket sales and exact opening hours on the following Webseite.