Even if you don’t qualify for silver discount, a visit to the Alcazar is a bargain. Just off the Plaza del Arenal and a step along from the main shopping and tapas bar area you are in an avenue of orange trees leading to jacarandas. Discreetly to the left is the entrance to the twelfth century fortress.
Once inside there are courtyards and gardens to explore. In normal Spanish weather these would have been a blaze of colour. Not so this year but even in March a few roses were in bloom and one agapanthus had managed to open.
Planting and architecture blend in these wonderful spaces. A Chelsea designer would be proud of them, Trees provide the structural height with paths and beds the groundwork, while small fountains and rills are a continuous accompaniment. Background is of course the building – walls, towers, baths and mosque, as well as an eighteenth century palace for good measure.
The buildings are authentically restored with several that can be entered. A glance upward shows the light through tiny star shaped apertures in both mosque and bathhouse. Arches add elegance.
Most of the walls are accessible, and some have ramps for wheelchairs. A variety of towers had either defensive or observational functions. Descending the tower that once controlled the countryside, now part of the city centre, shows how involved the way in from outside would have been. Walking the perimeter afterwards reinforced the point.
The walls are also great vantage points for the garden. On one there is a small pavilion for receiving visitors: it nust have been a delight to sit there.
Across the gardens and what once was the parade ground is the Palacio de Villavicencio. It houses art exhibitions and provides a glimpse into a traditional apothecary’s shop. There is also a camera obscura (extra charge).
Very few souvenirs and no refreshment room may disappoint some visitors, but with shops and bars around the corner there seems little need. A splendid place.