The word alcázar comes from the Arabic word al qasr meaning 'the castle'. During the height of the Caliphate, Córdoba governed over Al-Andalus—the portion of the Iberian peninsula under Arab control. In the 14th century, King Alfonso XI built the fortified Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Castle of the Christian Kings) over the ruins of the former Arab palace.
Following the Christian Reconquest, the castle's walls witnessed other history-changing events: the planning and execution of the reconquest of Granada from the Moors; the initial meeting between the Spanish monarchs and Christopher Columbus; and the headquarters of the Inquisition.
Inside the castle, a gallery in the former chapel contains an impressive collection of Roman mosaic art, dating to the 3rd century AD and discovered in 1959 buried beneath the Plaza Corredera. In the hallway leading to the chapel, there's a splendid sarcophagus carved from a single slab of marble also from the 3rd century AD.
The gardens of the Alcázar are the main attraction and my favorite area of the castle. The first impression one gets upon stepping outdoors is the sound of water, found everywhere. A large variety of plants, neatly trimmed hedges, palm trees, cypresses, and orange trees adorn the terraced gardens overlooking fountains and large ponds.
The walk to the entrance to the castle is through a beautiful park frequented by the locals. The Alcazar's defensive walls can be seen in the background.
A long corridor along the front of the Alcázar.
A balcony overlooking the courtyard. The hanging curtain, made of a natural material similar to raffia, is the Andalusian version of a sunshade.
The room used for civil marriage ceremonies.
Mosaic of the Greek sea god Oceano.
Jets of water splashing into ponds in the gardens.
The statues of King Ferdinand, Queen Isabel, and Christopher Columbus.
A pond at the base of one of the many fountains.
Hedges, flowers, and trees in a terraced garden.
Gates decorated with the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Castilla and León.
More photos of the Alcázar can be found in my Slow Photos album.