Royal Palace of Madrid, or Palacio Real de Madrid in Spanish, is one of the most remarkable buildings in the city and one of those places you simply must visit during your stay in Madrid. Rarely is there a place that is so intertwined with history and art in such a way that it a represents one of the city’s most important treasures, a landmark visited by millions of people each year. Tourists from all over the world are eager to see the remnants of court life displayed in the interior of the palace, as well as in the surrounding gardens which were once the place where court events were organized gathering royals from the Western Europe.
The Palace is located in Calle de Bailén, in the Western part of the city’s central area, so regardless if you are staying in the apartments in the city center or you decide to rent an apartment in Madrid which is not in the central area, it will be quite convenient for you to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid. Ópera metro station is the nearest one if you choose to use this type of transportation in Madrid.
Unfortunately, the complete interior of the palace is not open to the public, but several rooms which are available are certainly enough to get the idea of how the palace has been important part of Spanish history, which is why it has been declared Spanish Property of Cultural Interest. Admission fee is paid before entering the palace and the usual fee is 10 Euros. Here are some additional information about the fees and opening hours: http://www.patrimonionacional.es/en/real-sitio/palacios/8280.
History of the Royal Palace in Madrid
This location has always been important area of the city, as the exploration of the past has concluded that the old Alcazar, or castle, once stood in this exact position. After it has been destroyed by fire in the 18th century, King Philip V ordered a new palace to be built in the same place. The construction lasted between 1738 and 1755, and it became a product of collaboration of some of the most important architects in Spain, including Filippo Juvarra, Ventura Rodríguez, Francesco Sabatini, etc.
After the construction, the palace was called Palacio Nacional and it was actually a home to several Spanish monarchs. The palace has 135,000 square meters of floor space and contains 3,418 rooms, which makes it the largest royal palace in Europe by floor area. The renovation of the palace in the 19th century introduced some alterations to the style, incorporating some of the Victorian elements as well. During the 20th century another set of renovations was introduced, but the goal was only to repair the damage caused during the Spanish Civil War, while no alternations were introduced in regard to the style and appearance of the interior and exterior of the Palace.
Exterior of the Palace
Being such a massive construction, the palace is an extraordinary place visible from several sides in the city, and each represents a distinctive view on the exterior. The main façade of the palace, where the main entrance is located is facing the Plaza de la Armeria. The two-story stone façade faces the square with lots of ornaments designed to decorate the exterior, including the series of statues and columns.
Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Madrid_May_2014-34a.jpg
Since we are mentioning the exterior of the palace, besides the impressive exterior of the actual building, it is important to mention other parts in the close vicinity which make up the exterior and the surrounding as it was originally planned and designed. As a part of initial project, the building alone was never planned, but instead, the accompanying gardens were necessary part of the surrounding which would provide enjoyable exterior and be a perfect place to host events in the open when the weather allows it.
- Plaza de la Armería is the square connecting the Palace with the Almudena Cathedral. It is also the place from which you can see the main entrance to the Palace.
- Plaza de Oriente is a rectangular park which connects the Royal Palace and the Teatro Real. The Plaza de Oriente is divided into three sections by the pathways, and there are lots of statues and decorations in the park making it an enjoyable place for a walk.
- Campo del Moro Gardens is the park designed in the Romanticist style with lots of fountains and diverse types of vegetations scattered around the park.
- Sabatini Gardens is perhaps the most famous part of the exterior of the palace. It was designed much later than the rest of the areas, mainly under the influence of French deign. Full of patterns and symmetrical geometric shapes, the garden is adorned with lots of statues, fountains and a pool. The name of the gardens is supposed to honor Francesco Sabatini, an Italian architect who collaborated on the project of construction of the Palace, and who designed the royal stables which were once located in this site.
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Campo_del_Moro_(Madrid)_01.jpg
If you decide to opt for a visit that does not include visiting the interior of the palace, this could still be an amazing day of sightseeing, as you have so many interesting and fascinating places to visit around the Royal Palace. Spending time outdoors is a great way to spend a day with your family and friends, regardless of your age and your interests, as there is always something for everyone.
The interior of the palace
The interior of the palace is just as impressive, with lots of rooms packed with historic art pieces and treasures that are remnants of the past and the time that has left its trace in the art and style that are part of the Royal Palace interior design and collections.
Image source: http://www.patrimonionacional.es/en/real-sitio/palacios/8280
On ground floor you will first encounter a grand staircase, built by Sabatini in the 18th century. Although the position of the staircase is different from the one Sabatini meant when building it, it still is an impressive construction made of marble. Two lion figures are also placed in the ground floor, as well as a statue of Charles III in a Roman toga. Each corner is adorned with the four cartouches, which all together represent the elements of water, earth, air and fire. The frescoes on the ceiling illustrating religion protected by Spain complete the entrance to the ground floor.
The Royal Library was not initially the part of the ground floor, but it was moved here during the regency of Maria Christina. The impressiveness and historic value of the Royal Library lies in the huge collection of books ranging from different time periods. Having in mind that books from different epochs are part of this collection, it is clearly visible how the binding style evolved over time, and how each epoch left its trace. The maps used during the extension of Spanish Empire are also kept here as an important historic evidence of Spanish history. The bookshelves date from the period of Charles III, Isabel II and Alfonso XII, and also represent the valuable objects preserved within the Royal Palace.
The Royal Pharmacy was part of the royal household in the past, as it represented a collection of medicines that might be needed by the members of the royal family, and thus the pharmacy found its place within the Palace. The Royal Pharmacy was introduces during the reign of King Philip II. Today, the pharmacy still keeps the jars and bottles from that period.
The Royal Armory is the last one of the rooms that can be visited on the ground floor and it is one of the best armories in the world, as the pieces kept here date even back to the 13th century. The armory was opened in the end of the 19th century with a great collection of tournament pieces. The highlights of the collection are certainly the full armor and weapons used by Emperor Charles V in the Battle of Mühlberg. Although some parts of the collection were destroyed during the Peninsular War, as well as during the Spanish Civil War, the collection still contains some of the most important pieces of this kind in the world.
What is typical of the first floor is the fact that there are lots of royal chambers that preserve the original design and ornaments that decorated the place during the lifetime of the royals living in the Palace. Entering these chambers allows you to get the glimpse of the life led by the royals who used to occupy the Royal Palace as this was their residence.
Some of the royal chambers worth mentioning are the King Charles III’s Apartments, the Queen’s Apartments and Banqueting Hall and Apartments of Infante Luis. All of these are important in Spanish history as they depict the time period during which they were designed. Additionally, some of the most remarkable artists of the time designed the rooms, including Goya himself who painted the four royal family portraits still kept in the King Charles III’s Apartments on the first floor of the Royal Palace.
The Royal Chapel featuring frescoes the Trinity, Allegory of Religion, Glory and the Holy Trinity Crowning the Virgin is also located on the first floor of the Royal Palace, as well as the Crown Room, which stores the Charles III’s throne, scepter and crown.
Today, the Royal Palace in Madrid is an amazing monument of history and culture. It preserves so much treasures of national interest, which is why it is so proudly presented as one of the places you must see in Madrid. For tourists, the greatest value of the Palace is the fact that allows meeting the Spanish court life and historic elements that date centuries back and thus keep the spirit of the past visible to the new generations, that have so much to learn from the life in the past.
Although the Spanish Royal family does not live in the Palace, the importance of the Palace in the life of the royals is still present, which is why the wedding banquet of Prince Felipe and Letizia Ortiz took place in the central courtyard of the Palace, in 2004.