If you think that Versailles is the largest royal palace in Europe, a holiday in Madrid will prove you wrong: the primacy goes to the Royal Palace of the Spanish capital.
Even today the Royal Palace of Madrid it is the official residence of the kings of Spain, even if the kings in fact no longer live here, preferring the quiet of the more sober Zarzuela Palace near the city. The sumptuous palace is home to the annual official ceremonies of January 6 (Military Easter) and October 12 (Spanish National Day), audiences, gala dinners, signing of documents, deliveries of awards and honors.
For tourists in visit to Madrid is a must: with a square plan with a large central courtyard, the palace is a Baroque style masterpiece with neoclassical influences, inspired by Bernini's sketches for the Louvre in Paris.
The building occupies an area of 135000 square meters; inside its 3000 rooms there are 215 extravagant vintage clocks, 5 Stradivarius violins, a collection of priceless works of art and countless valuable objects.
History of the building
The royal palace was not always the opulent palace full of decorations that we can admire today. The first construction that arose on the site of the current palace was a defensive fortress wanted by the Emir Mohamed I to defend Toledo from the advance of the Christians, well before Madrid became the Spanish capital.
Occasionally used by the kings of Castile, the fortress became known as Old Alcazar starting from the fourteenth century; it was the kings Charles I and his son Philip who transformed it into a royal residence.
Destroyed by a fire in 1734, it was replaced by a new palace wanted by the king Philip V; however, he was the enlightened monarch Charles III to give the palace the look we admire today, with changes and additions made by successive monarchs to suit the fashions and tastes of their eras.
Visit to the Royal Palace of Madrid
A visit to the Royal Palace of Madrid it is a bewitching experience. The rooms open to the public are 50, a small portion of the more than three thousand rooms built, which in themselves constitute only a third of the absurd original project.
Believe us, 50 is more than enough to understand the opulence of this work and indigestion of world famous masterpieces of art, gilded stucco, ornate mirrors, velvets, brocades and other signs of wealth and power. You can choose whether to participate in a guided tour or visit the palace on your own.
Here are the must-see attractions at the Royal Palace of Madrid.
There are many tourists who choose to visit the Royal Palace for the sole purpose of admiring the gallery of paintings, attracted by the names of Velázquez, Goya, Rubens, El Greco e Caravaggio. Unforgettable is the emotion that one feels in front of the Salome with the head of the Baptist by Caravaggio, a work at the same time disturbing and fascinating, while there are more than one paintings by Goya that alone deserve the price of the entrance ticket to the palace.
These are not only the great artists on display at the palace: guardian of the most significant treasures of the artistic heritage of Spain, the gallery of the Royal Palace boasts among its works the portrait of Isabella the Catholic of Juan de Flandes and The Madonna and Child by Luis Morales.
The starting point of the visit to the palace is Armeria Square, a patio flanked by arcades where the changing of the guard ceremony is held.
Along the southern end of the patio you will find the Royal Pharmacy, where containers for medicinal plants, ceramic vessels, bottles and the recipes that were prescribed to the Royal Family are kept.
The real attraction of the square, however, is there Real Armory, which houses a collection, unique of its kind, of weapons and armor belonging to the Spanish kings and other members of the Royal Family from the thirteenth century, perfectly restored.
Changing of the guard
You can attend the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace of Madrid every Wednesday, but unfortunately the months of July, August and August are excluded, which see the greatest influx of tourists. It can also be canceled at official ceremonies or in case of adverse weather conditions.
It is not necessarily the most beautiful but there Throne Room it is certainly the most evocative of the whole palace: it will not be difficult for you to imagine a king who solemnly sits on the throne, symbol of his power.
There are two thrones that you can admire in this room which remains as it was at the time of Charles III: gold and red, the thrones are "defended" by four golden lions; all around is a riot of red velvets, Italian rococo furniture, huge mirrors and Venetian chandeliers. The fresco on the ceiling, the work of Tiepolo, represent an allegory of the Spanish monarchy.
Campo del Moro
The building is surrounded by an extensive green area which includes the Campo del Moro and Sabatini Gardens: the first is from the Middle Ages, while the gardens are quite recent (in fact they date back to the twentieth century).
The Campo del Moro surrounds the palace on three sides and is so called because it was used as a camp by the Moors during the Muslim siege of Madrid.
Among the infinite wonders of the building we want to point out a couple of particularly interesting ones:
- Main staircase, monumental symbol of power and elegance.
- Hall of the Halberdiers, conceived as a ballroom, it was transformed by Charles III into the Sala delle Guardie.
- Gasparini room, dining room decorated with plant elements by the Neapolitan artist Mattia Gasparini.
- Porcelain room, richly decorated room reserved for smoking men. Instead, women had access to the adjoining one Yellow room.
How to get to the Royal Palace
The Royal Palace of Madrid is located in the tourist area of Habsburgs and can be reached by metro L2, L3, and L10 and several bus lines.