Madrid’s fabulous Royal Palace, inspired by Bernini’s designs for the Louvre in Paris, is one of Europe’s outstanding architectural monuments. More than half of the state apartments are open to the public, each sumptuously decorated with silk wall hangings, frescoes and gilded stucco, and crammed with priceless objects d’art. The palace’s setting is equally breathtaking. Laid out before the visitor in the main courtyard (Plaza de Armas) is an uninterrupted vista of park and woodland, stretching from the former royal hunting ground of Casa de Campo to El Escorial and the majestic peaks of the Sierra de Guadarrama.

  • Plaza de Oriente

  • www.patrimonionacional.es

  • 91 454 8800

  • Open Apr–Sep: 9am– 6pm Mon–Sat, 9am– 3pm Sun; Oct–Mar: 9:30am–5pm Mon–Sat, 9am–2pm Sun; closed 1 & 6 Jan, 1 & 15 May, 12 Oct, 9 Nov, 24, 25 & 31 Dec

  • Dis. access

Building the Palace

The palace stands on the site of the Alcázar, the 9th-century Muslim castle. In 1734 the wooden structure burned down and Philip V commissioned Italian architect Filippo Juvara then GB Sachetti to design a replacement. Work began in 1738 and was completed in 1764. The present king, however, prefers to live at the Palacio de Zarzuela outside the city.

Plan of Palacio Real

Remember that the palace can close for official ceremonies without prior warning, so check opening times before you set out. The best time to avoid the queues is early in the morning.

On the first Wednesday of the month (Oct–Jun) you can see the grand Changing of the Guard ceremony, which begins at noon.

Top 10 Features
  1. Façade

    Stand for a few moments on Plaza de Oriente to enjoy the splendour of Sacchetti’s façade, gleaming in the sun. Sacchetti achieved a rhythm by alternating Ionic columns with Tuscan pilasters.

  2. Main Staircase

    When Napoleon first saw the staircase after installing his brother on the Spanish throne, he said “Joseph, your lodgings will be better than mine”, owing to Corrado Giaquinto’s fine frescoes.

  3. Hall of Columns

    This exquisite room was once the setting for balls and banquets, and is still used for ceremonial occasions. Attractions include Giaquinto’s fresco of Charles III shown as the sun god Apollo and superb 17th-century silk tapestries.

  4. Throne Room

    This room was designed for Charles III by Giovanni Battista Natale as a glorification of the Spanish monarchy. The bronze lions guarding the throne were made in Rome in 1651.

  5. Gasparini Room

    Named after its Italian creator, this dazzling room was Charles III’s robing room. The lovely ceiling, encrusted with stuccoed fruit and flowers, is a superb example of 18th-century chinoiserie.

  6. Gala Dining Room

    The banqueting hall was created for the wedding of Alfonso XII in 1879. The tapestries and ceiling frescoes are by Anton Mengs and Antonio Velázquez. Look out for the Chinese vases “of a thousand flowers”, in the window recesses.

  7. Royal Chapel

    Ventura Rodríguez is usually credited with the decoration of this chapel, although he worked hand-in-hand with other collaborators. The dome, supported by massive columns of black marble, is illuminated with some more of Giaquinto’s frescoes.

  8. Pharmacy

    The royal pharmacy was created at the end of the 16th century to supply herbal medicines to the court. Glass retorts, pestles, mortars and jars fill the gilded shelves, while the reconstructed distillery shows how they might have been used.

  9. Armoury

    The royal armoury has been open to the public for more than 400 years. It boasts more than 2,000 pieces, mostly made for jousts and tournaments rather than the battlefield.

  10. Campo del Moro

    These beautiful gardens were landscaped in the 19th century and planted with acacias, chestnuts, magnolias, cedars and palms. Stand on the avenue and you’ll be rewarded with views of the palace’s façade.

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