The Royal Palace of Madrid

Spain Madrid Royal Palace side

The Royal Palace of Madrid, with over 135,000 square meters and 3,418 rooms, is the largest palace in Western Europe and one of the largest in the world. It is one of the few official seats of a Head of State that is open to the public.

Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain use it regularly for audiences and official events. The royal family no longer reside there even though it still is their official house.

From the medieval Alcazar to the Royal Palace

The royal palace as it is today was rebuilt in the 18th century by order of Philip V, at the location of the Alcalzar of Madrid, the old Moorish castle that was destroyed by a fire.

In fact, on Christmas Eve 1734, a fire reduced the building to ashes as well as all the works of art it housed. This medieval fortress has been the official residence of the kings of Spain since 1561 after Philip II had it transformed into a luxurious palace.

Legend says that the fire was started by the King, who was of French origin, in order to rebuild a French palace in the style of Versailles. We will never know…

Spain Madrid Royal Palace arch
The structure of the vaults is made without wood to protect the palace in the event of a fire

In addition to serving as a royal residence, it will house all government offices in its many floors.
Construction began with the first stone in 1738 and was completed in 1751. It took another 8 years to complete the decoration of the surrounding areas.

Spain Madrid Royal Palace courtyard

The palace has a rectangular shape and surrounds an interior courtyard.

Spain Madrid Royal Palace street lamp
Spain Madrid Royal Palace gate
The entrance facing the Almunera Cathedral

From the courtyard of the palace, a magnificent view of the gardens “Campo del Moro” with the “Casa de Campo” park in the background.

Spain Madrid Royal Palace view park

The gardens “Campo del Moro”

Philip II created the gardens when he renovated the Alcazar and installed the Court in Madrid.

A tunnel linked “Campo del Moro” to “Casa de Campo” park, the main urban park in Madrid. This park was then a hunting reserve for the royalty.

Charles III first inhabitant of this new palace

This king was nicknamed the “Best Mayor of Madrid”.

It was not until 1764 that the royal palace was inhabited for the first time.
It experienced its greatest Italian splendour with the arrival of the most renowned painters of that time adorning the palace. Despite this, Charles III and his son, Charles IV lived there only eight weeks out of the year. In December, Easter week, and part of July. The rest of the year they preferred to retreat to the other Crown Palaces: El Escorial, Aranjuez, and La Granja.

Visit to the Royal Palace of Madrid

During this tour, you will discover richly decorated rooms and the storage of the Royal Armoury.

Everything is absolutely beautiful. The rooms we pass through are unique.
Each monarch personalized a part of the palace without altering what his predecessors did. We went from one style to another, between the diverse tastes of the monarchs who succeeded one another.

Spain Madrid Royal Palace lamp reception room

The quarters of King Charles III are in a classic baroque style.
He is also responsible for the decoration of the throne room and the so-called “Gasparini” salon. In an exuberant rococo style, it was his official dressing room.
Charles IV created neoclassical sets with pieces of French furniture.
Ferdinand VII brought with him the French bronze and crystal chandeliers.
And in 1879, Alfonso XII was the instigator of the last decorative renovation.

The result is astonishing!

The Great Staircase and the Hall of Halberdiers

The Great Staircase

Spain Madrid Royal Palace main entrance

It is at the foot of this staircase that coaches dropped off their visitors.

Spain Madrid Royal Palace hall

As soon as they arrived, they faced the statue of Charles III as a Roman general.

Two twin staircases start on each side of this central staircase. The one on the right for the king and the one on the left for the queen. The initial height of their steps were criticized and sparked controversy despite the grandiose design. And yet, they had been designed to make the climb as comfortable as possible.

Spain Madrid Royal Palace lion hall
The lion, on the king side. The queen has one too…
Spain Madrid Royal Palace mural lamp hall
Detail of wall lamps
Spain Madrid Royal Palace king bust

We reach the first hall of the palace, always amazed by what we see.

Salon Alabarderos or Hall of Halberdiers

The architect originally designed the room to be a dance and party salon. But King Charles III transformed it into a room for the guards. The decoration is simple and refined, mainly made up of Tuscan pilasters.

Spain Madrid Royal Palace reception room1
Spain Madrid Royal Palace reception room
Spain Madrid Royal Palace tapestry reception room
A wall tapestry
Spain Madrid Royal Palace ceiling fresco hall
One of the ceiling frescoes

During one of his visits to Madrid, Napoleon would have said to the king: “Brother, you are going to have a much better house than mine.”

The visit continues…

But as it is forbidden to take photos in the royal apartments and the armoury, you can go to the website of the palace where you can admire these gems.

The rooms that marked my visit

The throne room

The throne room has kept all the original decorations as it was completed in 1772 during the reign of Carlos III.
In red and gold tones, it has just been completely restored. The cleaning of the fresco and the replacement of the velvet have been restored it to its former glory.
It is in this room that the sovereign holds all the ceremonial and official audiences.

The Royal Armoury

For me, the most beautiful and exceptional room of the visit.

The Royal Armoury is one of the jewels of Spain’s historical heritage. It is considered the most important in Europe.
The personal armour of Charles V as well as the arms and armour of Philippe II and Philippe III make the heart of the collection. On the walls, the magnificent tapestries dates from the 16th to the 18th centuries.

The Hall of Columns

Originally designed as a ballroom and reception hall, it became the seat of all civil ceremonies.

Today, it is used for public events. It was here that the abdication of King Juan Carlos I took place in favor of his son Felipe VI on June 18, 2014.

Gasparini Salon

The room where the king’s dressing ceremony was held and where he received his private visits. This tells you the importance of this piece!

Its decoration is a mixture of chinoiserie and exuberant rococo style. Quite surprising and a little stuffy! The floor is in marble, the vault in stucco, the walls covered by hanging tapestries with threads of silk and gold and silver, and the furniture in precious wood and bronze. All in beige and brown tones.

Gala dining room

The Great Hall, reserved for major events, dances and gala, is now used for state dinners. It is possible to set up a table that can accommodate up to 150 guests.

We leave the palace and take advantage of the late afternoon to stroll in the parks that surround it.

Plaza de Oriente

Created in 1844, this rectangular-shaped square is located on the east side of the royal palace.

Spain Madrid park oriente view

In the centre of the square is one of the main sculptures, a bronze equestrian statue of Philip IV. The particularity of this statue is that it is the first statue of a horse standing on its hind legs … discreetly using its tail.

Spain Madrid park Oriente fountain

The sculptor Pietro Tacca, who made the sculpture from Velasquez‘s drawing, had to seek advice from the great scientist Galileo Galilei in order to guarantee its stability.

Spain Madrid park Oriente statue details


Why a prancing horse? This is an exception to the theory of equestrian statues. It was simply out of vanity. Philip IV wanted a statue more beautiful than that of his father Philip III, which is on the Plaza Mayor.

Espagne Madrid Philip III statue Playa Mayor

There are also statues of Spanish kings in limestone.

Espagne Madrid Plaza Oriente King statues 3
Espagne Madrid Plaza Oriente King statues 2

But these statues were not installed here initially. They were on the roof of the castle. So what happened?

Espagne Madrid Plaza Oriente king statues 1


At the beginning of the 18th century, Isabel de Farnesio, mother of Charles III, having nightmares about the statues falling on her and killing her, had them removed and stored in the basements of the palace.

They remained there until the 19th century when Isabel II decided to take them out to exhibit them again. But not on the roof! They were instead placed in the Plaza de Oriente.

Sabatini Gardens

The Sabatini Gardens are part of the Royal Palace of Madrid and were opened to the public by King Juan Carlos I in 1978. They honour the 18th century Italian architect, Francesco Sabatini.

This is where the royal stables were located. They were demolished in 1933 to be replaced by this garden.
It contains 3 terraces with statues, fountains, and plant labyrinths and offers a spectacular view of the north facade of the palace.

Unfortunately for us, we could not admire it because it is closed due to works … We will have to come back. 😊

Campo del Moro

Spain Madrid Campo del Moro view palace

In the second half of the 19th century, Queen Maria Cristina decided to create this garden.
Until then, it had not been developed as such, because it was impossible to connect this area to the royal palace due to their different altitudes.
This position offers a breath-taking view of the palace.

Spain Madrid Campo del Moro main fountain
A Neoclassical fountain: The Fountain of the Tritons

In 1931, the park was declared a Historic-Artistic Monument.

Why its name?

In 1109, the Muslim leader Alí Ben Yusuf attempted to reclaim Madrid after the death of King Alfonso VI. He then attacked the fortress on the hillside near the river. And apparently, he and his army camped at this location during the attack.

The visit of the park in pictures

Spain Madrid Campo del Moro bench
Spain Madrid Campo del Moro vasque
Spain Madrid Campo del Moro alley
Spain Madrid Campo del Moro little house
Casa Corcho or Cork House
Spain Madrid Campo del Moro little fountain
Almendrita Fountain
Spain Madrid Campo del Moro ornament
Spain Madrid Campo del Moro peacock
Spain Madrid Campo del Moro golden pheasant

And we had the great surprise of seeing a magnificent golden pheasant!

To conclude

This is a visit not to be missed. The palace is still the official residence of the royal family, so the whole building is very well maintained. The different pieces are all more incredible than the previous one. But I can understand why you wouldn’t want to live there. Everything is a bit excessive in my eyes, and it would be hard for me to feel at home. But this is just my perception 😉

Comments

  1. Nice post! I’ve never visited Madrid before but I do love a good palace 🙂 very informative with great photos!

    1. Thank you. One of the most beautiful palaces I’ve ever visited.

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