Madrid’s fabulous Royal Palace is one of Europe’s outstanding architectural monuments. More than half of the state apartments are open to the public, sumptuously decorated with silk wall hangings, frescoes and gilded stucco, and crammed with priceless objets d’art. The palace’s setting is equally breathtaking: beyond the main courtyard (Plaza de la Armería) lies an uninterrupted vista of park and woodland, stretching to the majestic peaks of the Sierra de Guadarrama.
Calle Bailén • 914 54 88 00 • www.patrimonionacional.es • Open Apr–Sep: 10am–8pm daily; Oct–Mar: 10am–6pm daily; 24 & 31 Dec: 10am– 3pm; closed 1 & 6 Jan, 1 May and 25 Dec • Adm €10, €5 (concessions), additional €4 for guided tour and €3 for audio guide; free Mon–Thu (Apr–Sep: 6–8pm; Oct–Mar: 4–6pm); free for under-5s, EU citizens and Ibero-Americans
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.
When Napoleon first saw the exquisite frescoes on the staircase after installing his brother on the Spanish throne, he said “Joseph, your lodgings will be better than mine.”
Once the setting for balls and banquets, this room is still used for ceremonial occasions, with Giaquinto’s fresco of Carlos III (shown as the sun god Apollo) and superb 17th-century silk tapestries.
This room was designed for Charles III by Giovanni Battista Natali as a glorification of the monarchy. The bronze lions by the throne were made in Rome in 1651.
The banqueting hall was created for the wedding of Alfonso XII in 1879. The tapestries and ceiling frescoes are by Anton Mengs and Diego Velázquez. Look out for the Chinese vases “of a thousand flowers” in the window recesses.
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 more of Giaquinto’s frescoes.
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.
The royal armoury boasts more than 2,000 pieces, mostly made for jousts and tournaments rather than for the battlefield, as well as instruments of torture dating from the days of the Spanish Inquisition.
These gardens were landscaped in the 19th century and planted with acacias, chestnuts, magnolias, cedars and palms. Stand on the avenue to be rewarded with views of the palace’s façade.
Founded by King Felipe V in 1712, the Royal Library contains more than 20,000 articles, including Isabel I of Castile’s Book of Hours, a Bible which belonged to Doña María de Molina and a volume of Scriptures from the era of Alfonso XI of Castile.
The palace stands on the site of the Alcázar, the 9th-century Muslim castle.In 1734 the wooden structure burned down and Philip V initially commissioned Italian architect Filippo Juvarra, then Giovanni Sacchetti, to design a replacement. Work began in 1738 and was completed in 1764. However, the present king Felipe VI, prefers to live at the Palacio de la Zarzuela outside the city.