The Palacio Real or Royal Palace is the largest and certainly one of the most impressive palaces in Europe. It has more than two thousand luxuriously decorated rooms, fifty of which can be visited.
It is located on the east of Madrid’s historic center, within walking distance of the Plaza de España.
Soon after the Royal Fortress burned down on Christmas Eve of 1734, King Philips V wanted to replace the fortress by a palace, this time built from limestone and granite to make it fireproof. It was to be modeled loosely on the Versailles Palace near Paris, where Philips V had spent part of his youth.
Construction of the new palace started in 1938 based on a design by the Italian architect Juan Bautista Sachetti. Twenty-six years and three kings later, the huge palace, covering an area of 135,000 m2, was completed. It would take another one hundred years before all the rooms were decorated.
Visitors enter the Palace via the large Plaza de la Armería. Some of the sumptuous rooms accessible to visitors are the 400m2 large dining room, the Sala de Porcelana (China Room) and the Salón del Trono (Throne Room) with red velvet walls.
The west wing of the palace is home to the Armería Real, the Royal Army museum. It contains a beautiful collection of armor, including King Charles V’s armor suit.
King Carlos III, son of King Philips V moved into the new palace in 1764. The Palacio Real would be the main residence of the Spanish kings until 1931, when king Alfonso XIII went into exile after republicans had won the elections and demanded him to step down.
Today the royal family lives in the small Zarzuela Palace, a former hunting lodge outside Madrid. The Royal Palace is still used for official ceremonies and receptions.
Campo del Moro
The Palace is bordered on the east by the Campo del Moro, a large park that goes uphill from the Rio Manzanares to the Royal Palace. From the green lawn in front of the park, you have a nice, unobstructed view of the palace.
In front of the Palace is the Plaza de Oriente, a beautiful square with an equestrian statue of Philips IV. The Royal Palace originally bore the same name as the square, Palacio Oriente, or East Palace.
Statues of kings and queens are all over the square. The intention was to put these statues on top of the palace, but they were deemed too heavy, so they were placed on the square in front of the palace instead.