Palacio Real de Madrid (The Royal Palace of Madrid) is a popular sightseeing stop in the city of Madrid, Spain. Technically, it’s the royal residence, but it’s really only used for official ceremonies. The palace was built in the 18th Century by King Philip V of Spain (who was actually French) on the site of a former Moorish castle; it took almost 20 years to build. At 1.45 million square feet, it is the largest palace in Europe, and has 2,800 rooms. (How would you like to be the housekeeper there? Ha!)
The exterior of the Palace is impressively vast (though certainly not as showy as a palace like Versailles, with all its gold trim). While its courtyard faces the Almudena Cathedral, there are gardens on the other three sides of the palace: Plaza Oriente, Campo del Moro, and the Jardines de Sabatini. I enjoyed strolling through Plaza Oriente, a lovely garden with fountains and two rows of statues of former Spanish kings, and the Sabatini gardens.
Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you what the Royal Palace is like on the inside, because on the day I went, it was closed for an official state ceremony. Boo. I was disappointed, but only briefly, because it was a beautiful sunny day and there were plenty of photo opportunities on the outside the palace–including the gardens, the Changing of the Guard at the palace, buskers, and a diverse crowd of tourists hanging about.
How to get to the Palace:
From the center of Madrid, Puerta del Sol, walk West along Calle de Arenal (Metro: Opera) to Calle de Bailen. I’m directionally challenged, and even I found it quite easily.
April 1-September 30: Monday through Saturday, 9:30am – 7pm, Sundays 9am – 4pm.
October 1-March 31: Monday through Saturday, 9:30am – 6pm, Sundays 9am – 4pm.
Closed on certain holidays (and for state ceremonies), so check before you go.
Regular adult admission is 10 Euros (students with ID and those over 65 can get a discount), and you can purchase a 2.30 Euro audio guide, which is cheaper than the guided tour. It costs an additional 3.40 Euros to see the armory in the courtyard. Wednesdays are FREE to EU citizens, and therefore the most crowded day of the week.
There is no photography allowed inside the palace.
Despite the fact that I couldn’t actually tour the Palace, I found it well worth visiting the area. Keep walking along Calle de Bailen, and you’ll pass Plaza de Espana (which features statues of Cervantes’ fictional characters from Don Quixote) and you’ll veer left onto a road that leads through a wooded area to a park on a hill, and Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple–another worthwhile sight. More on that in a future post.