If you only had one day to soak in Madrid's greatest hits, it would be a sin not to start at the Royal Palace. This symbol of Spanish architecture and regality has been at the center of Madrid's history since its construction. There's so much to enjoy, from wide arched hallways to velvet-covered throne rooms.
In this article, we're diving into what makes the Palacio Real De Madrid so fascinating. With over 135,000 square meters, 3,418 rooms, and 2 million guests annually, it's a monumental feat to conquer. So for the best experience, we suggest a fully customizable tour with GoWithGuide’s local experts.
It's hard to believe that this lavish palace started as a military fortress for 9th century ruler Emir Mohamed I’s army. During the expansion of the Moorish Kingdom, King Emir decided Magerit, the original name for Madrid, would be the perfect station to fend off Christian soldiers. So he built the original grounds, but it wasn't yet considered a work of art.
As the Middle Ages approached, the Moors left the Iberian Peninsula and the Castille Kings occupied the fortress, adding layers to the original Moorish design. By the 14th century, it was known as the Antiguo Alcázar, or Old Fortress. Charles 1 and Philip II, kings of English and Italian influence, further transformed the palace into a private residence for royals, adding a string of architectural influences. Everything changed when the fire of 1734 completely destroyed the castle, forcing Philip V to commission an entirely new structure, giving us the Baroque masterpiece we see today.
Nowadays it is strictly used for state ceremonies and events. That means you can explore the grounds without worrying about disturbing a Spanish royal.
Things To Look Out For
With an astonishing collection of art, archival gems, and architecture waiting, your first time in the castle can feel like a maze. The large palace can host up to 5,000 people without feeling crowded. To ensure you don't miss a thing, take your private tour to the next level with an experienced guide.
Comedor De Gala Dining Room
Seating over 150 people and holding a cutlery collection not easily matched, the Comedor de Gala is the height of dining excellence. Above the table, at the center of the room, lies an ornate chandelier the King and Queen directly sit under whenever they're eating in residence. Also, look out for King Charles VI's wacky clock collection that can be spotted throughout the palace.
Though you likely won't be invited for an official state dinner, you can see what it takes to put one together by touring the nearby kitchen, whose preservation stands above those of Buckingham Palace and Versailles. If staring at this immaculate table and kitchen arrangement makes you hungry, the breathtaking terraced cafe nearby creates a royal Spanish atmosphere.
Sabatini Reflecting Pool & Garden
For a manicured breath of fresh air, head to the northern facade, where you'll find the Sabatini Gardens. Constructed in the 1930s to replace a horse stable, the garden's gigantic topiary creates a magical fairytale feeling. You can walk through the park or sit at one of the many benches and enjoy a good book, neoclassical geometric designs, and a stunning palace view.
The gardens were opened to the public in 1978 and named after Italian architect Francesco Sabatini who designed the original stables now occupied by the garden. Since then, they’ve become a precious green space in the city.
Expert Tip: To witness the garden's full potential, wait until sunset. The pool's crystal waters create a color show, enhanced by the lush surrounding greenery.
Welcome to the most extensive collection of arms in Europe. The Royal Armory carries with it the history of the Spanish and European armed forces during the Golden Age of Spanish might and military prowess, particularly during the 16th century. Thanks to the wisdom of Felipe II, who ensured his collection could not be sold off after his death, we get to witness the weaponry and armor that made the Spaniards a force to be reckoned with in battle.
Each item is polished to perfection, allowing the intricate detail that went into the smallest things, like horse bridles and spearheads, to shine.
Things To Know Before You Go
If you're a travel lover, there's no doubt you’re already planning your Royal Palace takeover, so let us help you make those plans a reality with some essential information.
When Should You Go?
When it comes to touring the palace, timing is everything. If you're lucky enough, plan your Madrid trip in the fall (September to November) or spring (March to May) so that you can enjoy the interior and exterior of the palace when the weather is just right. If weather conditions get too severe, the castle will close the Sabatini Gardens but keep some of the viewing rooms open.
The palace is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm during the winter, and 10:00 am to 7:00 pm during the summer. Our experts suggest booking a morning or evening tour to avoid massive crowds, and if you want to tour the gardens, they close at 8:00 pm, perfect for a sunset viewing. Check with your private guide about changing dates, nearby dining and recreational activities, and special rates.
How Do You Get There?
Located in the heart of the Spanish capital, it's hard to miss this enormous palace. Still, if you're staying outside the city center, organizing transport with your local guide is best to avoid getting lost in the city's fast-paced energy. Central Madrid has an extensive bus system that can drop you as close to the palace as possible, but depending on where you are, the journey could take around 30 minutes.
Whether you’re driving or taking a taxi, it’s important to note that the palace has no parking grounds, but there are three significant paid parking spaces nearby. Wear comfortable shoes and light clothing for those looking to walk to the palace. It will take you an average of 25 minutes to walk from a location like the Museo De Prado to the castle. It's a long journey, but you can include it in your tour itinerary and get an immersive history lesson in the sights and sounds of Madrid as you go.
There’s so much to see, and this is just one location! There are several spots worthy of full exploration while in Madrid, so get to the good stuff with a personalized tour and attentive local guide. Let's create the ultimate Madrid adventure!