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Royal Palace of Madrid

Home to an astounding art collection, this palace is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family and is today used for state ceremonies.

TravelCurious Tip

It's worth shelling out €4 for the audio guide, which will greatly enhance your appreciation of all the opulence.

Royal stories

Madrid's Royal Palace is a site of turbulent history. The Royal Alcázar of Madrid was erected here by Muhammad I, Umayyad Emir of Cordoba, between 860 and 880; after the Moors were driven out in the 11th century, it came into Spanish hands. The Habsburg Emperor Charles V extended and renovated the castle in 1537; Philip II made Madrid his capital in 1561 and continued the renovations, as did Philips III through V until 1700.

A fire on Christmas Eve in 1734 destroyed the Alcázar, as well as many precious works of art held there. Luckily, the King had moved much of his art collection to Buen Retiro Palace beforehand. Several works, including Velazquez's Las Meninas, - which in fact depicts figures from the Spanish court in a large room of the Alcázar - were saved by being thrown out of a window. The new baroque palace was finally completed (slowed by the death of its original architect) in 1764, and there have been numerous additions since.


Art and architecture

After all this, there's plenty to see here. The main façade faces the grand colonnaded Plaza de la Armería; the Plaza de Oriente, which features statues of the Gothic Kings, joins the palace's eastern façade to the Teatro Real. The Campo de Moro gardens, landscaped in Romanticist style, are named so because the Muslim leader Ali ben Yusuf allegedly camped here with his troops in 1109 during an attempted reconquest of Madrid; the 20th century Sabatini Gardens to the north follow a symmetrical French design.

Inside, all is opulence in a royal residence that rivals that of Versailles. The ground floor alone is spectacular, with the Royal Library only a small part of the legacy of kings and queens. The Royal Pharmacy includes fascinating jars and pottery from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the Royal Armoury is matched in grandeur only by the Imperial Armoury of Vienna. It displays arms dating back to as early as the 13th century, and magnificent tournament pieces made for Charles V and Philip II - including the armour that Charles V wore in his 1548 portrait by Titian, which is housed in the Prado.

The first floor comprises the old royal apartments, which are full of important sculptures, tapestries, frescoes and paintings: Charles III's throne, sceptre and crown are also on display, and the Stradivarius Room contains a viola, two cellos and two violins by supreme luthier Antonio Stradivari. Don't miss the Palacio Real for a glimpse at royal glory.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Madrid
Plaza Mayor
This colossal square has hosted a variety of events over its 400 year history, from street markets to public executions.
Church of Santiago
An austere neoclassical church alongside the Camino de Santiago.
Plaza de Ramales
A square right beside the Royal Palace, this was the centre of 15th century Madrid.
Plaza de Oriente
A historic square with some fabulous sculptures, located right at the entrance to the Royal Palace.
Teatro Real
'El Real' is one of Europe's great theatres, and the major opera house of Madrid.
Barrio de La Latina
The oldest area in Madrid, La Latina was the city's ancient Islamic citadel.

Related Tours

Historic Madrid for First-Timers
Visit Madrid, Spain’s vibrant multicultural capital, to discover its historic plazas and royal palaces, neoclassical churches and the winding streets of its Medieval quarter.
 
  • Start your tour in Madrid’s bustling heart, Plaza Mayor (Main Square)
  • Stop at Puerta del Sol (Sun Gate) to photograph its famous bear statue and clock tower
  • Learn about Spain’s epic hike, the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James), at the Iglesia de Santiago (St James’s Church)
  • Explore Madrid’s Gothic heritage at Ramales and the Plaza de Oriente (Eastern Square)
  • Marvel at the grand Royal Palace and Royal Theatre
  • Stroll the medieval streets of the Barrio de la Latina (Latin Quarter)
  • Finish at Plaza de Santa Ana (Santa Ana Square), a food, culture and nightlife hotspot
 Madrid is an ever-moving city filled with a mix of ancient history and modern life. In this mammoth capital, you’ll find everything from one of Europe’s richest art collections to grand royal palaces and maze-like medieval quarters lined with tapas bars and sweeping plazas. On this four-hour tour, a local expert will guide you through Madrid’s frenetic streets, introducing you to the city’s top sights.
 
Plazas, palaces and Gothic history
 
Begin your tour at Madrid’s main hub, the Plaza Mayor (Main Square), a renaissance square with a 400-year-old statue of King Phillip II surrounded by impressive porticoed buildings. You’ll learn about how this historic square has hosted everything from exotic markets to bullfights and even public executions and burnings during the Spanish Inquisition. There’s also a chance to stop at the nearby Puerta del Sol (Sun Gate) to see its iconic bear statue and clock tower.
 
The Plaza de Santiago (St James’s Square) is a through-way on Spain’s famous 500-mile Camino de Santiago (Way of St James) pilgrimage hike across the country. Here, you’ll see the Iglesia de Santiago (St James’s Church), once one of the oldest churches in Madrid which was rebuilt in neoclassical style in the 19th century. It’s now time to explore Madrid’s 15th century Gothic quarter, Ramales, with its tranquil plaza home to the Reina Sofia (Queen Sofia) concert venue and resting place of the renowned artist Diego Velazquez.
 
In the adjacent Plaza de Oriente (Eastern Square), your guide will introduce you to Madrid’s famous Royal Palace and the Royal Theatre, a world-class opera house. The plaza was designed by King Joseph I in 1844, its Medieval houses removed to make way for gardens and sculptures and of course, the royal buildings. Learn all about the palace, which is the largest in Western Europe and the official residence of the Spanish royal family.
 
The life and soul of Madrid
 
As you come to the end of this epic, express tour of Madrid, you’ll navigate the snaking streets of the Barrio de La Latina (Latin Quarter), a medieval wonder. Discover narrow alleys lined with cafés, bars and restaurants, Moorish churches and pretty plazas. The tour concludes at the Plaza de Santa Ana (Santa Ana Square), one of Madrid’s most vibrant squares. Soak up the atmosphere of its traditional taverns and tapas bars, terrace cafés and boutiques.
 
Searching for a quick, informative glimpse of Madrid? This tour is the perfect choice for your first visit to Madrid, taking in the city’s main areas and landmarks. 
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