The Palacio Real in Madrid is the official residence of the King of Spain in Madrid. While the king now resides in a smaller palace on the outskirts of town, Palacio Real is still used for state ceremonies. Construction on the palace began in 1738 after the original fortress burned down on Christmas Eve of 1734. It was completed 26 years later. The new palace was intentionally built from limestone and granite to make it fireproof.
Visitors may enter to see 50 of the 2800 rooms. The entrance is on the south side of the building (the long lines are usually a dead giveaway of the ticket office). After purchasing a ticket and passing through security, you will be led into the Parade Grounds, a large courtyard in front of the palace's main entrance.
If possible, arrange a visit to the palace on a Wednesday. There is a changing of the guard ceremony on the north end of the palace every Wednesday at 11 AM. And if you are lucky enough to be there on the first Wednesday of the month (except in August and September), there is a more intricate ceremony that begins at noon and lasts 40 minutes. The ceremony includes the participation of 450 people and 105 horses.
Highlights of my palace visit included:
- The astonishing views from the portico on the left side of the Parade Grounds.
- The main hall with its massive stairway and beautiful frescoes, murals and marble.
- The dining room.
- The Salon del Trono (throne room).
After a few hours of wandering the halls of the palace and imagining life as a royal, take some time exploring Campo del Moro, the large park on the east side of the palace. The green lawn in front of the park offers a beautiful unobstructed view of the palace.
In front of the palace is the Plaza de Oriente, a beautiful square filled with blooming gardens and statues of kings and queens. These statues were intended to be placed on top of the palace but were deemed too heavy.
A great resting spot for weary feet is Cafe de Oriente. It is a bit of a fine-dining experience, but the views of the palace and Plaza de Oriente are unbeatable!