Madrid’s Royal Palace is no longer where the Spanish royal family resides but one peek inside is enough to tell you that this place has seen its share of royalty over the ages. The enormous palace was built in 1738 after its predecessor was destroyed by fire in 1734. It boasts some 3,400 rooms and is packed with extravagant ornamentation and an impressive collection of furniture, paintings, musical instruments, books and weapons.
Whether you choose to join a guided tour or go it alone, you’ll probably start by climbing the 70 steps that make up the appropriately named Grand Staircase. This will take you through to the palace's banquet halls and residential quarters. King Carlos III gave the orders as to how these rooms were to be fitted, and he certainly knew how to impress. His own quarters are open to the public too so you'll get a chance to savour his own unrestrained choice of luxurious furniture and artworks.
The Throne Room successfully attempts to dazzle guests with chandeliers and mirrors, while the tapestries here are pretty impressive too. The ceiling is adorned with a Giambattista Tiépolo fresco, “The Glory of Spain”, which can only be described as a masterpiece.
If that's not enough, you'll find another work by Tiépolo in the Hall of Halberdiers. Continue into the Royal Chapel and admire the beautiful marble-work and gold trimmings. The Royal Library is an interesting stop on the tour of the palace, displaying rare books and documents alongside drawings and maps and an assortment of Stradivarius violins.
Art lovers will be impressed by the collection in the Painting Gallery. You’ll see works by Velázquez, El Greco, Goya and Caravaggio to name but a few. If you carry on into the Royal Armouries, you'll be able to see some of the weapons and armour that members of the royal family have worn and fought in over the centuries. The Royal Pharmacy, meanwhile, will transport you into a world of old medicine bottles, cabinets and ancient medical gear.
The Royal Palace is located in central Madrid and is accessible via Ópera metro station. It's open seven days a week except on public holidays.
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