Palacio Real visitors should prepare themselves to be wowed, especially if they venture inside the sprawling complex to get a look at some of the more than 2,000 rooms. The Madrid Royal Palace is a most impressive palace, its size intended to dwarf the other palaces on the European continent at the time. Spain's Royal Family no longer occupies the huge edifice, partly because of the fact that it is simply too large, though it nonetheless maintains its role as the official residence of the King. From time to time, State Ceremonies are held at the Royal Palace, as well as other official events.
The Madrid Royal Palace was commissioned by the first Bourbon King of Spain, Felipe V, and work on the massive palace was completed in 1764. Formerly occupying the site of the Palacio Real was an old fortress from the country's Moorish era. The Moorish-era palace burned to the ground in 1734, thus making way for the Italianate baroque mega-palace that you will find today. The Madrid Palacio Royal history is an interesting one, and you might be interested to know that Felipe V and the original architect from Italy didn't survive to see the completion of their grand project.
The Madrid Royal Palace occupies a prime piece of Madrid real estate. Found on the west side of the capital city, it sits perched above the Manzanares River. To the west of the palace and the river, the Casa de Campo unfolds, and fantastic views of this large park and gardens area can be enjoyed from the palace's Plaza de Armas. On clear days, you can also see mountains rising up in the distance. After enjoying the views from this large plaza, visitors might opt to check out the Royal Pharmacy and the Royal Armory. Both of these small museums of sorts can be accessed from the plaza and are extremely fascinating. The Royal Pharmacy features all kinds of medical concoctions from centuries gone by. In the Royal Armory, you can examine the most complete collection of weaponry found anywhere in Spain, with the majority of the display pieces dating back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
On a visit to the Palacio Real, the urge to explore the building's interior is bound to be a strong one, and by all means, going inside and taking a look at the state apartments and other rooms is recommended. Of the approximately 2,800 rooms in the Palacio Real, 50 or so are open to the general public, and they are nothing short of spectacular. You can access the palace interior on the north side of the Plaza de Armas, and as soon as you enter, you will be greeted by an opulent staircase that hints at the extravagance of the place.
In the many rooms that visitors can wander in and out of at the Palacio Real, rich tapestries, breathtaking chandeliers, and priceless porcelain pieces add to the opulent edge. There is no shortage of antiques found throughout, and masterful works by such renowned artists as Velazquez, Goya, Tiepolo, and Caravaggio adorn the walls and ceilings—a perfect touch in a city known for such a renowned museum as the Prado Museum. One of the most impressive paintings is the ceiling mural by Tiepolo in the Throne Room. Guided Palacio Real tours are available in English, and they give tremendous insight into the various rooms and their contents.
The Palacio Real is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. For those who are interested in the guided Palacio Real tours, all you have to do is inquire about them when paying your admission fee. Both guided and independent tours can be enjoyed at the Madrid Royal Palace, and you can pay a little extra for a side tour of a painting gallery if you please. It is worth noting that a Royal Palace changing of the guard ceremony takes place at noon on the first Wednesday of the month. You might try to plan your palace visit around this monthly event should you be in town at the right time.
Palacio Real tours can easily be paired with a number of other rewarding pursuits when trying to find things to do in Madrid. Not far from the palace is the Templo de Debod, for example, and this ancient Egyptian temple certainly merits a look. Other attractions that are within easy reach of the palace are the Almudena Cathedral and the Plaza Mayor.