I recently returned from a trip to the lovely city of Madrid and was taken aback by how much I enjoyed my time there. I think Madrid is sometimes over shadowed by the allure of Barcelona, which attractively pairs culture and history with beaches and clubs. However, I loved Madrid and was already thinking about how much I would like to return before I left the airport to go home.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed the famous Prado gallery, I knew I would, it was delightful but not surprising! Somewhere which took me by surprise was the Palacio Réal of which I had heard nothing. It’s a large building which faces the city’s main cathedral (grey and ugly on the outside, modern and colourful within) across a wide square with views across to the hills from an arched walkway. As a visitor, you are directed through the entrance up the main stairway and, as you begin to take in the heavy chandeliers and colourful murals, you enter another world.
This palace is huge. When it was built by King Phillip V in the eighteenth century he wanted it to be the largest palace in the world. It never was, but his ambition gives you an impression of the scale of the thing. It is the largest palace in Europe by area with over 3000 rooms. Thankfully visitors are only allowed to see a few and those on show were more than enough!
Each room that you walk into is decorated in a totally different style and each room is louder and more ostentatious than the last. From a room entirely decorated – floor to ceiling – in ceramics fixed with tiny, hidden screws, to priceless paintings and a unique Stradivarius quartet, each room provoked either shock or delight.
Unfortunately, they were fairly strict about not taking photos, but I’ve tried to find some online that I can drop in to demonstrate the extravagance of the interior.
I need to clarify that this palace is by no means tasteful! The room where everything is yellow is bound to give you a headache – it’s not a place to go for decorating tips. The aim of the game was to impress visitors with the royal’s wealth. The pictures really don’t do it justice.
I was surprised because I had never heard of this palace as one of the must-sees of Europe. Everyone talks about Versailles (and for good reason), yet this palace surely rivals it in luxury even if it doesn’t have the iconic history to go with it. If you are ever in the area I would 100% recommend a visit. Make sure you also walk down into what’s left of the formal gardens, you can find a shady seat to hide from the sun.
What has your favourite city surprise been? Let me know in the comments?