“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
Our first full day in Madrid and we set out to explore. Max, Ava and I wandered around the Plaza Mayor while Andrew found somewhere to repair his watch band. The plaza is very austere and was completed during 1620 during Felipe III reign. The plaza has quite a history being the site of burning of heretics, the canonization of saints, executions of criminals, royal marriages and even bullfights.
As its near Christmas time the plaza has stalls set up selling everything for Christmas from trees, holly, ornaments and nativity scenes.
I think the most interesting building in the Plaza is the gray spired building covered in murals. Apparently the building is called Casa de la Panaderia, (bakery house) in honor of the bread shop which was once housed there. The building is now a tourist office.
We continued down to the Royal Palace to watch the changing of the guard, similar to that held at Buckingham Palace. The ceremony is only held on the first Wednesday of the month so we were fortunate to be able to see it. The changing of the guard incorporates about 400 people, many of whom are part of the band. Also involved in the ceremony are about 100 horses, some looked like Andalusian and others some form of draft horse. It was a very grand and pompous event.
When the Palace re-opened at 2 pm we went on a guided tour of some of the 2 800 rooms in the Palace. Having a guide was great and a lot of the hidden details you would never notice, like a table top covered in mosaic pieces so tiny you would never have known it was a mosaic or details about the chandeliers.
The palace was built in the early 18th century by Felipe V. Apparently Felipe spent some of his childhood at Versailles while visiting his grandfather Louis XIV which inspired his design of the Palace.
Apart from the entrance and the first couple of rooms, you are not allowed to take photographs, which is a shame because some of the rooms are so remarkably over the top opulent you want to capture them to share with others. Some of the most spectacular rooms were in King Carlos III’s private apartments with their crystal chandeliers, stucco and painted ceilings, silk wallpaper and tapestries.
The banquet hall which although the palace’s largest room it was originally three different rooms which have since been remodelled into one. The table can seat up to 124 people, which takes up the entire room but can be adjusted to a much smaller size. The current king uses this room when dignitaries visit.
During the tour we visited a room which houses five-stringed by Antonio Stradivari. In order to keep the quality of these instruments they have to be played every two months and are often performed in concerts held at the palace. Apparently one of Stradivari’s instruments sold for approximately $12 million dollars.
We did visit the Armería Real (Royal Armory), with historic suits of armor although by this stage everyone was getting tired so we did a cursory look.
On our way back to our apartment we stopped for a Spanish delicacy thick hot chocolate with churros. I have to say it was very rich and filling I don’t we will be doing it often.
Royal Palace Tourist Information
- Winter hours: October to March │ 10 am – pm
- Summer Hours: April to September │ 10 am – 8 pm
- Closed: January 1st, 6th, May 1st, October 12th until 5 pm, December 24th from 3 pm, 25th, 31st from 3 pm
- Adults – €10 │ Children aged 5 – 16 years, Students up to 25 years, people over 65 years – €5 │ Children under 5 years old – free
Duration of Visit:
- Approximate time for visits without a guide to the halls – 45 minutes, the Royal armoury – 30 minutes
- There are guides at the palace which charge €4 on top of the entrance fee to guide you through the palace and very worth doing. I think our tour went for about an hour and half.
- Alternatively you can get a google play guide download for your phone for your visit for $1.90 in 16 different languages.