It was the year 1734 when a fire practically destroyed the Real Alcázar of Madrid. This episode served King Philip V to justify the construction of a new palace according to the tastes of the time. On that way it began the history of the Royal Palace of Madrid, one of the tourist landmarks of the city, and the largest in Western Europe: 135,000 m2 and its 3,418 rooms. It remains the official residence of the King of Spain, although the current monarchs do not reside in it and its use is limited to state ceremonies.
Back to its origins, when Felipe V decided to build it on the site left by the Real Alcázar, the foundations of the latter were used as a base in some parts. Filippo Juvara was the architect in charge of designing it. Interestingly, the Italian proposed a major palace in a different location than Philip V flatly refused, and after the death of the artist, his disciple Juan Bautista Sachetti was forced to adapt the plans of the former to the site of the old Alcázar. Its construction began in 1738, and other illustrious architects left their mark on some of the parts of this immense work. Ventura Rodríguez designed the Royal Chapel, being closely linked to the building, since it was formed during the construction of this building, being the first draftsman, and then the works’ planter from a young age. The building was concluded by Francesco Sabatini, famous architect of Carlos III and responsible for one of the major renovations that Madrid has suffered throughout its long history.
Its enormous surface makes it the largest palace in Europe and one of the largest in the world. It is practically twice as big as Buckingham Palace or Versailles, which is a sample of the enormous work done. In 2016, it received 1.4 million visits, being the seventh most visited monument in Spain.
State halls and artistic collections are open to visitors, as long as no official acts are held. The historical-artistic heritage of its interior is unique. Highlights the set of instruments known as the Palatine Stradivarius, consisting of two violins, two cellos and a viola, made by the famous Antonio Stradivari. Felipe V commissioned them, being acquired in 1775 by Carlos III. Other collections belonging to painting, sculpture and upholstery crown the interiors of the palace. Suffice it to say that it has works by Caravaggio, Velázquez, Goya, or Giaquinto among others. Also to mention what refers to the Royal Armory, porcelain, watchmaking, furniture and silverware.
As a curiosity, it is also known as Palacio de Oriente, despite being located in the western part of Madrid. This denomination comes from the Plaza de Oriente, named after being located east of the palace, right in the middle of this and the Teatro Real.
Carlos III was the first to inhabit it continuously, and the last monarch to reside in it was Alfonso XIII. We say monarch because until the very Manuel Azaña used during the Second Republic the rooms that had previously occupied the Queen Maria Cristina. During that period it was known as the National Palace. Moreover, there is still a room next to the Royal Chapel that is known as “Azaña’s office”.
The Royal Palace continues to witness the history of Madrid, a true survivor of wars, revolts and changes of Government. At its door – there is a plaque that remembers it – the famous events of May 2 began, when the people of the capital took up arms against the occupation of the French troops. Many years have passed since its construction, and many will pass in front of its walls, gardens and statues, which continue to receive the large numbers of tourists who visit it day after day…