1 Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales
2 Museo de América
3 Museo Lázaro Galdiano
4 Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
5 Museo Sorolla
6 Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
7 Palacio Real
8 Parque del Retiro
9 Plaza Mayor
10 El Prado
7 Palacio Real
With a grand parade ground, fabulous views over the city, imposing staircases and ornate rooms, this is everything that a royal palace should be.
All that is missing is the royal family, who prefer to live in the Zarzuela Palace on the outskirts of Madrid. Today, the grand 250-year-old Palacio Real is used solely for state occasions. To get the most out of your visit, join a 45-minute tour, then wander round at your leisure. As you climb the main staircase imagine the red carpet treatment and guard of honour that greets new ambassadors and visiting heads of state. Each room seems more magnificent than the last. With its backdrop of 17th-century Flemish tapestries, the Sala de Columnas is often used for ceremonies, such as Spain's entry to the European Community (1986) and the Middle East peace accord (1992). Curiously, no one sits on the two thrones in the Throne Room because Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía prefer to stand throughout audiences. Continue past great paintings by Goya and admire ornate clocks, then prepare yourself for Gasparini's Robing Room. This jewel box of a room with its marble floor, decorated walls and encrusted ceiling is now used for taking coffee after state banquets.The banqueting hall has a grand ceiling fresco of Christopher Columbus offering the world to the Reyes Católicos, Fernando and Isabel. Outside the palace, the Real Armería (Royal Armoury) is undergoing a facelift, installing the latest museum technology for its world-class collection. Temporary exhibitions are also held; most are free, with direct access from the street. Visitor-friendly improvements such as a cafeteria and toilets should be installed by 2001. The Real Farmacia (Royal Pharmacy) is also well worth a visit.
Address: Calle Bailén s/n
Phone: 91 542 00 59
Open: Summer: Mon-Sat 9-4, Sun, public hols 9-3. Winter: Mon-Sat 9:30-5, Sun, public hols 9-2. Closed on offical occasions
Restaurant: Plenty near by (Inexpensive)
Bus: 3, 25, 39, 148
Other: Monasterio de la Encarnación
Practical: Multi-lingual guided tours. Changing of the Guard at 12, 1st Wed of month Feb-May, Sep-Dec. Telephone to confirm.
Info: Plaza Mayor 3 Phone: 91 588 16 36