59. Royal Palace of La Granja, San Ildefonso
It's said that on a hunt in the mountain range of the Mad-
rid region, King Philip V was so impressed by the beauty
of the area -- which belonged to a farm ( granja , in Span-
ish) owned by friars of a nearby monastery - that he built
a small baroque palace here, complete with large gardens,
as a summer residence.
The work began in 1721, but the project was expanded in-
to a larger complex, which the king called his “Small Ver-
sailles.” Extra care was given the gardens. King Philip en-
joyed the place so much that he decided to end his life
here. Later monarchs used the palace as summer residen-
The main building is a typical baroque construction, with four pointed towers and an ornate
façade, characterized by its row of columns. The interior houses several centuries of import-
ant art and furniture. The surrounding area has several squares, whose names indicate their
former use: Palace Square, Market Square, Canons Square, Barley Square, etc. The gardens
occupy 113 acres and are among the finest in all of Europe. Its beauty easily matches that of
the Aranjuez (another famous royal summer residence).
Don't miss the massive fountains, with figures based on fables, poems and mythological
themes. They're remarkable for their sheer size, detail, and complex waterworks.
Image Credit: The facade of the palace. Image by Ignacio Revuelta .
When It's Free
Admission is free on Wednesday and Thursdays in the afternoon, for EU and Latin America
citizens or residents. Free access also for large families, Spanish citizens 5 to 16, students
under 25, and seniors over 65 that are citizens of the EU. Entrance is also free for everyone
on May 18, International Museum Day .