I am almost losing my steam for these Madrid posts...we've been away from the city for nearly three months, which is probably most of my problem, and it's about two and a half months until we return (time is really ticking), but I'm trying to slowly but surely check them off my list as I have a just a few more great places around town that we visited to share. Next up, the Palacio Real, or the Royal Palace.
We first checked out the Palacio Real from the outside on our third day in Spain, over the weekend when we were just starting to get acquainted with Madrid. We were figuring out the Metro system (we didn't have our monthly passes yet, so I'm pretty sure we walked there) and where exactly we were in relation to everything else in the city, and got there as the sun was setting.
Throughout our six months in Madrid, we saw the Palacio Real from the outside many times, but not until our final week in Spain did we take a tour of the inside. It's 10€ to tour the palace (at the time of writing) which includes a handheld audioguide, and no photos are allowed past a certain point (the grand staircase), but we really enjoyed our time. It's the official residence of Spain's royal family, but isn't currently lived in - it's only used for state ceremonies and the like. Carlos III began using it in 1764, and it was inhabited by Spanish monarchs until 1931.
And across the way, the Catedral de la Almudena...see our visit to Madrid's cathedral here.
The Palacio Real has 3,418 rooms, and is the largest royal palace in Europe in terms of floor area. On our tour we began at the Grand Staircase and continued through various royal apartments, halls, and went outside to reach the armory.
I particularly enjoyed this tour not only because the audio guide was good, but because we'd seen the building so much throughout the past six months and to finally see what it was all about inside was really fun. When we've visited other cities, we're usually there for just a few days, see the outside of a building or palace for a couple of minutes and take some pictures, go inside for a tour, and move on. But the Palacio Real was/is a part of our city, and depending on how you look at it, our neighborhood (4 minute drive, 15 minute walk from our apartment this past year). It's nice to see the palace whether in person or in a picture now and be able to picture the inside (parts of it, at least - only a small percentage of the rooms are open to the public), to have a fuller idea of what it's really like. So, check it out if you're in Madrid. It's well worth a visit and definitely one of the city's top sights in my opinion.