After a few tries, we finally visited the Madrid Royal Palace. The first time we tried to go, it happened to be one of the rare few days that the site is closed for official ceremonies. No worries! We went back another day, though unfortunately there is no free time for Americans. Latin American and EU citizens however do have particular times they can enter without paying.
Madrid’s Palacio Real has the largest floor area of any of Europe’s royal castles, a fact which is hard to appreciate until you’re inside. The front gates (not pictured) and facade are reminiscent of Versailles, though I liked the interior of the Palacio Real much more! A lot of the rooms in Versailles are covered and there are modern videos and miniature reconstructions. The only room in which you can get a feel for the way it looked in its prime is the Hall of Mirrors, which are magnificent. However, at the Palace, a lot more has been left original and you can get more of a sense of the grandeur of being in a palace that housed monarchies.
At the palace currently is an art exhibition titled “From Caravaggio to Bernini,” which features paintings and sculptures from these two Italian masters and others of their like. I love Bernini, so it was quite a treat to get to see some of his works without having to visit Italy. The below painting by Caravaggio stunned us due to its use of light– somehow, a man with paints and a brush managed to paint these lifelike figures with life-like shadows and textures.
Every room in the palace had beautiful, ornate paintings on the ceiling. We always made sure to look up first to make sure we got a good look. Some of the rooms (in which photography was not allowed) were breathtaking. One room’s walls were covered in sculpted flowers, vines and birds, reaching up to cover the ceiling. Another had sections of porcelain completely covering the wall, with beautiful 3-D floral motifs. The vines in the panels hid the joints where the different panels came together.
Also included in the palace is the Royal Armory, a section which enchanted my father when he came to visit. Like many of the rest of the palace’s rooms, there was no photography allowed. It was incredible to see the different suits of armor, horse armor and weapons from the medieval era. Some of the suits of armor are quite small! Some of them were made for children, not for wartime use, so that explains some of it. However, many of the serviceable pieces were for men shorter than me! It’s always interesting how we think of tall, gallant knights in armor when they were actually not quite tall at all for the modern day person! Overall, it was quite a luxury to tour the palace– we kept joking that we wouldn’t mind moving in here at all!