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Day Trip to the Royal Palace of El Pardo
Calle de Manuel Alonso s/n,
28048 El Pardo (Madrid)
Tel: 913-761-500 (Call Monday to Friday between 10:30 and 17:00H.)
Call a few days before the trip to see if the palace will be open on the day you want to go. If there is a visiting head of state, the palace will be closed to visitors.
Go to the Moncloa Intercambiador (metro and bus terminal). Look for dársena 14. When the Bus 601 arrives, get on the bus and pay the bus driver. The ride costs less than 2 euros.
The Royal Palace of El Pardo is located about 14 km away from Madrid and is easy to get to because there is frequent bus service to the palace. The trip from Madrid takes only about 15 minutes.
The Palace is set in a wooded area that is known as El Monte de El Pardo. This area has oak trees and is a hunting reserve. The medieval kings enjoyed hunting here. Henry III built a small hunting lodge here in 1405. In 1543 Carlos I had a big palace created by the architect Luis de Vega. The new building had a rectangular ground plan and was made of stone and brick, with four corner towers. Felipe II had the roofs tiled with slate and had works of art installed in the palace. In 1604 a fire destroyed half of the building. Felipe IV and Felipe V added additions to the Pardo.
Carlos III was the king who did the most for the palace. He had six children and he wanted palace additions to house all of his family after the death of his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony. He chose Francisco Sabatini for this work, which was finished in 1776. Sabatini replicated the building and turned it into an 18th century palace. The galleries in the courtyards were glassed-in. Sabatini also designed the interiors. Tapestries were needed to insulate the insides of the building, since the Royal Family lived here also during winter, so the Royal Santa Barbara Tapestry Factory was ordered to produce these tapestries. This palace is the one with the most tapestries and the tapestries are in very good condition and the majority are not faded. One can see that the tapestries were custom made for the rooms, because in many cases they occupy whole walls of the rooms. Many of the tapestries were made using the cartoons of Francisco Goya, the court painter.
Kings after Carlos III all enjoyed this palace and occupied it, making several alterations. In 1940 the dictator Francisco Franco lived in this palace until his death in 1975. Since 1982 the palace is the Residence for Foreign Heads of State, and when a head of state is in the palace, the palace is closed to the public.
There are extensive gardens around the palace, with small fountains, but the best manicured are those directly in front of the main facade and across the side door that gives entry to the palace to visitors. This last garden has a fountain with a figure surrounded by ducks, which is quite unusual.
One can visit the palace, but only with the professional tour guide of the palace. There is always a guard who brings up the rear of the group to close the lights and to safeguard the palace. There are two large courtyards that are completely covered with glass and awnings to control the amount of sunlight that is needed. One of these is used for banquets for visiting heads of state. Usually the heads of state eat only breakfast at the palace, so the breakfast is provided by the kitchens of the Ritz Hotel.
The palace has many beautiful and one of a kind French chandeliers. All the ceilings are decorated with paintings and frescoes, as well as big gold medallions. There are large gold framed mirrors on the walls, and French style furniture, all in very good condition, with recent refurbishing of the materials. The curtains are beautiful and match the furniture fabrics. There is a large clock collection that Carlos III owned, all of the clocks being in running condition. Many times the carpet designs match the ceiling designs. The amount of art work in the palace is very impressive, including paintings and sculptures. There is a small chapel in the palace where a few people can pray and hear Mass. There is a big royal chapel in a separate building that is also beautiful and many times this chapel is used for concerts and cultural events. All in all, the palace is one of the most beautiful of the royal palaces in Spain.
One can see the apartments where heads of state stay, which has some modern sofas. It is worthy of being the Residence for Foreign Heads of State, and visiting heads of state will not find fault with anything in the palace.
Across the palace there is a small square that has a small tearoom called La Marquesita, which is a very cute tearoom that has many wonderful pastries. There are many restaurants near the palace where one can eat very well also.