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     The Royal Palace or Palacio Real in Madrid is a massive, rectangular royal palace built from 1735 to 1764 by Italian architects Pilippo Juvarra and G. B. Sacchetti. The palace was built after the Alcázar of the Hapsburgs, a former medieval fortress, burned in 1734. With 2,800 rooms, over forty balconies, parade grounds, a plaza and a large landscaped park, the Royal Palace is an immense landmark that should be visited with plenty of time to spare.



The Royal Palace is the official residence of the royal family, although they actually reside outside of Madrid and use the palace only for state functions. Its design was based on the Versailles and was built solely from local limestone and granite to ensure it would not be lost to another fire. A visitor enters the palace through the stunning Plaza Oriente that is lined with white marble statues of former queens.


Fifty Sumptuous Rooms to Visit - Fifty rooms of the Royal Palace are available for visitors to tour. All of the rooms are a testament to over-the top royal opulence decorated with velvet, silk, tapestries, wall frescoes, priceless art and artifacts. Of particular note is the throne room or Salón del Trono, where Charles III held court that features red velvet walls, elaborate wall frescoes of the Greek gods and "The Greatness of the Spanish Monarchy" by Italian artist, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.


The Gasparini Room is the former dressing room of Charles III designed by artist Matteo Gasparini featuring intricately embroidered silk walls. The Porcelain Room or Sala de Porcelana, adorned with porcelain china from the kilns of the Royal Factory of El Buen Retiro is also not to be missed. The Royal Palace also features art by Masters such as, Velázquez, Caravaggio and Goya, a collection of medieval armor and a cello-violin by Stradivarius.


Palace Gardens - The Royal Palace garden, known, as the Jardines de Sabatini is a quiet little oasis located north of the palace at the site of the former stables, with statuary, fountains and beautiful landscaped grounds. A larger park, Campo del Moro, a former royal playground, is situated behind the Royal Palace and features a duck pond, fountains with tritons and statuary.


Changing of the Guard - For a special treat, visitors can now witness the ceremonial changing of the guard every Wednesday afternoon. A spectacle of 12 guards and 6 horses, change guard from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM in a ceremony filled with pomp and pageantry.


Gran Via.


The one street you shouldn't miss on your trip to Madrid is the Gran Via, a showcase of early 20th century architecture.


Gran Via

The lively street is one of the city's most important shopping areas. It also contains a large number of hotels and large movie theaters. But what makes this street so special it the architectural design of many of the large buildings. While walking through this crowded street make sure you look up once in a while and admire the often lavishly decorated grand 'edificios'.


Conception

In the mid 19th century, Madrid's urban planners decided that a new thoroughfare had to be created, connecting the Calle de Alcalá with the Plaza de España. The project required many buildings in


Edificio Metropolis (left)

Edificio Grassy (right)

the center of the city to be demolished. Decades after the first plans were made, construction still hadn't started and the media ridiculed the project, cynically calling it the 'Gran Via' or 'Great Road'. Finally in 1904 it was approved and construction started a couple of years later. The last part of the street was completed in 1929.


Grand Edificios

The new road created opportunities for architects, who had the ability to create large buildings in the latest architectural styles. The first eye catching building starting from the Calle de Alcalá is the most famous of all, the Edificio Metrópolis or Metropolis building. The landmark was built between 1907 and 1911 after a design by the architects Jules & Raymond Février. The original statue was


Edificio Telefónica

replaced in 1975 by a statue of a winged Goddess Victoria.


A bit further along the Gran Via, on the left hand side is another landmark, the Edificio Grassy, another corner building with a small tower. It was built in 1917.

From the Edificio Grassy, you can already see the tower of the Telefónica building, a skyscraper built between 1926 and 1929 for the Spanish telecommunications company. The 88m/290ft high building was the largest in Madrid and would have been a good fit inChicago. Not surprisingly, the architect of the Telefónica building was an American, Louis S. Weeks.


Plaza del Callao

If you walk further in the direction of the Plaza de España the Gran


Edificio de España

Via crosses a small square, the Plaza del Callao. This square is the heart of cinematic Madrid, with about six movie theaters. One of them, the Capitol, is located in a beautiful Art Deco building.


Plaza de España

The last part of the Gran Via, constructed between 1925 and 1929 leads to the Plaza de España, a large square dominated by two skyscrapers built in the 1950s, the symmetric Edificio de España and the Torre de Madrid. Here the Gran Via becomes the Calle de Princessa, leading north to the Arco de la Victoria.

Puerta del Sol, Madrid.


The Plaza Puerta del Sol is the perfect starting point to explore Madrid. This bustling, centrally located square is one of the city's most lively places.

The Center of Madrid


Now the heart of Madrid's historic center, this site used to be on the eastern border of the city. The plaza's name originates from the eastern city gate located here in the 15th century. The gate was probably called after a sun drawn on it, hence the name Puerta del Sol or 'Sun Gate'. The current semi-oval square was created in the 19th century.



Today the mostly car-free square is constantly bustling with people. Several often crowded streets radiate from the Puerta del Sol and lead to important sights


Casa de Correos

nearby such as the Plaza Mayor, theOpera House and the Plaza de Cibeles. To the north a couple of wide pedestrianized shopping streets lead to the Gran Via.


Casa de Correos


In the middle of the Puerta del Sol is a large equestrian statue of King Carlos III, installed here in 1997. The King looks out on a beautiful 18th century red brick building, the Casa de Correos. It was erected in 1768 as the city's main post office after a design by the French architect Jacques Marquet. The clock tower was added later, in 1866.


Kilometer 0

In the 19th century the building housed the Interior Ministry. Later, during the regime of dictator Franco it served as the headquarters of the Security Police, who imprisoned political dissidents here. Today the stately building houses the regional government of Madrid.


In front of the Casa de Correos, on the pavement, is the 'kilometer 0' plaque, marking the center of the Spanish road network.


El Oso y El Madroño

It is the starting point from where all the highway distances are measured.


El Oso y El Madroño


The Puerta del Sol is also the location of the most famous symbol of Madrid: a 20 ton statue of a bear eating fruits from a tree. The official name of the statue is 'El Oso y El Madroño'. The Madroño is a tree related to the strawberry tree. The female bear symbolizes the fertile soil of Madrid and the tree symbolizes the aristocracy.