For our visit to the Palacio Real section of Madrid we will begin a the center left of the map at the Puente de Segovia (#6). The Puente de Segovia (Segovia Bridge) was built in 1584 to protect the western approach road to Madrid from the occasional flash flooding of the Manzanares River.
Walking east along the Calle de Segovia we pass first the Parque de Atenas (Athens Park) and then we come to Parque Emir Mohamed I. Spain and Madrid at one time was ruled by the Muslims. Here is located the largest remaining section of the Muslim wall which used to define this section of Madrid. Now in the summer time many open-air concerts are held here.
Still heading west we come to the modern Viaducto (#5) over the Calle de Segovia. From here you can get a good view of this section of the city.
Even though we may be close to the Palacio Real we are going to end our trip there so let us first go south along the winding Calle Beatriz Galindo. Beatriz Galindo (1475 - 1534) was the Latin teacher of the the children of Queen Isabella I.
She was called "La Latina". This area of Madrid is sometimes referred to as the La Latina section
We pass through the Jardines de las Vistillas which provide a good view back towards the Parque Emir Mohammed I and the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena (which we visit later). Continuing south we pass the Plaza Gabriel Miró. Gabriel Miró Ferrer (1879 - 1930) was a Spanish novelist and short-story writer. He was a member of the Generation of 98'.
Continuing south we arrive at one of the principal churches of Madrid, San Francisco el Grande (#7). According to legend this church was built on the site of hermitage where St. Francis of Assisi stayed during pilgrimage to Spain in the 13th century. Although part of the church dates back to the 17th century most of it was rebuilt in the 18th century. While it contains artistic treasures such as paintings by Goya, perhaps the real reason to visit the church is to view its vast dome, which is 108 feet in diameter. The dome is the third largest in the world.
Heading northeast along the Carrera de San Francisco we enter the Plaza Puerta de Moros (Plaza of the Gate of the Moors) and turn north past the church of San Andres. Right next door is the Capilla del Obispo (Bishop's Chapel). This was built in 1535 and is Madrid's best preserved Gothic building. Just behind is the Plaza de la Paja (Straw Square). In medieval times, farmers would come here through the Puerta de Moros, park their carts in the Plaza de los Carros (Wagon square) which is located in front of the Church of San Andres. They would then walk around the side and leave part of their crops for the clergy in the Plaza de la Paja.
Continuing north we come to the church of San Pedro el Real (Royal Church of San Pedro) (#9). This church is well known for two things. First it's 14th century tower leans 25 inches off plumb. It has been steadied to reduce any further tilting, but remains Madrid's answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Inside the church is a painting of the Virgen de la Paloma which is a painting of the Mary with a dove on each side of her. This painting has been the inspiration of one of Madrid's most well known festivals, the Verbena de la Paloma which is held August 6th to 15th.
Continuing north we come to the Casa de la Villa which is the Town Hall. Originally this was a prison and granary. The building dates back to the 17th century.
Continuing north we turn northeast at the Plaza Ramales and come to the Teatro Real (Royal Theatre). Originally there was a theatre here in 1738, but by 1818 it had fallen in disrepair so it was torn down and the new one was designed in 1818. However, it took a long time to build and ask such was opened on November 19,1850 which was the birthday of Queen Isabel II who was a great opera fan. Although not visible in the above map the plaza in front of the Royal Theatre is the Plaza Isabel II.
The Teatro Real was closed in 1925 due to underground flooding which was causing it to begin to collapse. During the Civil War it was used to store gunpowder. In 1965 it was reopened as a concert hall. After an extensive renovation it was once reopened in 1997 as an Opera House. As an interesting note the original architect of the theatre was named Antonio López Aguado. The feminine form of his mother's name "Aguado" is "Aguada", which means "water hole" or "source of water". And as it turns out the Teatre Real was built over an underground lake. This was one of the reasons it took so long to build (and what caused problems later). As a result of the long construction, Antonio López Aguado never lived to see the completion as he died in 1831.
Continuing north we pass the Real Academia de Medicina (Royal Academy of Medicine)
Continuing northwest we can visit the Real Monasterio de la Encarnación. It was founded in 1611 by Philip III's wife. While it contains many fine Spanish paintings and sculptures from the 17th century it is best known for something else. Inside one of its rooms is a cabinet contain a small phial of the blood of San Pantaleón (patron saint of doctors). On the afternoon of his feast day July 27th the blood is said to become fluid and bubble. If it does not, as happened between 1914 and 1918 (the first World War), it is said to indicate impending disaster.
Continuing north we enter the Plaza Marina Española and the location of the Palacio del Senado. The Senado (Senate) represents the one house of the Spanish Parliment, the Congreso de los Diputados being the other one. (The Congreso de los Diputados is discussed in the Plaza Puerta del Sol/Plaza Mayor section.) The Senado is not as powerful as the Congreso de los Diputados. The Parliament was originally established in 1812 and only had one body. In 1834, Queen Cristina decided that the Parliament should contain a separate body consisting of nobles, leading taxpayers, church officials and others appointed by the Crown. Under the constitution of 1837 it was formerly established that the Parliament would contain two bodies. Currently there are 259 Senators. Each district elects four senators and Ceuta and Melilla (two cities located on the Morocco coast) elect two Senators each. In addition each provence appoints one senator and an additional senator for each million inhabitants. Currently 51 Senators are appointed. The Communidad de Madrid currently appoints 6 Senators.
Going south along the Calle de Bailén we pass by the Jardines de Sabatini (Gardens of Sabatini). These were constructed in the 1930's on the location of the former palace stables which were designed by Francisco Sabatini.
Continuing south we pass the Jardines del Cabo Noval. These were built in 1912 to commorate Corporal Noval, who was the hero of the War of Morocco (1909). He sacrificed his life in a dangerous action that enabled his fellow soldiers to be saved.
Next to the Jardines del Cabo Noval is the Plaza de Oriente (#14). The Plaza de Oriente (East Square) is called this because while it sits on the western side of Madrid it is on the east side of the Palacio Real. Inside the square are 44 statues of Spanish rulers. They were originally to sit along the rooftop of the Palacio Real, but were found to be too heavy. In the center of the Square is a statue of Felipe IV. The statue has the horse of the King rearing on its hind legs. This presented a problem because they were afraid that the horse would break or fall over because of the weight. Before making the statue they consulted with Galileo who told them to make the front of the horse hollow and the back solid. The statue is based on a design by Velázquez.
Even though we are across the street from the Palacio Real we are going to make that our final destination so we continue south to the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena (#11). Nuestra Señora de la Almudena is the female patron saint of Madrid. The Cathedral was finished in 1998 but it was begun 350 years before that. Until that time Madrid did not have a Cathedral. Across from the Cathedral is the Muralla de Madrid. This is part of a wall constructed over 1000 years ago by the Muslim rulers to protect the southern and western portion of the town.
Next to the Palacio Real are the Campo del Moros (Camp of the Moors). In 1109 a Moorish army set up camp here. Later this area was used as a jousting ground for knights. In the 19th century this area was used as the playgrounds for the royal children. It was first opened to the public in 1931, but closed under Franco. In 1983 it was once again open to the public. The Campo del Moros is now a large garden with woods, fountains and statues. Inside the Campo del Moros is the Museo de Carruajes (Carriage Museum). It houses official royal carriages, but is not presently open to the public.
After this we are ready to visit the Palacio Real (#12). You should reserve at least a half of a day to visit the Palace. Sixteen rooms are opened to the public. When the Palace was originally opened to the public in 1958 there were 80 rooms that could be visited. This is even not close to the total number of rooms in the Palace which is 2,800! The original palace was built around 1537. It was made of stone and wood. On December 24, 1734, a huge fire destroyed the palace and also many works of art contained within.
King Felipe V immediately began plans to build a new palace. On April 7, 1736 the first corner stone was laid. However because the palace was to be built only of stone, (and due to some other delays) it took 36 years to build. By the time it was finished not only had King Felipe V died, but also Fernando VI. King Carlos III was the first King to live in the new palace. So additional work continued through the years with the Dance Hall and Dining Room being constructed in 1879.
The rooms you can visit include the Throne Room, the Royal Armory, the Dining Room, the Pharmacy and the Porcelain Room.