The royal palace located in the town of La Granja de San Ildefonso is about 30 minutes away by bus from Segovia. Unfortunately, there is no direct bus linking Madrid and La Granja. Sarah, Nicole, and I caught the bus to Segovia from the Moncloa bus station and switched buses when we got to Segovia. So it took us awhile to get there. This also explains why there weren’t many foreign tourists at La Granja. There were a few Italian tour groups but the overwhelming majority of visitors were Spanish-speaking. It’s not easy to get to from Madrid; also I think a lot of tourists simply don’t know it exists.
The palace was built at the foot of Sierra de Guadarrama mountains. A hunting lodge was originally built on the site, commissioned by King Henry IV in the 15th century. Some monks built a farm nearby, which is a granja in Spanish, so hence the name. In the 1700s, King Philip V, no doubt inspired by his grandfather’s Louis XIV formidable residence in France, started building a new palace modeled on the palace of Versailles and its gardens. The palace was intended to be a retreat from courtly life, but eventually became the center of royal government.
I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside the palace, which is too bad because most of the ceilings were covered by exquisite mythological frescoes and there were the most sumptuous looking chandeliers dangling from the ceiling. So to make up for it, I took many, many pictures of the magnificent and extensive gardens.
I previously visited La Granja when I was an undergrad and studying abroad in Malaga in the south of Spain. I remembered the gardens were pretty vast–however I had forgotten just how vast they were (more than 1500 acres according to Wikipedia). In fact, if you visit, you will probably forget what the inside of the palace looks like because the gardens are just that impressive. If you don’t want to visit the palace, that’s okay because entry to the gardens is free!
I have to warn you guys that I took A LOT of pictures of fountains… but that’s because there are SO MANY fountains in these gardens! And lots of statues of figures of Greek mythology.
And the above pictures were taken simply just walking outside of the palace and up the main alley!
The sign says that the labyrinth is open to the public but to please keep the door shut in order to keep out the deer. Yes, there is also a labyrinth you can enter and probably spend hours getting lost in. I ventured in for a little bit but I didn’t stay too long because Nicole and Sarah opted to wait for me outside.
I’ll post the rest of the La Granja gardens in a separate post.