Royal sites in Spain

Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid) is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid, but it is only used for state ceremonies. Several rooms in the palace are regularly open to the public except during state functions. The palace is located on the site of a 9th-century Alcázar (Muslim-era fortress), near the town of Magerit, constructed as an outpost by Muhammad I of C ...
Founded: 1738-1755 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Royal Palace of La Almudaina

The Royal Palace of La Almudaina, Spanish Palacio Real de La Almudaina, is the Alcázar (fortified palace) of Palma, the capital city of the Island of Majorca, Spain. Built as an Arabian Fort, the crown claimed it as official royal residence in the early 14th century. Inside are many empty rooms, however, when King James II began restoration, his design plan included the encompassing of the small, romanesque Chap ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Palma, Spain

Walls and Alcazar of Segovia

The first defences for the walled town of Segovia were probably built in the Roman era. The current walls and Alcazar (fortress) are medieval. The Alcazar has since been used as a palace and a prison, but is now open to tourists. The walls fell into decline but more recently attempts have been made to preserve them and you can still walk along some parts of the walls. Together with the historic old town of Segovia, the wa ...
Founded: Middle Ages | Location: Segovia, Spain

El Escorial

The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, commonly known as El Escorial, is a historical residence of the King of Spain about 45 kilometres northwest of Madrid. It is one of the Spanish royal sites and has functioned as a monastery, basilica, royal palace, pantheon, library, museum, university and hospital. El Escorial comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: the royal ...
Founded: 1563 | Location: San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Palacio Real de Aranjuez is a former Spanish royal residence. It was established around the time Philip II of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid. Aranjuez became one of four seasonal seats of government, occupied during the springtime (from about holy week). Thereafter, the court moved successively to Rascafría, El Escorial and wintered in Madrid. Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is an UNESCO World Heritag ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Aranjuez, Spain

Royal Palace of Valladolid

The Royal Palace of Valladolid was the official residence of the Kings of Spain during the period in which the Royal Court had its seat in Valladolid between 1601 and 1606, and a temporary residence of the Spanish Monarchs from Charles I to Isabella II, as well as of Napoleon during the War of the Independence. Currently is the headquarters of the 4th General Sub-inspection of the Army. Despite the fact that ki ...
Founded: 1601 | Location: Valladolid, Spain

La Granja de San Ildefonso Palace

The Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, known as La Granja, is an early 18th-century palace located in the hills near Segovia.  The site was purchased from the monks in 1719 by King Philip V, after his summer palace nearby at Valsaín burned down. Beginning in 1721, Philip began building a new palace and gardens modeled on Versailles, built by his grandfather, Louis XIV of France. Like Versailles it embrac ...
Founded: 1721 | Location: Segovia, Spain

Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas

The Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas is a monastery of Cistercian nuns located approximately 1.5 km west of the city of Burgos. Historically, the monastery has been the site of many weddings of royal families, both foreign and Spanish, including that of Edward I of England to Eleanor of Castile in 1254, for example. In 1187, Pope Clement III issued a papal bull authorising the founding of a ...
Founded: 1187 | Location: Burgos, Spain

Royal Palace of El Pardo

The Royal Palace of El Pardo is a historic building near Madrid, in the present-day district of Fuencarral-El Pardo. It is owned by the Spanish state and administered by the Patrimonio Nacional agency. The palace began as a royal hunting lodge. It became an alternative residence of the kings of Spain until the reign of King Alfonso XII of Spain, who died in the palace in 1885. King Henry III of Castile ordered ...
Founded: 1547-1558 | Location: Fuencarral-El Pardo, Spain

Royal Palace of Riofrío

The Royal Palace of Riofrío is one of the residences of Spain"s royal family. Situated in the municipality of San Ildefonso, in the province of Segovia, central Spain, the building is set in a wooded deer-park. Queen Elisabeth Farnese was widowed in 1746, her husband King Philip V being succeeded by Ferdinand VI, her step-son. As such, to ensure that Elisabeth would remain away from the court, King Ferdin ...
Founded: 1752-1759 | Location: Segovia, Spain

Royal Convent of Santa Clara

The Santa Clara buildings were originally built by King Alfonso XI as his palace in 1344. His son Peter the Cruel had it embellished by Mudéjar artists, beautiful works at Santa Clara, though on a much smaller scale than they did in the Alcázar of Seville. The facade, a lovely small patio, a chapel and the baths remain of Peter the Cruel"s palace. Blanche de Bourbon was held here after her abandonment by Pe ...
Founded: 1344 | Location: Tordesillas, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.