La Granja de San Ildefonso Palace

Segovia, Spain

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 embraced a cour d'honneur on the approaching side, and formal gardens, with a main axis centred on the palace, that were surrounded by woodland in which further hidden garden features were disposed. Like Versailles, La Granja began as a retreat from the court but became a centre of royal government.

When the King decided to abdicate in 1724, his intention was to retire to La Granja. Unfortunately Philip's heir, King Louis I, died that same year, and Philip had to return to the throne. Consequently, a place designed for leisure and quiet retreat thus became an important meeting place for the King, his ministers and the court. The town of San Ildefonso expanded to provide housing and services to the courtiers who wanted a place near the king's favourite residence. Military barracks, a collegiate church (1721–1724), and even a royal glass factory (1728) were built to provide for the palace.

The church was selected as his burial site by Philip, marking a break with his Habsburg predecessors. The frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo, completed by Francisco Bayeu, were badly damaged in a fire of 1918.

Philip's successor Ferdinand VI bequeathed the royal site of San Ildefonso, with all it contained, to his father's second wife, Isabel Farnese. At her death in 1766, it reverted to the Crown in the person of Charles III.

For the next two hundred years, La Granja was the court's main summer palace, and many royal weddings and burials, state treaties, and political events took place within its walls.

Currently the royal site is part the Patrimonio Nacional of Spain, which holds and maintains many of the Crown's lands and palaces. It is a popular tourist attraction, with gardens, and interiors displaying rooms with marble from Carrara, Japanese lacquer, and crystal chandeliers; portraits and other paintings; and a Museum of Flemish tapestries.

Extending over 6.1 km2, the gardens around the palace are one of the best examples of 18th-century European garden design in Spain. The French designer from the official French royal offices of Robert de Cotte was René Carlier, who used the natural slope of the site in the palace grounds design, for enhancing axial visual perspectives, and to provide sufficient head for water to shoot out/up from the twenty-six sculptural fountains in the formal gardens and landscape park.

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San Ildefonso, Segovia, Spain
See all sites in Segovia

Details

Founded: 1721
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Spain

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Mark Buckingham (6 months ago)
Lovely grounds and gardens. Spent a few hours wandering around just enjoying the peace and quiet. Really well kept grounds and not too busy when we went but I imagine it could be in the summer when everything is open. I would go again but when the fountains are in operation as they were off when we were there.
jmeenan1 (13 months ago)
They check your tempature on arrival at the entrance, really why would you go here if you have high tempature? Most of the staff and gardeners do not wear mas
Luis Bonet (13 months ago)
Wonderful place to visit. This used to be the summer palace of the royal family. It is full of interesting facts. It is even fun for the whole family since they have one of the best gardens out there. Truly special. Don't miss this one.
Ramona Armangoo (14 months ago)
The palace is truly stunning! As we went during the pandemic, it was near to empty so we had the luxury of truly walking around comfortably and taking everything in. Staff all have masks, there is hand sanitizer at the entrance and markings on the floor to keep distance when paying to enter. The garden area is so large, I don't know if you'd be able to see it all. It is gorgeous and relaxing. I would strongly recommend this stunning location.
Wieke Gray (14 months ago)
It's always beautiful, nice easy walk and clean.
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