Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Aranjuez, Spain

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 Heritage Site.

After the Christian conquest, Aranjuez was owned by the Order of Santiago and a palace was built for its Grand Masters where the Royal Palace stands today. When the Catholic Monarchs assumed the office of Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, Aranjuez became part of the Royal estate. This fertile land, located between the Tajo and Jarama Rivers, was converted into the Spanish monarchy's most lavish country retreat: during Spain's Golden Age, Aranjuez became a symbol for the perfection of nature by mortal hands, as El Escorial was for art.

Such excellence was based on strong Renaissance foundations, as Charles V envisaged this inherited estate as a large Italian-inspired villa, a desire continued by Philip II who appointed Juan Bautista de Toledo to design leafy avenues that ran through the gardens and farming land. A series of dams was constructed in the 16th century to control the course of the Tajo River and create a network of irrigation canals.

The splendour of the estate was only enhanced by the Bourbon monarchs, who would spend the whole spring, from Easter to July, at the Palace. Phillip V added new gardens and Ferdinand VI designed a new system of tree-lined streets and created a small village within the estate, which was further developed by Charles III and Charles IV. As Ferdinand VII and Isabella II continued to visit Aranjuez during the spring, the splendour of this site was maintained until 1870.

The Royal Palace, built by Phillip II on the site of the old palace of the Grand Masters of Santiago, was designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo –under whom construction began in 1564– and later Juan Herrera, who only managed to finish half the project. Although glimpses of the original layout still remain, the building itself is more characteristic of the classicism favoured by the Hapsburg monarchs, with alternating white stone and brick. The original design was continued by Phillip V in 1715 but not finished until 1752 under Ferdinand VI. The rectangular layout that Juan Bautista de Toledo had planned, and that took two centuries to complete, was only maintained for 20 years, since in 1775 Charles III added two wings onto the Palace.

Real Casa del Labrador

As the Prince of Asturias, Charles IV was a frequent visitor to the pier pavilions built by Ferdinand VI and grew up playing in the Prince’s Garden. When he became King, he decided to build a new country house at the far end of these gardens, known as the Casa del Labrador (the labourer's house) due to its modest exterior that was designed to heavily contrast the magnificent internal decor. It was built by chief architect Juan de Villanueva and his pupil Isidro González Velázquez, who designed some of the interior spaces. These rooms, developed in various stages until 1808, are the greatest example of the lavish interior decor favoured by this monarch in his palaces and country retreats. Highlights at this Site include the combination of different types of art and the luxurious textiles, in particular the silks from Lyon, as well as wealth of original works on the main floor, where Ferdinand VII added various paintings and landscapes by Brambilla.

King's Garden, the Island Garden, Parterre Garden and the Prince's Garden

Phillip II, a great lover of gardens, paid special attention to this feature of the Aranjuez Palace: during his reign, he maintained both the Island Garden, designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, and the King's Garden, immediately adjacent to the Palace and whose current layout was designed by Philip IV. The majority of the fountains on this island were commissioned by Phillip IV, while the Bourbons added other features such as the Charles III benches.

Phillip V made two French-style additions to the existing gardens: the Parterre Garden in front of the palace and the extension at the far end of the Island Garden, known as the Little Island, where he installed the Tritons Fountain that was later moved to the Campo del Moro park by Isabella II.

The Prince's Garden owes its name and creation to the son and heir of Charles III who, in the 1770s, began to use Ferdinand VI's old pier for his own enjoyment. He also created a landscaped garden in the Anglo-French style that was in fashion at the time and which was directly influenced by Marie Antoinette's gardens at the Petit Trianon. Both Juan de Villanueva and Pablo Boutelou collaborated in the design of this garden.

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Details

Founded: 16th century
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Spain

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Kalina Bakalova (3 months ago)
A great place to visit close to Madrid. Ticket was 9 EUR and there were no queues. For me the most unique and spectacular room was the Porcelain room. Simply amazing! I am just sorry I visited in wintertime and the fountains and gardens were not so splendid as in the summer. Overall worth a visit.
Monserrate Malave (4 months ago)
It walk through the palace gives you a perfect 'picture' of the extravaganza of royal monarchs in Spain and in the world, in the past and today. The splurge, the excessive, the extreme. Based on what? Mattew 23: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven."
Wojciech Zawadzki (5 months ago)
The palace is not very beautiful from the outside, but at the back there are large areas for walking and are quite nice. Worth seeing. You can see peacocks in the gardens
Kyra Morris (7 months ago)
It is a nice palace with many different rooms to experience. The gardens were nice, but many of the fountains were not operating when we went.
Sabrina Fenn (8 months ago)
Really nice place with beautiful gardens. Shame the fountains are not always on, especially on the warmest of days. I have attached a photo which shows which people get concessions, otherwise it's €9 to enter the actual building. We arrived a little late to do so, although I have been before many years ago. We did do a walk around the gardens and enjoyed the scent of the roses and seeing the little birds in the aviary. Bear in mind, in the summer it is very hot and often little in the way of shaded areas in some parts of the grounds, however under the trees its a few degrees cooler and rather pleasant. Really worth the visit, very historical and quite romantic. The walks alongside the river are also very nice and I did see some people enjoying jumping from the bridge into the river and also other swimming. I'm not sure how safe that is however so I would ask locals before doing so. There is also a boat trip along the river where you can also see the sights, but best to book as it was already fully booked the day we went.
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