We booked into the Paradore of La Granja de San Ildefonso for three days as a relaxing break from sightseeing. The ‘town’ is actually the Royal Palace of La Granja1 with its grounds. The town around the palace includes the necessary associated facilities to service the palace, and homes for aristocrats.
A brief history of the palace
Henry IV (1425-1494) love hunting so built a hunting lodge and a chapel dedicated to San Ildefonso on the northern side of the Guadarrama mountains. In 1477 the Catholic Kings (Ferdinand and Isabella) gave the buildings to the monks of the Monastery of Santa Maria del Parral in Segovia. This was a closed monastery belonging to the Order of St Jerome.
In 1720 Philip V (1683-1746) bought the estate from the monks in order to built a royal residence which was more relaxed than the court. The palace was completed in 1724 (a remarkable achievement) and his widow completed the associated buildings after his death. The king and queen are both buried in the Chapel at the palace.
From the mid-1700s onwards the palace increased in importance. It became the royal residence during the hot summer months and the seat of the court. It was only during the reign of Isabella II (1833-68) that the popularity of the palace waned. Railways made travel easier and it became more fashionable to visit the sea. The use of the palace as an official residence seems to have ended after 1931 when the reign of Alfonso XIII ended.
View of the palace
As you walk up the Calle Alameda you see the palace through a curtain of giant redwood trees – quite magnificent. The two particularly old trees date from c.1860. They are El Rey and La Raina.
Photography is forbidden inside the palace.
The palace from the gardens
There are many views of the palace from the gardens and because it is so big and there are so many trees it is actually quite difficult to photograph!
The gardens are quite amazing and I loved walking here. They cover 6 square kms. There are formal gardens, avenues, woods, fountains and waterways and wonderful trees. Several more posts to follow!
The palace of La Granja is extravagant and lavish, as you might expect. There are guided tours, but no interior photography. The tapestry collection is particularly beautiful. But it is the gardens which are most memorable.