Spain’s centuries-long history has bestowed hundreds of palaces throughout its regions. Some, however, are exceptional for their remarkable beauty or historical significance. Difficult as it may be to judge, these may well be Spain’s most beautiful palaces.
Any discussion of Spain’s palaces will swiftly bring to mind the Alhambra. This monumental site is rich with outstanding Nasrid-style palaces like the Mexuar Hall and the palaces of Comares, Leones and Partal. The sultan and his court once resided here, as well as the Catholic Monarchs, later on. Subsequently, Emperor Charles V had his very own palace constructed within the Alhambra. Given the breathtaking majesty of the Alhambra, it is no wonder it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Royal Palace of Madrid is the current official residence of the Spanish monarchs, though no monarch since Alphonse XIII has lived there. The palace consists of 3,500 rooms, fourty of which are open to the public. It is western Europe’s largest royal palace extending to 135,000 square metres. Some of the spaces open to visitors include the Columns Hall, the Charles III Hall, the Gala Banquet Hall, the Royal Chapel, the Stradivarius Hall, the Crown Hall and the Throne Room.
The Episcopal Palace in Astorga is quite possibly Spain’s most extraordinary construction of its kind. Reminiscent of a neo-Gothic castle, this late nineteenth-century palace is one of Gaudí’s few works outside of Catalonia. Incidentally, the Episcopal Palace replaced the previous twelfth-century palace, which had been destroyed in a fire. It is worth noting that an audio guided tour is available.
There are dozens of palaces that make Cáceres a monumental city, but the Palace of Toledo-Moctezuma is one of the most astonishing. A fifteenth-century Renaissance palace, though later restored in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Beyond its lovely appearance, this palace is associated with the Aztec princess Isabel of Moctezuma, who married captain Juan Cano Saavedra of Cáceres.
When it comes to sheer magnificence, the Royal Palace in Olite undoubtedly wins top prize. Frankly, it is more a castle than a palace. This French Gothic-style construction was home to the monarchs of Navarre and apparently inspired the famous Spanish poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. The palace interiors and towers are currently open for visitors to enjoy this exceptional site.
The Royal Palace in Aranjuez, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is undeniably one of Spain’s most magnificent palaces. It is the former Order of Santiago’s Master House, constructed by the Catholic Monarchs to serve as their country residence. The Prince’s Garden, the Porcelain Hall, the Hall of Mirrors and the Labrador palazzo are some of its most notable marvels.
The Magdalena Palace is another royal residence located on the Magdalena peninsula in Santander. Curiously, this palace was a wedding gift from Santander City Hall to the nuptial monarchs Alphonse XIII and Eugenia in 1906. Nowadays, the palace hosts conferences and events and its interiors are open to visitors.
The Güell Palace, located in the Ciudad Condal of Barcelona, is one of Spain’s most resplendent. The palace was built between 1886 and 1890 at the behest of businessman, Eusebi Güell, and designed by renowned Catalonian architect Gaudí — his first such commissioned work. On the façade of this palace, some of Gaudi’s characteristic features, like parabolic archways and iron-wrought serpents, can be seen.
The Granja de San Ildefonso Palace is only a fifteen-minute drive from Segovia and really should not be missed if ever in the area. This spectacular palace, known as the ‘little Spanish Versailles’, is accompanied by numerous monumental fountains. From 1723 it became Philip V’s residence and, subsequently, the place from where his son, Louis I, abdicated the throne. The Tapestry Musuem, Lacquer Hall and the Statue Gallery are some of the spaces that are open to the public.
Gaudí’s masterpiece known as the El Capricho, located in Comillas, in Cantabria, is surely one of Spain’s quaintest palaces. This modernist-style palace, built between 1883 and 1885, was commissioned by Máximo Díaz de Quijano. This unique palace includes oriental hints of India and Japan as well as Mudejar and Nasrid artwork.
Casa de las Conchas (“House of Seashells”) is one of Salamanca‘s iconic monuments. This fifteenth-century Mudejar palace derived its name from the three hundred seashells on its façade. It is believed that the reason for these shells may be that Rodrigo Maldonado of Talavera belonged to the Order of Santiago, or it may have been a token of Don Rodrigo’s love for his wife, Juana, whose family used the seashell as a symbol of their nobility.
Choosing the most magnificent palaces in Spain is a challenging task, indeed. Especially as few countries can boast so many palaces of such diverse and exceptional quality as Spain. The next step is to take the time to visit and enjoy all of them.
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