La Granja de San Ildefonso: luxury royal residence in Segovia
Only 80 kilometers from Madrid, on the slopes of the Sierra de Guadarrama, lies the sumptuous summer residence of the Spanish kings, the sumptuous palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso.
Once upon a time, back in the Middle Ages, this area belonged to the monastery of El Parral. The monastery had a farm, which later gave the palace its name, because in Spanish the farm sounds like La Granja.
The Spanish King Philip V liked to hunt in these places. He was so fascinated by the surrounding landscape that he decided to buy the land from the monastery, and build a small hunting lodge for himself. This event occurred in the early XVIII century.
Photo: aperez1121/pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons)
During the construction, new ideas arose and were put into practice. The size of the building gradually increased and when the work was completed it was no longer a small hunting lodge, but a magnificent palace, which is rightly called a “little Versailles”. It became the summer residence not only of Philip V, but also of his successors.
The palace is surrounded by incredibly beautiful gardens. There are more than 20 sculptural fountains. All the sculptures are devoted to the Greek mythology. But not only fountains decorate the gardens. There are statues of white marble, and vases of the XVIII century, and flower beds. These gardens, created by the French master René Carlieret, are one of the best examples of eighteenth-century gardens extant.
The system of pipes and the structure of the fountains, thought out and built in the distant days of Isabella II, is still working properly today. On May 30th, July 25th and August 25th it is possible to see it in full splendour: on those days all the fountains are turned on. On the other days, only some of them work.
Now the palace and its gardens are accessible to the public. What’s there to see? There are preserved furniture of the XVIII and XIX centuries, frescoes decorating the vaults, paintings and tapestries. The latter museum occupies 24 rooms!
You can visit the royal chapel and the cathedral, which became a luxurious mausoleum for King Philip V.
You can also visit the museum of tapestries, the portrait gallery, walk through the rooms of the palace, see the Queen’s bedroom and antechamber, visit the cabinet of colors and the mirror dining room.
La Granja de San Idelfonso: a trip from Madrid
On our trip through Spain in April and May of this year, we took a day trip from Madrid to Segovia. From Segovia, where we spent most of the day, we also had time to go to the royal palace of La Granja, about 15 km from the city.
1. Actually we wanted to leave early for Madrid because of the bad weather, but it turned out that there were no more tickets for the daytime high-speed trains. I opened the guidebook, saw that there was a beautiful palace with a park and fountains nearby, we took a cab and in fifteen minutes we were there. This is the palace itself and the adjoining church.
2. There are 2 sequoias growing in front of the entrance, uncharacteristic of the area. They are called the king and queen. One of the trees is just in the center of the photo.
3. The palace was recently restored, but they don’t let you film there… it’s a mystery to me. But you can take pictures in the park. We bought a combined ticket that gave us access to both the park and the palace. It cost less than 10 euros. In the palace itself is beautiful, quiet, a little bit at home, it is very human-sized, not pressing with the height of the ceiling and decorative elements. But in the park is much better!
4. Actually, the park with fountains – the main thing why you should go here at all.
5. The main action takes place here on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 5:30 pm, when the caretakers turn on the fountains. We were lucky we came on Wednesday around 4:30 pm and found the park completely empty and therefore more beautiful.
6. La Granja is a very quiet and very homely place, without all the glitz and glamour of, for example, Peterhof or Versailles. The palace began with a hunting lodge on the site of a former farm (La Granja is a farm in translation from Spanish).
7. Incredible charm of the landscape gives the view of the tops of the mountains, in some places topped with snow. Nature feels very powerful here, very contrasting and majestic.
8. French architects and as we would now say landscape designers used the natural height difference to build a system of fountains. In general, La Granja Park is one of the world’s best examples of 18th-century landscape gardening, successfully combining features of both French and English parks, namely regularity with naturalness.
9. It is unusual to see the fountain bowl filled with water, but the fountain itself turned off. As I understand, in these parts with water is not good, so the fountains turn on a few times a week. Not Peterhof, no way!
10. What a wild forest! I certainly have added a lot of color during processing, but I tried to accurately convey the atmosphere of the place.
11. Pay attention – almost everywhere in the background of the mountain! Incredibly beautiful frame!
16. There are mountains everywhere! This is the massif of the Sierra de Guadarrama, the highest point of which is at an altitude of 2428 meters!
19. See, mountains again and snow on them?
21. I really liked these architectural decorations in the form of baskets of flowers and fruit. Madly textured, really frozen in the stone nature.
23. At 5:30 pm the fountains were turned on and the park lost its charm of a slightly abandoned place. Crowds of schoolchildren, tourists with umbrellas and cameras flocked, it became noisy. We were very lucky to be early and had time to walk, though not to the fullest, through the empty alleys.
24. The only negative moment had to do with the departure from La Granja: near the palace and in the streets that were nearby, we could not find any cabs or buses going to Segovia! We were even pointed in the right direction, but the parking lot was never found. We did quite a few laps trying to find either an open bar or the cab itself, then finally a girl from a working cafe called us a car. We were very nervous, afraid of missing the train to Madrid, and when the car arrived, to our surprise, it was not a cab, but a private car. Don’t they have cabs in San Idelfonso? In short, if you go there, be careful.
To summarize, I would advise staying overnight in Segovia if possible, to allow more time for both the city and the palace. But I was very satisfied with our day trip as well!