Royal Palace of Aranjuez
The town of Aranjuez, an ancient Moorish settlement on the banks of the river Tagus, owes its growth to the fact that successive Spanish monarchs made it a place of retreat for the Royal Family.
Opening times October to March: Weekdays, weekends and holidays 10:00 to 18:00. April to September: Weekdays, weekends and holidays 10:00 to 20:00. Closed Monday
Tickets Basic (9,00€), Reduced (4,00€), Free entry for the under 5s.
The Royal Palaceoriginated in the house of recreation built in 1387 on the orders of the Grand Master of the Military Order of Santiago. Once all the properties of the military orders passed to the Crown, the Catholic Monarchs were inspired by the privileged location of the house, between the Tagus and Jarama rivers, to implement building and refurbishment works. Its transformation into a place of recreation commenced in 1540 on the initiative of Charles I. Philip II decided to build a new palace and to enlarge the gardens. He commissioned the design to Juan Bautista de Toledo in 1564, who was succeeded on his death (1568) by Juan de Herrera, whose plans were used to commence work on the Royal Palace in 1574, unfinished on the death of Philip II.
Continuation of the works
In 1715 Philip V ordered work on the Royal Palace to be continued. The layout designed by Juan de Herrera was respected and this work ended in 1739. In this stage the west facade and the main body of the palace were completed. The main staircase, the work of Santiago Bonavía, was begun in 1744. In 1748, some parts of the Royal Palace, destroyed by fire, had to be rebuilt and refurbished. The Royal Palace assumed its final shape in the time of Charles III, with an enlargement by Francisco Sabatini consisting of side wings that enclosed the main square of the building. These works, implemented between 1772 and 1778, were completed with the construction of a chapel at the end of one of the wings. A theatre was planned, but never completed, for the other wing.
The Royal Palace, built of white Colmenar stone alternating with brick, consists of a central corps de logis around a courtyard that maintained its Herrerian structure despite successive reforms, and two large wings flanking the courtyard on either side. The main facade has three stories, crowned by a pediment with a balustrade bearing the coat of arms of Ferdinand VI. The two main floors are decorated with classical pilasters between which are windows fronted by balconies and topped by alternating triangular and curved pediments. The south and north facades consist of sections each crowned by a dome. The south facade is joined by a gallery to the Casas de Oficios; built by Juan de Herrera in 1584 and arranged around two courtyards, this building provided lodgings for the Court entourage.
Inside the Royal Palace
The Royal Palace houses important collections of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts distributed in all its rooms. The vestibule contains the main staircase with a Rococo balustrade. The Queen's Oratory, a neo-Classical work by the Ferroni brothers, is noteworthy for decorations executed al fresco by Francisco Bayeu (1790). Also noteworthy is the Inmaculada altarpiece by Salvador Maella, who was also responsible for the decorative ceilings and lower wall paintings in the Queen’s Study. One of the most intriguing rooms is the Porcelain Room (1759-1765), whose walls are completely covered with porcelain manufactured in the Buen Retiro Royal Factory. The Hall of Mirrors was decorated, in a transitional Rococo-Romantic style, between 1790 and 1795 under the guidance of Juan de Villanueva. The King’s Bedchamber contains the Allegories of Justice, Peace and Abundance by Bartholomew Rusca (1737), and Antonio Rafael Mengs’ Crucificado. The Chapel (1799) has paintings by Luca Giordano, Mengs and Maella and by Bayeu, who also did the al fresco decoration of the ceiling.
The Palace is surrounded by extensive gardens, divided into several sections that were renovated and enlarged by successive monarchs. The oldest garden is the Island (or Queen’s) Garden, which was laid out on the orders of Queen Isabella I and remodelled in the time of Philip II. Their current layout, remarkable for the many fountains with mythological sculptures, is due to reforms by Sebastián de Herrera Barnuevo (1660-1669). The Statue Garden was planted on the orders of Philip II and was remodelled during the reign of Philip IV. The French-style Parterre Garden, with its ponds and sculptures, was laid out between 1718 and 1746. The Prince’s Garden, commissioned by the future Charles IV, is the largest and most important of the gardens. It was laid out between 1772 and 1804 with a design aimed at catering for two popular forms of entertainment in the 18th century: hunting and boating. With six different sections containing splendid trees, it has open and secluded areas and walkways adorned with temples, statues and fountains.
The garden that runs down to the river Tagus, called the Garden of the Halls, is the location of the pier, built during the reign of Ferdinand VI to facilitate boating on the river.
Built nearby in 1966 was the House of Marines to replace the house built by Ferdinand VI as home to the Royal Sailboat Museum, containing the boats that made up what was called the Tagus Fleet in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Casita del Labrador was builtin the Prince’s Garden in the neo-Classical style by Isidro González Velázquez, acting on the orders of Charles IV in 1803; it was designed as a place of rest exclusively for use by members of the Royal Family. Marble sculptures and busts decorating the exterior walls belonged to the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden. The house inside is decorated with numerous sculptures, paintings, carpets and porcelain and metalwork items.</p>