About Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso
The Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso (known as La Granja) is an early 18th-century palace in San Ildefonso, in the hills near Segovia to the north of Madrid.
The baroque palace was the summer residence of the Kings of Spain from the 1720s during Philip V’s reign.
It is now open to the public as a museum.
History of Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso
Historically, many Castilian kings favoured the area as a hunting ground due to its forested, hilly location. In the 15th century, Henry IV of Castile therefore built the first hunting lodge on the site, along with a shrine to San Ildefonso, which became the palace’s namesake. Isabella I of Castile granted both buildings to the monks of the Santa Maria del Parral, who further developed the site.
King Philip V, the first Spanish king from the French Bourbon dynasty, purchased the site from the monks in 1719 following his palace in Valsain burning to a shell.
Philp modelled the palace and gardens on Versailles, which was built by his grandfather, King Louis XIV of France. Like Versailles, it started as a retreat from court, but later became the centre of royal government.
From 1721 onwards the palace took shape, with the central structure of a chapel and courtyard being added. The main development of the site, however, took place after the king abdicated in 1724. Though he intended to retire at the palace, his heir Louis I dying the same year meant that he had to return to the throne.
The palace consequently became a centre for the king and his court, with military barracks, a collegiate church, and a royal glass factory being constructed.
For the next 200 years or so, La Granja was the court’s main summer palace, with many famous events taking place within its walls.
Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso Today
Today, the site is part of the Patrimonio Nacional of Spain, which maintains many of the crown’s lands.
Visitors can enjoy the gardens – which extend over 1500 acres – as well as the interiors filled with marble from Carrara, Japanese lacquer, crystal chandeliers, portraits and other paintings, and a museum of Flemish tapestries.
Getting to Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso
From Madrid, the palace is an hour and fifteen minute drive via A-6 and AP-61. From the centre of Segovia, the palace is a 15 minute drive via CL-601.