Royal Palace in Madrid The Palacio Real, or Royal Palace, is Madrid's largest building and possibly its most beautiful. It is located next to the equally beautiful Plaza de Oriente square. It may come as surpirse to our readers to learn that Madrid's Royal Palace is the largest royal palace in Western Europe. It was built on the site of the old Alcázar, the Moorish castle destroyed by fire in 1734, but the site has been occupied since the 10th century by the Moors, who having named the city's Manzanares river al-Magrit ("source of water"), referred to the area as Mayrit which became Magerit, then Madrid. The old city walls around this area may still be seen. The palace was initially designed by Filippo Juvarra to accommodate the court of Felipe V, a total of more than 3000 courtiers. Juan Bautista Sacchetti initiated the building project in 1737 and Francisco Sabatini and Ventura Rodríguez terminated the works. It is surrounded by the beautiful Sabatini and Campo del Moro parks.turkeyarena.com The palace itself contains furniture, tapestries, paintings and ceramics as well as other important works of art and frescos by Tiépolo. Velázquez, Goya, Giordano and Mengs are all represented here amongst the dozens of valuable tapestries and paintings, making the palace one of Europe's most important museums and receiving more than 880,000 visitors in 2006. It remains open to the public almost year round except on the days of official ceremonies and receptions, although the public can only access certain areas. It is located on Bailén street, and the nearest Metro station is Opera. Opening hours are as follows: - October to March: Monday to Saturday from 9,30am to 5pm, Sundays and holidays, 9am to 2pm - April to September: Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm, Sundays and holidays, 9am to 3pm - Closed for official acts, 1st & 6th January, 1st & 15th May, 12th October, 9th November and 25th December. Entrance to this monument is free with the Madrid Card. It is possible to take a guided tour of this magnificent monument. The palace gardens, called the Campo del Moro, are also worth visiting, as is the square nearby. The Plaza de Oriente takes its name from its location - to the east of the palace, and contains several sculptures of the precious Spanish monarchs. Just across this beautiful plaza stands the Royal Theatre.