Aranjuez is also known as the Royal Site of Aranjuez and is the capital of the Las Vegas district of the Community of Madrid. It has been a Royal Estate since 1560 and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural interest.
It was in 1178 that Ferdinand and Isabelle converted Aranjuez into a Royal site and it has been the spring residence of the Spanish royal family since the 19th century.
The Royal Palace of Aranjuez was built in the 16th century. At first the town was reserved purely for royals, nobility and their servents but in 1752 the town was opened up with overnight accommodation for visitors.
The palace of Aranjuez and its gardens sit on the edge of the river Tagus. It has been laid out in line with the ideas of the Enlightenment about the balance between nature and man and emphasis has been given to gardens and woods as well as the buidings themselves. The results are spectacular.
You can take guided or unguided visits to the palace. For information visit the tourist office on the Plaza Eliptica square just outside the palace. With a guided visit you can visit the king's private rooms which are not available to unguided visits.
Outside you can visit the parterre gardens and the island garden in the middle of the river Tagus.
After visiting the palace the historic city centre is also worth visiting. Amongst the buildings of interest are the Medinaceli Palace, the Royal Church of San Antonio, the Isabel de Farnese cultural centre and the Los Infantas house on the Plaza de San Antonio. Try and take a peek through the gates of buildings as you walk by, some have lovely interior courtyards.
Not far from the palace is the bullring of Aranjuez. This was built in the 18th century and few of these remain today. A visit to the bullring includes a tour of the arena, the bullpens, and the bullfighting museum.
There is a large garden called the Prince's garden which is open to the public. The formal gardens include pools, fountains, woods and pavilions. In the gardens is the interesting Royal Barge Museum with barges used by the kings and queens of Spain to travel on the river and also the Casa del Labrador house with its impressive furniture and interiors.
It is possible to board a tourist train which includes the gardens as part of a visit to the town. There is also a tourist boat which travels down the Tagus river past the Prince's gardens and the Royal Palace.
Aranjuez sits on the confluence between the rivers Tagus and Jarama and in 1761 the 'Long Bridge' was built over the river Jarama. This still exists today.