Photo of Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso

Visit Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso

The Royal Palace of La-Granja-de-San-Ildefonso is an 18th century palace near to Segovia in the small town of San-Ildefonso. It is 80 kilometers north of Madrid.

Explore the Royal Palace of La-Granja-de-San-Ildefonso

This area has long been a favourite with the kings of Spain as its position on the northern slopes of the Sierra Guadarrama covered in forests was excellent for hunting. Henry IV of Castile built a hunting lodge here and a shrine to Saint Ildefonsus, or San Ildefonso in Spanish.

The site was sold to the monks of a nearby monastery in Segovia by Isabella I of Castile but was then purchased from them in 1719 by King Philip V.

Royal Palace of la-Granja-de-San-Ildefonso

King Philip V was the grandson of King Louis XIV of France and King Philip began building a palace and gardens at San-Ildefonso modelled on the sumptuous palace and gardens of his grandfather at Versailles.

Like Versailles the royal palace has a cour d'honneur (a three-sided elegant courtyard) and large formal gardens surrounded by woodland and further garden features.

La Granja was initially intended as a summer retreat and Philip planned to abdicate and retire here. Unfortunately less than a year after his abdication his son died and he had to return to the throne.

La Granja then had to be expanded to make room for the royal court and the village of San Ildefonso also expanded to house the ministers and courtiers who wanted to be present at court.

As King Philip's favourite residence the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso became an important part of royal life. The palace remained the courts summer palace for the next 200 years and his been the site of many royal weddings and events.

The site is now part of the 'Patrimonio Nacional' of Spain and is a popular tourist attraction.


Inside the palace there are sumptuous halls with frescos from the time of King Philip, the Hall of Lacquers, the Room of Mirrors, and the bedrooms of their majesties. There are also the Tapestry Museum and the Collegiate church to visit. There is also a glass-blowing factory to visit, the Royal Glass Factory of La Granja, which was built by King Charles III in 1770.

The gardens are a highlight and it is one of the best examples in Spain of the French formal style made popular by André le Notre who designed the Gardens of Versailles.

Particularly noteworthy in the gardens of the Royal Palace of La-Granja-de-San-Ildefonso are the many water features which are fed from the water from the mountains.

The gardens were designed by René Carlier, a French architect and include 26 monumental fountains, a French-style maze, and a huge pond.

The large pond, know as 'El Mar', or 'the sea', sits at the highest part of the garden and feeds the other ponds and fountains. Gravity from here is enough to drive even the tallest fountain, 'the Fame', which spouts up to 40 meters in the air.

The 'Baths of Diana' fountain is one of the main ones and a team of sculptors worked for 25 years creating this impressive water feature and the fountains in the 'Baths of Diana' are often turned on on Saturday nights in the summer.

There are many statues and borders filled with flowers. With the backdrop of mountains surrounding the gardens they are quite stunning and well worth a visit.

The fountains are only turned on in full three days of the year, one each in May, July and August although some are operated during certain times in the summer.

Attractions nearby

Segovia is a beautiful town with a Roman aqueduct in its centre and both a stunning cathedral and an alcazar.

El-Escorial is another stunning palace complex open to the public.

The Royal Palace of Riofrio is a large furnished palace surrounded by forest. It is about 15km west of La-Granja-de-San-Ildafonso.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Segovia guide, and the Castile and Leon guide.

See also Find Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso hotels

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