From the Spanish Square, I head to the Royal Palace which I can already distinguish beyond the trees a few hundred meters away. However, instead of following the concrete road, I take another path, covered with cobbled stones, toward a charming setting created in the thirties on the spot that was then occupied by the stables of the Royal Palace – I speak of course about the Sabatini gardens. Designed in a geometric style, their privileged position makes these gardens one of the most beautiful places of the neighborhood of “Los Austrias”.
A large rectangular pond, itself surrounded by greenery, fountains, areas planted with conifers and white marble sculptures, all dominated by the imposing north façade of the Royal Palace – this is what we can see once at the heart of this place. Stunning! After a few minutes of rest on a bench from where I gaze at a large circular fountain with tritons, I finally join back the road that I have left a little earlier. The view of the north facade of the Royal Palace from the top of the wall around the gardens is beautiful and I realize at that time the impressive size of the building.
Besides, the Royal Palace is next on my list and according the current time, I expect to be one of the only tourists to visit the building at its opening. This is quickly confirmed, because we are just a small group of 5 people! Built in the 18th century by order of Philip V in the location of a former fortress of Muslim origin, the Royal Palace is now the main attraction of this part of Madrid. The complex is guarded by many policemen and after having crossed the gate of Príncipe (only access to the site for tourists), we have to go through an important security check for which even the contents of my small backpack is a potential threat! Once past the gate, we find ourselves in the huge main courtyard of the Palace (still unenlightened as it is quite early) which I quickly take a picture of before storing my camera in the bottom of my bag for the rest of the tour.
We then enter the main building and arrive after a few meters at the foot of the Grand Staircase designed by Sabatini himself. Photos and videos are forbidden inside as I expected, but that does not prevent me from admiring the beautiful decoration once on top of the stairs. The tour continues in different rooms of the Palace opened to the public such as the Hall of Halberdiers, the Hall of Columns, the Room of Mirrors and the bedroom of King Charles III, all of them deserving a special mention for their atmosphere, and for many paintings by Velázquez, Goya, Rubens, El Greco and Caravaggio that are spread along the corridors.
Barely out of the Royal Palace, I continue directly with the visit of the Almudena Cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin, patron saint of Madrid. Its construction began in the late 19th century on the site of the ancient church of Santa María la Mayor. The first stone of this impressive monument was laid in 1883, but the implementation process was very slow and the cathedral was only consecrated for worship in 1993 by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. Also, a statue of the clergyman can be seen a few meters of the side entrance, through which I’m entering the cathedral. The exterior of classical style is somewhat different from the Gothic interior, but once facing the altar, I notice something quite odd: the stained glass frescoes on the ceiling! I’ve seen some original elements in religious sanctuaries, but this is new and I love it! The ceiling is therefore brighter and more visible, which is a nice change from dark and “cold” churches.