San Ildefonso Things to Do

  • Collegiate Church
    Collegiate Church
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    Royal palace
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  • Horseshoe Courtyard
    Horseshoe Courtyard
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Most Recent Things to Do in San Ildefonso

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    Entrance to the Royal Seat.

    by breughel Updated Feb 11, 2013

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    Calle Alameda.
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    The Puerta de Segovia with three sections of wrought-iron railings from 1767 is the main entrance to the Real Sitio de La Granja de San Ildefonso located at only 12 Km from the city of Segovia.
    From the iron gate a straight avenue leads to the Palace and gardens.
    The Royal Seat counts many other buildings that served as quarters for the king's dignitaries and servants. Several are now privately owned
    Cars are allowed to pass. When turning immediately to the left after the gate one reaches the Parador formerly the Casa de Infantes.
    From the Gate of Segovia the walk by the Alameda Avenue to the Palace is really nice thanks to the monumental royal buildings that appear behind the trees. On the left the Cuartel de Guardias de Corps (Guards' barracks), now transformed in the congress hall of the Parador, from 1764 and on the right the Caballerizas Reales (Royal mews) from 1738.
    At the Plaza de Espana one discovers the wonderful combination of the architecture of the Palacio Real y Collegiata (Royal Palace and Collegiate) and superb trees planted in 1877 by the head gardener Antonio Testard. The Spanish firs and the two enormous Sequoias have grown superbly and compete with the spires of the Palace. I don't remember I have seen such a majestic combination elsewhere.

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    VISIT OF THE ROYAL PALACE.

    by breughel Written Feb 11, 2013

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    King Felipe V and family.
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    The thirty three rooms open to visits belong to three distinct sections.

    1° Most valuable is the tapestry collection
    The guidebook of the Palace says: The Tapestry Collection of the Spanish Crown, the richest in the world … owes its exceptional quality and quantity to the dominium of the Spanish Sovereigns of the House of Austria (Hapsburg) over the Low Countries (presently Belgium).
    The Catholic Monarchs and the Spanish aristocracy were very fond of this refined form of art so that by the end of the 15th c. large quantities of Flemish tapestries were to be found in Spanish homes and palaces.
    On the main floor of the La Granja Palace in five rooms some of the best quality are on display.
    Room 21: "The Honours" Nine allegorical tapestries referring to ethics under inspired by ideas from authors of the antiquity and humanists. Belonged to Emperor Charles V. Woven in Brussels in 1523 by one of the most famous weavers Pieter van Aelst (also named Pieter van Edingen). Cartoons attributed to painters Bernard Van Orley and Gossaert (Mabuse).
    Room 22: "The Passion of Christ" Five tapestries belonged to Margarita of Austria. Woven in Brussels by Pieter de Pannemaeker. Cartoons by painter Bernard Van Orley.
    Room 23: The Tapestries of Isabella the Catholic. The Queen had a collection of more than three hundred tapestries! On display here are a few dating from the end of the 15th c. "Nativity", "St Gregory Mass", "Tree of Jesse". Two are Flemish, one from Brussels woven around 1495. In that time tapestries from Brussels were not wearing the B in B sign meaning Brussels in Brabant that became usual in the 16th c.
    Room 24: "David and Betsabé" series. Three Brussels' tapestries from 1515.
    Room 25: "Scenes of the Life of the Virgin Mary".
    Most of these tapestries are large, about 3 x 4 m and made of wool, silk, silver and gold.

    2° Sixteen rooms on the main floor overlooking the beautiful main façade from Juvarra with views on the New Cascade are those of the Monarchs. Some have been damaged by fire in 1918 but have been restored to their original appearance during the period of King Felipe V. The rooms have ceilings with Italian fresco paintings. Door and windows are original dating from 1735.
    Most furniture, paintings and decorative items are from the 18th century. The décor is well worth the visit with the explanations from the audio guide. I was much impressed by the Monarch's bedroom with the view on the New Cascade, the park, woodlands and in the distance the Guadarrama Mountains.

    3° The ground floor with 12 rooms houses the sculpture collection of Felipe V and Isabella Farnese. Part of it belonged to Queen Christina of Sweden. Unfortunately few of these sculptures are antique originals as most were sent in the 19th c. to the Prado museum in Madrid. For connoisseurs the plaster casts now on display are interesting as they were made in the 18th c. before the restoration of the original ones.
    The sculpture gallery has been reconstructed as it was in the 18th c. The rooms are decorated with stucco work, ceiling paintings, fictive architecture in the Italian manner. The floors are inlaid with polychrome marble. This decoration gives a pleasant sensation of lightness and freshness.
    In the "Room of Truth" was standing the original (now a copy) of the so-called St Ildefonso Group the most important statue group from the Queen Christina of Sweden collection. The original now in the Prado Museum dates from the 1st c. AD. The persons are identified as Castor and Pollux.
    Other nice work of art is the Fountain of Galatea.

    Photos are not allowed inside the palace so that I can only show here what is on the web as works in the public domain.

    Open: Tuesday till Sunday from 10 .00 to 20.00 h in April - September; 10.00 to 18.00 h October - March. Closed on Monday.
    Price: normal 9 €, reduced 4 € (for details see the website www.patrimonionacional.es) valid 48 h.
    I recommend hiring an audio guide (several languages); a must to understand what is on display.
    Price 4 €.

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    THE SCULPTURES.

    by breughel Written Feb 11, 2013

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    Fountain of the Dragons.
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    This is the best preserved collection of French decorative sculptures of the first half of the 17th c.
    They are mainly the work of two artists:
    René Frémin who created numerous works for Versailles and Jean Thierry who made many sculptures at Marly destroyed by the Revolution. When these artists had returned to France the task was completed by Jacques Bousseau.
    The inspiration of the sculptures at La Granja was French inspired by the style of the Louis XIV century.
    The pieces are of high quality but for economic reasons were not cast in bronze but were made in lead and coated with a reddish varnish that surprises and even shocks many visitors.
    On my first visit in the 1990s the sculptures seemed to me to show a classical bronze colour but on my recent visit the sculptures showed a somewhat aggressive (at least for my taste) red varnish.
    It appears that this recent reddish varnish imitating bronze was the original one and was common practice in France at that time. Amateurs of genuine bronze may wait that the atmosphere and time will give the sculptures of La Granja a somewhat more usual bronze look.
    All these sculptures decorating the fountains represent mythological themes.

    There are also other sculptures and urns for example the Sphinx decorating the parterre. They are also in lead but painted white to imitate marble.

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    FOUNTAINS.

    by breughel Written Feb 11, 2013

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    Fountain of the three Graces.
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    It is not surprising that the grandson of Louis XIV after seeing the fountains of Versailles wanted to have fountains in the gardens of his Spanish Palace. Twenty-six fountains with sculptures decorate the park. The water is that flowing from the mountain and collected in a reservoir called "El Mar". The several kilometers of iron pipes by simple pressure raises the water out of the fountains.
    At the Fountain of Fame, the lowest of the gardens the water reaches a height of 40 m.
    Unfortunately the fountains are not often working although one of them the Baths of Diana, on the western edge of the park, has been equipped with pumps and water recycling.
    It seems that the rather depressive King Philip V said "It has cost me three millions and amused me three minutes."
    I have visited twice the gardens of La Granja and saw only the fountains of the Baths of Diana at work. All the others remained dry or just a bit of stagnating water.

    Actually there are only three days per year where ALL the fountains play:
    May 30, July 25, August 25 (feast of St-Louis patron of the Royal Seat) at 17.30 h.
    On these days the gardens are crowded as can be expected.

    Other part of the year from end of March till end of September (depending on the water available in the upper reservoirs?) on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays or Feast days at 17.30 h. Only a few (3 or 4) fountains are playing, NOT all, in the following order (and not for long so be there well in time):
    1) “Cascada Nueva”, “Vientos”, “Ocho Calles”, “Fama” or
    2) “Canastillo”, “Ranas”, “Baños de Diana”, “Fama”

    From 7/07 till 18/08 every Saturday between 22.30 and 23.30 h the "Los Baños de Diana" fountains are playing.
    When the fountains play visitors have to pay (4€) the entry at the gardens from 15.00 on.
    On Saturday evening in summer: 2€.

    We came there begin October 2012 and nothing was working although it had been raining a lot in September. On a previous visit in the spring we saw only the fountain of the Bath's of Diana, the most spectacular, playing for about half an hour.

    For more info see the official site in Spanish:
    http://www.patrimonionacional.es/Home/Palacios-Reales/Palacio-Real-de-La-Granja-de-San-Ildefonso/Horario.aspx

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    THE GARDENS.

    by breughel Written Feb 11, 2013

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    Garden with fountains.

    Most visitors to La Granja de San Ildefonso go there to see the gardens. Actually for King Felipe V the garden was more important than the palace.
    Philip V as a grandson of King Louis XIV had admired the Gardens of Versailles but for his retirement at La Granja he preferred as model another garden of the Roi Soleil i.e. Marly (destroyed under the French Revolution). He commissioned the French architect René Carlier but he decided personally of the site and limits. They occupy 146 hectares, of which 67 are actually forests.
    In front of the palace's main façade (see ) the lay out consists in four principal axes (Grove of the Winds, Main Cascade, Ria or Old Cascade) on a rising land what makes the garden so beautiful seen from the terrace of the Palace. From the upper part at the Marble Summer House the view is that of the magnificent Juvarra's façade.
    On the southern side of the gardens is a park with eight avenues Ocho Calles converging at a central circus. There are also a number of "potagers"
    The fountains and sculptures are described in another tip.

    The gardens are open each day from 10 h till 1 hour before sunset. Free when the fountains are not working (that is most of the time). The fountains are working in the spring and summer on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 17.30 h. Then from 15 h visitors have to pay 4 €.

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    Main façade of Juvarra.

    by breughel Written Feb 11, 2013

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    Main fa��ade of Juvarra.

    This is a really exceptional combination of architectural and garden beauty. The façade designed by Filippo Javarra (also designer of the Madrid Palace), adapted and built between 1737 and 1743 by Sacchetti, looking on the parterre and the New Cascade is described as "one of the most admirable examples of late Baroque architecture". I hope my photos will convince VT amateurs of architecture and gardens.
    It's a combination of various styles with a dominant Italian influence. Balconies, windows, columns with Corinthian capitals and pilasters two storey's high, in red sandstone enhanced with Carrara marble sculptures by Baratta.
    Cherry on the cake, this façade opens on the parterre and the New Cascade with fountains, the park, woodlands and in the distance the Guadarrama Mountains with the Penalara at 2430 m (snow in winter).

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    Collegiate Church and Royal Palace.

    by breughel Written Feb 3, 2013

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    Collegiate Church
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    Passing by the huge trees of the Plaza de Espana one discovers the dome and towers of the Real Colegiata de la Santísima Trinidad - Collegiate Church built in the first half of the sixteenth century as a royal chapel by architect Teodoro Ardemans and later enlarged by Andrea Procaccini.
    Originally it had the goal of being a royal pantheon. The Chapel of the Relics contains the memorial where lie the bodies of King Philip V and Elizabeth Farnese.
    The present decoration is from the reign of Carlos III. The visit is included in the ticket of the Royal Palace.

    The Real Palacio is a complicated building. It was extended several times reflecting the progress of Italian taste with architect Procaccini.
    The two square towers (one on my photo) belong to the original smaller palace built by architect Ardemans for King Felipe V. At the centre of the building is the well preserved Fountain Courtyard.
    After the collegiate church turn right to pass the Casa de Officios (with book and gift shop), then under the Arco de Infantes to reach on the left the entrance to the gardens and the west part of the Royal Palace in U form around the Horseshoe Courtyard.
    This Patio de la Herradura in the shape of a French Cour d'Honneur is rare in Spain and was intended by King Felipe V (a Bourbon grandson of the French king Louis XIV) as the entrance what explains that the building structures on the left and right of the doorway are staircases. The one on the right led directly to the private room of Felipe V and the queen Isabella Farnese.
    The courtyard is a brilliant work of architect Procaccini. It opens now on the nice Parterre of Fame and the fountain of Fame.

    The Palacio Real and its collections mainly Flemish tapestries, furniture, paintings, sculptures on display in 34 decorated rooms is open:
    Tuesday till Sunday from 10 .00 to 20.00 h in April - September; 10.00 to 18.00 h October - March.
    Closed on Monday.
    Price: normal 9 €, reduced 4 € (for details see the website www.patrimonionacional.es) valid 48 h.
    I recommend hiring an audio guide (several languages); a must to understand what is on display.

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    Water games

    by solopes Updated Sep 25, 2012

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    San Ildefonso - Spain
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    The gardens of the Royal Palace have 26 fountains, all different and all pretty, working only by gravity effects.

    Each Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, they show a different set of 4 of them, and then there's a crowd walking along the gardens moving from fountain to fountain, here and there with some wet surprises.

    The show begins at 17.30, and it's the only time you need a ticket to enter the gardens.

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    Mercado Barroco

    by solopes Updated Sep 7, 2012

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    San Ildefonso - Spain
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    Each year, in June, there's a popular fair recreating baroque traditions.

    Most locals dress according to that times, and the feast is simple but pleasant, as I could testify twice.

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