Something the rest of the world should seriously consider—having a night where everything in the capital city is free; and the general populace is encouraged to engage with the arts.
I visited the Palacio Real here a few weeks ago as part of a lightning post-Madrid Vision circumnavigation of the city, but wasn’t interested in paying the 9€ entry fee for the grand tour. This week I managed to get myself back there, paid the entry fee, and I have to say, it was worth every euro cent.
I might be showing my colours as a colonial here, but I’ve never seen a place so loaded. The exterior of the place suggests a certain level of luxury, however on entering the main courtyard, there is a certain sense of abandonment, like there are ghosts wandering around the complex, but it’s been for the most part, locked down.
As I walked from the Plaza de la Armería into the palace itself, there was no indication of the opulence about to unfold. Not until I began ascending the stone staircase, did the secrets within begin to reveal themselves. Every ceiling is adorned with lavish, detailed paintings that flow down to elaborate decorations on the walls and rich carpets only further the feeling of grandeur.
In some rooms, everything is intricately carved timber, starting from the floor and not ending until it reaches the ceiling. In others, timber panels have been elaborately hand painted. An interior decorator would probably have a conniption walking through the place, because there’s no real flow between rooms (aside from the common theme of lavish, extravagant decoration), but nonetheless it is suitably impressive.
Equally impressive is the royal armoury, with an array of weapons, armour (duh) for both man and beast (including dogs), and giant tapestries celebrating numerous conquests, including the Americas in the main gallery, with the smaller collection downstairs comprising artefacts with strong Moorish influences. It took the better part of four hours or so to get through it all, and I rushed the last parts (the Royal Pharmacy—a large herb repository) to ensure I got through it all in time before everything shut down.
As it turned out, today a large event is being held in Spain and in France. All of these types of attractions are staying open later—many of them all night—and many of them are free. The centre of Madrid has essentially been closed off for the night, and the usually traffic plagued streets have been turned over to pedestrians.
Beneath Plaza Colón, there were several large exhibits, including a photographic exhibit by photographer Isabel Muñoz. From there I lost several hours going through several centuries worth of relics in the National Archaeological Museum, right next to my hotel. Marble coffins from the time the Romans occupied the region, trophies from the Moorish empire, through to the rise of Ferdinand and Isabella, and the plunder from the conquest of the Americas were all on display.
At sometime after 1am, I emerged onto the street to find Madrileños everywhere. Had it not been for my misbehaving back (and a full CF card in my camera), I’d have continued on to the other levels of the museum, because it seems I only saw the “recent” history. The Egyptian relics are still waiting there for me to return and have a look someday.