This village of roughly 5.000 inhabitants has a long name: “Real Sitio de La Granja de San Ildefonso”. In English (caution: Covetotop’s translation): “Royal Site of Saint Ildefonso’s Farm”.
The name is long and pompous because a King of Spain built a Royal Palace here, but don’t worry: if you aren’t a king, you can call it “La Granja”, as ordinary Spaniards do.
In 1724 King Phillip V of Spain thought that he needed a cozy nest for the weekends, not far away from his stressful office in Madrid, just to hunt a little, to hang around with friends, to prepare some barbecues and to do all those things that kings usually love to do on weekends. And he got this:
La Granja is a wonderful and tranquil place. It’s less than one hour drive from Madrid and it’s almost unknown by the vast majority of foreign tourists that visit the Spain’s capital. Thanks God, my dear friend, you are not a tourist. You are either a traveller or a dreamer, but not a tourist, and you are reading the fabulous Covetotop’s blog. So, take my word for granted: if you ever spend a few days in Madrid, visit La Granja. You won’t be disappointed.
1. The Royal Palace.
La Granja’s main attraction is its Royal Palace. It has been called “the Versailles of Spain”.
The day I took the picture below, La Granja’s main attraction had attracted a crowd of four tourists:
There are so little foreign tourists in La Granja because the major tourist guides & websites derive foreigners visiting Madrid to the “popular full-day excursions” of Toledo, Segovia, Ávila, El Escorial … (e.g. Frommer’s), and ignore La Granja.
Hence, La Granja is a top, superlative, delightful and unforgettable “not popular full-day excursion” for wise travellers visiting Madrid.
Here’s the Royal Palace’s façade:
A closer view:
18th century skyline:
Around the palace, Phillip V ordered the laying-out of a huge garden with fountains, which was also inspired by the Palace of Versailles. The architect in charge of this amazing work was the French master René Carlier:
Wandering through this charming royal garden you’ll feel as a king. The air is pure and the views are breathtaking, because nothing less than an immense National Park is adjacent to the Palace (“Parque Nacional de las Cumbres de Guadarrama”):
2. The village.
The Royal Palace is the center of the charming village of La Granja. A short and wide avenue links the King’s cozy nest and the villagers’ homes. This avenue is full of tall trees (including American sequoias, brought to Spain two centuries ago):
At the top of the avenue there is a Baroque jewel: the church known as “Real Colegiata de la Santísima Trinidad”. Yes; the name is long because it was planned as a Royal Chapel and it is adjacent to the Royal Palace:
The cold wind from the neighboring mountains of Sierra de Guadarrama forces some visitors to wear the skins of death animals in order to stay warm …
Another way to keep you warm is eating a good dish of “judiones” (soft, tender and giant beans). It’s a typical winter food in La Granja:
The church of “Nuestra Señora del Rosario” was built in Italian style because Phillip V of Spain was married to an Italian girl named Elisabeth Farnese (Italian: Elisabetta Farnese, Spanish: Isabel de Farnesio):
More villagers al fresco in their village:
Shopping al fresco:
Good Spanish literature is freely available to read al fresco:
The old Castilian flag at La Granja’s City Hall:
3. Parador de La Granja.
If you want to spend one night in the XVIII century, Parador de la Granja is a good choice (“Paradores” is a corporation owned by the State of Spain, which currently manages 93 awesome hotel establishments: castles, palaces, monasteries …):
This post is getting too long. I’m tired of writing in English. Hence, I cut and copy here what Paradores say in their webpage about Parador de La Granja: “The new Parador de La Granja is living proof of the rich architectural legacy of the Royal Site. It is composed of two buildings. On the one hand, the hotel is located in the Casa de los Infantes, constructed in the 18th century by Charles III to house Princes Gabriel and Antonio. On the other hand, the Cuartel General de la Guardia de Corps houses a modern Conference and Convention Centre.”
Covetotop has never spent a night in Parador de La Granja. But Covetotop has tested its restaurant quite a few times, just for the sake of blogging.
This is the dinning room:
They serve the famous and delicious “Judiones de La Granja” (enormous beans with meat). Don’t try this dish in summer time:
The Parador’s Restaurant is very good. Strongly recommended by Covetotop. Here you have some examples of their art:
See the pic below. It is not the Far West. This wonderful place (named “Los Asientos”) is 5 minutes away from La Granja. It is just an example. There are miles and miles of amazing trails to explore in the beautiful Sierra de Guadarrama. Do I need to say anything more about the surroundings of La Granja?
Opposite to the Guadarrama mountains, driving for a few miles, you’ll arrive to the city of Segovia. The UNESCO has declared it “World Heritage Site”. It’s a beautiful and historical city, but, as I told you before, I’m a little bit tired of writing in English, so … Hasta la vista, baby!