Tucked away in the Guadarrama Mountains is one of Spain’s most decadent treasures: the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso (more commonly called La Granja). Modeled after France’s Versailles, the estate features European palatial grandeur at its best, ranging from an interior packed with all the royal amenities — think mural-covered ceilings, and gilt detailing — and an exterior wonderland of lush, manicured mountain gardens.
The land here previously served as hunting grounds for the kings, after which it was donated to monks, and later purchased back into monarchy hands by Philip V, who built the palace you see today. Once a royal summer residence, it is indeed more than just a mansion; it also comes with some 1,500 acres of glorious gardens laced by paths and dotted by copper-finished fountains.
La Granja is an easy day trip from Madrid, as it can be reach in about an hour by car. It’s also just a short journey from Segovia. Though the gardens are open daily, and with rather lengthy hours, note that the palace’s hours vary and that it is always closed on Mondays.
Address: Plaza España 15, La Granja de San Ildefonso, Castile-Leon 40100, Spain
Hours: April 1st-September 30th: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. October 1st-March 31st: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Mondays year round.
On your journey from Segovia’s Roman aqueduct to its Plaza Mayor, you’ll no doubt pass by one of the city’s most intriguing buildings, the Casa de los Picos. One look at the façade and you’ll easily see how it earned its name, the (loosely translated) House of Sharp Points, as its front is covered top to bottom with over 600 granite, diamond-shaped reliefs.
It is believed that the 15th century noble home’s curious façade was created as a possible form of defense given the building’s rather exposed location. Legend has it, though, that the house was well known (famously or infamously) for its previous owners, so when new ones moved in, they chose to cover the façade. These days, the thick-walled structure is home to the Segovia Art School and serves as an exhibition hall, which is open to the public free of charge.
While opening hours are sparse, there isn’t much to see on the interior, so most will get their fill by viewing the exterior.
Address: Calle Juan Bravo, 33, Segovia, Castile-Leon 40001, Spain
Hours: April 1st-September 30th: Monday-Sunday, 12 a.m.-2 p.m.
and 7 p.m.-9 p.m. October 1st-March 31st: Monday through Sunday, 12 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6 p.m.-8 p.m.