Skip the long lines and enter the Royal Palace, the Spanish monarchy's official residence.
The Madrid Royal Palace stands on the site of the former Alcázar of Madrid, a medieval fortress transformed into a lavish palace by John II, Charles V and Phillip II. Inspired by sketches made by Bernini for the construction of the Louvre in Paris, the palace is built in the form of a square and looks out over a large courtyard with galleries and a parade ground.
The decoration of the palace's rooms and their layout has gradually changed over the years. It comprises over 3000 rooms, including: the Main Staircase, designed by Sabatini with over 70 steps; the Throne Hall featuring a ceiling painted by Tiepolo; the Hall of Halberdiers, which Charles III turned into the Guards Room; the Gasparini Room, with its grand 18th century decoration on a floral theme; the Royal Chemist's with natural medicine cabinets, ceramic pots made by the La Granja factory, and even prescriptions given to members of the royal family; and the Royal Chapel, where you could admire a collection of string instruments made by the legendary Antonio Stradivari.
If you visit the palace, you'll also admire the Royal Armoury and the Painting Gallery. The first one includes weapons and armour worn by the kings of Spain and other members of the royal family since the 13th century. The Painting Gallery includes works by such artists as Velázquez, Goya, Federico Madrazo, Joaquín Sorolla, Caravaggio, Luis Morales and Juan de Flandes.