La Granja de San Ildefonso

  • La Granja de San Ildefonso

La Granja de San Ildefonso is, first and foremost, a Royal Site. The small town of San Ildefonso, designated as a monumental historical site, is a token of the glory of the Spanish Monarchy in the eighteenth century. The Royal Palace, the Glass Factory and the fabulous, Versailles-like gardens are icons of such splendour.

Lying some 80km from Madrid and only 10km from Segovia, San Ildefonso boasts an attractive natural setting and a rich cultural heritage. A farm run by the Order of Saint Jerome, it was purchased as a summer residence by King Philip V, the first member of the French House of Bourbon to rule as king of Spain, after he abdicated. When Philip reassumed the throne upon his son’s death, the palace was enlarged to house the court. Designed by renowned architects – original design by Teodoro Ardemans, enlargement plan by Andrea Procaccini, definitive character by Filippo Juvarra, it’ss a typical but restrained baroque palace. A collegiate church dedicated to the Holy Trinity – Real Colegiata de la Santísima Trinidad – is attached to the palace. It’s the old chapel of the Royal Site.

The Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso resembles Versailles in its grandeur, which goes beyond the ornate halls and spills over the fountains, sculptures and gardens – a fine example of the French formal garden in Spain, designed by René Carlier, a disciple of Louis XIV’s architect. 146 hectares in forests and landscaped gardens, including 26 monumental fountains, a labyrinth and a huge water pond, known as ‘The Sea’, filling the fountains with water.

The fountains are set to jet and flow only three days a year, on 30 May, 25 July and 25 August. In addition, in July and August, there’s a water show at the fountain known as ‘The Baths of Diana’ on Saturdays from 10.30 to 11.30pm.

The Royal Glass Factory at La Granja was rebuilt by King Charles III in 1770, when its predecessor burnt down. It produced delicate container glassworks and was active until 1972. Ten years later, it was converted to National Glass Centre Foundation. Visitors learn about the glassmaking techniques of the past two centuries, glass blowing and glass moulding methods, special tools and machines, and so on. They can even see glassmakers at work, using the techniques of this industry’s golden age. Dramatized and regular guided tours are available. The Chapel of San Juan Nepomuceno and the House of Infantes are also worth a visit.

If you’re coming to La Granja, you must try its most traditional dish: big beans or judiones. On 25 August, the local festival, there’s a popular bean cookout known as ‘La Judiada’.

How to get there:

By car: 75min drive along A-6 highway and AP-61 motorway.

By bus: 75min drive from Moncloa transport hub. Buses leave from Segovia to La Granja de San Ildefonso every 45min. More info

By train: 25min ride on high-speed rail (AVE) to Segovia-Guiomar station (connected to bus terminal by bus line 12). 2hs 30min ride on regional train and then but from Segovia to La Granja.

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