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Madrid's Royal Palace (2:17)

Madrid, Spain

Madrid’s lavish Royal Palace, which rivals the palaces in Paris and Vienna, was home to the powerful King Philip V. Today it shows off the grandeur of generations of Spanish kings.

Complete Video Script

Madrid’s Royal Palace was built by Phillip V in the 1700s. He was born in Versailles, and while he ruled Spain for 40 years, he stayed very French.

The palace was designed to be Phillip’s Versailles — to help establish a new dynasty…the Bourbons. And it’s big — over 2,000 rooms…

With acres of lavish paintings and tapestries, a king’s ransom of chandeliers, priceless treasures, and bronze decor covered in gold leaf. There are over 150 fancy clocks in the palace — all in working order. Portraits of past royal residents — these are by the great Spanish painter Goya — decorate the walls.

In the lavish throne room, golden lions tread red velvet, symbolizing the might of the monarchy — whose coat of arms incorporated many realms and whose empire spanned both hemispheres.

Above the throne, the ceiling fresco by Tiepolo celebrates that vast Spanish empire — upon which the sun never set. A rainbow leads to a macho red-caped conquistador and American Indians — just some more distant Spanish subjects.

Phillip V, the grandson of France’s King Louis XIV, began the Bourbon dynasty, which continued into the 21st century with the popular King Juan Carlos.

The palace is still used for formal state ceremonies and receptions. The King throws dinner parties for up to 150 guests at this bowling lane–sized table.

The king’s front yard? It’s enjoyed by all the people of Madrid. And this plaza is another example of how throughout Europe, energetic governments are turning formerly car-congested wastelands into charming public spaces. Madrid’s mayor is nicknamed “the mole” for all the digging he’s done. Where’s all the traffic? Under your feet.

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