by Scott Mehl
The palace began as a hunting lodge, built between 1627 and 1635, for King Felipe IV. It was originally just a rectangular building with two small side wings. It takes its name from the zarzas, or brambles, which were found on the original hunting grounds. The palace later gave its name to an operetta which was debuted at the Palace of El Pardo in 1657 for King Felipe IV. The building was later modified by King Carlos IV who installed many of the decorative features which exist today. Carlos IV filled the palace with tapestries and porcelain, as well as furniture and an extensive collection of clocks.
During the Spanish Civil War, the building suffered significant damage, and extensive restoration took place in the 1950s. In 1962, it became the residence of the future King Juan Carlos and his bride, Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark. Since 1981, it has also been the home of Queen Sofia’s sister, Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark. The private quarters are located in one of two wings which were built adjacent to the building in the 1990s. The other wing houses offices and security personnel.
The main floor of the palace contains formal reception rooms, a library and dining room. Also on the main floor is the King’s Office, which is currently used by King Felipe. Just next to the office is the Audience Hall, where the King receives guests and foreign visitors and often hosts meetings.
The Prince’s Pavilion
Located adjacent to Zarzuela Palace is the Prince’s Pavilion, the home of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia and their family. The home was built between 1999-2002 to be a residence for the then-Prince of Asturias. Covering over 3,100 square meters, it is very much a private home. The first floor features several formal rooms used for entertaining and official functions, while the second floor is the private living quarters. Upon his accession, Felipe and Letizia chose to remain at their home, while the King took over his father’s offices at the Palace of Zarzuela.
Learn more about the other Spanish Royal Residences here!