These gardens beneath the Palacio Real were designed to mimic the gardens surrounding the palace at Versailles; nowhere is this more in evidence than along the east–west Pradera, a lush lawn with the Palacio Real as its backdrop. The gardens’ centrepiece, which stands halfway along the Pradera, is the elegant Fuente de las Conchas (Fountain of the Shells), designed by Ventura Rodríguez, the Goya of Madrid’s 18th-century architecture scene. The only entrance is from Paseo de la Virgen del Puerto.
From the park you can also gain an appreciation of Madrid in its earliest days – it was from here, in what would become known as Campo del Moro (Moor’s Field), that an Almoravid army laid siege to the city in 1110. The troops occupied all but the fortress (where the Palacio Real now stands), but the Christian garrison held on until the Almoravid fury abated and their forces retired south.
The 20 hectares of gardens that now adorn the site were first laid in the 18th century, with major overhauls in 1844 and 1890.