In 1512, Navarre was invaded and the palace began to deteriorate. Afterwards, it was only used occasionally as a residence for noblemen. Then, during the Peninsular War in 1813, the palace was intentionally burned by the Navarre General, Espoz y Mina, in an attempt to prevent the french troops from using it for strategic purposes. As a result, all of the furnishings and palatial artifact were lost and the palace was left in terrible shape. In 1937, a restoration of the palace began and continued for another 30 years until it was finally completed.
Today, the Royal Palace of Olite is only a shell of its former self but it still retains much of its fairy tale characteristics. There are countless towers that are scattered throughout the palace that conjure up images of Cinderella, Rapunzel, and even Super Mario. Each one of them is slightly different and has its own appeal. The towers are a lot of fun to climb and have really amazing views of the rest of the castle, the town, and the surrounding landscape filled with vineyards. In addition, there is a sense of disorder to the palace that is the result of continuous expansion efforts made throughout the years. These expansions were never built according to an overall plan. The towers and overall disorder only add to the palace’s charm.
Other Points of Interest
Although the main attraction to Olite is, without a doubt, the French Gothic palace, the town itself is very lovely. Olite boasts two churches within its small walled boarders. The oldest of which is San Pedro which lies in the opposite corner of the town from the Royal Palace. San Pedro is from the 12th century and features an impressive Romanesque facade and cloister. The other church of Olite is the Santa Maria (13th century) which is located directly next to the palace.
Olite makes for a great excursion for those visiting Pamplona and wanting to get a little deeper into Navarre. The village still feels relatively untouched and the locals have done a great job of keeping the town to a high standard. There are plenty of nice hotels including the Parador which occupies part of the old palace. There are also plenty of great restaurants and the surrounding vineyards supply tasty reds and rosés.
The Bardenas Reales desert is a short 15-20 minutes drive from Olite. Those interested in visiting might want to consider using Olite as their base for exploring the surroundings.
Every year during the second weekend of August, Olite hosts a large medieval festival. The town is flooded with artisans, puppeteers, archers and jugglers. Knight tournaments are also held and the entire town is dressed in medieval costumes. There is medieval food and basically anything you can image that is related to the middle ages.