Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a cosmopolitan city that combines the most modern infrastructures and the status as an economic, financial, administrative and service centre, with a large cultural and artistic heritage, a legacy of centuries of exciting history. Strategically located in the geographic centre of the Iberian Peninsula at an altitude of 646 m above sea level, Madrid has one of the most important historic centres of all the great European cities. (Madrid Vacation)
While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets. Its landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro Park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain’s historical archives; a large number of national museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which completes the shortcomings of the other two museums. Cibeles Palace and Fountain have become the monument symbol of the city. These conditions, together with all the drive of a dynamic and open society –as well as high-spirited and friendly– have made this metropolis one of the great capitals of the Western world.
Madrid’s extensive and beautifully maintained parks and gardens –like the Retiro park, formerly the recreational estate to the Spanish monarchs, the Casa de Campo and the Juan Carlos I park– offer inhabitants and visitors the chance to enjoy the sunshine, stroll, row on its lakes or feed the squirrels, in one of the greenest capitals in Europe.
Madrid’s lively nightlife is another key attraction of Spain’s capital, due to its variety and the exciting atmosphere to be found in its bars, pubs, clubs and flamenco halls. Other daytime entertainment options include traditional outdoor dances, popular festivities and the San Isidro bullfighting festival, regarded as being the most important in the world.
1 Royal Palace or Palacio Real
The massive size of the Palacio Real is its most imposing feature. Madrid’s Royal Palace boasts more than 2,500 ornately decorated rooms. The palace itself contains furniture, tapestries, paintings and ceramics as well as other important works of art and frescos by Tiépolo. Velázquez, Goya, Giordano and Mengs are all represented here amongst the dozens of valuable tapestries and paintings, making the palace one of Europe’s most important museums.
It remains open to the public almost year round except on the days of official ceremonies and receptions, although the public can only access certain areas. It is located on Bailén street, and the nearest Metro station is Opera.
Breathtakingly beautiful! Walking through the 30+ rooms that are open to the public is a wonderful way to spend several hours. Its a great walk through history and every bit as impressive as Versailles. The Armory, an exhibit of arms and armor, was also worthwhile. Be aware that the building is sometimes closed to the public viewing when it is being used for government/royal functions.
2 Plaza Mayor
The most famous of Madrid’s many stately plazas, the Plaza Mayor dates back to 1619, when it lay outside the city’s bounds and was used to host bullfights. The name of the plaza has changed over time. Originally it was called the “Plaza del Arrabal” but became known as the “Plaza Mayor”.
It is a municipal and cultural building on the north side of the Plaza Mayor. It is four stories high, the structures are decorated with frescoes, ornamented with balconies framed with wrought-iron railings and topped with elegant slate spires. The ground floor comprising porticos and the top floor in the form of an attic, with its sides crowned by angular towers. A statue of Philip III on horseback stands in the middle of the plaza. Facing the plaza is the Casa de la Panadería, which houses a tourist information center.
At the top center of La Casa de la Panadería, there is a Spanish Coat of Arms. They are the royal Spanish arms from the reign of Carlos II. The Plaza Mayor has been the scene of multitudinous events: markets (Christmas Market), bullfights, soccer games, public executions, etc.
Plaza mayor has an amazing Spanish charming that makes you feel that you really are in Madrid, it’s something that you can’t miss if you go there. There are a lot of restaurants with Spanish food for a very good price. Highly recommended by Traveler, the “Museo del jamón” or jam museum, they offer the plate of the day for around 10 o 13 € and it has two main plates, bread, wine and dessert, it is a great deal and also delicious.
3 Gran Vía
Probably, Gran Vía is the most famous and popular touristic street in Spain. It is known as the Broadway of Madrid because it’s “the street that never sleeps.” The grand boulevard runs through central Madrid from the Plaza de España to Calle de Alcalá. Although the street now seems integral to the bustling capital, it’s actually a fairly recent addition to the city.
Completed in 1910, the Gran Vía starts at the Plaza de Alcalá square and leads across the city to the expansive Plaza de España, is lined with hundreds of shops, theatres, restaurants, bars and businesses. The most famous building on the boulevard is the Telefónica Building, which was the tallest building in Europe when it was completed in 1929. The clock at the top of the Baroque-American style structure is a local landmark.
If you’re addicted to shop and have a very heavy wallet probably Gran Via is your place. Gran Via is Madrid’s busiest street, and when people are swirling around you it feels like a carnival. At night the lots of lights and the flickering neon signs are even increasing this feeling.
This Street deserves a short, 1-1, 5 hours visit, since it has its own charm and glamour.
4 Puerta del Sol
Located in the center of Madrid, the Puerta del Sol, or “Gate of the Sun,” is a crossroads where thousands gather each New Year’s Eve to welcome in the new year. Recent improvements to the square have limited car traffic and transformed the square into a spot where visitors can stroll and admire the architectural wonders. Central to these is the famous clock that all Spaniards turn their eyes to on Christmas and New Year’s Eve where it chimes into new celebrations at midnight. Millions watch on TV and what sometimes seems like millions more brave the cold here in the square. If you’re here on New Year’s Eve this is a marvellous experience
In front of the building is Kilometer Zero, a plaque showing the point where the measuring of the national highway system begins. The statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree standing on one side of Puerta del Sol is considered a symbol of Madrid.
A lovely square with lots of cafés and restaurants to choose from. A great peace to people watch and normally there’s some street entertainment to watch / listen to. Definitely worth a visit and if you’re eating pick a menu of the day, much better value and not really promoted to the tourists
5 Parque del Buen Retiro
Known as the Parque del Buen Retiro or El Retiro (“Park of the Pleasant Retreat”, in english), is the first biggest park of Madrid city. It has 350-acre spread of gardens, fountains and buildings located at the edge of the city center. Retiro Park began as a monastery in the 1500s. It was expanded into a royal park when Phillip II moved his court to Madrid in 1561. It’s been part of the public domain since 1868. A favorite spot for tourists and locals alike, the park features a large artificial pond where people can rents kayaks and canoes. It’s a magnificent park, filled with beautiful sculpture and monuments, galleries, a peaceful lake and host to a variety of events.
This is a beautiful urban park in the center if Madrid. Once inside, the city seems far away and it’s a great place to feel nature and unwind. Lovely paths for strolling, and don’t miss renting a row boat for a 45 minute paddle around a scenic lake.
6 Museo del Prado
The Museo del Prado is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Madrid. The 18th century structure designed by architect Juan de Villanueva houses one of the world’s finest art collections. A 2007 expansion has made the famed museum easier to navigate. With more than 7,000 works of art representing culture and history from the 12th century to the early 19th century, however, it’s impossible to see everything in a single visit. Visitors may wish to focus on the museum’s collection of Spanish artists, including Goya, El Greco, da Ribera and Velázquez, which is inarguably the best collection of Spanish paintings in the world.
This is a great museum and even if you’re not an art lover or museum goer, its worth spending a few hours just to browse the collection of masterpieces.
7 Almudena Cathedral
When the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, King Felipe II he wanted a cathedral for his new capital. Plans were discussed as early as the 16th century to build a cathedral in Madrid dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena, but construction did not begin until 1879.
The site on which Almudena Cathedral now stands was originally occupied by Madrid’s first mosque, then by a church dedicated to one of Madrid’s patron saints, Santa María de la Almudena. The Cathedral is 104 m long and 76 m wide. The central dome has a diameter of 20 m. The building is situated adjacent to the Royal Palace, in front of “Plaza de Armas” of the Palace, on the south side.
The bright interior of Almudena Cathedral is based in the Neo-Gothic style, that it is uniquely modern, with chapels and statues of contemporary artists, in heterogeneous styles, from historical revivals to “pop-art” decor.
It is a wonderful structure, with many different styles of archetecture including neoclassic and gothic. The interior was absolutely amazing, the high ornate ceilings and beautiful stained glass windows and statues were very moving indeed! So many to see as well. This is the only Spanish cathedral to have been consecrated by a Pope. There is the famous picture of the Virgin Mary in the centre. This is free to enter but donations are welcome, and you can also buy gifts from the entrance where there is a little glass topped table with gifts, but as there is absolutely no obligation to buy, you will need to get the person’s attention if you want something as they will not notice you otherwise which is so considerate.
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