Madrid became the capital city because it lies right in the center of Spain. It is one of the country’s main centers for industry and trade. In this city, the rhythm of everyday life is affected by the climate. The fierce heat of the early afternoon makes a siesta, or rest, really necessary. Businesses and stores close in the middle of the day and do not reopen until late afternoon. After work, people often enjoy a stroll outdoors to meet their friends before dining late in the cool of the night.
Madrid has a lot of history, but is also home to change. Aside from great pieces of art and old architecture, it has scenic boulevards and cafes that make it unique. You can find entertainment, cultural attractions, museums, activities and so on and so forth, and you will not be bored in any corner of this capital city.
When To Go:
Madrid is “blessed” with a continental atmosphere. This implies that, notwithstanding Spain’s reputation as a “warm” nation, Madrid and the regions on those high Castilian fields can be somewhat battered by extreme climates: stifling heat in summer and chilling cold in winter (particularly throughout the night.) Spring (April-June) and early Autumn (September-October) are recognized as the best times of the year to visit Madrid, especially if you are the kind of individual who wilts in the high temperatures brought by the summer season.
These are ten of the most interesting
things to do
when in the city of Madrid:
In the early 19th century, King Ferdinand created the first official catalog of paintings for this building, which he designated as the Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures. For this catalog, 311 paintings by Spanish artists were personally selected by the King (the museum actually contained many other works too.) Over the following years both the Royal Collection and the general holdings of the museum were increased — with this museum eventually absorbing the full collections of at least two other establishments. The Prado Museum of today is for true connoisseurs of art. For everyone who loves the Louvre, the Hermitage, or the Tretyakov this place is a must. If you go in the morning for the opening you will find yourself in a huge line among the crowds. Everyone is given a brochure about the main works in the museums, and most tourists follow the route specified in the brochure. The rooms are not so big, and it is easy to see each of the artworks presented.
There are free visiting hours, every evening from 6.00 to 8.00, except Sundays. The building is located towards the center of the Retiro Park. The place is not difficult to navigate and everything can be explored within two hours. But you can see masterpieces and simple works, starting from magnificent works of Titian and Raphael; masterpieces by El Greco and Velazquez; up to a large collection of paintings by Rembrandt. The museum also presents a small number of sculptures on the theme of Roman myths. There is a room on the 4th floor is entirely occupied by Goya paintings.
Retiro Park (Parque del Retiro)
Parque del Retiro
is an islet of freshness and greenery. It is a wonderful place to relax after exploring the hot city during summer. The
is a large, quiet park with well-manicured grounds and wide avenues where you can go rollerblading and biking. Spend time in the park, take a walk through the alleys, and enjoy the coolness of the atmosphere in the shade. You can take a boat ride on the landscaped lake and get to feed the ducks and carp, which is very entertaining. There are front and lake area, which features floating boats and even a small boat.
Directly served by the Red Metro Line 2 (the stop “Retiro” is located on the inside, near the entrance), the Parque del Retiro is undoubtedly the most famous (and beautiful!) attraction in Madrid. Admission is free and it is open all day. It features a beautiful lake with a mooring of rowing boats available at reasonable prices (€5 for 45 minutes, with a maximum capacity of four people). For a few more Euros, you can tour on the lake aboard a more comfortable boat that is powered by solar energy. There are exhibitions located inside the park, among which is a glass pavilion that is near the fountain. It has lots of carefully groomed channels giving an impression of the wild forest. If you are tired of the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, go to El Retiro.
Templo de Debod (Temple of Debod)
Templo de Debod
Temple of Debod
is an amazing place with an evocative atmosphere where you will find a real Egyptian temple rebuilt very near the Plaza de Espana, Royal Palace, and the Cathedral in Madrid. You can see it for free and you will be extremely impressed, especially at sunset when the colors of the stone are bathed in a particular shade of orange. Equally interesting is the small museum inside which describes the temple in its original version with its location in Egypt. The visit to the Temple of Debod is always free and allows you to discover a little history of Egypt. The interior is very impressive and interesting, while the exterior is a captivating sight. When you walk in, you feel the thrill and sensation of going back in time. It is actually a temple in Egypt (by God Ammon) that was dismantled and reassembled in a fantastic space here in Madrid City.
This temple was a gift from the Egyptian government in 1968 because of the concerned effort of the Spanish government to rescue and preserve the historical importance of the ancient temples along the Nile River after the Aswan Dam construction, which threatened the
durability of the existing monuments located along its reservoir. After all the restoration efforts, the viewing public had a first glimpse of it for free in 1972. It is a must see attraction in Madrid and maybe even at different times of the day to capture more light and enjoy a natural spectacle beyond expectations. It is not the only attraction of the city, but it sure is one of the places that must be included in your bucket list when visiting Madrid.
The wonderful house-museum of impressionist painter Sorolla is located on a quiet street in Madrid and has a superb patio with fountains built in the Andalusian style. On the ground floor there is a living room, and a dining room is in the upper gallery. If you want to learn something new and have some unique things to look at, then this place is created for you. You will see the story from the first days of creation up to the modern period. On Sundays, admission is free. The impressionist also gathered a huge collection of crosses, angels, and illustrations on biblical themes, flowers, and tapestries.
is very intimate with its lovely patio, charming garden, and nice pool. Inside, it has a well maintained and preserved interior that shows details of daily life, and most importantly the artist’s studio. Around it is a small garden filled with fountains, flowers and plants of a thousand species and colors, and sculptures. The ticket office overlooks an internal courtyard in Arabic style and the house-museum is a real treat — as are the wonderful paintings by Sorolla.
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza)
is a cozy European museum, which boasts a decent collection of impressionist paintings in addition to presenting the works of the old masters. The museum is located in the “Golden Triangle of Art” of Madrid; it is not far from the well-known Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia. On Saturdays, the museum is open until 11 pm so you can really have a leisurely look and take pictures. There is a permanent exhibition with focus on a selected artist done on weekends.
The museum has a reasonably large and interesting collection (14th to 15th century and modern artists), plus it pays special attention to American painting of the 19th century and to the Russian artwork collections. It is very small but offers a great diversity. It has a wonderful souvenir shop downstairs, where you can find a lot of books about those artists that are hard to find — and there is a good cafe. The collection of paintings in the museum and its private gallery is beyond praise; Monet, Renoir (discovered again), Degas and other Impressionists loved by all.
Bernabeu Stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabeu)
Real Madrid is the most titled football club in the world and has a proven record in marketing operations and how to organize tours in their home stadium. You have the opportunity to visit the nerve centers of the stadium (bleachers, grandstands, locker rooms, playground, and benches) in addition to the museum in which all the trophies, pictures and memorabilia of the club are housed. From the line at the box office you will realize that it is a tourist attraction of general interest (men, women, and children) and not a place just for football fans.
The Bernabeu Stadium
provides an exciting path that ends with the tunnel leading to the playing field where all the most memorable and great games are played.
At the intersection of Calle de Alcalá and Gran Via is the imposing Beaux Arts office building called the
. It is a structure that like the famous Flatiron Building has become a great historic building — one of the symbols of Madrid. The building is very evocative, especially at night when the lights enhance the beauty of the structure and give a magical touch to the whole Gran Via. This area has great streets, buildings, shops and services, beautiful monuments and lively atmosphere. It goes without saying that the environment created by the Spaniards is always welcoming, and their brightness is contagious.
Madrid is a city of wide-open spaces, wide avenues, large squares and large buildings; and it all gives a feeling of expansiveness where even just walking is a pleasure. You will really enjoy the city and everything it has to offer, from monuments to museums, not to mention the various neighborhoods and parks. The Metropolis area has several attractions to visit; the Prado Museum, Reina Sofia Museum, Plaza del Sol, and the Gran Via. It looks more striking at night. One of the top things to do around here is to eat good paella washed down with freshly made sangria.
Palacio de Cibeles
At one time this building was the post office, but it has now undergone an intelligent restoration. Now we see not only an exhibition space with a bar, restaurant and terrace from which to admire Madrid (for a fee), but also a series of lounges where anyone can go for free to chat with friends, read a book or newspaper, or surf the internet. On the ground floor of the
Palacio de Cibeles,
there is a gift shop, while the upper floors have chic bars and restaurants. However, one portion is devoted to exhibitions and temporary exhibitions.
Anyone can go up to the terrace on the 8th floor after buying a ticket, but it is only possible at certain times (at 12 and 4 pm). Otherwise you can go to a library, a cafeteria or a restaurant as well as the exhibition spaces. The climb is worth the effort as there is a great spot to take panoramic photos of the city. The terrace also has been equipped with pictures that label the buildings/churches/towers that you see.
Royal Palace of Madrid
From the courtyard it looks immense. As you enter this place you are in front of the
Royal Palace of Madrid
and turning around, you see the equally beautiful
Cathedral de la Almudena
. The visit is very impressive as you can have the opportunity to see 15 rooms, including the one with the King’s throne. It is a majestic building, and fascinating to enter the world of the Spanish monarchs. You will see some of the rooms where they exhibit their priceless treasures and have a glimpse of the King and Queen’s golden stucco palace.
It impresses with the richness of the rooms and furniture that is all made of original and local materials. The tour costs $12.50 but every day from 6:00 onwards the admission is free. You can spend half an hour in line to get the free admission but it’s worth it. The tour lasts about an hour and goes through quite a few rooms including the most impressive ones — which are the whole dining room set, the chapel and the throne room. Leave your cameras at the security desk because you cannot take pictures while inside the palace.
Hermitage of San Antonio de la Florida
Hermitage of San Antonio de la Florida
is a little far from the beaten track but definitely not to miss — because it has a frescoed vault with a bright painting created by Goya, showing a miraculous episode from the life of S. Anthony of Padua. It is the only fresco that is shown exactly where it was painted and it is in front of the altar where the tomb of Goya himself is now placed.
There are benches and chairs and one is able to enjoy the painting in comfort, and mirrors in order to capture the finest details. The basilica is amazing, and so are the sculptures and the works of art contained there. You can get there by subway down to Pious Prince or pass through the gardens behind the church.
Museo Lazaro Galdiano
Museo Lazaro Galdiano
is a little gem that is not to be missed when in Madrid. It is a great alternative to the usual recommended attractions. The residence-turned-museum houses a private collection of art works created by Jose Lazaro Galdiano that were eventually donated to Spain. The collection consists of paintings (Goya), jewelry, sculptures, capitals, weapons, clothes, coins, enamels, and ceramics. The house has been structured according to advanced chronological display criteria. The display cases are modern, functional, and well lit.
The tour guides will encourage you to explore and even open drawers, so visitors can find extra objects of considerable interest that are not directly exposed. In each room, you can take pictures without flash. The official website is interactive and can be downloaded with a free app for iPad. To have a real “blast from the past” experience, try the old elevator that connects the floors of the main building. This is a true temple of art on Calle Serrano.
Mercado San Miguel
Mercado San Miguel
is a famous shopping place that is not to be missed while in Madrid. The architectural structure of metal and glass that combines all the stands in the market looks very inviting and pleasant. It is placed in a square adjacent to the much larger and famous Plaza Mayor. Once you cross the threshold of entry, you will be immediately catapulted into the world of food and a variety of choices like; Iberian cold meats, tapas and fish of all kinds which usually dominate the scene. It’s like going to a micro-level of quality of food and wine expo medium high, with prices that are not exactly popular. There are tables and chairs, and a few stools placed near the various counters called “cantina” or the “bar” in Spanish. You can taste a couple of tapas per one Euro each on a stand, then move on to the stand of the fish dishes where you can have a sample of Paella dishes. You can also taste the “pinchos” which are exquisite fish canapés that are served not on a local Pan Carre (packaged bread), but on real slices of fresh baked bread. The Spanish cuisine offered by the restaurants here is good, but with above average prices. If you do not have budget problems, the Mercado San Miguel is definitely recommended.
Overall, Madrid is a lovely city where you will learn so much about a part of Spain’s history after exploring the themed museums, parks, grand palaces, busy avenues, and admiring its century old architectural structures. It has a lot of dining places where you can get a traditional snack or a cup of coffee or hot chocolate paired with a sweet fried dough pastry (Churros). It has an impressive green area in the city center with boat rides and endless walks.
Madrid is a city of wide open spaces, vast avenues, large squares and monumental buildings; and it all gives a feeling of a bright atmosphere where even just walking around is a pleasure. In addition, the Crystal Palace is right there to see and free to explore particularly the iron structure and glass Art Nouveau and the more conventional Palacio de Velasquez. There is a certain charm and a great adventure to be discovered and it is truly worth spending a tour together with your family in the mesmerizing city of Madrid.