Energetic and creative, lively and proud: Madrid it has all the features of a modern European capital. At the same time, the legacy of its rich and complex history (we must not forget that this city was the center of the immense empire ruled by the most catholic kings of Spain) is visible and perceived everywhere. And even if Madrid is there capital only since 1561 this is the center of the country. And yet this is heard and seen everywhere so much that it is hard and long work to compose the list of what to see in Madrid.
There is the huge cathedral, the Royal Palace and a legion of historic buildings as well as i great museums of the Golden Triangle: the Pradothe Reina Sofía and the gallery Thyssen-Bornemisza. But then there are the neighborhoods full of life where the globalization of cultures and ethnic groups is already a thing of yesterday and there are the avenues of the brands and the science fiction projects of the stars of global architecture. But there are also old bars around the bullring de Las Ventas where old aficionados drink vermouth and talk about bulls and bullfighters as if they were still the days of Hemingway.
Madrid: big, beautiful and full of contrasts
We said it: Madrid is big and full of contrasts. And this gives her the charm of her sometimes a bit grumpy but unique that makes her different from the others Spanish cities perhaps more piacione, like Seville or Cordoba. But that wins over quickly. You pass in a few steps from the labyrinthine streets of the district of medieval origin to the wide avenues born from the grandiose restoration and development projects of the nineteenth century, from the barrios recently transformed by the proliferation of bars and galleries popping up relentlessly. And among these places it is easy to stop for a beer or a tapas among the outdoor tables to take the time to the city.
What to see in Madrid: a city with many faces
Tourists tend to congregate in the central area between the Palacio Real and the Puerta del Solbut each of Madrid’s neighborhoods is original in its own way – Lavapiés, Malasaña and Chueca they are the most fashionable. At the northern end of the Paseo de la Castellana there are the “leaning towers” of the Puerta de Europawhile at the bottom of the Plaza Mayor is the neighborhood of The Latina where the new trendy cafes cannot dispel the bars still chained to tradition. And then the custom of staying late in the evening remains engraved in the DNA of the people. So much so that the question on what see in Madrid comes after the one concerning “what to do“. And staying up late is a must.
When you want to escape the urban hustle and bustle instead, the broad Retiro park offers a peaceful retreat with shady woods and a placid pond where you can paddle on boats of yesteryear or you can aim for the gigantic Casa del Campothe largest park in the capital which even inside it also has a teleférica leading to the Parque dell’Oeste. But if you want to line up what to see in Madrid, even a cable car isn’t enough: let’s start wandering around.
What to see in Madrid: the treasures of the Prado
Among the first entries in the guide dedicated to what to see in Madrid there are certainly the its museums. And in the first place there is the Pradowhich the most important museum in the country and in some respects rivals the Louvre from Paris. The result is that it is full of treasures and huge. So a selection must be made because it is unthinkable to see beyond 7,600 paintings and a thousand sculptures. Point directly to the large collection of Spanish paintingwhich is the best in the world, where the works of Goya or Velázquezincluding the famous “Las Meninas“.
The collection also includes Italian, Flemish, French paintings and Italian neoclassical sculptures. For a visit that is not too exhausting there are routes dedicated to the unmissable works with an audio guide that leads to 50 absolute masterpieces. After the Prado you can pay a visit to the church of San Jerónimo el Real, which is located behind the museum, to see a remarkable collection of Spanish religious paintings from the 17th century. The Prado is open Monday to Saturday (10am – 8pm) and Sunday (10am – 7pm).
Continuing your visit to Madrid you cannot carve out some time for Plaza Mayor. In the heart of the historic center, the square was created in 1619 and is a perfect example of Golden Age architecture. The shape is perfectly rectangular with symmetrical three-storey buildings around it, with 237 balconies overlooking the square. In the center stands an equestrian statue of King Philip III to be admired sitting on one of the many bars with tables in the sun.
What to see in Madrid: the Gran Via
The city is large: and the list of places not to be missed is very long. But on the other hand, come to Madrid and not walk around there Gran Via it’s like being a New York and not enjoy Times Square. It may not be the most relaxing or elegant street in the world: but it must be seen. The Gran Via starts at calle Alcalá and ends at Plaza de Espana and was built in the early twentieth century, to unite the north-west of the city and the center.
Today he is one of the shopping districts but it also attracts fans of cultural entertainment because in the area of plaza de Callao it also hosts many theaters; in short, it is a bit there Broadway of Madrid. Day or night it is always full of life and you do not miss the opportunity to have a cocktail at the bar Chicote Museum. It is still as it was in 1931 and Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly they were loyal customers.
The great museums of the capital
Let’s go back to the museums if we want to understand what to see in Madrid. This time we focus on Reina Sofia Museum which completes the offer of the Prado. In fact, this space, inaugurated in 1992 in the old hospital of the city, is dedicated tomodern and contemporary art and collects unique pieces by artists ranging from Dalì, Braque and Picasso. And in fact the most famous piece is the celebrated Guernica which, seen up close, deeply moves. The museum is located in Calle de Santa Isabel 52 and is open from 10 to 21 with closing on Tuesdays.
Let’s alternate the subjects a bit. And from art we move on to cheaper shopping: the one at flea market. If you are in Madrid on a Sunday morning you cannot miss a visit to the Rastro, the most important market and one of the most characteristic places to visit. This market was born in the mid-18th century in the district of Lavapiés and there is a bit of everything, come on vintage clothes junk, used books and lamps that have seen better days. Then, after a tiring walk among the stalls, sit in one of the many cafes for a break with a glass of wine accompanied by classic tapas. You will be in good company: many people from Madrid will be doing the same thing.
What to see in Madrid: relax in the park
We have already said: a visit to Madrid can be tiring and a stop in the park helps to relax. In this sense, the Retiro Park (or simply El Retiroif you prefer) is perfect for a walk, spend some time in the sun time, stroll or pretend sailors on a small boat. And also for a tasty picnic. It is broad 120 hectareswas established in the early seventeenth century for the Count-Duke of Olivares and in addition to green spaces and tree-lined avenues it is noted for strings of statues of the kings and queens of Spain and important buildings including the Palacio de Cristal which also hosts contemporary art exhibitions). Then there are curious fountainsa lake and several cafes where you can indulge in a typically Madrid pastime: have a drink, chat and people watch.
The third element of the triangle of art is provided by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum which collects more than 700 pieces from the family’s private collection Thyssen-Bornemisza and more than 240 loaned by Carmen Cervera, widow of Baron Thyssen. There are obviously many masterpieces but this is the right place for those who love the colors and suggestions of impressionism and post-impressionism with works Monet, Degas, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne.
La Puerta del Sol: where people hang out
Does the life that fills the streets fascinate you? Then don’t miss any of the reasons for any reason most famous squares of Spain or the Puerta del Solpopular center of Madrid, a place where you say goodbye to the old year to the rhythm of the clock that dominates it from above and point of the zero kilometer. Where the roads start from. The name derives from the image of the sun that stood over the old city gate which was located right here and now is also a nerve center for transport with many bus stops and obviously of the meter.
As mentioned then here is the zero kilometer: from here all the distances on the Spanish road network. The Puerta del Sol has been the scene of many historical events, including the Spanish revolt to Napoleon on May 2, 1808, and in 1931, the Second Republic was proclaimed here. Today the square is a place to relax and enjoy life by stopping in the many clubs or entering a couple of beautiful bookstores. Not far away is the palazzo de El Corte Inglésthe historic local department store and for romantics with a sweet tooth The violeta, an old confectionery shop that sells the old purple sweets typical of Madrid.
What to see in Madrid: the king’s palace
You can’t write a guide on what to see in Madrid without mentioning the Royal Palace which is, in theory, the official residence of the king although it is basically used for state ceremonies. With 135,000 square meters of surface e 3,418 rooms it is the largest royal palace in all of Western Europe. It was built from King Philip V in the place where it was located in the eighteenth century Real Alcázar and is a perfect example of baroque architecture which represents the Iberian response to the grandeur of Versailles with also a great view over huge gardens.
The interior is exaggeratedly sumptuous: just look at the imposing entrance staircase surmounted by the fresco depicting the Triumph of Religion and the Church to be crushed. If that’s not enough, try to see the throne room embellished with frescoes by Tiepolo that tell the greatness of the Spanish monarchy. And there is nothing more to say. Around the rooms then a string of works by Velázquez, Goya, Rubens, El Greco as well as exquisite Flemish and French tapestries. The palace can be seen every day from 10 to 18 (from October to March), and from 10 to 14 (from April to September).
What to see in Madrid: the places of the fans
Then, before we dedicate ourselves to exploring the other districts of Madrid and trying to find out where to eat the best tapas in town two more stops. The first at the Puerta de Alcaláa neoclassical triumphal arch intended to celebrate the arrival of the monarchs in the capital of the Spain and contains all the pride and grandeur of this country. Then here’s the time to pay homage to the famous one fountain of Cybeleone of the most emblematic monuments of Madrid.
Created in 1782 by Francisco Gutiérrez and Roberto Michelthe imposing fountain depicts the Roman goddess Cybele on a chariot drawn by lions. Behind the fountain is the cultural center Palacio de Cibeleswhich hosts art exhibitions and workshops, conferences and concerts but above all this is the place where the fans of the real Madrid. A curiosity: at less than two hundred meters there is another statue, dedicated to Neptune. This is the place where the fans of theAtletico Madrid. The goddess of fertility against the god of the sea, fans against fans. The beauty of Spain and of its capital is also in these things.