Madrid, the capital city of Spain, might lack famous landmarks compared to other European capitals but I assure you, Madrid will not disappoint you.
I always wanted to go to Madrid just because of Prado Museum, which meant to me like a seminar I did not attend yet while I was studying Spanish Literature back then in Istanbul. I indeed think Prado Museum is a reason enough to visit Madrid, but then I discovered a lot more about the city and realized what a lovely city Madrid is.
My highlights of Madrid
If you liked Louvre Museum in Paris or National Gallery in London, there is no doubt you’ll like Prado Museum as well. In this museum you’ll have the pleasure of seeing the masterpieces of Spanish paintings from the 12th to 19th century.
When you see Las pinturas negras (The Black Paintings) of Goya you’ll understand what grotesque really means. You’ll witness Goya’s love affair when you see La maja vestida (dressed woman) and La maja desnuda (undressed woman). You’ll witness to the life of a royal family when you see Las Meninas (The Court Ladies) of Velázquez. Also the works of El Greco, Rubens, Bruegel, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Hieronymus Bosch, Dürer and Rafael are breathtaking.
Centro de Arte de Reina Sofía
The absolute highlight in Contemporary Art Museum is Pablo Picasso’s Guernica where he tells the brutal story of the Nazi German aerial bombing of a small Basque town during the Spanish Civil War.
The collection which includes masterpieces of Juan Miró, Salvadir Dalí and Pablo Picasso is a door opener to Spain’s history and culture in the the 20th century. My personal favorite (besides Guernica) is Un mundo (A World) by Angeles Santos.
This plaza, built in 17th century, once an important commerce center, is a pure tourist attraction center today. All over the square there are many cafés, restaurants and street artists. In Plaza Mayor you have the chance to feel the vibrant street life of Madrid in all ages. Travel in time and imagine the royal celebrations in the 18th century and come back to 21st century in a winter to enjoy the Christmas market in December.
Parque del Buen Retiro
My friend took me to the El Retiro Park to spend the afternoon even though I was quite skeptical. I didn’t want to miss other things in Madrid while spending time in a park. I was wrong because Park of Buen Retiro is not just a park. It is a place to find peace, it is fabulous and I’d recommend it to everyone who visits Madrid.
The artificial lake, marble lions, the formed trees, Crystal Palace and the Rose Gardens served once the kings and queens but now it is a place where the people in Madrid, spend their quality time escaping the busy street of the 3rd biggest city of Europe after London and Berlin.
Templo de Debot
Who would have thought to find an Egyptian temple in Madrid? The Debod Temple was brought to Madrid in 1968 as a gift for Spanish archaeologists who saved the temple from being drowned during the construction of Aswan High Dam in Egypt.
The Temple Debod is located in Parque de la Montaña close to Plaza de España. I was at night here and the lightning of the temple was magical, as if the temple was flooding. Besides, the views from the surrounding gardens are some of the best in Madrid. You can see Royal Palace from here.
I’m not a huge fan of royal palaces, so I just sow it from outside. Like all royal palaces this one is also huge, impressive, made with most expensive material which is supposed to symbolize of power.
If I visit Madrid again this time I’d visit also the inside of Palacio Real to see the paintings of Velázquez, Goya, Rubens, El Greco, and Caravaggio decorating the walls.
La Puerta del Sol
Did you know that the national symbol of Madrid is a bear eating fruits from a strawberry tree which symbolizes the strong industry of Madrid. The statue of the bear and the Strawberry tree (El Oso y El Madrono) is located in Madrid’s most famous and most central square, La Puerta del Sol.
In Puerta del Sol there is also the famous clock. At New Year’s Eve, at midnight its bells welcome the New Year while the Madrileños start eating their twelve grapes making wishes per grape. It comes only true if you manage to eat all 12 grapes in 12 seconds.
Last but not least, if you want to have a fun night out in Madrid, you can go to Lavapiés, which is a good alternative to well known areas Huertas and Gran Via. Our friends took us here to several local bars. Lavapiés has a very rich multi-cultural flair where many expats and artists live, which forms this neighborhood.
I loved in Madrid that everytime we ordered a new drink we got new free tapas (appetizers) like Tortilla (potato omelette), cured meat, mini burgers, croquettes, etc. A friend told me that serving free tapas is a tradition in Madrid, since the King forced all innkeepers to serve food next to alcoholic drinks to avoid people from getting drunk. I got drunk anyway but I still remember how delicious everything was.
To learn more about Madrid I can recommend you Lonely Plant’s Travel Guide for Madrid.
Don’t forget to check my Pack List for useful travel items.
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