Any journey through Spain must start with Madrid. At the very least, Madrid lies in the center of Spain, and so tourists can proceed to the other regions of the country after they are done exploring what Madrid has to offer. However, if you are to choose just one city in Spain to spend your holiday in, you might as well pick Madrid. Exploring Madrid and getting to know its many, diverse facets can take many, many days, and you might find yourself wanting to return on future holidays.
Madrid is the capital of Spain as well as the largest city in the country. It is the seat of the Spanish government and the official residence of the Spanish royal family. It is the financial center and the beating heart of Spanish culture. It is not that hard to fall in love with Madrid.
If you have only a few days to spend in Madrid, how should you make the most of it so that when you leave Madrid, you can confidently say that you have had at least a taste of what Madrid has to offer?
Wander the streets. You can roam about the streets of Madrid and discover its plazas and avenues. Madrid may not be as picturesque a city as the other cities in Spain, but it has some wonderful sights to offer.
One example is the Plaza Mayor. The Plaza Mayor is a square in the center of Madrid, in the historic district. Built in 1619, it is enclosed on three sides by residential buildings with balconies all facing the square. At its center stands a statue of Philip III.
Another discovery you should make when wandering Madrid is Puerta del Sol, which was once a gate to the old city walls. Puerta del Sol is located in the very center of Madrid, very near the Plaza Mayor. It is here where the marking for Kilometer 0 that denotes the starting point of the radial roads of Spain is found.
See the sights. There are many sights of beauty and historical significance in Madrid, but if you are pressed for time, make sure that you at least visit these two: the Palacio Real and the Parque del Buen Retiro.
The Palacio Real – the Royal Palace – is the official residence of the Spanish Monarch, although the current King of Spain presently lives at the Palacio de la Zarzuela. The Palacio Real houses important artworks made by Spanish masters such as Diego Velasquez and Francisco de Goya, and other art objects of historical value.
The Parque del Buen Retiro, on the other hand, is a famous park located at the center of Madrid. One of the attractions of the park is the large artificial lake, where one can spend a relaxing afternoon on a boat. The Palacio de Cristal, inspired by London’s Crystal Palace, as well as the Forest of the Departed, a grove commemorating those who died in the 11 March 2004 terrorist attack in Madrid, are found in this park.
Visit the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle in Madrid refers to the three most important museums of Madrid: the Museo del Prado, the Museo Reina Sofia, and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.
The Museo del Prado is home to one of the finest collection of European art in the world, with some 3,000 paintings, 700 sculptures and thousands of other objects of art that belonged to the Spanish Royal Collection. The collection represents work created by the Spanish old masters such as Velasquez, Goya and El Greco, as well as the works of Titian, Raphael and Peter Paul Rubens.
Named after Queen Sofia, the consort of the current King of Spain, the Museo Reina Sofia is a museum dedicated to Spanish art. It is most notable for being the home of the works of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. One of its prized works is the Guernica, Picasso’s masterpiece.
The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza began as a private collection of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, who sold the collection to Spain. What are not represented in the other two museums of the Golden Triangle – impressionist and expressionist works as well as paintings from the second half of the 20th century – can be found here. The museum is home to an impressive collection of works by Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Rembrandt, and many others.
Shop at El Rastro. El Rastro is Madrid’s popular open-air flea market, where you can find antiques, animals, art objects, rare books, clothes, trading cards and comic books, and many, many other things for sale. El Rastro is open during Sundays and public holidays. If you want to try your hand at haggling, El Rastro will be a memorable experience for you.
Sample the nightlife. Partying in mainland Spain is best done at Madrid, where the young people will dance the night away and go straight to work the following morning. Take note that the under-thirties crowd flock to Malasaña and Chueca, while Huertas and La Latina are for the older set.
A visit to Spain must start with Madrid, and it is highly likely that you will end up spending your Spanish holiday entirely in Madrid, and even come back for future holidays.
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