Madrid is a City of Art, Life and Entertainment:
Madrid today is one of the major tourist hotspots in Europe. Once ground zero of the Spanish Inquisition, it is now best known for its life-celebrating art, outstanding shopping centres, restaurants and lively nightclubs.
For the visitor, Madrid offers art museums that are second to none, shopping that perhaps only trails London and Paris and great food. In Spain’s capital city you can also enjoy fiery flamenco dances or join the locals in watching a heated soccer match.
For something more calming, Madrid’s parks are also great places to visit. In short, be prepared to spend some time here.
Art in Madrid
Madrid is a city of art and the Prado Museum alone is enough reason for art lovers to come to this city. But there is the equally outstanding Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, a new addition to the city’s art offerings. Founded by the wealthy industrial family, Baron Thyssen and his wife, it houses over 700 of Europe’s treasures from the 13th-20th centuries.
And, for those who want something more modern, the Queen Sofia houses enough 20th century art to satisfy modern art fans.
Parks in Madrid
But there’s much more to see and do in Madrid than stroll around art museums. For a lovely walk in Madrid’s warm sunshine, you’ll want to visit the Parque del Buen Retiro. Though only about a third the size of Manhattan’s Central Park, and much smaller than London’s Hyde Park, it is second to none in beauty. Besides the lovely grounds there are lakes, sculptures and the Crystal Palace to see and enjoy.
The dome of the Basilica de San Francisco El Grande is larger than St. Paul’s Cathedral and has almost as much art as St. Peter’s in Rome, you won’t be disappointed.
Don’t miss seeing the Palacio Real, the Royal Palace, either. Long the home of Spain’s monarchs, it still contains the throne room, the Royal Armory and the Royal Pharmacy. You can stand in some of its 2,800 rooms and imagine what it must have been like to rule half the world from there. Here you’ll see El Cid’ssword and hundreds of jewels, porcelain vases and other objects on display.
For more outside pleasures there are several other major options. The Puerto del Solis the geographical and civic centre of Madrid and all of Spain. The paving slab marked Kilometre Zero is the literal beginning for the country’s six major highways, radiating outward from there. Puerto del Sol is also the favourite hangout for local youngsters and there is a large police presence here.
Plaza Mayor is not far away. Visitors can enjoy a meal at one of the dozens of cafes or restaurants or just sit in the shade and watch the people go by. The square, nearly 100 metre on each side, is surrounded by buildings that have seen everything from bullfights to beheadings.
Food in Madrid
There are plenty of tapas bars, cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy the fine foods of Madrid. We liked the Mercado de San Miguel so much that we found ourselves going back there. If you like paella, Madrid is one of the three Spanish cities noted for paella.
Shopping in Madrid
But leave some time for shopping. Gran Via is Madrid’s most well known avenue for shopping but there are dozens of others: Calle Alcala, Calle Montera, Calle Princesa… the list is endless. Whether you want a fine antique, a new pair of elegant shoes or some of Europe’s best fashion, you’ll find it in one of Madrid’s boutiques and the choices are knee-deep. A favourite with the Spanish is El Cortes Inglés, a department store chain that is present in many Spanish cities. Prices at El Cortes des Inglés are competitive. For those who enjoy flea markets, El Rastro is the place to visit, but beware of pick-pockets.
It may not take you 400 years (the time it has been Spain’s capital) to see all that Madrid has to offer, but be prepared to spend some time here.
Map of Madrid:
Things to do in Madrid