Madrid – the bustling capital of Spain, and which I totally fell in love with. It is not without reason that there is a saying “Life as in Madrid”. It is said that these are cities that never fall asleep. Any time is good to visit Madrid. I went here in the middle of summer, initially for a week, and stayed for over a month, which allowed me to get to know the city and the surrounding area quite well. In summer, it is hot and dry during the day, and the sun burns the skin. However, shelter can be sought in numerous museums and parks or narrow streets that give the desired shade. And although most of the madrileños (i.e. residents of Madrid) leave the city during the holidays, in the evening those who have stayed in Madrid and numerous tourists take to the streets. Bars and gardens are bursting at the seams, crowds on the streets. Around Madrid there are also beautiful cities and towns and the Guadarrama mountain range (the highest peak of Peñalara 2428m above sea level). The perfect city to spend a weekend, a week, a month or maybe even a year here.
Madrid is a royal city, the oldest remains found dating back to the Muslim period – around the ninth century. The symbol of Madrid is the “oso y madroño”,that is, the bear and the wild strawberry tree, which are found in the coat of arms of the city, and their sculpture in the main square of the Puerta del Sol. Most of the sights and tourist attractions are located in the very center of the city, located a maximum of half an hour away on foot.
And although the center is compact, each district has its own unique character. We can stroll through the narrow streets of La Latina, where every Sunday there is a fair El Rasto. Right next to it is the Lavapiés district, where a lot of foreigners and immigrants live. There are plenty of restaurants, shops from all over the world. A bit to the north is Chueca – an LGBT+ district, next to which is the Malasaña district. It is full of small squares, where there are numerous bars, pubs and theaters of an alternative nature.
Below is a description of the most interesting attractions and places in Madrid.
Palacio Real – Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid, or Palacio Real, is a must-see in Madrid. It is an official royal residence, but currently uninhabited by the ruler of Spain 😉 However, it is here that official visits, meetings and celebrations take place. In addition, the Palace was made available as a museum to visitors.
The palace was built on the orders of King Philip V, on the site of the Royal Alcázar destroyed by fire in 1734. The palace was finished in the Rococo and Baroque styles. The first completed room was the royal chapel. Palacio Real is the largest palace in Western Europe, with a total of 3418 rooms. The first king to live in the mansion was Charles III.
During the visit, we have the chance to see both official places, such as the throne room or ballroom, as well as the former bedroom or bathroom of King Charles III. The walls are decorated with paintings by well-known painters, such as. Goya or Velazquez. Tickets can be purchased in advance on the palace website,or on the spot after leaving in a large queue 😉 A normal ticket costs 12 euros. Guided visits are also available, but for individuals only in Spanish. Opening hours of Palacio Real:
- Summer (April-August)
- Monday – Saturday: 10:00 -19:00
- Sunday: 10:00 – 16:00
- Winter (October – March)
- Monday – Saturday: 10:00 -18:00
- Sunday: 10:00 – 16:00
Cathedral – Catedral de la Almudena
Catedral de la Almudena is one of the youngest cathedrals in the world. The construction lasting 100 years was completed only in 1993, and the cathedral was consecrated by John Paul II. It is a huge neoclassical building located opposite the Palacio Real. In addition, the crypt has been made available for sightseeing, which is located under the church and the museum.
Between the cathedral and the royal palace there is an observation deck from which we can admire the sunsets.
Basilica of San Francisco el Grande
Basilica of St. Francis was for a long time recognized as the “unofficial cathedral” of Madrid. The church from the outside may not make such an impression, but just after entering the interior is delighted by the huge dome with a diameter of 33 meters (3rd in terms of size in Christian temples in the world!). Inside, numerous altars are decorated with paintings by famous painters, including Francisco Goya and Francisco Bayeu.
Admission to the temple costs 5 euros (normal) or 3 euros (with a discount). Admission is free on Saturdays. From Tuesday to Friday during the opening hours, a guideguides the temple, but only in Spanish. Opening hours:
- July – September
- Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00-13:00, 17:00-19:30
- October – June
- Tuesday – Saturday: 13:00-13:00, 16:00-18:30
Temple of Debod – Templo de Debod
Egyptian temple in the center of the European capital? Yes, it is! In 1968, Unesco made a worldwide request for help in saving temples in the nubia area. For their support, the Egyptian government gave Spain the Temple of Debod. The temple was built in the second century BC. Now it is located near the Palacio Real. The Temple of Debod is worth visiting around sunset. From the hill there is a beautiful view of the city and the mountains, and the temple looks phenomenal when it is illuminated. Free admission 🙂
Park Retiro – Parque del Retiro
Parque del Retiro in Spanish means a park of rest and the name is extremely good! The huge green space is a great place to relax on a sunny day. Retiro Park is located east of the city center, near the Puerta de Alcalá monument.
The park is huge and there is an artificial lake in it, where you can move around by rented boat. The lake is watched over by a monument to King Alfonso XII. Another interesting attraction is the Palacio de Cristal,or Crystal Palace. Inside there are temporary exhibitions, and the palace looks phenomenal both during the day and at night.
The Prado Museum is one of the must-sees, not only for art lovers. It contains paintings by painters such as Goya, Velazquez and Rubens.
Reina Sofía Museum
In the Reina Sofía Museum there is Picasso’s greatest work – Guernik. The image of the town, destroyed by the war, is in the museum and attracts crowds of visitors. In addition to Guernica, the museum houses other works by Pisacca, Salvador Dali and Joan Miro.
A normal ticket costs 10 euros. Free admission every day, the last two hours before the museum closes. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online on the museum’s website here (including free ones). Opening hours:
- Monday, Wednesday – Saturday: 10:00 – 20:00 (free admission 18:00-20:00)
- Sunday: 10:00 14:30 (free admission 13:30-14:30)
Plaza Mayor is one of the most famous squares in Madrid. Formerly, it was a market, and in the seventeenth century it was built up with tenement houses, which was extremely revolutionary for those times. The square became the heart of the city, it was here that ceremonies were held or important information was announced to residents. Currently, the square is besieged by tourists.
Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol is the focal point of Madrid. It is known as a meeting place for the inhabitants of the city and from New Year’s Eve, during which at midnight Spaniards eat 12 grapes (necessarily all at once ;)). It is here that the “zero kilometer” is located, from which all distances from Madrid are counted down and the symbol of the city “oso y madroño”. From the Puerta del Sol square you start with a lot of streets leading to every part of the city.
Above I described a few main attractions, and in fact there are many more! In Madrid we can spend a weekend, a week, even a month and we will still have something to visit. Madrid is a city completely worth visiting, and maybe even staying there forever.
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