A lot of times the city we live in is the one we know and visit less. It is as if, because we have everything at reach, we instinctively leave it for later, and it is a real shame as it so happens that some of these cities have a lot of places that are worth visiting at least once.
I live in Madrid (Spain), and I have to admit that I’m gradually discovering more and more new places in the city. Among them, there are a few that I consider the most interest and that I try to visit every once in a while. Obviously, if someone asks me what they should visit in the capital of Spain, it would be these the places that I would recommend.
Do you want to know what they are?
In the heart of the Madrid of the Austrians, this baroque square is one of those places bursting with life almost any time of year. Crowded with people in the terraces during the summer (now also during the winter thanks to those wonderful stoves), this is where the carnival proclamation takes place in February, and what the Christmas market takes over in December. Dominating the cobbled space, we find the equestrian sculpture of King Phillip III, something not to be missed. It is also worth taking a stroll under the arches of the main square and discover some historic shops, going down the stairs of Arco de Cuchilleros or contemplating the beautiful Casa de la Panadería.
The best way to arrive at here is to take the tube, getting off at Sol station and walking through the pedestrian streets leading to the square.
Museo del Prado
From all the greatest art galleries in Madrid, I personally prefer this museum, filled with history and art. Maybe because this is the museum that I grew up with, and because I have witnessed its evolution and improvement, I do not hesitate in recommending this place, which was built in 1785 on Charles’ III commands, as a must-go in your visit. It was meant to be a Science Museum, but in the end Ferdinand VII, encouraged by his wife, Barbara of Portugal, decided to turn it into a museum of painting and sculptures.
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It opened for the first time in 1819 to display paintings that were part of Royal Collections, such as The Garden of Earthly Delights (Bosch), Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest (El Greco) or Canigiani Holy Family (Raphael). Today, wandering through its rooms, visitors can stare at the great works of some of the most important Spanish painters such as Goya, Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán and Sorolla, but also be captivated by the paintings of Rubens, Tintoretto and Caravaggio, among others.
Puerta de Alcalá
One of the symbols of the city, this door was built on Charles’ III commands in a site where once stood an even older one. A Neoclassical-style construction resembling old Roman arches that very few people know was the first arch of this kind built in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.
In its condition of Mediterranean city and based on its Arabian heritage, Madrid counts with numerous fountains in parks and squares. They can be small and discreet or big and monumental. There are a few in this last group that I encourage the visitor not to miss: Cibeles and Neptuno. The first one represents the goddess of agriculture in a carriage pulled by lions; in the second one, the god of the sea stands on a carriage pulled by fish-tailed horses. Both were built during Charles’ III reign and are now a meeting point for football followers when one of the city’s teams win a title (Cibeles for Real Madrid, Neptuno for Atletico de Madrid).
Any time of the year, Retiro is the perfect place to go for a walk in the search for sculptures and palaces. This park was initially thought of as a retreat area for the court of the king, and it was Ferdinand VII who opened part of it to the population. It was in 1868 that the park began to be managed by the municipality and was then opened to whoever wanted to visit. Today there are some points of interest that you cannot miss, such as the Paseo de las Estatuas (“Statue Walk”), which can be accessed through the magnificent Puerta de España, the Palacio de Cristal (“Crystal Palace”) or the monument to Alfonso XII, next to the pond.
Temple of Debod
A bit far off the city centre and surrounded by the bushy Western Park, there is this Egyptian temple that could have been swallowed by lake Nasser, an artificial reservoir built to control the flow of the Nile that left the remains of one of the oldest and most enigmatic civilizations sunken for the rest of time. This temple, which can be visited now in Madrid, was saved along many others that the Egyptian government would later decide to donate to those countries that contributed the most to the rescue of its rich patrimony.
Plaza de Oriente
Close to the heart of the city, there is one of the most beautiful squares of the Spanish capital. This square, with tended gardens, is house to a great number of sculptures of kings and on the straight side of the half-moon that the square is shaped into we can find the Palacio de Oriente (also known as the “Royal Palace”), one of the most magnificent palaces in the city. Today it is used for state dinners and acts of state, and even though it can be visited, I think the best thing is to contemplate it from the square, or even go to the Sabatini gardens, which are very close to it and offer a great view of the palace. Not far away we will find the Almudena Cathedral.
Lastly, we would like to remind you that the legal tender in Spain is the Euro. If yours is not, you can exchange it upon you arrival at any of the branches that Global Exchange has at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport.