The capital city of Spain, Madrid, is brimming with understated sophistication, from the superb art galleries, lively nightlife scene and delicious authentic tapas creations. Madrid hosted the European Capital of Culture in 1992 thanks to cultural gems such as the rich heritage at the El Prado Museum, the impressive Fountain of Cibeles and the handsome UNESCO listed Escurial Monastery. There’s plenty of things to see and do in Spain!
Visit the world renowned El Prado Museum
Madrid is well known for its rich heritage of culture and art and this is particularly evident in the superb El Prado museum. Located in Madrid’s Museum Triangle district is the Museo del Prado which houses the very best European art collections in the world, particularly classical art with pieces from the 12th to 19th century. Built in the neoclassical style, this is the national art museum of Spain and opened in 1819. Many of the most notable artists are represented at the Prado with works of art from the Spanish artists El Greco, Velázquez and Goya. In the Italian gallery are pieces from renowned artists Caravaggio, Botticelli and Titian and other European great are also featured with paintings from Rubens, Brueghel and Dürer.
Stroll the Paseo del Prado
The Paseo del Prado is a major boulevard located in Madrid’s eastern old city district and is most famous for the Museum Triangle although there are actually several very good museums here, indeed something to suit every taste. The oldest district in Madrid, this area is recognised as Bien de Interés Cultural. As well as the great El Prado, the Paseo del Prado district is also home to the Reina Sofía National Museum which contains modern art from well-known artists of the genre including Pablo Picasso, Kandinsky and Dalí. Browse the art collections at The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art which contains works by Monet, Degas, Renoir and Van Gogh amongst others.
Combine your trip to Madrid with a visit to Spain’s third city; Valencia and don’t miss the delightful Canary Islands too which are brimming with Spanish charm and tons of activities!
Soak up the culture on the Plaza de Cibeles
The massive neo-classical Cibeles plaza is most notable for the impressive Fountain of Cibeles, which has become a symbol of Madrid. Depicting the Roman goddess of fertility riding within a chariot being pulled by a pair of lions. On the plaza as well as marble sculptures is also the stunning Palacio de Cibeles which is today used as a city hall building. Inside is a cultural center with various different art exhibitions as well as incredible views over the city.
Go pitchside in the Bernabeu Stadium
Whether you’re a Real Madrid fan or not, a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu is a must, if only to attain bragging rights. Football fans will appreciate that real Madrid is THE most successful football club within Europe, after all they have been Spanish champions for a record 32 times and also European champions 9 times, which is also a huge record. The Bernabeu has a seating capacity of over 85,000 and has been here since 1947. During non-match days visitors can take a stadium tour including the pitch, dressing rooms and museum which displays their many trophies and various memorabilia.
Hermitage of San Antonio de la Florida
The small church of the San Antonio de La Florida Hermitage in Madrid features intricate murals by Francisco Goya, who was a court painter for the Spanish crown. This church oozes Spanish culture and also serves as a mausoleum for Goya, who is said to have inspired artists Manet, Picasso and Bacon.
Royal Palace of Madrid
A visit to the Palacio Real is an absolute must to appreciate the sheer size and beauty of the Royal Palace. In fact this is one of the largest palaces in Europe and although royals no longer reside here, it is the official home of the King of Spain and features in state occasions. Completed in 1755 in a Baroque style, visitors can take a tour through the opulent rooms with silverware, tapestries, medals, manuscripts and fine period furniture all on display.
Enjoy a night of Opera at the Teatro Royal
The Royal Theatre, aka the Teatro Real, is the main theatre for outstanding operatic performances in the whole of Madrid. First opened in 1850, this theatre has a colourful history and was forced to close in 1925 due to extensive damage when constructing the metro system. It reopened in 1966 however under many different guises including a concert theatre and as host of the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest. It returned to full glory as an opera house however in 1997 and continues to host operas such as Verdi’s Rigoletto, Aida and Il Trovatore to this day. This is just one of the reasons that Madrid hosted the European Capital of Culture in 1992!
Rest awhile at El Retiro Park
Take a break from the frenetic pace of life in Madrid at the El Retiro Park. Take a boat out onto the boating lake, which offers pleasant respite from the summer heat. On Sundays locals gather to play bongo drums and generally hang out. In the summer the Banda Municipal de Madrid performs classical pieces. There is also a poignant monument in El Retiro in memory of the 2004 Madrid terrorist bombs which killed 191 people.
Treat the kids to a day at Parque Warner Madrid
If you’re travelling with children, there’s a good chance you’ll be badgered into visiting the Warner Bros. Movie World Themepark whilst I Madrid. Opened since 2002, the park now contains 42 themepark rides and no less than 6 rollercoasters! The most popular rides are the Superman rollercoaster with floorless trains, the Batman inverted rollercoaster and Revenge of the Enigma, which drops you from 100 meters up at a blistering 80 km an hour!
Go Skiing in Madrid
For a change of scene, head to the undercover sports and leisure mall; the Madrid Xanadu and SnowZone Ski Slopes Park (Parque de Nieve). As well as over 250 shops and 30 restaurants the main attraction is the SnowZone which contains over 18,000m2 of snow. The slopes cater to both skiiers and snowboarders across all levels, from beginners to experts. And Xanadu keeps long opening hours too; they’re open until 4am on Fridays and Saturdays; perfect if you’re jetlagged and looking for some action.