Madrid—the Spanish capital since 1561—celebrates itself and life in general around the clock.
A vibrant crossroads, Madrid has an infectious appetite for art, music, and epicurean pleasure, and it’s turned into a cosmopolitan, modern urban center while fiercely preserving its traditions.
So many of Madrid’s buildings look like castles, you’ll think you’ve stumbled into a fairytale. Even City Hall is astounding, with its white pinnacles and neo-Gothic features. A self-guided architecture tour can begin by the great bear statue in the central Puerta del Sol. Wander by the fanciful Royal Palace before absorbing the natural beauty of Retiro Park, then visit one of the city’s many museums.
Places to Visit
The center piece of Spain in Madrid, The Plaza Mayor has been the scene of multitudinous events: markets, bullfights, football games, public executions, and, during the Spanish Inquisition, “autos de fe” against supposed heretics and the executions of those condemned to death. The Plaza Mayor also has a ring of old and traditional shops and cafes under its porticoes. Celebrations for San Isidro, patron saint of Madrid, are also held here. The Plaza Mayor is now a major tourist attraction, visited by thousands of tourists a year.
The Palacio Real de Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid, but is only used for state ceremonies. Just walking around the outside of the Royal Palace is impressive. There is a vast courtyard behind elegant iron fencing. To the side of the courtyard is an unexpected and stunning view across the countryside beyond. It’s as if Madrid just stops and the fields and trees start. On a clear day this panoramic view is breathtaking.
The Museo del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum, located in central Madrid. It features one of the world’s finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 19th.