Madrid is a beautiful and lively city to visit. Although I’ve greatly enjoyed my visits to cities from Beijing to Harare, Madrid remains one of my favorite vacation spots. It is the perfect place to enjoy amazing views, fascinating museums and quaint Spanish shops as you take in the city. And don’t bother going while on a diet – visitors shouldn’t miss the sinfully delicious and rich hot chocolate, which is like nothing America has to offer. So, if you’re considering a visit to the city of Madrid, here are a few key spots you won’t want to miss.
This museum offers more than 1000 pieces of art, covering more than 600 years of worldwide expression. Visitors will enjoy works by artists such as Rembrandt, Dali, van Gogh, Picasso and Gauguin. They also offer special exhibitions which change over time, offering a fresh experience for visitors. Their shop also carries many art-related items for gifting or individual enjoyment.
The Royal Palace
Although this palace is the official residence of King Juan Carlos and his family in Madrid, they usually choose to reside in the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela. Fortunately, this leaves the official residence open for visitors to enjoy in all it’s splendor. Quite a bit of the palace is open to visitors, including the throne room, gala dining room, imperial bedchamber, royal chapel and more. Built in the 1700s, its fascinating to see the regal beauty of the palace in person.
This park was originally used by the royal family, and was actually used as a temporary residence while the modern royal palace was being built. Although it can get crowded on weekends due to its popularity with locals, you’ll find “sneaking in” during the week to be quite rewarding. At Retiro Park, you can enjoy a gentle rowboat ride, public “street” performances, the Museo de Ejercito (army museum), Palacio de Cristal and rose garden.
Museo del Prado
Since its inception by King Charles III in 1785, the Prado has undergone many changes to become what it is today. Though wartime and partial destruction by fire slowed its complete construction, it eventually was finished and added on to according to plan. The Prado boasts one of the largest permanent art collections in the world, with more than 9,000 paintings and thousands of various other pieces as well. Included in the museum’s collection are masterpieces by artists such as Goya, El Greco, Rubens and Bosch.
This plaza is a true city “square”, surrounded on all sides by beautifully designed brick walls. Though this site was originally just a market outside of the city walls, King Phillip III started construction on the new Plaza Mayor in 1617. Although the surrounding areas were destroyed by fire three times, most recently in 1790, it stands today as a beautiful example of Madrid’s architecture and history. The plaza is awe-inspiring in its size, beauty and sense of history – I still remember sipping hot chocolate in a café off of the plaza and enjoying the view. It is still a key location for many local celebrations. Whether you’re there during one of those celebrations or not, you’ll definitely want the Plaza Mayor to be on your list of places to see in Madrid.
The city of Madrid is a wonderful place to visit, and it comes highly recommended by this traveler. The attractions above are only the tip of the cultural, historical and culinary iceberg that makes up this bustling Spanish city.