Madrid, with 3.3 million inhabitants, is the capital and the largest city in Spain. Besides being the seat of government and a Catholic archbishopric, the King of Spain resided here. Six universities, many theaters, museums, art and cultural institutions make Madrid a world-famous cultural center in southern Europe. Stately buildings, lively markets, stately museums – Madrid has a little bit of everything. Spain’s capital enchants with magnificent gardens, inviting promenades and monuments steeped in history. No surprise Madrid attracts millions of visitors every year!
Tip 1: Prado Museum
The Prado Museum in the Spanish capital Madrid is one of the largest and most important museums in the world. Built in 1819, today the Museo del Prado houses, among other things, 5,000 drawings, 2,000 prints and 3,000 paintings.
On display in the Prado in Madrid are mainly paintings from different periods, especially from the late Middle Ages to the beginning of modernism around the year 1800, but the visitor also gets to see sculptures, drawings and other works of art. Among the world-famous paintings in the Prado Museum are, on the one hand, works by the very famous Spanish painters.
The Prado Museum is already about 200 years old (it was opened in 1819). A few years ago, it was again significantly expanded by a new building and is now considered one of the largest art museums in the world. Among the most famous paintings are the “Self-Portrait” by Dürer, “The Three Graces” by Peter Paul Rubens and also “The Naked Maja” by Francisco de Goya. About 2.9 million people from all over the world visit the Museo del Prado every year.
Tip 2: Royal Palace
Magnificent, majestic and gigantic – there’s probably no better way to describe the Palacio Real in Madrid.
Before the Palacio Real was built at the Plaza de Oriente at the end of the 18th century, a Spanish Moorish castle had stood on the site, which burned down on Christmas Eve 1784. After various setbacks in the war, Spain’s intention in building the palace was to show a new beginning with renewed courage and self-confidence. They were able to reflect this excellently in the architectural style of the palace: A mix of classical and baroque architecture let the Palacio Real shine from a distance like a work of art. Countless halls, a palace chapel and a hall of mirrors are hidden in the impressive labyrinth. Paintings adorn entire ceilings of individual rooms, chandeliers sparkle in the rays of the sun and the furniture looks like it was made by the 18th century king himself – everything is totally pompous. The royal family itself, however, does not count the Palacio as its residence. They are instead at home in the Palacio de la Zarzuela, which is much more modest.
Tip 3: Retiro Park
One thing that should not be missed during a visit to Madrid is the 118-hectare Retiro Park, one of the most significant places in the Spanish metropolis. The Retiro is one of the top sights in Madrid, mainly because it is home to many works of art by various architects from earlier times. This park invites not only to relax or breathe fresh air, but also to go jogging or just to get together. As a recreation area, it is considered number one by Madridians and when you start a tour, you will also find out why – the beautiful landscape or also the artificially created lake with the magnificent Alfonso XII monument quickly make everyday worries seem less important.
On many weekends you can always find artists of different kinds in Retiro Park, such as magicians or street musicians, who want to show their skills in front of the park visitors. And in the period between late May and early October, the Banda Sinfónica de Madrid plays free concerts every Sunday at noon in the park’s bandstand.
Tip 4: Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor in the heart of Madrid is a typical Spanish city square. It is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the country and impresses with its remarkable architectural unity. It was built in the early 17th century according to the plans of Juan Gómez de Mora. As a venue for bullfights, tournaments and festivities, but also judicial executions of sentences, it was and still is a center of social life in the Spanish capital. The arcades surrounding the square provide shade on hot days and protection from rain and wind in the winter months, and so are popular all year round as a place to stroll or take a break in one of the many local cafes.
In the center of the Plaza Mayor looms the equestrian statue of Philip II, designed by Giovanni Bologna and cast in Florence in 1613 by his student Pietro Tacca. Several fires ensured that the oldest building in the plaza is the Casa de la Panadería, built in 1672, which is entirely in keeping with the Escorial architecture that predominates here. The elaborate frescoes of the facade, restored only in 1992, symbolize the mythological marriage of water and earth. Once a bakery, the Habsburg kings later attended festivities in the plaza from the balconies of the Casa de la Panadería. Inside the house are still preserved from that time the vaults of the royal salon, decorated with paintings.
Tip 5: Almudena Cathedral
In the center of Madrid right next to the Royal Palace is the Catholic Almudena Cathedral. The construction of this cathedral was originally started in 1879, but with the beginning of the Civil War in Spain, work on the construction was stopped and resumed only in 1950. The Almudena Cathedral, in neoclassical style, was not completed until 1993 and is dedicated to the Virgin Almudena, the patron saint of the city.
To be admired is her statue at the entrance to the crypt surrounded by eighteen panels depicting scenes from the life of Christ. The largest and most imposing church in Madrid, it was elevated to the status of Episcopal Church of the Archdiocese of Madrid upon completion, and in May 2004 the wedding ceremony of Felipe of Spain and his wife Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano was held in it. The icon painter Kiko Argüello designed the interior of the cathedral in modern pop art decor. The cathedral is over 100 meters long, about 73 meters high and its dome of granite and stone has a diameter of almost 20 meters. The dome is surrounded by statues of the twelve apostles and the main facade is crowned by statues made of white stone.