The capital of Spain, Madrid was the first city we visited in the country and it was one of the best experiences Spain could offer for the first time visitors. The city is located in the geographical centre of the country and is an amazing combination of culture, history, art and fashion.
To be honest, we weren’t so much in love with the city initially, mostly because of the difficulty in finding vegetarian food. However, after three days of wandering around the city, it eventually grew on us and we were ready to agree that Madrid is one of the Best cities in the World.
1. Peak into the life of the Royals
The Palacio Real de Madrid had been the official residence of the royal family from 1764 to late 1900s. Currently it is being used for official ceremonies and is one of the must visit attractions in Madrid. It is one of the largest palaces in Europe and has about 3418 rooms with 50 rooms open for the public viewing. Every room has a distinct feature and houses some of the finest and gorgeous pieces of decorative art and furniture. Our favorites among them were the Yellow room and the Gala Dining Hall. The entry to the palace costs about €8 and guided tours costs €10.
2. Cathedral of Madrid
The Cathedral De La Almudena located right opposite to the Royal Palace is the Principle Cathedral of Madrid. Completed in 1993, it took about 100 years for construction and is one of the latest cathedral in Europe. The museum in the Cathedral showcases its history along with the details of the Bishops who reigned the Diocese. The stairs at the end of the museum takes you to the Dome where you can catch a spectacular view of Madrid along with that of the Palace. The ticket to the Museum, Sacristy and the dome costs €6.
3. People watching at one of the many Plazas
Madrid city has some monumental plazas where we would sit back and enjoy our break between the sightseeing, sipping coffee leche and watching the world go by. The Plaza Mayor one of the iconic plazas of Madrid is always bustling with people clicking pictures around the square, buying souvenirs or in the restaurants enjoying their meal under the water vaporizers. This plaza once hosted events like bull fights, tournaments and markets.
Located at the heart of the city is Puerta Del Sol where the Madrilenian gather on the New Years Eve waiting for the clock to chime 12. Live statues, Spanish musicians are the life of this square and it is bustling with activities throughout the day. The cafes located in the narrow lanes are great spots to grab quick breakfast.
4. The Masterpieces at the Prado Museum
The Prado museum is considered to be one of best museums in the world featuring works of the greatest European artists like Goya, Bosch, Velazquez and Rubens among others. The two-storied Neo-Classical building is a maze of art consisting of largest number of permanent display of paintings in the world. Though we are not any kind of art enthusiasts, the paintings in the display just bowled us over. The guide provided by the museum helped us to view major masterpieces within short duration. An entry fee to the museum is €14 and it is free from Monday to Saturday between 6pm to 8pm, Sundays between 5pm to 7pm.
5. Sunday shopping at El Rastro
One of the best ways to blend with Madrilenian is by visiting the Sunday flea market at El Rastro. Wearing our Sundays best we hit the largest flea market in Europe. El Rastro is heaven for vintage product shoppers selling Spanish antiques, old music records, jewelry, leather goods and many more stuffs. We had this crazy urge to purchase every trinket we saw as we walked past the various stalls. The lively and colorful atmosphere among the Sunday shoppers makes you forget the outside world and join them with equal enthusiasm.
The Buen El Retiro Park is the largest park of Madrid and a perfect place to relax on well-trimmed grasses or take a walk under the shaded trees. There is an artificial lake where you can row boats and soak up the sun sitting on the steps near the monument of Alfonso XII. What we loved about this park was the fact that it had a perfect blend of toddlers, youngsters and families enjoying different set of activities in the park be it cycling, skating or listening to Spanish orchestra. One must visit the Palacio de Cristal, an iron and glass structure built in 1887 as a winter garden. It currently houses temporary art exhibitions a perfect place to click some great pictures.
7. Shopping at the Gran Via
Famous as the “Spanish Broadway”, Gran Via is a part of the city that never sleeps. If you are looking for some up scale shopping experience this is the place to be. As you walk along the street do not forget to visit the Galeria Loewe to have look into the authentic Spanish leather products. Gran Via also has some beautiful 20th century buildings like the Edificio Metropolis and the Capitol. Moreover this is the perfect place to start your night by exploring the numerous Roof top bars and clubs.
8. Sunset at the Debod Temple
Want a glimpse of Egypt in Spain? Visit the Temple of Debod, a 2000 years old temple built in Egypt. The Egyptian Government gifted the temple to Spain in 1968 as an act of gratitude for its assistance in preserving the ancient monuments during the construction of the Great Dam of Aswan. It is a great spot to watch the sunset from the edge of the hillside and to laze next to shallow pool as the temple is illuminated with lights during the night.
9. 360° view of the city from La Azotea
Madrid has a number of roof top bars that offers you a panoramic view of the city. The best among them is the La Azotea in the Circulo de Bellas Artes offering spectacular view of Madrid. The sun lounges are placed all over to provide shade and give a relaxed look to the place. Sipping some finest Spanish Cava we waited for the city to come into life at night as the sun went down. Entry fees to the top is €3 which is well worth it.
10. Flamenco Shows
A visit to Madrid is incomplete without watching the famous midnight Flamenco shows. We had made reservations at the Café de Chinitas, which is a small Tablao offering great shows by some very talented dancers amd were lucky enough to get a table close to the stage. The show lasts for an hour and is filled with emotional intensity as the dancers tap dance to the Cante and Guitar music. We would suggest you to skip the dinner and just go for the drinks and show package, as it is a bit pricey. Here is a tiny glimpse of the performance.
For more information visit: http://www.esmadrid.com/en/