Calle Gran Vía, Madrid, Spain

Reasons to visit Madrid

Marina Nefedova Marina Nefedova 10 April 2021
15 view 11 min. read

Often there are people who feel at home in the resorts of Spain-Costa Brava, Alicante, Costa del Sol, Marbella – all these are almost native places for them, and yet 90% of them have never been to Madrid.

"What to do in Madrid? There's no sea there!" - I personally heard this very often. I was always surprised. For some reason, no one doubts that Paris, Rome, or London is a must-do for any traveler. By the way, in my beloved Amsterdam, there are crowds of tourists, but, in my opinion, none of them go to the capital of the Netherlands because there is a sea there, but in relation to Madrid, I always felt some kind of injustice. So I decided to correct it a little.

Because the sea in Madrid you absolutely do not need. The sea is many, where there is. When you go for impressions, it doesn't always play a key role. In Madrid, everyone, without a doubt, will get an amazing experience and get another favorite among the best cities of the world – a city where you want to return again and again.

Madrid on the map

businessman figure on the map

Where is Madrid located? In the center of Spain, it is the country's largest city and the capital of Spain.

Once it was the brilliant capital of the Spanish Empire, and in the capitals of empires-Rome, Vienna, Madrid-there is a special grandeur and extraordinary scope. If you love Spain, then Barcelona, the wonderful resorts of the Mediterranean, the Canary and Balearic Islands are not enough. To feel Spain, you just need to visit Madrid at least once. It's not even that it's the capital and blah-blah-blah. No. Madrid is a stunning, absolutely special city and it will never leave anyone indifferent. If your question is "have you ever been to Madrid?" you will be answered "I do not remember", then you can be sure-this person was not in Madrid. As everywhere else, there are ways to make your trip generally fly away, and not just interesting and enjoyable.

Madrid tourist attractions

golden sunset

Relations with new cities can be built in different ways, but we have developed our own scheme over the years of travel. In the cities, the old part of which has a medieval structure, we try to get to know the city as we would have done 500 years ago: first, we find the Central Square, then-authentic food courts, then the main Madrid museums and architectural monuments, then shopping, searching for what is not in the guidebooks (we call it "search for miracles").

Acting in this way, you can "get used" in any city in a week, see a lot of things planned, find a lot of unexpected and wonderful places and almost not get tired.

Do not start with a list of attractions and a list of excursions. You'll have time for everything. What is the most important thing in the journey? Atmosphere. Let's start with it.

As already mentioned, old Madrid is a medieval city. This means that the logic of its center is the square and the streets radiating from it, where you will find all the most interesting things.

What to do in Madrid

bear arbutus

Madrid is a city with 2 main squares. This is the old Plaza Major and the Puerta del Sol, which has the symbol of Madrid, the capital of Spain, a Bear with a Strawberry Tree. Both are included in the list of Madrid tourist attractions, both are major and both are beautiful. You can decide which one to start with. They are not so far from each other (15 minutes on foot), you can start with any. Although they are both the main ones, the Plaza Major is the "navel of Spain". At least that's what Lope De Vega thought.

The grand opening of the Plaza Major took place in 1620 on May 15, and since that day, every year a grand two–week celebration is held in the square-the Day of St. Isidore, the patron saint of Madrid. If you have the opportunity to come to Madrid on these dates, then do it. Medieval holidays in Europe, the holidays that they arrange for themselves – these are just the most atmospheric things that immediately give you the opportunity to feel the soul of the city and the country.

Food courts

hurros

There will be everything: a crowd of fun Spaniards in national costumes (carnival clothing stores are open seven days a week before the holiday), flamenco, guitars, amateur groups (which, unlike American or German, sing and dance amazingly), carnival, a culinary festival in the form of an open food court, where you will try what the Spaniards eat themselves, and not what they feed tourists. There will be medieval fast food: apples in glaze, chestnuts, wine from a barrel, meat cut from a whole calf, roasted on a spit, hand-made fair, horses-you can list it indefinitely, but it's better to see it once.

Dances in Spain

flamenco

The Spaniards are experts in fun and lightness, the second such people I simply do not know. Why do you think the world of modern music is dominated by Spaniards? 100% of Spaniards can dance, they can dance for 5, 6, and 8 hours without stopping. 90% of men are excellent at playing the guitar-that's the way it is there. In general, visit Madrid in May is a cool plan.

If you are lucky, you will be able to get not just a wonderful experience but to see something amazing. So one day at the festival, we noticed a platform where they performed flamenco. Flamenco is always great, but at that time we saw 3 seniors dancing, whose age was well over 80.

flamenco dance

As it was. The audience suddenly began to chatter and stir. And we realized that something interesting was waiting for us. And then 3 very thin women came out on the boardwalk. To call them old ladies does not turn the tongue, it seems to me that somewhere in the region of 60-70 years, they simply stopped counting the years and gave up on age. This, by the way, is very Spanish. Each wore a long, fully covered black dress, and carried a suede bag. They took their shoes out of their bags and changed their shoes while the audience waited in absolute silence. Imagine-a crowd of heavily tipsy Spaniards froze in anticipation of a miracle.

In the performance of these ladies, we had the honor to see the same cante grande, fire dance, classical dramatic flamenco. He struck the imagination, he lived a separate life, he told some stories, shared memories, it was as if we were in a completely different world – in my opinion, no one was breathing. They finished, and the crowd broke into a standing ovation. If these ladies had allowed it, the fans would have carried them in their arms through the streets of Madrid, the capital of Spain, but they were very strict and they were just covered with flowers. Of course, we got to know a lot of people, because nothing unites people like unique experiences, and the local guys said that these ladies come to almost every holiday since a very long time ago. And their parents remember them, and maybe even their grandparents. In general, the Madrid's favorite holiday and the oldest square is a very good time and place to explore the city.

Palace of the Duke of Uceda

orange palace

It is included in the list of tourist attractions in Madrid, was built in 1611 – you can pass by and see how it was built then but in general nothing special.

San Miguel market

san miguel market

There is a much more interesting place nearby. This is the Saint-Miguel market. It is not included in the list of "things to see in Madrid", although there is something to see there. So he is the undisputed leader of the "Madrid where to eat" list. In Spain, it is a popular practice to arrange food courts in the markets, and Saint-Miguel is the most popular market in Madrid and has been operating in this very place for more than 100 years. What will please you there:

1. Oysters and white wine, 8 EUR serving (10 oysters and a glass of sparkling white wine).

cheese board

2. Cheese boards – from 5-6 to 10-12 varieties for tasting with a glass of wine suitable for the set (5-7 EUR). Cheese is also a very rare variety, you can immediately buy the one that you liked. If it is too fragrant, keep in mind that cheese will smell and your room and your things, if you buy more than 1 time to treat yourself.

3. Grilled meat, sausages, all sorts of meat delicacies with a beer or glass of wine – the same principle, you put on a plate just like that, the Spaniards sell "plate+glass/mug"

seafood

4. Fish. Here everything is simple: at the collapse, you can choose the one that looks at you and take it with you or ask to cook. Cook – it's free. The local population is particularly fond of fried anchovies, they pour them into paper bags and eat them like seeds.

5. Sweets. Including fabulous marzipan shaped cakes. Bouquets of marzipan roses attract the eye so much that adults look away, like children who have been told that it is impolite to stare. We stared.

barbecue grill

By default, there are 1000 varieties of Jamon, fruits, nuts in glaze, marzipan sweets and other Spanish specialties.

San Miguel Market is one of our favorite places, we prefer it to restaurants and cafes, there is an amazing atmosphere and very tasty. Of course, if you like the a-la-carte restaurant, then you are definitely not here.

Royal Palace

madrid royal palace

Give this miracle a separate day, you will not regret it! For a long time, Spain was an empire, and Madrid was the center where untold colonial wealth flowed.

The Palacio Real de Madrid is the largest royal palace in Western Europe and one of the largest in the world. The area of the Italian Baroque masterpiece is 135,000 meters, it is the official residence of the King of Spain, but it operates as a museum on all days except for the days of royal receptions. The royal family doesn't live there, it's just an official place. If you want to see the members of the royal family, then you are not in Madrid, where, of course, there is the Zarzuela Palace, where the royal family lives, but it is closed to the public. You guys are going to Majorca. The favorite royal villa is located in the Costa d'en Blanes, and below, in the marina Portal Nous, you can meet members of the royal family if they come up with the idea of sailing (and not only them, Portanus and Andratx are places where aristocrats, stars of world cinema and the crème de la crème of world business go boating).

old gate

The Royal Palace was at its peak in the 14th century (since 1320, to be precise) - then it was the most popular palace in Europe, but now it is a huge museum with a collection of paintings, tapestries, sculptures, furniture and weapons, fantastic interiors and the special piquancy of the fact that, purely theoretically, it is the official royal residence.

The ceiling in the Throne Room is painted by Tiepolo, the walls of the hall of Gasparini are decorated with weaving of gold and silver threads, in the royal chapel frescoes by Corrado Giacinto – the kings of Spain were well versed in royal life and thanks to them many works of art have survived to this day, bow to them in the waist.

Sabatini Gardens

sabatini garden

Next to the Royal Palace, you will find the Sabatini Gardens, where a walk after the museum is a great idea. Behind the square in front of the palace, there are many small restaurants, but this is tourist food, nothing special, so it's better to go back to Saint Miguel or find some authentic place that has good cuisine and where the locals go.

The Prado Museum

prado museum

This museum is number one in my personal list of tourist attractions in Madrid, and it is in the top 10 most visited museums in the world. This is well-deserved. El Greco, Raphael, Bosch, Goya, Velasquez, Rubens, Gainsborough, Poussin, Lorraine - the collection of masterpieces of the museum amazes both connoisseurs and amateurs. Even if you are not a fan of painting, this place is a must-visit simply because it is worth at least occasionally seeing the best masterpieces "live" to understand what a masterpiece is.

Our favorite is El Greco. One of the most successful artists of his time, the creator of an entire school, the owner of fantastic productivity (more than 2,500 of his works), this guy lived a long and very interesting life.

museum

Greek by blood, a native of Crete, who studied iconography in Venice, moved to Toledo at the age of 26, he made several successful commissions for the local Catholic Church (then Toledo was the religious center of Spain and in general a large and fashionable city), he offered the services of a painter to King Philip II. The collaboration did not work out – the king did not like the artist's approach, besides, in one of the paintings he depicted the king insufficiently grandly. OK, no – so no. El Greco returns to Toledo and spreads the word that he is a court painter. The local provincial aristocracy ran to paint their own portraits so vigorously and on such a scale that El Greco quickly creates his own school. And in simple terms-hires apprentices who finish the paintings started by the great master. We don't know if he always "started" these portraits, but they sold out like hotcakes. It was a kind of painting conveyor, so El Greco can confidently argue with Henry Ford when it comes to who invented the conveyor.

Anyway, his work is great, there are many of them and he died at the age of 72, which at that time was a very good result.

In addition to the main collection, the Prado Museum periodically hosts thematic exhibitions of "Champions League" artists – Titian, Picasso – and this is also very interesting, but the main exhibition is beyond praise.

Royal Botanic Gardens

royal botanic gardens

Right next to the museum is the Royal Botanic Garden and the Rose Garden, where you can take a break from the impressions. In the garden itself there is a pavilion with exhibitions of modern art, it's free if you like all kinds of game-you can go in. What else is nearby? The Velasquez Palace, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Retiro Park. However, after the Prado, in my opinion, it is better not to overload your head, but to take a walk in the park and go somewhere to eat or drink tea in the park. Also nearby is Atocha train station, which is also included in the list of "attractions of Madrid", but this is quite an amateur.

Reina Sofia Museum

reina sofia museum

Very close to the train station you will find the Reina Sofia Art Center, which together with the Prado Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemissa Museum (more on it later) make up the so-called golden art triangle of Madrid.

The Reina Sofia Art Center is among the TOP 20 most visited Madrid museums and here's why. If the Prado is Goya, Titian, Velasquez and El Greco, then here we have the XX century: Dali, Picasso, Joan Miro. If you want to understand the origins of the Spanish avant-garde-you are here. If you want to begin to understand modern art at least a little-you are here.

The museum is often compared to the Pompidou Center in Paris. It was opened in 1992 by King Juan Carlos and his wife Queen Sofia and has gained a very serious reputation for such a short period of existence. The main mainstream of the collection is Spanish and Spanish-related artists.

In addition to the permanent exhibition, the main treasure of which is considered the canvas "Guernica" by Pablo Picasso, the museum organizes temporary exhibitions, the schedule of which can be followed on the museum's website.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

thyssen-bornemisza museum

Well, another museum on the list is the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, especially popular among fans of Salvador Dali, as it is the second museum in the collection of which the works of a mad genius are presented. However, keep in mind that Baron Thyssen, whose collection became the basis for the museum's collection, had only 3 works by Dali.

But there is a lot of interesting things, until 1993, the collection of Baron Thyssen was the largest private collection in the world, although, in my opinion, if you are not a fan of painting and you have limited time, then the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum can be left for the next visit.

Perhaps this is the main thing. Of course, the list of things to see in Madrid is not limited to this, there is also a Bear and a Strawberry tree in Puerto Del Sol Square, the magnificent Almudena Cathedral, the Royal Theater, the Las Ventas Arena, a special Viennese tea on the veranda of the Villa Royal hotel, monuments, fountains, gardens and parks, ruins of second-hand rarities near the University, flea markets, shoemakers who can sew you shoes in 2 days, excellent shopping and pleasant Spanish prices.

museum in madrid

You definitely need to eat churros at least once – these are Spanish doughnuts with chocolate sauce. Go to one of the flamenco clubs. Buy a fan, a Spanish shawl, and maybe even a national costume. Or maybe you need embossed leather or souvenir weapons? By the way, you can also buy real weapons in Madrid, the Toledo gunsmiths have not gone anywhere.

There are many wonderful things to do in Madrid, it is very happy with the guests and the way to surprise even those who have stayed in it many times. And, believe me, you will not be an exception!

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Marina Nefedova

Marina's idols as a child were Tour Heyerdahl, Jacques Yves Cousteau, Francis Drake and Hodja Nasreddin. To see with her own eyes all those places that she read about in books - that's a dream that was worth realizing. Over the past 15 years, Marina has travelled to 52 countries, caught fish in the headwaters of the Nile in Central Africa, met the dawn in the Himalayas, learned to ride on blackboards in Bali and dived into the senates in the Yucatan.  She is passionate about energy practices of different peoples, yoga and water sports and in her spare time is very fond of boating around the Balearic Islands with old friends, where she lived for 2 years before moving to the Netherlands. Marina is involved in modern cinematography at a university in Amsterdam and is sure that every trip opens a new door to opportunities, and sometimes more than one.

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