The Spanish capital is quickly becoming overlooked by many tourists, as more and more people decide to pick Barcelona over Madrid. I have still not had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful city of Barcelona, the city that formed the exuberant mind of Antonio Gaudí. However, after speaking to a number of travellers, ninety per cent valued Barcelona over Madrid; I thought that I should create a post about Madrid and all the aspects that I enjoyed of this gorgeous city. It may be lacking golden sand and the ripples of the Mediterranean ocean, but it definitely makes it up in a number of different ways.
1) Parque del Retiro
Who needs a beach, when you have a park twice its size? Occupied with a lake where you can rent a boat to paddle through the water, enjoy the summer heat in a relaxing atmosphere alongside architecture that is so picturesque you will turn your time there into a photoshoot experience. With so much greenery, this is the perfect location to escape the hustle of the city that surrounds its premises. This place can be a city break in itself. You can easily spend a whole day, eating tapas and drinking sangria and simply enjoying the simplicity of life.
2) El Palacio Real
The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family in the city of Madrid. However, it is now only used for state ceremonies. With 135,000 square metres of floor space, the palace contains 3,418 rooms and is the largest functioning Royal Palace and the largest by floor area in the entirety of Europe. You can visit the Palace every day, with entrances after 4 pm, allowing you to get in for free.
3) Almudena Cathedral
Situated adjacent to Madrid’s Royal Palace, its interior may not be as impressive as the Gaudi’s Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona; however, the interior is enough to make you take your breath away. It may be simple, but its precision to be as close to perfection cannot be faulted. With free entry, every single day, the cathedral is perfect if you desire an escape into a silent atmosphere in order to ground yourself and appreciate all your blessings. It was consecrated by Pope John Paul II on 15 June 1993, making it the first cathedral to be consecrated outside of Rome.
4) Museo Nacional del Prado
Home to collections of art, dating back to the 12th century, you can sample some of the finest works by Spanish painters, as well as others; such as Velasquez, El Greco, Rembrandt, to name a few. This museum is a gem in the city. Very rightly situated in Spain’s capital city. Admission is daily, with free entrance commencing at 6 pm every evening. Photography of the masterpieces are forbidden.
5) Atocha train station
Train stations may just be buildings that allow you to get from point A to B. However, sometimes their design is so exquisite that they become an exception to how we see train stations. A comparison would be the train station in Porto, Portugal; magnifically decorated with their famous blue and white tiles. Atocha creates a different feel to the vast amount of space it acquires. You definitely feel at peace, with nature being invited into its interior.
6) Museo Reina Sofia
Famed for being home to Pablo Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ completed in 1937, depicting the troublesome era when Spain was under Franco’s rule. This masterpiece alone is worth the visit. With many different exhibitions taking its place in the museum; one of Spain’s top museums, alongside masterpieces of internationally renowned Spanish artists; Picasso, Dalí and Miró to name a few. This museum is worth spending a good amount of your time. After 6 pm, admission is free daily, so you can have a wander and get lost within the minds of the modern artists that changed the way the world perceived art. Photography is acceptable in some rooms, however in those occupied by the more famous works of art it is forbidden.
7) Puerta del Sol
The main square within any city is a vibrant spot to hang out and meet up with fellow loved ones. Madrid’s plaza is no exception. It is a great location to get a traditional dish or sip on some cool sangria. Close to the high street in Madrid, it is a great option if you wish to relax after carrying your bags. I do not believe that a trip to the city is complete without visiting the centre of its action.
8) Templo de Debod
A gift from Egypt to Spain, the temple, originally of ancient Egypt, 2,200, came into Madrid’s territory as a thank you for the collaboration in the rescue of the temples of Nubia. The Temple of Debod was inaugurated on July 20, 1972, after two years of reconstruction and is still proudly standing in Spain’s capital. With its free entry daily and easy access to the monument, it is worth a trip when you are in Madrid.
9) Mercado de San Miguel
You can sample some of the best Spanish dishes at this market. Filled to the brim with tapas, churros and sangria, you will certainly be able to spend a good few hours eating your way through the stalls. It may be difficult to leave, with closing hours being 12 a.m, with Fridays and Saturdays extending their closing time to 1 a.m.
Each capital city in the world has its own style of life, and Madrid is no exception. It may not be seen as relaxing and alive as Barcelona, but it definitely does not lack anything to stop you from enjoying your holiday. With restaurants staying open well after midnight, and the metro station active from 6 am to 2 am daily, Madrid is a very practical city for both its residents as well as for the tourists. Even though it is the capital city is a huge metropolitan country, the atmosphere is very laid back. Feels like a holiday, every day!