Many tourist sites await you in Spain's capital city, Madrid, all of which capture the spirit of this unique country. One of Europe's most beautiful cities is also one of its most beloved, and the following 12 destinations are part of the reason. Madrid embodies Spain's unique spirit thanks to historical streets, impressive buildings and, of course, food that is an experience in itself. So pack your Spanish-English dictionary now and discover the 12 fascinating places you can visit in this wonderful city:
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1. Plaza de Cibeles
This central square in Madrid is one of the most beautiful in Europe, and when you see it with your own eyes, you’ll think so too. The square consists of a number of central sites, each of which was built at a different time, some of them over 400 years old; One of the most famous is the Cibeles fountain located in the center of the square which features a statue of Cybele, the mother goddess of the Phrygian religion, seated on a carriage harnessed to a pair of lions. This complex sculpture was built over five years and is wonderfully detailed, attracting tens of thousands of tourists who want to see its breathtaking beauty. Around the square are the Town Hall, the Casa de América, and the Spanish Post Office, all of which are worth a visit and a souvenir photo.
2. Gran Via
Gran Via Street never rests, which is what gave it the nickname "Broadway of Madrid", a name which describes it accurately. The Gran Via runs from Plaza España to Alcala Street and is a relatively new addition to the old city, which was completed in 1910. In this lively street, you can spend many hours walking through shops, restaurants, and businesses that dictate the fast pace of the place. Apart from all this, it is also recommended to visit a central site on the street, the Telefónica building, which once held the title of "tallest building in Europe" and topped by a large clock that requires a visit in itself.
3. The Museo del Prado
This magnificent museum, built during the reign of King Carlos III in the 18th century, is the largest of its kind in Spain. The museum houses close to 9,000 paintings and 5,000 other exhibits, most of which are works from the 14th to the beginning of the 19th century. The museum's classic works were painted by renowned artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Caruggio, Francisco de Goya and many others who are responsible for some of the most beautiful works in the world. In the museum you can explore three floors filled with art collections that cannot be seen anywhere else, showing the unique Spanish culture in colors, shapes, and textures that are unforgettable.
4. Museo Reina Sofia
Apart from classical art, Spain also boasts modern composers, who have broken the mold and created several works that redefined the word "art". In the Reina Sofia Museum, there are some of these works, which maintain a kind of cultural balance with the classicism of the Prado Museum; Some of the exhibits on this site belong to two of the best-known Spanish artists of all time - Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Viewing these artists’ works is a breathtaking experience in its own right. The modern museum, named after Queen Sophia, completes the "Golden Triangle of Art" which also includes the Prado Museum and the Thyssen Bornemisa Museum, which together provide a glimpse into the Spanish art world.
5. Plaza Mayor
This famous square in Spain has an interesting history, including the fact that it was the scene of bullfights shortly after the completion of its construction in 1619. During the Spanish Inquisition (from the 16th century to the 19th century) public trials of people accused of heresy were displayed in front of curious audiences. Today there is no trace of the bloody history of the square, and three of its four sides include residential buildings of lucky residents who are fortunate enough to live next to it. These buildings are the focal point of the square thanks to their unique appearance and the fact that they combine complex paintings, picturesque balconies and designed railings. The statue of Felipe III, king of Spain in the 17th century, mounted on a horse, stands in the center of the square and completes its appearance perfectly and in typical Spanish style.
6. Temple of Debod
The Temple of Debod is an exceptional site in the landscape of Madrid, since it is dedicated to the Egyptian goddess, Isis, and in the past, it stood on the banks of the Nile River. During the construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt, there was a fear of flooding a number of major sites in the African country, and when Spain volunteered to help, Egypt granted it the Temple of Debod as a thank you. Today the temple stands in Cuartel de la Montaña Park and serves as a testimony to the special relations between Spain and Egypt, which led to its placement in the European city.
7. Puerta de Alcalá
The Alcalá Gate is located in Madrid's Independence Square and is decorated in a neo-classical style typical of this area. After its construction in 1778, the gate served as a passageway between Madrid and the nearby city of Alcalá, but today it stands on its own and attracts tourists who come to see its design. When you look at it closely, you can see scratches and fractures that were created as a result of the Spanish Civil War of 1823, but despite its "injury", the gate stands firm and overlooks the city from its central location.
8. Catedral de la Almudena
Madrid was not always the capital of Spain, it only received the title after it was decided that the city of Toledo would no longer hold this position in 1561. When this transition was made, a cathedral was needed in the new capital. The new cathedral was originally designated for the Virgin of Alamodome - a medieval Christian icon - but more than 300 years later the Spanish began building the building, and only in 1879 did work begin. Spanish architect Francisco de Cubas was responsible for planning and managing the project, and under his hand, the cathedral was designed in a particularly impressive neo-Gothic style that looks quite modern, especially when compared to other cathedrals throughout Europe. A transition between the colorful and gray crepes creates a special atmosphere in the place, which can be admired while visiting the Spanish city.
9. Museo Cerralbo
The structure of this museum seems quite simple from the outside, but when you enter it, you can see the splendor of its items. Founded in the 19th century, the Cerralbo Museum began as the residence of the Marquis Enrique Aguilera de Gamboa, and twenty years after his death, in 1944, his house was converted into a museum. This structure does not look like any house you’ve seen in your life, as you can see from the intricate murals and the gold decorations it contains, as befits a nobleman's house. A tour of the museum feels like walking in a real treasure chest, and it is hard to remain cool when you see and marvel at the way world leaders once lived in real gold houses.
10. Mercado de San Miguel
Spanish cuisine has brought to the world small tapas, the sugary sangria, delicacies like paella and a host of other wonderful dishes to enjoy in the San Miguel market. This place, unlike any other market you’ve known, is in a large iron building with high glass windows, and all food lover owe themselves a visit to this unusual compound. In the market, you can stroll among the many stalls that offer the best Spanish delicacies, made of fresh and local ingredients that embody the best of Spanish cuisine that has developed over the years while maintaining tradition.
11. Parque del Buen Retiro Park
Nature is an integral part of Europe, even when urban areas are populated like Madrid. In this bustling city, you will find a green lung in the form of the Buen Retiro Park, which has gardens, fountains and lush vegetation. At the beginning of the 16th century, the park was converted into a flowering garden only when King Philip II expanded his palace in 1561. Fortunately, the park's cultivation and conservation efforts continued over the years and can now be strolled through enjoyably. One can even rent Kayaks and canoes to sail in the manmade lake.
12. The Palacio de Cristal
Inside Retiro Park, there is a magnificent site that requires a special visit, the Crystal Palace of Madrid. Built in 1887, the palace consists of a combination of metal and glass, and was a kind of greenhouse for plants and flowers from the Philippines, formerly a colony of Spain. Today the palace has no plants, but its impressive height - 22 meters - its round structure and the beautiful light penetrating its glass walls attract tourists and romance lovers who tour it and marvel at its breathtaking appearance.
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