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What to see and do in Madrid – a guide to notable attractions and landmarks

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Madrid’s attractions are made of corners, moments and sensations. To breathe in the city means to stroll around the buzzing sidewalks of Gran Via or Buen Retiro Park, wander aimlessly the old centre Madrid de los Austrias, get immersed in the art of Paseo del Prado or be mesmerised by the Royal Palace. To enjoy Madrid to the fullest, you need to take off your tourist goggles and start using use your traveler’s eyes.  

Daniel Camiroaga

My Destination local expert on

Madrid

History, arts, culture, nature, markets and people have shaped this unique city. Spaniards don’t say ‘From Madrid to Heaven’ for no reason; once you’ve been in Madrid, part of your heart will wander around its parks, streets and museums. It is no mystery that Spain’s capital is actually the party capital of Europe, but it also stands out for its fine dining and artistic excellence. Its streets echo with the sound of crowds having a good time in tapas bars or admiring the work of renowned artists. Indeed, the fun never stops in the city of the seven skies. Sol and Gran ViaAs the party hub of the city, Sol and Gran Via are the areas that never sleep. At dusk, both locals and tourists head to the countless bars and nightclubs there to dance the night away, even after dawn. You can’t leave Spain’s capital without snapping a picture of the Bear and Mandrono Tree statue – the heraldic symbol of Madrid – right in the square of Puerta del Sol. A typical spot for pictures in Gran Via is the Capital building with its Schweppes poster. The majestic lane is also home to other landmarks such as the Metropolis Building and Callao Square.

 

Opera and Plaza de España

 

At the western of Gran Via, you’ll find one of the city’s most popular attractions, Plaza de España. Surrounded by two of Madrid’s most noticeable skyscrapers, the square is home to the gleaming Miguel de Cervantes monument and bronze statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. If the sight of the square enthralled you, wait until you see the Royal Palace. With its baroque and classical façade, gardens of Sabatini and Campo del Moro, the Royal Palace is the most arresting landmark of the city. Next to the Royal Palace, you’ll find the Royal Theatre, one of Madrid’s most prominent cultural centers.

 

Buen Retiro Park

 

With its striking monuments, landscaped laws and dreamy lake, Buen Retiro Park has nothing to envy in the world. Both locals and tourists travel from all around the city to stroll around the park’s colourful gardens, take a boat ride, visit its galleries or attend to one of its events.  Next to the artificial lake – the Retiro Pond – there’s a monument to King Alfonso XII. Some of the most prominent attractions of the park include The Rosaleda Garden, the Fountain of the Falling Angel, Palacio de Cristal - Crystal Palace - and the Palacio de Velazquez.

 

The Museum District

 

Near El Retiro Park, you’ll find the Museum District, the centre of the city’s bustling world-class scene. The circuit is home to Madrid’s trio of art museums: the Prado, The Thyssen and the Reina Sofia. These three museums are amongst the most visited museums in the world and some of the most prominent landmarks in Madrid. Inside the vast Museo del Prado, you’ll see works by Bosch, Goya, El Greco and Velazquez. Opposite is Thyssen-Bornemisza museum displaying everything from Old Masters to contemporary American art. Reina Sofia is the art center that attracts most tourists to admire Picasso’s Guernica.