What to see in Madrid
What to see in Madrid on your own in 2-3, little – 4-5 days? What sights to pay attention to first and when is better to go? Approximate routes of walks and wanderings, prices 2020 – in the review Eurotraveler.ru.
Madrid is the capital and the largest city in Spain. Which does not prevent it from being in the dense shadow of Barcelona – in a tourist sense, of course. The flow of foreigners through the terminals of the giant Barajas airport is growing year by year. But, alas, a large part of this river has pronounced business aspirations or comes for numerous congresses and conferences.
The number of tourists attracted by Madrid’s attractions is obviously not as high as it could be. Not least because many don’t know what to do in Madrid other than see the paintings in the Prado and the other two museums of the Golden Triangle.
When to go
In fact, choosing a time to visit is very important. Because Madrid has a pronounced tourist seasonality. So if you’re not in the mood to party or indulge in fiestas and carnivals, plan your travel dates wisely.
May Day and the last month of spring are extremely busy times in Spain’s capital city. The Day of the City is celebrated on May 2 with great pomp. And from the 15th of May a flywheel of St. Isidro’s Day celebrations begins. During this period, quiet and museum-oriented tourists are better not to go there.
In June it is a little quieter, and from the second half of July and August the Spanish capital is empty. Tourists do not like too hot and very dusty weather, and the inhabitants of Madrid leave en masse to spend their vacations in the south, but more often – on the northern coast. To Santander, San Sebastian and the like.
October 12 is the annual national holiday, Columbus Day. Look at the parade and processions in Madrid, millions of Spaniards come. Christmas is lively, too: Until the Day of the Three Kings the city tends to party rather than work.
Although in general, Madrid’s winter is not a touristy time. It’s not that frosty, but it’s overcast and pretty dank. What they call it – chills to the bone. The Spanish and the British do not like it.
Well, Russian tourists, on the contrary, glad to take a walk at +7-11 degrees of heat. To see the real Madrid and not the ostentatious Madrid. Soak up its aura and feel the rhythm, and maybe even dive into history on an informative tour with a Russian-speaking guide!
Where to stay
We do not offer a specific recipe, which guarantees inexpensive accommodation close to the city center. Working scheme looks ridiculously banal: the constant monitoring of options and early booking.
Counting on anything cheaper than 80-90 € per night is easy. At least during high-demand periods like early May or June.
We recommend Hostería Balmoral, recently added to the Bookings system, in the respectable residential area of Chambery. Not only enticing for its freshness, but also for its breakfasts!
You are almost guaranteed to love the comfortable Luminoso Apartamento El Rastro in Calle Carnero, within walking distance of the Plaza Mayor. Or Apartamentos Puerta Del Sol a couple of minutes walk from Puerta del Sol.
What to see in the city
A general recommendation: don’t get hung up on one thing. Madrid, despite its established reputation, is very diverse. And to understand it, you have to walk a lot.
The trio of local collections is also well known outside of Spain. Surprisingly, not individually, but collectively. Only the Prado can be considered self-sufficient, but the Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia are known mainly as parts of the “Golden Triangle of the Arts”.
The Prado is definitely worth a visit – and you won’t get there in less than 1 day. Even if you splurge on an experienced tour guide.
The other two top Madrid collections are optional! The Thyssen Museum is a private collection bought out by the state, the Museo Reina Sofia specializes in contemporary art. There are many Picassos and Dali, the “highlight” of the collection is the famous Guernica.
A single Paseo del Arte Ticket will save a lot on visiting all three centers of culture. Its cost in 2020 is 29.6 € (www.entradasprado.com/pradov2/individual/principalR.aspx?lang=en-GB&_ga=2.87224862.763598195.1549880490-565944917.1549880490) and is purchased at ticket offices. And, by the way, you can get in without queuing. But you will have to pay extra for temporary exhibitions (if you want).
- Individual tickets: 15 € for Prado, 12 € for Thyssen, 10 € for Sofia. It is absolutely natural to take 2 or 3 days to visit these treasures of Madrid.
Highly recommend a visit to two small museums: Joaquin Sorolla (Paseo del General Martínez Campos, 37 – not going anywhere) and Serralbo (Calle Ventura Rodríguez, 17) which is 600 meters from the Royal Palace.
The first is the home of the most famous Spanish impressionist, filled from ceiling to roof with his paintings. The second – the residence of the grandee, which has preserved the interiors of the XIX century and a lot of collected antiques by the owners, the Marquises Serralbo.
- A visit to each costs just 3€!
Squares and palaces
Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol are icons of the city. The former is famous for its architecture – a single ensemble was created in the 17th century and has not been rebuilt since!
Puerta del Sol was built on the site of an ancient city gate and is now considered the main city gate. Here is the City Hall building, a sculpture-emblem of Madrid – “The Bear and the Strawberry Tree”, is mounted in the paving stone “kilometer zero” Spain. From which all distances in the country are counted.
We have already mentioned the royal palace, Palacio Real de Madrid, towering over the Sabatini Gardens. A guided tour of the halls will replace a small university course on the history of Spain and art. And allow you to learn a lot of “secrets of the Madrid court”.
A self-guided visit is priced at 10 €, for an audio guide you will have to pay another 4 €. Entrance is free for children under 5 years. The palace is open daily from 10 to 18 (20 in summer), without weekends.
Do not neglect the opportunity to visit the main cathedral of the capital, Almudena. Fortunately, it is 2 steps away – just cross the square.
The palace and the cathedral, the famous plazas and the Prado Boulevard are connected by a direct route of about 4 km: Calle Mayor – Carrera San Jeronimo.
Churches and Monasteries
In addition to the court of Almudena in Madrid must see the Cathedral of St. Francis the Great, a powerful building built in the second half of the XVIII century.
The external facades do not abound in decoration and, in the old Spanish tradition, are harsh rather than attractive. Inside – everything is luxurious, the decorations are not stingy. Paintings on religious themes belong to the brushes of geniuses: El Greco, Velázquez and Goya.
From Almudena Cathedral along Calle de Bailén walk about 7-8 minutes.
The active convent of Encarnación, near the Royal Palace, is worth a visit only for those who know Spanish well. Since the visit is only possible in a group with a local guide, the reviews of Russian tourists are full of indignation. And of course they are: there are so many interesting and unique things inside, but not everyone is able to find out all the details.
But we recommend to include the small Ermita church of San Antonio de la Florida, nestled between the river Manzanares and the Park of the West (Del Oeste) to the list of things to see in Madrid. Especially if you have 1-2 days of free time.
Inside are magnificent frescoes by Goya on the theme of the life of St. Anthony. The great artist himself is buried here. He worked in a very peculiar manner, which many art historians consider a “bridge” to Impressionism.
Note that from the church in just a few minutes you can walk to the ancient Egyptian Temple of Debod. The original, 2nd century B.C., a gift from Egypt to Spain in gratitude for saving the Abu Simbel complex during the construction of the Aswan Dam.
Streets and parks
The main shopping thoroughfare of the capital, Gran Via, you can not pass, that’s for sure. It is most convenient to walk along it right after visiting the Thyssen-Bornemisza – the famous triangular crossroads of Gran Via and Alcala is a 5-7 minute walk from the museum.
After a visit to the Prado, a visit to Buen Retiro Park also seems like a natural progression. The green lungs of the city and a popular Sunday leisure spot amongst Madriders themselves.
Surroundings of Madrid.
The palace-monastery Escorial, according to Spaniards – the natural “Eighth Wonder of the World”. The main suburban attraction of interest to tourists. There is so much to see inside and outside that the day will fly by unnoticed.
Вход в экс-резиденцию стоит 10 €, по понедельникам музей закрыт. Ехать не меньше часа в северо-западном направлении, расстояние по шоссе >60 km.
The former royal summer residence of Aranjuez is also closed on Mondays but is open the rest of the week. The character is much more positive: here you have light architecture and plenty of windows and gardens with a mass of fountains. An adult ticket costs 9 €.
The way to the south of Madrid, the distance – 50 km. A separate ride looks like a trip on the “Strawberry Train”, Tren de la Fresa. With vintage nineteenth-century carriages and a locomotive.
The castle of Manzanares el Real in the town of the same name north of Madrid (~53 km) is a real medieval fortress, dating back to the 15th century. The citadel belonged to the noble Castilian family Mendoza. Open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 to 17.30 (18 on weekends and holidays), ticket costs 5 €.
The city of Toledo, 73 km south-west of the Spanish capital, is a veritable treasure trove of medieval art. It is here where the best works of the famous El Greco are kept. The great Spanish artist of Greek origin.
Mention also the local Alcázar and cathedral. And remember that Toledo was the main stronghold of the Spanish Inquisition.
From the center of Madrid – about 70 km. Bus will cover the distance for 1.5 hours, fast train AVE – only 30 minutes.
There is also something to see in Segovia which is 80 km north of Madrid. Giant Roman aqueduct, the Alcázar, the beautiful Gothic cathedral, the country residence of the Spanish kings of the Bourbon dynasty, La Granja de San Ildefonso, are hard to ignore.
- By the way, there are tours that allow you to fit both Escorial and Segovia in one day
The town of Sigüenza in the province of Guadalajara, 130 km northeast of Madrid, is particularly recommended. Carefully preserved medievalism: the cathedral in Romanesque-Gothic style, the Arab citadel of the XII century, converted into a parador hotel, houses built of massive cobblestones, paving stones in the streets … Hotel, which is a castle, relatively inexpensive: room for two can be subscribed for 150-200 € per day.
In the spring from the capital here is specially made “Medieval train”. It runs rarely (12 times a season), and therefore can be ranked among the unique attractions: www.esmadrid.com/en/medieval-train-siguenza.
Across Russia with a cashback of 20%. On sale from August 25 to September 10, 2022. More than 220 routes at a price of 14 250 rubles (excluding cashback) per person. Hurry up to buy!