The 34 best sights of Madrid – descriptions and photos
A monumental red building, built in the Neo-Mauritanian style, with beautiful arches, statues in front of it and rich interior decoration is the famous Las Ventas bullfighting arena. The Las Ventas arena is a real landmark in Madrid.
The biggest railway station in Spain named after the nearby convent of Our Lady of Atocha. In 1992 the old station building was decommissioned and now houses a tropical garden, stores, cafes and even a nightclub.
Royal Palace in Madrid
The official residence of the Spanish kings is located on the west side of Madrid on the site of an ancient Moorish fortress. The interiors of the palace are decorated with paintings by Caravaggio, Goya, Tiepolo, Velazquez and other masters. There is also a collection of ancient weapons and a unique collection of Stradivarius violins.
Queen Sofia Museum
The Reina Sofia Art Center along with the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museums constitute the “Golden Triangle of the Arts”. Madrid. Today, the museum’s collection consists mainly of works by 20th century Spanish artists, with the most famous exhibit being Pablo Picasso’s Guernica.
Museo del Prado
The Prado Museum has a rich collection of Spanish paintings and masterpieces by Italian, Flemish and Dutch masters. The first collection of the Prado had more than 300 paintings, now there are more than 6 thousand paintings, over 400 sculptures and works of jewelry.
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid
The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid is located within the so-called Triangulo del Arte, the “Golden Triangle of Art,” a small neighborhood that houses several large museums, including the famous Prado and Queen Sofia Museums.
Monument to Don Quixote
The Monument to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza is part of an elaborate composition dedicated to the world-famous Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes erected in Plaza España, close to the Royal Palace.
Park Buen Retiro
Buen Retiro Park is the largest park in Madrid and one of the city’s main attractions. The place charms at first sight: wide alleys, lush vegetation, small architectural forms located in the most unexpected places, cozy benches, jogging and bicycle paths.
One of the main squares in Madrid, Plaza Mayor competes with Puerta del Sol for the right to be called Madrid’s main square. Framed by colonnades, the central Plaza Mayor served in the Middle Ages as a marketplace, bullfighting ground and burning at the stake.
Plaça de Cibeles
One of Madrid’s most striking landmarks, the square of Cibeles, is beloved by citizens and visitors alike. In the center of the square is the fountain Cibeles – a sculptural composition of the finest work, put here in the XVIII century and depicts the goddess of fertility Qibela.
Puerta del Sol
One of the most famous landmarks of Madrid, the central square of the Spanish capital Puerta del Sol owes its origin to the “Gate of the Sun” – one of the gates of the city wall, which surrounded the city in the 15th century.
Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree
At the northern end of the Puerta del Sol is perhaps the most enigmatic sculpture in modern Spain, the statue of The Bear and the Strawberry Tree. Installed back in 1966 on the site of a destroyed fountain, the sculpture still raises a lot of questions from visitors and locals.
Gran Via in Madrid
The Gran Vía, although not the main street, is undoubtedly the most famous street in Madrid. The rowdy bars and glittering cinemas along Gran Vía give way to upscale boutiques and restaurants. The public area is nestled amongst apartment buildings, offering endless views.
The history of Madrid Arena started in 2002 – it was built at the “Casa de Campo” park, when the Spanish capital was competing for the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games. But, alas, it “flew away. London won, and the building became a pavilion for sporting events.
El Rastro flea market
The name of Madrid’s famous flea market “El Rastro” (Spanish for “the trail”), according to legend, comes from the bloody traces that stretched from the local slaughterhouses to the tanneries. Now one of Europe’s oldest flea markets is an open-air shopping mall.
The Alcalá Gate was erected in 1778 just east of the old 16th century gate of the same name. At the time it was the main entrance to the city, from which the fortress walls diverged in both directions. Charles III, who ruled at that time, decided to make the city more modern.
Plaza de Oriente in Madrid
The Eastern Plaza (Plaza de Oriente) in the center of Madrid gets its name from its location. It is located between the buildings of the Royal Theater and the Royal Palace, to the east of the latter. The construction of the square began in the 18th century by order of the King of Spain Joseph Bonaparte.
This palace was built in 1777 for the Duchess Caetana de Alba, one of the most noble Spanish families who inspired Goya to paint her portraits. For a long time it housed the residence of the Dukes of Alba.
Santa Cruz Palace
The Palace of Santa Cruz is perhaps the most unusual of Madrid’s landmarks. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it does not look like a palace in its traditional sense. The little-noticeable brick building of a shade of red rust can easily be confused with a dozen others.
The palace of Cibeles
Located in Plaza Cibeles, the Palace of Telecommunications, since 2011 known as Palacio de Cibeles, is one of Madrid’s most beautiful and functional buildings. Originally the neo-Hurrieresque building housed the head office of the Spanish postal services.
Madrid is fast-paced and luxurious, imbued with the ambitious energy of its inhabitants, seasoned with Spanish optimism and European luxury. During the day, cafes and bars spill out into the maze of narrow, chaotically crisscrossing streets, and at night, the buzz of nightclubs pulsates relentlessly. The fun and idleness of an ever-younger Madrid goes hand in hand with the palaces and museums that celebrate the history of this glorious city.
When in Madrid for the first time, do not immediately queue at the Prado Museum, breathe the atmosphere of the Spanish capital by walking through the streets of the city. The Gran Via is perfect for this, it has everything a tourist could want: stores and restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops, street performers and crowds of gawkers like you. If you stroll along Spanish Broadway, it is definitely worth checking out the Puerta del Sol square, where the kilometer zero and the teddy bear, which has been staring longingly at the strawberry tree for more than 40 years, are located. Such an unusual combination has become part of the city’s coat of arms, and the bear has become its peculiar symbol.
Being for the first time in Madrid, do not immediately stand in a queue at the Prado Museum, breathe the atmosphere of the Spanish capital, walking through the streets of the city.
The Prado Museum is known for Goya’s “Macha Nude” and “Macha Clothed” and the characters of Bosch’s “Garden of Delights,” Velázquez’ “Frélinas” and the somber canvases of El Greco. But not only the best works of the masters of the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools of painting attract tourists, the museum has a unique collection of sculptures, numbering more than two hundred exhibits. Also not to be missed is the Hall of Decorative Works of the Clade of the Dauphin, which displays a priceless collection of 55 medals, arranged in historical order, from Ferdinand the Catholic to Alfonso XIII.
Not far from the Prado Museum is the Atocha station, worth a visit not only to find out the schedule of high-speed trains or to see a map of the Madrid metro, the station is famous for its modernist cast iron and glass roof and a tropical waiting room with a beautiful palm garden with miniature live turtles and the like an enchanting wildlife.
Particularly popular is the Royal Palace, which is reminiscent of Versailles in the classic Baroque style, with adjacent columns and a combination of granite and white stone architecture. The elegant and graceful palace completes the beautiful garden.
Love the action and colorful performances? Head to the Spanish bullfight, which is held on a grand scale in Madrid in May, the Feast of St. Isidore. Less aggressive, but no less spectacular is the Caja Madrid Flamenco Festival. The festival is held only a few times a year, if you could not get there, do not despair, in the cafe Chinitas flamenco dance every night.
Once you have wandered around the city and satisfied your curiosity, do not forget about your appetite: buy some jamon and churros – doughnuts with or without a filling, which are served together with a cup of chocolate, where they are actually worth dipping. If you don’t like donuts, fill up on a crusty baguette with a type of hard cheese and bring along a Maho or a bottle of the classic white beer. All this culinary variety can be savored under a shady tree in one of the capital’s picturesque parks.
A striking example of Spanish architecture, España Square is noted for its many green areas, a swimming pool and a monument where you can see Don Quixote and his faithful friend Sancho Panza, with their creator Miguel de Cervantes taking center stage.
Head to Plaza Cibeles, home to Madrid’s famed Cibeles Fountain, and underneath it is the vault of the state bank, the Banco de España. Plaza Cibeles is on Calle Prado, not far from the museum of the same name.
Casa de Campo Park
Casa de Campo Park has a special attraction thanks to its crystal clear lakes, colorful amusement park, zoo and aquarium, and, oddly enough, cable car. See the emerald greenery of parks and grand buildings, hear the story of everything that opens up from a bird’s eye view, see the best sights of the city – an unusual air travel will give an impression for the whole year.
Getting to know Madrid – Part 2: The best architectural landmarks of the city
Madrid is an amazing city that amazes even the most experienced tourists. Madrid is an amazing city and its beauty is something you’ll want to see again and again. In addition to the usual palaces and parks, there is a unique cemetery in the form of St. George.
In the previous article we told in detail about the history of Madrid and its modern state. About how the city is developing and what can surprise and delight you, you can read in the article “Getting to know Madrid – part 1: history, important facts, what the city lives now”.
This material we dedicated entirely to the numerous attractions of the capital of Spain, we’ve highlighted the most iconic of them, which are “must-see”, but it’s not the most complete list. Madrid knows how to surprise!
By the way, lovers of beach holidays on the Costa Brava, Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol can quickly get to Madrid by high-speed train Renfe: it takes from 2 to 3 hours from different points of Spain. It’s a great way to combine a beach holiday with a cultural one!
Madrid’s architecture is characterized by a mix of many styles from different periods of history.
Little of the medieval architecture has survived, and most buildings from this period are located in Almendra central, Madrid’s central area, which consists of seven districts: Centro, Arganzuela, Retiro, Salamanca, Chamartín, Tetuan and Paladí.
Among the few surviving medieval buildings are the Mudejar towers of the San Nicolás and San Pedro el Viejo churches, the Lujan family palace located in the Plaza de la Villa, the 16th century Gothic church of San Jeronimo el Real near the Prado Museum and the Chapel of the Bishop (Capilla del Obispo de Madrid).
Historical documents show that the city was walled and the castle (Alcázar) was located where the Royal Palace now stands.
Few notable examples of Renaissance architecture have survived: the Casa Cisneros in the Plaza de la Villa, which survives unchanged, the Puente de Segovia in brick and granite, and the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, whose austere appearance contrasts strongly with the magnificent interior, a real treasure trove of outstanding works of art.
Many of Madrid’s historic buildings date back to the Spanish Golden Age, which coincided with the Habsburg period (1516-1700). King Philip II moved his court to Madrid in 1561 and transformed the city into a capital. These transformations were reflected in the Plaza Mayor, with its symmetry and austerity, as well as in the new Alcázar, which became the second largest Spanish royal palace. Construction during the Habsburg period was largely made of brick, with buildings characterized by modest facades that contrasted with the elaborate, artful interiors. Famous buildings of this era include the Palacio de Santa Cruz, the Palacio de los Concejos, the Royal Monastery of the Incarnation and the Palacio del Buen Retiro. A large number of buildings, as well as fountains and bridges in the churrigueresco (late Baroque) style were created by the famous Spanish architect Pedro de Ribera. The most notable are the former barracks of the Cuartel del Conde Duque, the baroque church of Our Lady of Montserrat (Nuestra Señora de Montserrat) and the Bridge of Toledo (Puente de Toledo).
The reign of the Bourbons in the 18th century marked a new era in Madrid’s history. King Philip V sought to complete Philip II’s ideas for the urbanization of Madrid. Philip V rebuilt the new Alcázar in the French style, as did some other buildings such as the Basílica Pontificia de San Miguel and the Parroquia de Santa Bárbara, or Salesas Reales. Charles III was more interested in beautifying the city, trying to make Madrid one of the greatest European capitals. It was thanks to him that Madrid had the Prado Museum, originally conceived as the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Alcalá Gate, the Royal Observatory, the Royal Cathedral of St. Francis the Great, the Post Office building (Casa de Correos) on Puerta del Sol, the Royal Customs House (Real Casa de la Aduana) on Calle de Alcala and the General Hospital, which now houses the Queen Sofia Museum and the Royal Conservatory of Music.
The Paseo del Prado Boulevard, surrounded by gardens and adorned with neoclassical statues of mythological characters, is a fine example of urban planning.
In the early 19th century, the Iberian wars, the loss of the American colonies to Spain, and coups d’état limited the city’s architectural development. The buildings of the Royal Theater, the National Library of Spain, the Palace of the Senate, and the Congress all date to this period.
From the mid-19th century until the Civil War, Madrid modernized and new neighborhoods and monuments were built. The expansion of Madrid developed under the Castro Plan, limited to the neighborhoods of Salamanca, Argüelles and Chambery.
The main street of Gran Vía was built in different styles, changing over time: French style, eclecticism, art deco and expressionism. Antonio Palacios, inspired by the ideas of the Vienna Secession, designed a series of buildings: the Palacio de Comunicaciones (Palacio de Cibeles), the Circle of Fine Arts (Círculo de Bellas Artes) with an observation deck on top and the Banco del Río de la Plata, which now houses the headquarters of the Cervantes Institute. One of Madrid’s symbols, the Metropolis building at the corner of Calle de Alcalá and Gran Vía, was built in the French style, Edificio Grassy, which begins Gran Vía, is eclectic, Edificio Telefónica and the Palacio de Press are Art Deco with Baroque decorations, and one of Madrid’s first skyscrapers, the 89-meter Edificio Carrión is expressionist. Edificio Carrión was eventually rivaled by the 1950s skyscrapers Edificio España and Torre de Madrid at the end of the Gran Via.
Other notable buildings in Madrid include the Banco de España, the neo-Gothic Santa María la Real de La Almudena, the Estación de Madrid Atocha, the Catalan palace of Longoria in the Art Nouveau style, the Las Ventas bullring, and the San Miguel market (Mercado de San Micuel) with cast iron pillars and glass walls.
The Civil War severely damaged Madrid – the old town and the Ensanche district, as well as one of the most beautiful areas – Moncloa-Aravaca with the University City – were severely destroyed and damaged, the most beautiful architectural complexes were destroyed. Subsequently, unscrupulous mayors built up these neighborhoods with numerous apartment buildings of no artistic value. Among the most interesting buildings of post-war architecture are the headquarters of the Spanish Air Force and the skyscrapers in Spain Square, built in the 1950s and considered at the time the highest in Europe.
Modern architecture of Madrid is well represented in the financial quarter AZCA in the city center. The quarter is located between Raimundo Fernandez Villaverde, Orense, General Perón and Paseo de la Castellana. Here rise some of Madrid’s tallest and most beautiful modern skyscrapers from the end of the 20th century, during the Spanish economic boom: Torre Picasso (157 meters), Torre Europa (120 meters), Torre Titania (104 meters), Torre BBVA (107 meters), Torre Mahou (85 meters), and the twin towers Puerta de Europa (114 meters), located slightly north, in the Chamartin neighborhood. In February 2005, the Windsor Tower (106 m) died in a fire and was later replaced by the Titania Tower.
During the 2000s, four of the tallest skyscrapers in Spain were built to form the Cuatro Torres business center, north of the Plaza de Castilla: Torre Espacio (224.5 m), Torre Cepsa (250 m), Torre de Cristal (249 m), Torre PwC (236 m). These buildings are the tallest not only in Madrid, but also in the whole of Spain.
In 2006 the new Terminal 4 at Madrid-Barajas Airport opened, winning several architectural awards for its unusual futuristic design and excellent functionality. The terminal is one of the largest in the world (760,000 square meters); its glass walls and many skylights provide the building with great light due to the daylight.