Classic Madrid

  • El Madrid más clásico
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To get to the core of traditional Madrid, you should start at Puerta del Sol, where you can spot the statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, Kilometre Zero mark, Mariblanca, Casa de Correos and the legendary Tío Pepe neon sign. The itinerary continues in Plaza Mayor, where history spans four centuries, and then in Plaza de la Villa, the beating heart of the city in the Middle Ages, where you can still see some of the oldest buildings: the Lujanes House and Tower, the Cisneros House and Casa de la Villa.

Madrid’s cathedral, La Almudena, is a pebble’s throw from here. Take a look at the neo-Romanesque crypt and the dome, which affords marvellous views of the city. Next to the cathedral you can still find the remains of the Arab city walls and, of course, the Royal Palace, which is worth a visit. When you get out, take a few minutes off at the Sabatini Gardens or Campo del Moro Park, a large English-style garden by the Royal Palace.

Parks and gardens

There are lots of green areas in Madrid. El Retiro Park is obviously a must – a historic park in the heart of the city where you can take a break or engage in interesting cultural activities. Main sights at El Retiro include the Glass Palace, the Velázquez Palace, the Monument to King Alfonso XII and the statue of the Fallen Angel. El Retiro is close to two of Madrid’s most popular attractions: the Alcalá Gate (Puerta de Alcalá) and the Cibeles Fountain.

Other alluring parks are Juan Carlos I (by Campo de las Naciones), featuring a lake where you can do water sports and a free bike hire service; Cerro del Tío Pío, in Vallecas, commanding stunning views of Madrid from its seven hills; and the Palacio del Príncipe de Anglona Gardens, a tucked away park in La Latina where you’ll find all the peace you need.

Finally, there are three parks that are becoming increasingly popular with locals: El Capricho, where you’ll find labyrinths, fountains, a pavilion and even a bunker that was the barracks of the Central Republican Army during the Civil War, Quinta de los Molinos and Quinta de Torre Arias, with an amazing collection of plants and large patches of trees.

Art and about

There are three museums in Madrid that no art lover can miss, housing masterpieces from the Middle Ages to the present day. At the Prado Museum you can meet Goya, Velázquez, Titian, Rubens and Hieronymus Bosch, among other masters. The Reina Sofía Museum is home to Picasso’s Guernica and other great modern and contemporary art gems. Finally, the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum houses a rich art collection spanning several centuries, from the Trecento to the avant-garde.

If you’re planning to visit all three museums, the Paseo del Arte Pass could come in handy, as it offers interesting discounts.

In the nearby Barrio de las Letras (Literary Quarter) you can visit the Lope de Vega House Museum, not far from Miguel de Cervantes’s burial site at the Trinitarian Convent. For a selfie with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, you should go to Plaza de España. From here, you’re a short walk away from the Egyptian Temple of Debod, whose gardens afford some of the most stunning sunset views you can get in Madrid.

Strolling, bar hopping, shopping

Madrid is great city for walking around and for going out for shopping and tapas. El Rastro, the city’s traditional flea market, and the taverns or tascas where you can have your evening aperitif are a must. Rehabilitated market halls – Antón Martín, San Antón, San Miguel – now gather some of the finest food stalls in town. There are others away from the city centre: Chamberí, Maravillas, La Paz, Las Ventas…

Chueca-Malasaña-Fuencarral, Sol-Preciados-Carmen, Calle Mayor-Arenal, Gran Vía, and Barrio de Salamanca make a huge shopping district where you can find multi-brand and designer stores that are open every day.

Flamenco and football

Madrid is one of the most passionate cities about football in Spain. There are three stadiums you can visit: Santiago Bernabéu, home to Real Madrid CF; Wanda Metropolitano of Atlético Madrid, which has undergone major renovation; and Vallecas Stadium, where the city’s third football club, Rayo Vallecano, plays.

Madrid is also considered to be the world capital of flamenco, home to some of the oldest and most traditional tablaos.

You can explore the most alternative side to Madrid, too!

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  • Puesta de sol desde la azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes. © César Lucas para Madrid Destino
  • A short but fascinating introduction to the city’s main museums which boast an important cultural heritage encompassing most European styles

    Art in Madrid Guide (PDF)
  • Art in Madrid Guide
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