I hope you are well rested and have had a big breakfast, as today is going to be a lot of walking and sightseeing. But we’ll be lunching at one of the best places in Madrid, so you will eat back your energy, and then some more. Let’s get started, shall we?
Over to Leli:
Starting point: Plaza de España
We start from where we left yesterday. Plaza de España is right behind the Opera Building, and adjacent to Sabatini Gardens of the Royal Palace, which were opened to public in 1978. The gardens have a formal Neoclassic style, consisting of well-sheared hedges, in symmetric geometrical patterns, adorned with a pool, statues and fountains, with trees also disposed in a symmetrical geometric shape. The statues are those of Spanish kings, not intended originally to even grace a garden, but originally crowding the adjacent palace (via wiki).
After a stroll through the beatific gardens of Palacio Real (Royal Palace), head to the Almudena Cathedral next door. It is where old and new reside together; the construction for the cathedral started in 1879, coming to a halt when civil war broke out, and the finally meeting completion is 1950. This is why you see a contrast in style, architecture and interiors. Lower portion was made first, and the catacombs reflect the history and aged culture. It is also a burial ground for Madrilian aristocrats, and is quiet and considered holy. The upper portion is relatively new, with hints of African influence.
Back on the road, and off towards Plaza de España. On the way, you will pass by Senado, Palace of the Senate; continue ahead until you reach calle de Ferraz. Across you will see a green expanse, with an Egyptian temple called Templo de Debod. This is the perfect place to catch romantic sunsets, overlooking beautiful landscape. This temple was first built in Upper Egypt in the early 2nd century BC, then dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid. It’s next to water, and the mirror images set against pink and purple skies is probably one of the most breathtaking sights in Madrid.
Next, we are off to Don Quixote Monument at Plaza de España, with the iconic Cervantes Monument in the background. This is the western end of Gran Via, populated with shops, theatres and cafés, and a good place to spend the afternoon at. Rest some, drink some, eat some and we’ll be back to touring the city again.
If you are not in a mood for retail therapy and cappuccino (are you alright?) at Plaza de España, then there are museums and another district to explore as well.
For museums, Museo del Prado is highly recommended – it features one of the world’s finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 20th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and is considered one of the greatest art museums in the world. For a contemporary take on art, head to Reina Sofia Museum with 20th century art on display.
My favourite would have to be Museo del Traje, a museum dedicated to fashion and costumes. It has over 160,000 pieces and documents, and offers invaluable insight into culture and evolution of the fabric of lifestyle in this part of the world. It is off the city centre, and you might have to take a cab, but it will be worth it.
You can also head to Plaza de Colón, if you fancy checking out the National Library. This square also commemorates the explorer Christopher Columbus, with two distinct monuments and also hosts the world’s largest Spanish flag that is 164ft high. Behind the plaza is Serrano and Goya Street, two high-end commercial streets.
And if you are a football fan, you must check out the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium while in the Colón neighbourhood. It is one of the most spectacular stadia in the world and current home stadium of Real Madrid. It has hosted the European Cup final, the UEFA Champions League Final and FIFA World Cup as well.
- There are big hop-on hop-off buses for city tours, and are the best option if you are short on time.
- Although Madrid is safe, it is not ‘Dubai’. It is best to avoid agglomerations and looking touristy.
- The police is very helpful, so feel free to seek out assistance if you need it.
If you have time, I’d strongly suggest that you visit Alcala de Henares, which is about 35km northeast of Madrid. The city was one of the first bishoprics founded in Spain, and it’s historical centre is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, which stands out for its rich archaeology. It’s where Miguel de Cervantes, writer of Don Quixote, was born, and a university built in 1450s still stands proud. Also, it’s Leli’s hometown!
Day two is done and over, and I know I promised good food at the end, but I will give you something better. A dedicated post to share the best places for Spanish fare in Madrid. How’s that?
See you with some tapas and jamon in a bit!