I am going to start this blogpost by saying that I never actually went on a citytrip to Madrid. I’ve already been there three times, but it was always to visit someone who lived there. Except the first time, when I was there for two days during my Erasmus in Valencia. It was the first and second of May (2010) so I didn’t see a lot. Note to everybody: do not visit Madrid during those days. Everything is closed :-). The second time was a whole week during February (2011), the third time was a few days in March (2011). Both periodes were okay to visit the city. The weather was nice: not too hot, not too cold. In February I still needed some thick clothes though.
This blogpost will be a mix up of the times that I’ve been to Madrid. The things that I did visit and what I thought of them. There’s still a lot of the city that I haven’t seen. After three times I stil have to go back someday ;-).
When you’re in Madrid for a short period of time, there are some ‘must sees’ you really have to visit first. It starts with the Plaza Mayor. It’s a square, full of little bars and restaurants, street theatre, and so on. It’s a cosy place to spend your time, have a drink and eat some tapas. Bear in mind that there are cheaper places for doing that!
Next you have to visit the Puerta del Sol, also a square, always filled with people. On the plaza you have a metrostation in the form of a giant fish. But there you can also find the Oso Madroño and the Zero Point (Punto Cero), the place where the roads in Spain started out. It’s a small tile on the ground, and not so easy to find.
Next stop is the Retiro Garden. A big garden in the city, where you can walk, rest, eat, read, have a boat trip on the river, … It’s a really nice place to get away from the busy center. In the Retiro you can also find the Palacio de Cristal, which is made entirely out of glass and metal. It was built in 1887 to exhibit flora and fauna from the Philippines, but now it has another use. Sometimes there are temporarily exhibitions of art. When I was there, you got in free, and if you visited the Palacio de Cristal, you received a free entry ticket for the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía – the museum for modern art. Here you can also find the Guernica (Picasso) and some paintings of Dalí. The Prado is another museum that you need to visit before leaving Madrid. There you can find Las Meninas (Velázquez) and a lot of other paintings by Velázques, Goya and Rubens. The museum is huge and you will spend quite some time there.
The Plaza de Cibeles is also worth while passing by. It’s a very big square, with a fountain in the middle and some beautiful buildings surrounding it.
If you have some more time left, you can go shopping in the Gran Via. At one end of the street, you can see the Edificio Metrópolis, an office building. It has some French influences and it is truly beautiful. A bit further away, you have de Puerta de Alcalá, a triumphal arc. At the other end of the Gran Via, you have the Plaza de España. I only saw this square from inside of a car. You should also visit the Palacio Real (Royal Palace), the Catedral de la Almudena (which lies next to the Royal Palace, but always seemed to be closed at the times that I was there… :-(). In front of the Royal Place you also have the Plaza Oriente, a little ‘garden’ you can walk and enjoy the greenery. You should also pay a visit to the Mercado San Miguel, to stroll around. They have some really big strawberries there :-).
If you still have some time left, I recommend you pay a visit to El Templo de Debod. This is an Egyptian temple, which was a gift to Madrid. It’s not that big, it doesn’t take a lot of time to visit the temple. But I thought they looked beautiful. For those who love soccer, a bit outside the center (you can take the metro, which stops just in front of it) lies the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu – the stadium of Real Madrid. I never went inside, because I’m not that big of a fan of soccer. It’s easily reachable via the metro (there’s a stop right in front of it).
I also visited the Zoo of Madrid, which I liked a lot.
The sights that I still haven’t seen, but one day I will, are:
- El Catedral de la Almudena
- El monasterio de las descalzas reales
- El Escorial
- El Real Monasterio de la Encarnación
- Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande
- Teatro Real
- El jardín botánico
If there’s anyone else who has some good tips from me, please leave a comment with them! I would be very gratefull :-).