More than just Spain’s capital, Madrid is the centre of the country and its national pride. From traditional architecture to all-night parties and a tapas culture that will never leave you hungry, this is a city worth fully experiencing.
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Top 5 sights for first-timers
Museo Nacional del Prado
The Prado’s galleries are filled with the biggest names of the 12th through 19th centuries, from Botticelli to Titian and Rembrandt. The most prized pieces, however, belong to Spanish masters like Goya and Velázquez.
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It may be overrun with tourists but the famous Madrid square retains much of its original beauty, from the 237 balconies that line it to the statue of King Philip III looking out proudly from the centre.
Puerta del Sol
This is truly the heart of Madrid, and pretty much Spain too, considering all distances are measured from a little plaque found on the ground in front of the clock building. From protests to a massive New Year’s Eve party, Puerta del Sol (the ‘Gate of the Sun’) is where it all goes down.
Puerta del Sol
Although incumbent King Juan Carlos I resides in a smaller property outside the city, this grand palace is still used for state functions. Some of its 3,000 royal rooms are available for viewing by the public – arrive early to avoid the crowds.
Plaza de Oriente
Join the locals for a Sunday morning stroll in this haven of greenery. If the shady avenues and lush gardens aren’t enough for you, look out for street performers, puppet shows, and even stop by the free-to-enter Crystal Palace.
Puerta de Alcalá
Top 5 sights for old hands
Palacio de Comunicaciones
Once the city’s post office, this palatial building now serves as city hall. Visitors can enter free of charge to scope out various expositions, or pay a couple of Euros to head to the top for an unbeatable view of Cibeles Square and the city.
Plaza de Cibeles 1
Once an abandoned electrical building, this intriguing architectural work combines new and old, and is flanked by a fabulous vertical garden, designed by the French botanist Patrick Blanc. Although the interior hosts a range of artwork and events, the design and layout of the building itself is reason enough to visit.
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For a truly original view of Madrid, take to the skies in this cable car, which glides over the Manzanares River and Casa de Campo Park. A recorded commentary will help you pick out other iconic sights, before arriving at the city’s amusement park, where you can stop for a visit. Times are seasonal so check the website.
Paseo del Pintor Rosales
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
This former hospital now houses 20th-century works primarily by Spanish artists. Among the many greats, you’ll find creations by masters Dalí, Miró and of course Picasso, who produced the museum’s most famous piece, Guernica.
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One of the oldest and biggest flea markets in Europe, this sprawling collection of 3,500 stalls is a great way to while away a Sunday morning. It also showcases Madrid’s ancient, working-class neighbourhoods. After shopping, hang around for authentic tapas and cold beer.
Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores
This mansion-turned-museum displays the work of Valencia-born impressionist landscape and portrait artist Joaquín Sorolla. Get to know both his work and his home by walking through the still-furnished salons surrounded by walls covered with his masterpieces.
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Written by World Travel Guide