Tourist Information in Madrid
There’s no place like Madrid!
Spain’s capital city is appealing for a huge number of reasons: its friendly people, culture, art, music, nature, gastronomy and love of life.
EL RETIRO PARK
The green space situated in the urban heart of Madrid is also an appealing cultural ensemble. It began as the no-longer-existent Buen Retiro Palace gardens under the orders of King Philip IV of Spain. After opening its doors to the public in the XIX century it housed numerous art and industry exhibitions in the purpose-built beautiful iron and glass halls that can still be seen there today. El Retiro, as the park is known, is suitable for exercising, boating, skating, visiting art exhibitions and having a bite to eat amidst the family-oriented and bohemian atmosphere of any of its terraces.
The Prado Museum is the world’s best art gallery. It displays royal collections including works of art by artists such as Van der Weyden, Hyeronimous Bosch, Rubens, Fra Angélico, El Greco and Tiziano, amongst others. However, the Prado museum stands out from any other museum in the world in particular because it is still home to a large number of works of art by Velázquez and Gaya, the great Spanish masters.
If you prefer a modern and contemporary art museum, we recommend the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The museum recounts the history of art in Spain and Europe from avant-garde artists of the past to the current day. Its focal point is Guernica, one of Picasso’s masterpieces. The Thyssen-Bornemisza, amongst others, is also an internationally renowned museum.
Every Sunday, El Rastro, Madrid’s most authentic market, stretches from Ribera de Curtidores and spills into neighbouring streets. They say that if you can’t find what you’re looking for in El Rastro market, then it simply does not exist. You will find clothes of all kinds, records, books, erasers, keys, frying pans, knives, shoes, hats, antiques and even things that are sometimes difficult to work out what they are for. When visiting El Rastro market, people traditionally enjoy an aperitif in the La Latina neighbourhood. The shops in the area open throughout the week and they sell an abundance of antiques, bric-a-brac and furniture.
From Plaza Mayor (or Main Square in English) to the Royal Palace. You’ll never tire of walking around Madrid, particularly the city’s old quarters known as Madrid de los Austrias. This part of the city, situated between the Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Oriente squares, still houses many of the XVII century palaces and convents from the period when Madrid became the heart of Habsburg Dynasty. A bit of advice: put your map away for a couple of hours and just let yourself wander. You will travel down winding streets where you will happen upon taverns, a baroque church or a secret garden. You will see the San Miguel market, the Royal Palace and the Royal Theatre along the way. You can easily reach the Temple of Debod from here where you can enjoy beautiful sunsets from its gardens.
From Atocha to the Cuatro Torres Business Area. The huge traffic artery that begins in Glorieta del Emperador Carlos V and continues along the Prado, Recoletos and Castellana boulevards up to the north junction (Nudo Norte) behind the Cuatro Torres Business Area is known as the Castellana backbone. You will find museums, ministries, the National Library, the Bank of Spain and the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in these avenues. The Neptuno, Cibles and Colón fountains or the sculputures in the city’s public art museum (Museo de Arte Público) are some of the monuments to be found along the way. The route is a few kilometres long so we suggest that you take the Madrid City Tour bus (route 2) or a public transport bus (for example, the number 27 that covers the entire main axis from Glorieta de Embajadores).
From Sol to Gran Vía. As well as the museums, churches, palaces and parks, Madrid’s streets themselves are also very interesting. We would like to suggest a walk through the most vibrant part of the city. You could begin at the Puerta del Sol, the zero mile marker (km 0) of the radial network of Spanish roads. Calle Preciados starts here. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it is the world’s second busiest street. Next comes Gran Vía, the city centre’s large shopping street where you will find an abundance of shops, function centres, cafés, cinemas and theatres.
EATING TAPAS IN MADRID
A tapa is what we call a small bite to eat or appetiser in Madrid and other parts of Spain. Once theory suggests that this tradition began in the XIII century at the orders of Alfonso X ‘The Wise’ who declared that all taverns and inns should serve a small portion of food with alcoholic drinks to stop people getting drunk. Other sources say that some inns would cover their jugs of wine with a slice of bread to stop the dust from the roads or insects falling in and that this led to bites to eat of this kind being called a tapa, the Spanish word for lid.
In many bars, it is also possible to order food known as ‘raciones’ (a serving) or ‘medias raciones’ (half serving) to have with our drink. These are larger portions of food and are ideal for sharing. What are some of the Madrid classics? Patatas bravas (potatoes served with a spicy sauce), Spanish potato omelette, croquettes, cured cheeses and Iberian cold meats.
What about drinks? When going out to eat tapas, people usually drink a glass of beer (serving beer straight from the tap is an art form in many bars in Madrid), wine or vermouth (white wine aromatised with mixes of herbs and spices, above all wormwood).
The capital city also has excellent Michelin Star restaurants where dining is an experience.