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Attractions and things to do in Madrid

Cibeles and town hall in Madrid

Watch a bullfight

Bullfighting or corrida de toros, although a controversial subject, attracts thousands of Spaniards as well as curious tourists wanting to know what all the hype is about each year. The bullfighting season commences with the Festival de San Isidro at the beginning of spring and ends during the first few days of October. During the San Isidro festival there are fights held every day after which fights are only held on Sundays until the end of the season, therefore, booking tickets early is essential.

Bullfighting is one of the most important traditions of Spanish culture and Madrid is one of the top locations to experience it along with Andalusia and Costa Blanca. It is a show which has inspired artists, Picasso for example, writers and film producers for years. The greatest bullring to watch a bullfight in Madrid is without a doubt the Plaza de Toros Monumental de Las Ventas where all matadors dream of putting on a show for all to see. Bullfighting is an impressive and highly dangerous show. It is packed with rules and traditions that have existed for centuries and which are strictly followed with each fight starting from the moment the matador walks into the arena to the moment he walks out…if he walks out! Expect lots of shouting by demanding and passionate crowds, lots of cheering and plenty of music with the pasodoble, composed specifically for this show, creating the perfect background music during the fights. Don’t leave without popping into the Madrid Museum of Bullfighting in Las Ventas to top up your knowledge on the tradition with artworks and traditional objects used during the spectacle. For out of season bullfights, there is also the chance to watch a bullfight at the Vista Alegre bullring which holds occasional fights throughout the year.

 

Get arty with Madrid’s finest art museums!

Madrid is home to some of the finest art museums in the world and visiting Madrid’s museums is a great way to pass the time and get some insight into Spanish culture. There are three main museums situated in close proximity to one another which are considered must-sees for all. These three museums make up the ‘Golden Triangle of Art’ and they are:

- Museo Nacional Del Prado 

The Museo Nacional Del Prado or simply, The Prado Museum is a highly searched-for cultural landmark and declared one of the world’s greatest art galleries. Part of the ‘Golden Traingle of Art’, the Prado has hosted, since 1819, some of the most impressive pieces of art created by leading European artists such as Raphael, Bosch, Goya, Velázquez, Rubens as well as other Italian and Flemish masters of art. Located in an 18th century Neo-Classical building, the museum today holds several thousand works including sculptures, drawings, pieces of furniture and decorative art so pre-selecting the main highlights you wish to see is almost essential. Some suggestions may be Las Meninas or Adoration of the Magi by Velázquez, Baptism of Christ or the Adoration of the Shepards by El Greco, Worship of Venus by Titian, The Garden of Eartly Delights by Bosch, Louis XIV portrait by Rigaud, Fall of Icarus by Gowi or the Naked Maja and Third of May by Goya. Whatever your taste, The Prado simply has something for everybody so add it now to your list of must-see attractions in Madrid!

- Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

The Museo Thyseen-Bornemisza, located in the popular boulevard of Paseo del Prado, is one of the museums which make up the ‘Golden Triangle of Art’ and is well-worth paying a visit. The Thyssen museum offers visitors an a-z list of artists, over 1600 paintings, sculptures, carvings, tapestries and contains some of the world’s most enviable pieces, so much so that it is considered by many critics as one of the world’s most important private collections. Found within a Neo-Classical mansion built in 1806, the Thyssen museum presents the history of Western art over seven centuries as well as renowned masterpieces such as Salvador Dali’s Sting Caused by the Flight of a Bee (short alternative title), Edgar Degas’ Swaying Dancer, André Derain’s Waterloo Bridge and Claude Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge. Step into this museum and appreciate outstanding works from the medieval period such as Van Eyck’s Diptych of the Annunciation, Petrus christus’ Our Lady of the Dry Tree, Holbein’s distinguished Henry VIII portrait, Rubens’ The Toilet of Venus and Rembrandt’s Self-portrait wearing a Hat and two Chains; the Impressionist and post-Impressionist periods such as Cézanne’s Portrait of a Farmer and Vincent van Gogh’s Evening Landscape or “Les Vessenot” in Auvers; and 20th century pieces such as Picasso’s Man with a Clarinet and Harlequin with a Mirror.

- Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía or Queen Sofía National Centre of Art is one of Madrid’s ‘Golden Triangle of Art’ museums and display’s a permanent collection of Spanish 20th century art. The building in which this national museum and historical monument is found was originally a hospital, undergoing dramatic remodelling between 1980 and 1988. A characteristic of the museum is its two glass and steel elevators which are located at the front of the building. Along with contemporary paintings, the Reina Sofía museum presents a variety of temporary exhibitions using different forms of art such as sculptures, photography and film. This popular museum is also home to Picasso’s most celebrated oil painting known as Guernica which portrays the horrors of war; a piece inspired by Picasso’s disgust at the bombing of the town of Guernica by German planes during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Upon Picasso’s request, Guernica was only allowed to be exhibited in Spain after liberty and democracy had been re-established in the country. It was finally exhibited in Spain in 1981 and moved to its current location only in 1992.The Reina Sofía museum in Madrid is certainly an exciting experience and will leave non-lovers of art a little more appreciative.

 

Visit the enchanting Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid which once housed the king of Spain, King Juan Carlos, and his family, is today a popular tourist attraction giving visitors the chance to walk through the corridors of royalty and peek into the most important rooms of the palace. Located on Calle de Bailén, in the Western part of downtown Madrid, The Royal Palace which stands today was completed in 1755 and hosts a number of preserved interests which make for a delightful visit. Feast your eyes on royal armoury, porcelain, clocks, furniture, silverware and the world’s one and only Stradivarius string quintet. Representing the Royal Family’s love of art are paintings and frescos which can be found in many of the rooms including the Painting Gallery which exhibits paintings by artists such as Velázquez, Goya, Caravaggio, El Greco, Juan de Flandes, Rubens and Giaquinto. Away from the interior of the palace and to the exterior you will find not just one but two beautiful gardens; the Jardines del Moro and the Sabattini gardens. As well as being a tourist attraction, the Royal Palace is currently used for award ceremonies, royal audiences, royal banquets and Spanish events of great importance. If you want to get a whiff of life as a royal then you won’t want to miss this palace!

 

Visit or stay in the heart of Madrid, Puerta del Sol

The Puerta del Sol or ‘Gate of the Sun’ is located in the heart of Madrid and is the capital’s most famous and busiest square. The name of the gate derives from the rising sun which lit up the entry as the gate was faced towards east. Due to its central location, the Puerta del Sol is a fabulous place to stay if you’re travelling to Madrid as there are plenty of hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars, shopping centres and international clothing stores around. Also, it is in close proximity to many other popular attractions and landmarks of Madrid including the Plaza Mayor. Puerta del Sol leads the way to the Madrid Metro, Cercanías, the House of the Post Office or Casa de Correos, the President of Madrid’s headquarters, the mounted statue of Charles III, the Bear and the Strawberry Tree statue or El Oso y El Madroño and Spain’s most famous clock whose bells mark the arrival of each new year. The Puerta del Sol is an exciting and vibrant part of Madrid full of history and plenty to see and is a true symbol of what Madrid represents.

 

Plaza Mayor 

The Plaza Mayor is an extraordinary plaza or square in the city of Madrid and only several blocks away from the heart of Madrid in Puerta del Sol. Rectangular in shape and featuring three-story buildings which surround it, the Plaza Mayor has been the chosen site for innumerous events such as markets, bullfights, football games and historically was used for public executions during the Spanish Inquisition! The Plaza Mayor is the central location for the Festival de San Isidro at the beginning of spring. Within its grounds you can find old but delightful shops, cafés and restaurants which ooze Spanish tradition. The Plaza Mayor is a great location which is today one of Madrid’s major attractions with just so much to offer. You’ll love it!

 

Go Green in Madrid’s Botanical Gardens and Parks

The Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid or Real Jardín Botanico is located in the heart of Madrid’s cultural scene in the Prado district, more specifically, opposite the entrance to the Museo Nacional del Prado. Take the opportunity to literally step out of the city and into a world of nature by visiting this exquisite garden with over 30,000 plants and flowers and 1500 trees. Within the grounds of the Royal Botanical Gardens you will also find three terraces or Terraza, two greenhouses, a herbarium containing one million herbal sheets and finally a library and archives which preserve over 2000 works on Botany, Natural History and Chemistry. If your desire to see the green side of Madrid is still going strong, after visiting the Jardín Botanico, take to Madrid’s less famous but still enchanting parks, the most beautiful of which has to be the Parque del Buen Retiro in Plaza de Murillo offering relaxing strolls and the possibility of boating on its central lake. This park is also home to a 200 year old tree…an attraction in itself!

 

Spend some family time in the Madrid Zoo Aquarium  

It doesn’t matter how old you are, everybody loves to go the zoo and the Madrid Zoo Aquarium is Spain’s largest zoo. It opened in 1770, is located in the Casa de Campo and covers 49 acres. With so much on offer besides the main zoo there is a petting zoo, an aquarium, a dolphinarium and an aviary. You can spend hours in Madrid’s Zoo Aquarium and not even notice it! You can also take the opportunity to go on a boat or train tour around the zoo, a definite favourite with the kids. Featured in this zoo are 6000 animals of 500 different species and it is one of the few zoos in the world to house Giant Pandas. This attraction offers a great time for you and the family to spend some quality time together whilst getting you in contact with Earth’s most extraordinary creatures.

 

Fun and Laughter in Madrid’s Theme Parks 

Madrid has two theme parks. Its most famous and largest theme park is Parque Warner (previously known as Warner Bros Movie World) and its smaller one is Parque de Atracciones de Madrid or Madrid’s Amusement Park. Each theme park provides many fun-filled hours for you and your kids to spend together daring one another to ride some of the most adrenalin-rushing rollercoasters Europe has on offer. Madrid’s theme parks are considered fantastic family attractions so if you’re travelling to Madrid, add one of the below to your list of must-visits too!

- Parque Warner

The visually impressive Parque Warner theme park, located in San Martín de la Vega on the outskirts of Madrid; and the more expensive of the two, reproduces an amazing world of fantasy and imagination of various Warner Brothers films including Batman and Superman. The park is divided into five themed areas; DC Super Heroes World, Warner Bros. Studios, Cartoon Village, Old West Territory and Hollyworld Boulevard. It offers rides for children, families and adults with rides being rated from light to moderate to intense. So depending on your courage, there is something for everybody. As you wander around you will find a great number of restaurants where you can stop to take a bite during your day out too. 

- Parque de Atracciones de Madrid

The second theme park, Madrid’s Amusement Park, is located in Casa de Campo, a beautiful park found to the west of central Madrid. Although you can’t spend as many hours in this park as it is particularly smaller in size, it has a respectable array of rides extending from rides for infants, exciting rides, family rides to adrenalin-rushing rides which include rides that will have you splashing on the rapids to rides that will see you high up in the sky looking down at the world below or going around in circles as you ride some of the most loopiest rides ever.

 

Santiago-Bernabéu Stadium: Real Madrid C.F.

For many curious tourists as well as huge Real Madrid C.F. fans, visiting the Santiago-Bernabéu Stadium is the highlight of their trip and for some it’s a dream come true. Take a tour around one of the most famous stadiums in the world which belongs to the most expensive team in the world. The tour will see you walk through the changing rooms where your favourite football players prepare themselves before each game. You can also walk the sidelines of the football pitch, sit in chairs normally reserved for VIPs as well as sitting on the substitutes’ bench where your favourite player(s) have sat also. You will have the chance to visit the trophy room as well as the famous press room and learn lots about Real Madrid C.F.’s history and success over the years. If you can’t stop at a tour, why not watch a Real Madrid football match with your own eyes? It’s an ultimate must for a true Real Madrid C.F. fan and an opportunity you may not get too often, so get your tickets early!

 

Feel the passion of Flamenco! 

Flamenco, a form of Spanish folk music and dance, originated in the region of Andalusia in southern Spain and is now associated with Spanish culture. You will find Flamenco venues in several of Spain’s most important cities and Madrid is certainly no exception. What is most inspiring about Flamenco is the passion demanded to dance it. It is a sensual and intense performance from beginning to end. The combination of the dance (baile) which includes lots of hard heel tapping, finger clicking and hand-clapping (palmas), the sound of the Spanish guitar playing (toque) in the background and the melancholic folk-singing (cante) will leave you with chills and certainly wanting to experience the whole thing again and again. Madrid’s city centre offers visitors a great selection of bars or venues that feature regular flamenco shows with some of the best flamenco dancers in all of Spain so they are guaranteed not to disappoint! If you’re lucky, you may even get the opportunity to watch a flamenco dance, performed by small time groups, for free whilst strolling around the streets of Madrid. As the flamenco dance-style has increasingly gained popularity among tourists this is not an uncommon find.

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