Maybe you could love it, maybe you could hate it, but Madrid is one of the coolest European cities. The Spanish capital is an ideal mix of cultures, nationalities, and accents that welcomes and rejects with Arab ancestors, cultured and of mixed race. If Madrid were a person, it would be young and fun-loving, one of those people who never stop making plans, who never take a break, who are always surrounded by friends. In fact, it would be that someone who turns a night into an unforgettable memory.
She is a labyrinth of personalities (and streets) whose heart is more difficult to reach than it seems. When surrounded by people, her personality is different from when it is its intimacy. Discovering the city is a mystery that the sections of this article will try to solve through a list of plans to experience the capital of Spain.
How would Madrid look like? The buildings along its streets and avenues are baroque, neoclassical, and eclectic in style. Wide avenues, such as the Castellana, combine with much shorter and narrower streets, such as those in Malasaña and Lavapiés. One can see all above mentioned on the most obvious sightseeing tour: a stroll through the centre.
The most significant scroll is a kind of triangle, which can be covered in a thousands ways. The essential points would be: the Puerta del Sol, the Plaza Mayor square, the Royal Palace, the San Miguel market, the Almudena cathedral, the Plaza de España square, Gran Vía street and the Banco de España.
Another key scroll is one that starts at Atocha and goes alone to the Paseo del Prado, where is the Prado National Museum, Reina Sofía National Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the squares of Neptuno and Cibeles. These spots are next to the Retiro Park and its Crystal Palace, others must-visits in Madrid. In fact, the last-mentioned places are part of the so-called Landscape of Light, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Once its physical appearance is clear, it is necessary to know the personality of the capital of Spain. Let’s take a closer look at the aspects that defines this city its personality.
Obviously, not everyone likes having a night out, but this city stands out for its parties. For this reason, at weekends, on public holidays and even during working days, the nightlife never stops. Madrid doesn’t sleep, or hardly sleeps at all. Madrid has so many inhabitants and tourists, from so many cultures and tastes, that there is a wide range of things to choose from.
A night out could mean going out in some typical pubs of some the most significant areas of Madrid, such as Barrio de las Letras, Malasaña or Argüelles neighbourhoods. Besides, it is necessary to mention the most highlighted discos of the city, for example, Kapital, Teatro Barceló or Shoko. However, there are also many other little pubs to have an unforgettable night. Whatever the case, the fact is that one night out is a must. And if it ends with a breakfast of churros at Chocolatería San Ginés, so much the better.
According to the Spanish film director, Pablo Almodóvar, during the period of ‘La Movida Madrileña’: “it was important to go to the Rastro market every Sunday to show your friends who had survived Saturday night”. This market took place in Embajadores neighbourhod since 1740. There, it is possible to find a wide range of different things, such as vintage objects, jewels, posters, second-hand books and clothes. The number of items in the Rastro flea market is almost infinite.
However, the best option to end any of these plans is to go for a drink in one of the bars of La Latina. So, why not ro recover from the hangover of the night before with more alcohol? Besides, there are many bars which offers a great variety of the most typical ‘tapas’ of Spain, such as Spanish omelette.
Madrid is plenty of museums and Prado Museum could be considered one of the most relevant in Spain. This city has a specific area, known as the Triangle of Art, located in the surroundings of Atocha area, which consist of the three most popular museums: National Museum of Prado, National Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza and National Museum Reina Sofía.
These three museums are a compulsory visit, but if it is not possible, at least one is a must. The National Museum of Prado is one of the most important in the world, which includes works of many European and Spanish artists from the 15th to the 19th century. Reina Sofía museum stands out for its contemporary works and abstract art. In the Thyssen Museum, it is possible to visit the collection of this family, many works of different epochs and styles.
Another unique feature of Madrid is its cultural character. Millions of people from different countries and cultures who come to the capital to study or start a new job, as well as the huge number of tourists. The capital is notable for its diversity.
A clear example is Usera, a neighbourhood where the population is mostly Chinese. In Lavapiés area, it is also common to find many people from Africa who gather in the squares and arcades. Street paintings, shops, restaurants, bars and cultural spaces are a good example of this multiculturalism, making it possible to travel almost anywhere in the world from the Spanish capital.
Although Madrid does not stop, there are also places for rest. For this reason, it has several large and beautiful green areas where one can recharge their batteries. Obviously, the Retiro Park is the most common one. Two other very famous ones are the Templo del Debod and the Casa de Campo.
Templo del Debod is an ancient Egyptian building surrounded by a huge park on the heights of the Plaza de España, with views of the Royal Palace and the Casa de Campo. This last-mentioned place is also the largest: more than 1700 hectares spread over the Moncloa-Aravaca district where you can go jogging, cycling or just lie around. Less well known is the Cerro del Tío Pío (also known as the Siete Tetas park), located in the Vallecas district and from where you can enjoy beautiful views of the capital.
Although the capital had already been occupied by previous settlements, Madrid’s history as an urban centre actually begins in the 9th century with the constitution of Mayrit by the emir Mohammed I. In fact, Madrid is the only European capital founded by Arabs. Since then, the Spanish capital has gone through many historical moments and several civilisations and kings have influenced its current layout. These are the places where you can learn more about the history of the capital.
Few remains of the old Mayrit have survived. Perhaps the most remarkable is the Emir Mohamed I park, located next to the Almudena church. In this spot there is still a part of what used to be the wall that protected Mayrit which is a tribute to the founder of the city. Likewise, in the area of La Latina there are still references to Muslim Madrid as seen in the toponymy of streets and squares such as the Morería (Moorish territory) or the Puerta de Moros (Moorish door). Finally, there are several buildings of Mudejar art that have survived the centuries, such as the churches of San Pedro and San Nicolás.
A visit to this museum is essential to understand the history of the city. It was founded in 1929 and is located in the building of the Real Hospicio de San Fernando, whose façade is considered one of the most representative works of Spanish civil baroque. Inside, the museum’s works and exhibits take visitors on a journey through the history of the capital since it was declared as such in the 16th century.
Here, in the capital, a very important cultural movement was born that later spread to the rest of the country: the ‘Movida Madrileña’. Nowadays, there are still some bars of that period. The best moment to discover them is by going to party at night, for example, in ‘Madrid me mata’ (which is even a museum), ‘la Vía Láctea’ and ‘el Pentagrama’.
A city is not just a city, it is the places that surround it, and Madrid stands out for its beautiful villages.
According to the Community of Madrid, “the villages of Madrid are a group of destinations that have succeeded in preserving their rural essence and, in addition, have the tourist infrastructure necessary to ensure quality and satisfaction during your visit”. There are 11 villages that combine nature with history: Manzanares El Real, Patones, San Martín de Valdeiglesias, Torrelaguna, Villarejo de Salvanés, Buitrago de Lozoya, Chinchón, Colmenar de Oreja, Navalcarnero, Nuevo Baztán and Rascafría.
Although Madrid seems to be a very cosmopolitan city, there are also some beautiful green areas in its surroundings. In the mountain range of the north of the community, there is a ski resort called Valdesquí, which belongs to one of the villages mentioned above: Rascafría. Located next to the Cotos pass, the Valdesquí resort have 22 kilometres of skiable slopes.
In the village of San Martín of Valdeiglesias there is a reservoir, a popular summer destination for locals who want to escape the heat or spend a nice day out with friends. In fact, the reservoir includes up to 14 kilometres of beaches. Furthermore, the area can also be used for hiking or climbing.
If you have already done all these special and interesting plans in the Spanish capital, you could claim that you have discovered and met the city, its pros and cons. However, this is not enough as this metropolis changes whether you live alone, as a couple or with friends, because it is not the same to live in it as to visit it, because it is not the same to live in Malasaña as in Vallecas. Madrid, a city that you never finish getting to know.