There are lots of tourists in Madrid, Spain. Lots and lots and lots. Though it doesn’t have the fame that Barcelona does among travelers, Spain’s capital has a lot of beauty and history. Considering the city was inhabited by the Moors over a thousand years ago and has been the capital of the country for hundreds of years, Madrid’s got plenty of stories to tell.
Parque del Buen Retiro
This park, literally translated as “Park of the Pleasant Retreat” but more commonly referred to as Retiro, is my favorite place in all of Madrid, Spain. It originally belonged to Spain’s monarchs as the palace gardens (considering how huge the park is, one can only imagine how big the palace was), but was neglected and the palace destroyed as a war casualty. Today, it’s a beautiful public park.
Palacio de Cristal
The Crystal Palace is exactly what you’d expect it to be. It was originally built was a greenhouse to show off Filipino plants, but is now used for art exhibits within Retiro Park.
Temple of Debod
This was originally built in Egypt in 200 BC. When Egypt began building a dam in the 1960s, threatening the safety of the temple, it was decided it was best to move the site, instead of allowing something of such deep historical importance be ruined. As Spain had helped Egypt save temples in the past, Egypt decided to gift the Temple of Debod to Madrid, Spain.
Santa María la Real de La Almudena
Madrid, Spain’s Catholic Cathedral is on Plaza Mayor, right on top of the ruins of an old Mosque. Spain planned to build it back in the 1500s when the capital was moved from Toledo to Madrid, but they were too busy expanding their kingdom into the New World to bother actually start building it until the late 1800s. It took over a century to build, due to various political issues and wars, so it now reflects a few different architectural styles, depending on what side you’re looking at.
Palacio Real de Madrid
Madrid, Spain’s Royal Palace was originally built by the Moors of Spain, when they founded the city and named it Al-Majrit. When the Christians took Madrid in their place, they of course took the palace, as well. As time went on and different monarchs ruled the country, these monarchs added more and more layers onto the existing building, until it looked like the same random assortment of architectural styles that the cathedral does today. Eventually, fire broke loose and destroyed the palace. It was then rebuilt to reflect the architectural styling of France’s Versailles.
This is a tourist trap at it’s finest. This plaza has plenty of history, as well – it’s housed things like markets, plays, executions, the local carniceria, bullfights, and auto de fes. It’s been burned down three times, because back in the day, wood was the cheapest building material to transport. Only one segment of the original Plaza Mayor exists today, as it once held the butcher who couldn’t really cook meat in a wooden building! This segment is differentiated by being decorated with a pattern, as opposed to the red walls that cover the rest of the plaza.
Puerta del Sol
Sol is the place to be. You’ll find entertainers, food, drink, locals, travelers, parties, everything. This is the center of Madrid, both in the travel sense and also geographically; look around for the sign below your feet that states 0 km – the very center of Spain. Sol has held many momentous occasions, like uprisings, protests, and holidays. Just as important, you’ll find the Estatua del Oso y el Madroño (the statue of the bear and the strawberry tree), the symbol of Madrid.
Also a traveler’s hub, this is the most famous street in Spain’s capital. You’ll find people (lots and lots of people), overpriced shops, food, protests, shows, and all the life you could possibly imagine.
This list continues here. Don’t miss out!