Destination Madrid: 5 Iconic Sights

Jocelyn Murray August 22, 2014 No Comments



Prado Museum

Museo del Prado
credit: Peter Eimon / CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the best museums in the world, the Prado houses an extensive collection of European art that includes paintings, sculptures, prints and historic documents. Art from Spanish painters like Francisco de Goya and Diego Velázquez are best represented here, along with countless other masterpieces including Titian’s Self-Portrait, Peter Paul Rubens’s The Three Graces, and Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. The Prado has been open to the public since 1819, and can be visited throughout the year except on January 1, May 1, and December 25. 


Buen Retiro Park

Parque del Retiro
credit: Carlos Delgado / CC BY-SA 3.0

It comes as no surprise to learn that Buen Retiro Park once belonged to the Spanish Monarchy before it was turned into a public park in the late 1800s. Its sumptuous gardens are graced with beautiful monuments, sculptures, fountains and lush landscaping with all sorts of trees and flowers. Visitors can rent rowboats or ride in horse-drawn carriages. Outdoor concerts and exhibitions are also held here regularly. It is a delightful place to just stroll and people watch or observe street performers around the pond.


Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor
credit: Sebastian Dubiel / CC BY-SA 3.0

Plaza Mayor is Madrid’s primary public square, located near many of the city’s main attractions including Puerta del Sol and the Royal Palace. It is a lovely place to stroll by the arcade where restaurants, cafes and shops face the open square from underneath the elegant porticoes. Originally built during King Phillip III’s reign in the first part of the seventeenth century, the plaza’s history has seen a variety of uses including bullfights, crowning ceremonies, festivals, markets, and even public executions.


Palacio Real

Palacio Real de Madrid
credit: Alvesgaspar / CC BY-SA 3.0

This is Madrid’s Royal Palace where state ceremonies and banquets are held. It was built on orders of King Phillip V on the site of a ninth-century Moorish fortress. This sprawling Neo-classical and baroque palace includes a central courtyard, a Hall of Mirrors, Royal Library, Royal Pharmacy, beautiful gardens, paintings and sculptures, and an impressive Royal Armory with tournament pieces, suits of armor and weapons dating back to the fifteenth century. The Palace is open year-round for tours.


Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol
credit: multisanti (Santiago Díaz) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Located just steps from the Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol is one of Madrid’s famous public squares. Its name means “Gate of the Sun,” and is the site of one of the gates in the wall that surrounded the city in fifteenth-century Madrid. This is the place where Spaniards ring in the New Year in time with the chiming clock tower and its bells that grace the square. It is also the center of the city’s network of roads. Puerta del Sol is a lively place full of bars, restaurants, cafes, boutique shops and landmarks like the Bear & Madroño Tree that is a heraldic symbol of Madrid.

avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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