Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Things to See and Do in Madrid, Spain

There are so many, many things to see and do in Madrid, and I’m not going to try and reproduce a list of the top sights. Instead, here are some places and areas that I enjoyed that you might not find in a standard guide book.

Map
I used the planopopout maps for both Madrid and Sevilla, and they were excellent. They are compact and easy to open discretely so you feel less like a stupid tourist, fit easily in a pocket, have a firm cover so they don’t fall apart, but fold out to provide a comprehensive map of the central parts of the city. They advertise some stores, which is actually very helpful as it gives you some additional landmarks if you’re not sure where you are.

Neighbourhoods
I only had 3 ½ days in Madrid, but I quickly recognized that I liked some areas better than others. I particularly liked the area around the Palacio Real, extending south into La Latina.
If the weather had been better, I would have liked to spend time in the parks on either side of the Palace.

Don’t miss the string of outdoor cafes from Plaza Puerta de Moros to Plaza de la Paja to Plaza de la Cruz Verde.

I chanced upon the Mercado de San Miguel in the Plaza Morenas, just off Calle Mayor. The indoor market has various up-market food stalls – French pastries and cheeses, free trade tea and coffee, etc. I was there in the rain so didn’t pay attention to the architecture, but apparently the building retains the original ironwork from the start of the 20th century.

The Plaza de Espana is a large, attractive park with a wonderful statue of Don Quixote.
I also liked the neighbourhood around and behind the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. I would look for a hotel in this neighbourhood or around Palacio Real/La Latina on my next trip.

The Plaza de Santa Ana, near Plaza Mayor, is an attractive square with lots of outdoor restaurant terraces.

I didn’t like the busy shopping area around Gran Via/Hortaleza/Fuencarril. It felt dirty and somewhat sleazy, particularly Calle Montera between Puerta del Sol and Gran Via.

Art Galleries and Museums
I bought a Paseo de Arte which includes admission to the Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. The Prado has an extensive collection of classical works by Spanish artist such as Goya and Velasquez. The Reina Sofia is modern art. The Thyssen-Bornemisza combines the formerly private collections of husband and wife. It’s a huge, excellent collection. The collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza contains some wonderful works by Impressionist artists.

I also enjoyed visiting the Museo Sorolla, which is housed in the former home of Joaquin Sorolla. Sorolla’s artwork is impressionistic and full of light with many paintings of the sea as well as portraits. The house includes a lovely Andalucian garden.

I recommend visiting the Caixa Forum, which hosts concerts, lectures and world-class art exhibits. There’s an interesting gift shop as well as an attractive café/restaurant, and the living wall is outstanding.

I attended a free Saturday lunchtime concert at the Fondacion Juan March of music by Handel played on antique instruments by the Grupo de Musica Barroca La Folia. Check the Foundation’s website for concerts or art exhibits. The concerts appear to be popular so arrive early in order to be sure of getting a seat.

See Also:
Sunday Delights - El Retiro Park, Madrid
Culture in Madrid
Modern Art - Munoz and Vlaminck
Vegetarian Restaurants in Madrid

Madrid 2009

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