With a population of over 3 million people, Madrid is the stunning capital city of Spain. It enjoys more cloudless days than almost any other city in Europe. Certainly during the time I spent there, I didn’t experience a drop of wind or rain. I went with my mother around this time last year – the best time for long warm summer nights. We stayed in “Hotel Catalonia Gran Via” along Gran Via – an upscale shopping street in central Madrid. It’s always a thrill travelling, and Madrid was one of my best thrills yet!
It’s well-known for many things. One of them is its “Golden Triangle” – three famous art galleries in close proximity to each other. Lucky for us, they were all near our hotel and these were among the first things we did. The Prado has four thousand works of art including Botticelli, El Bosco, Velazquez and Goya. The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza features works by Renoir and Van Eyck and The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia houses twentieth century Spanish art including Guernica by Picasso. We especially enjoyed the Museo Del Prado where we spent many hours. I loved staying in this part of Madrid because you can walk everywhere. Remember that next time you book your trip! One morning, again within walking distance from our hotel, we discovered a gorgeous indoor organic food market called the Mercado de San Miguel. It had lots of delicious things including fresh fruits and vegetables, oysters, hams, breads, ice-creams, frozen yoghurts and coffees. We toured through the Royal Palace of Madrid one morning. Something interesting I learnt was that this palace is the largest in Europe! It occupies an area of 135,000 square meters. There’s a very large “Plaza de Palacio” in front of the palace which I thought was great. Next to the palace are beautiful gardens called The Sabatini Gardens which are part of the palace. They were opened to the public by King Juan Carlos I in 1978. We walked around those before making our way to the “Temple De Debod” which is an ancient Egyptian temple that was rebuilt in Madrid! I loved the bakeries in Madrid with all their freshly baked treats. The dog-walking made me smile as locals all around us were walking their pets down such historical streets. While we were there, there was a film premiere for Superman which we were very lucky to spot across from a cafe where we were eating one evening. We were at a place called “Museo Del Jamon” – one of many of its kind! I soon got very used to the Spanish love of ham… with ham houses in between all major restaurants. Ham is one thing they eat for breakfast, lunch and supper. There are so many beautiful churches in Madrid and we especially enjoyed the Almudena, which is the Catholic Cathedral there. Some history: when the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, King Felipe II wanted a cathedral for his new capital so he built one devoted to Virgin Almudena, the female patron saint of Madrid. It was completed in 1993 and that same year, pope John-Paul II consecrated it (a statue of the pope can be found in front). There are so many iconic places in this city, such as the “Plaza de Cibeles” with a fountain named after the Roman goddess of fertility as well as the famous “Hotel Ritz” where we enjoyed a glass of wine. Read more about these places here. A popular hot spot in Central Madrid is the “Puerta Del Sol”, the centre of the radial network of Spanish roads where you can expect to see the famous symbol of Madrid – “El Oso y El Madroño” (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree). There are also tons of street performers here doing magic tricks so it’s very entertaining!