The capital of Spain is the second largest city in EU. Madrid is also home to one the few European monarchies left, the Monarchy of Spain. While the city possesses modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets.
Madrid has an authenticity that is hard to match. It is welcoming and diverse. Madrid is, without a doubt, one of Europe’s most interesting cities. In addition to its famous museums, busy streets dotted with all kinds of shops, restaurants with world cuisine or unbeatable nightlife, Madrid will surprise you with its charming, tranquil historic spots, all kinds of neighbourhoods and cultural centres that offer an alternative type of tourism.
Walking around Madrid means coming across iconic spots such as the stunning Royal Palace, the Plaza Mayor with 400 years of history, the buzzing Puerta del Sol, the famous Gran Vía full of shops or the four tallest towers in Spain. Each neighbourhood offers a different experience: La Latina is ideal for tapas, Las Letras has the perfect combination of literature and fine dining … But Madrid also means relaxing in enormous parks such as Parque del Retiro and other lesser-known but equally charming parks like El Capricho.
Plaza Mayor is a symbol of Madrid and it was built in the 17th Century under the orders of Felipe III, whose bronze equestrian statue adorns the square. The square used to be the venue for many public events, such as bullfights, processions, festivals, theatre performances, inquisition trials and even capital executions.
Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol is one of the nerve centres of Madrid. This site, “kilometre zero” from which all radial roads out of Madrid start, has witnessed many different historical events.
Buen Retiro Park
Located in the heart of Madrid, its origins date from the reign of Philip IV. Among the most prominent spots, the park includes the great pond with the monument to Alfonso XII, the Casa de Velázquez and the Crystal Palace, the Rosaleda rose garden and the Parterre, boasting one of the oldest trees in Madrid, a Taxodium mucronatum.
Puerta de Alcalá
This is one of the most well-known monuments in Madrid. It was designed as a triumphal arch to celebrate the arrival of the monarch at the capital. The granite gate is 19.5 metres tall and the façade features a number of decorative elements with groups of sculptures, capitals, reliefs and masks, among others.
Plaza de Cibeles
It is one of the liveliest, best-known and most beautiful squares in Madrid, and is home to such emblematic monuments as the Cibeles Fountain and Palace. Also in this square is the Cibeles Palace (today the site of the City Hall), which also houses the cultural space known as CentroCentro, with a viewing platform offering outstanding panoramic views over Madrid. An interesting fact is that the Real Madrid football fans gather around this monument to celebrate their club’s major victories.
The promenade leads from Calle de Alcalá, close to Plaza de Cibeles, to Plaza de España. The street is sometimes referred to as the “Spanish Broadway”, is one of the city’s most important shopping areas, with a large number of hotels. The Gran Vía serves as a showcase of early 20th-century revival architecture, with architectural styles ranging from Vienna Secession style, Plateresque and Art Deco, among others.
Santiago Bernabéu stadium
The Santiago Bernabéu is the home stadium of the Real Madrid football team. The stadium opened in 1947 under the name Nuevo Estadio Chamartín. After various remodelling projects, it is today classified as an elite stadium and holds the UEFA’s highest distinction of five stars. This is the second largest football stadium in Spain, with a capacity of around 80.000 spectators.
PHOTOGRAPHY by JANA LETONJA