Madrid, Spain

Last weekend we visited Madrid, Spain.  As Spain’s capital and largest city, Madrid is a vibrant, yet relaxing, place to enjoy all things Spanish.  Madrid is that “feel-good-living” kind of city, with its numerous cafes, energetic street-life, and beautiful plazas that keep you humming along.  Even with the recent cold snap weaving through Europe, the madrileños (residents of Madrid) carried on as usual and seemed unfazed by the sliding temperatures, but I can’t say the same for us—hats, gloves, scarves, and warm beverages were part of our routine.  Cold weather aside, here are some of the highlights from our visit…

Museo del Prado

Museo del Prado (northern side)

The Prado Museum (Museo del Prado) ranks at the top of our list as one of the best museums we’ve been to.  The collection is superb.  There are enough masterpieces here to keep you occupied for hours—from Goya’s The Third of May to Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights to Velázquez’s Las Meninas (now one of my favorites).  It will not disappoint.

Palacio Real

Palacio Real

The Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid), commissioned by King Philip V in the 18th century, is arguably the most lavish in Europe.  It has a mere 2,800 sumptuously decorated rooms—the 20 or so we saw during the tour almost knocked our hats off!  While the royal family no longer lives at the palace, it is still used for state functions, ceremonies, weddings, etc.

Plaza de la Armería

Plaza de la Armería from inside Palacio Real

Almudena Cathedral

Almudena Cathedral

Almudena Cathedral (Catedral de Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena) is a Catholic Church, facing the Palacio Real.  It is a relatively modern building—started in the 1880s and completed in 1993.  Its colorful, contemporary ceiling (photo below) and bright-white interior is very different from other cathedrals in Europe whose interiors are much darker.  The Cathedral was consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993.

Almudena Cathedral Ceiling

Almudena Cathedral Ceiling

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor with Philip III

Plaza Mayor, Statue of Philip III

Built in the 17th century, the massive, traffic-free Plaza Mayor is one of the main squares in Madrid.  The lively street performers offer some interesting entertainment making it an ideal spot for people-watching.

Puerta del Sol

Plaza de la Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun)

Plaza de la Puerta del Sol is the hub of Madrid and the official center point of Spain.  It once served as one of the gates to the city wall that surrounded Madrid in the 15th century—complete with a sun carving.  It is often bustling with people, but rather calm on this particular Saturday morning.

Symbol of the City

Symbol of the City

This sweet statue of a bear nuzzling a strawberry tree (madroño) is the official symbol of the city and can be found in Plaza de la Puerta del Sol.

Plaza de la Villa

Intimate Plaza de la Villa with Don Alvaro de Bazán Statue and Old Town Hall Building.

Plaza de Santa Ana

Plaza de Santa Ana - Sergio Parra Photography Exhibition: "Camerinos"

Even though we didn’t get to see everything we would have liked to during this short visit, we still had a wonderful time.  I guess we’ll just have to return someday and pick up where we left off.  Muchas Gracias, Madrid!

Notable Eats:
We know paella is a Valencia thing, but when in Spain we have to have it.  The best paella we’ve had in a long time can be found at –
La Paella de la Reina
(Calle de la Reina, 39)

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