Madrid is one of the prettiest cities in Europe. It has a wonderful mix of the modern and the historic with many classic buildings rubbing shoulders with the finest examples of modern architecture. The Manzanares River runs through its centre making it even more attractive.
Right from Roman times the city has been a colourful, vibrant and happening place. Performances of classical and rock music concerts, cultural festivals, artistic and fashion events are held quite frequently here. Sports, especially football, is given a lot of importance in Madrid. There is never a dull moment in this city and with so much on offer it can be difficult to decide on what to see and do.
Our pick of Madrid’s foremost activities and attractions should help you out.
This iconic Spanish art form should be on their postage stamps or currency notes. The body-swirling, foot-tapping, high-tempo, pulse-raising baile (dance) is dramatically enhanced by the music and rhythmic palmas (clapping). Once experienced, a flamenco show is never forgotten.
Madrid has hundreds of flamenco dance academies and many of them put on regular shows. Flamenco can be seen and heard in theatres, tablaos, taverns and bars so finding a performance is not a problem. A few places such as Corral de la Moreria, Cardamomo and Las Carboneras are deservedly famous for the quality of their performances. At one of these premier tablaos you can sit down to a plate of tapas, a glass of wine and soak in the flamenco atmosphere.
The Gardens of Madrid
Madrid has more than 33 million square metres dedicated to 40 parks and gardens. The amazing amount of acreage makes it Europe’s ‘greenest’ city. When the day grows warm, these oases provide a wonderful sanctuary from the sun. However, Madrid’s gardens contain some remarkable sculptures and statues making them open air museums and art galleries. Some also house aquariums and a planetarium.
While locals have their favourites, the larger and better known parks are El Retiro (with its own lake) and the Palace of Velasquez; Casa de Campo (Europe’s largest park), which encompasses the Madrid Zoo and an amusement park and the Campo del Moro and the Sabatini Gardens. The last mentioned are actually the Royal Gardens opened to the public in 1978. The beauty and diversity of Madrid’s gardens ensure that you come away with a hugely satisfying experience.
The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
This enormous stadium (the second largest in Spain) is a temple to the beautiful game – football! Just as significantly it is home to the legendary Real Madrid Football Club. As one of the most famous and sought after football venues, the Bernabéu has seen many a thrilling competition finals including that of the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
Besides the magnificence of the stadium itself, there is a museum and gallery filled with portraits of past (and present) football greats, club trophies and a wide collection of memorabilia that recall glorious occasions from the club’s history.
The Prado Museum
The Museo del Prado is definitely one of Madrid’s finest attractions and one of the world’s greatest art galleries. The museum has a stunning collection of artworks for its visitors to enjoy. The museum is a magnificent 18th-century Neo-Classical building and houses some 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints and 8,200 drawings.
This enormous collection includes masterpieces by Velasquez, Titian, Picasso, El Greco, Raphael, Rubens, Bosch, Dürer and Botticelli. The standout compilation, though, is by Goya. It is his works that make up a large part of the museum’s collection. The most famous (and controversial) Goya painting, The Naked Maja, hangs on the museum’s walls. This along with Velasquez’s Las Meninas is among the most popular works in the place.
Madrileños don’t need much of an excuse to get into party mode. And when they do, they dress up bright and fancy and give of their best. Some of the big festivities happen during celebrations for Dos de Mayo, San Antonio de la Florida and La Paloma. The largest and most frenetic festival is that of San Isidro (Madrid’s patron saint). Extravagant floats, bands, colourful costumes, street dancing and a series of bullfights are organised during the fiesta San Isidro.
Guaranteed great fun and excitement during all these celebrations!
Venga a Madrid!