Madrid Sights & Attractions
What to See and Do in Madrid
The ROYAL PALACE is the seat of the Spanish monarchy, and you can visit its lavishly decorated rooms. The ALMUDENA CATHEDRAL is right next door, built in the 19th century in a very similar style to the royal palace.
Another much-photographed landmark is the grand PUERTA DE ALCALÁ, a granite gateway in the middle of Plaza de la Independencia in the center of the city.
The must-see Reina Sofia Museum is housed in a building that used to be a hospital, although an extension by Jean Nouvel has been added. It's where you'll find one of the art icons of the 20th century, Picasso's Guernica. Dali's surrealism is also well represented, as are artists like Miró, Henry Moore, and Francis Bacon.
Filled with masterpieces, the Prado Museum is one of the world's greatest art galleries. Inside an 18th century Neo-Classical building you can admire Velazquez's famous Las Meninas or Goya's La Maja Desnuda, together with impressive foreign works.
Another outstanding world-class collection is found in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, with works by Rubens, Picasso, Lichtenstein, Van Gogh, Pollock, Bacon, and others. It is considered the world's most important private art collection, illustrating the history of Western art, from the old European masters to the Pop Art of the 20th century.
The leaning twin towers of PUERTA DE EUROPA symbolize Madrid's (and Spain's) economic ambitions toward Europe. They were built in the late 1990s near the Chamartín train station, with an inclination of 15 degrees.
CaixaForum Madrid is the city's most recent contemporary landmark, not only for its contemporary art exhibits, but also for its exuberant façade featuring a fantastic vertical garden with over 15,000 plants.
Stop for a drink at the majestic PLAZA MAYOR, a 17th century square with an equestrian statue of King Felipe II in the center. From there, walk down the GRAN VIA (the city's main avenue) to PLAZA DE CIBELES, an impressive square surrounded by distinctive buildings such as the city's monumental post office and the 19th century Banco de España. In the center is a fine sculpted fountain showing Cybele (the goddess of nature) sitting in her chariot, which has now become a Madrid icon.
CHUECA is just around the corner, Madrid's hippest neighborhood (and famous gay district) with trendy shops and stylish cafés. After you've done some window-shopping there, you can find more tempting choices down the elegant avenues of the SALAMANCA district, home to the most luxurious brands, especially down Calle Serrano. To experience some local life, head to the RASTRO MARKET, a ritual of practically every Madrileño and tourist on Sundays. On Sunday mornings you'll also find the city's hippest crowds heading for brunch around PLAZA DE LA PAJA, while families spend their afternoon at the elegant PARQUE DEL RETIRO. That park is also a good stop in between visits to the museums nearby, with a pleasant boating lake.
TOURS & DAYTRIPS
Go on a tour of Madrid and take the opportunity to visit the massive Escorial, a sumptuous palace outside the city. You may also take daytrips to some of Spain's most beautiful towns, including Toledo and Segovia.