Madrid, the capital city of Spain is situated more or less in the centre of Spain. It is very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer due to its distance from the sea. Spring and autumn are the perfect times to visit Madrid to avoid these extremes of temperature.
Madrid's old town is attractive though not on a par with Granada, Salamanca and some of Spain's other historic cities but it does have fantastic art museums. Madrid is home to the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza galleries. Wander round the old city and there are lots of monuments to see and plenty of lovely squares where you can stop and soak up the atmosphere of this very cultural city.
Spain's biggest city (third biggest in Europe after London and Berlin) is a bustling, happening city with fantastic nightlife, loads of good bars and restaurants and excellent shopping.
Madrid Province offers good walking or skiing and is home to several royal palaces. Don't miss the superb royal palace El Escorial.
Places to Visit in Madrid
Madrid is a fairly new city which came to life under Phillip II in the sixteenth century. Its main square, the Plaza Mayor is a Renaissance masterpiece. It was built in the 17th century. This part of Madrid is often referred to as Madrid de los Austrias, or Hapsburg Madrid after the Hapsburg monarchs who built it.
The main sights are in this area between the Royal Palace, the Palacio Real and the gardens of El Retiro. The Paseo del Prado road in this area is home to the three great art museums, the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen -Bornemisza.
The Plaza Mayor - this beautiful square was designed not just as a square but as a sort of open air theatre. The buildings have balconies facing out onto the square so that various spectacles, ranging from bull-fights to public executions could be viewed. Full of bars and restaurants this is a great place for people-watching.
The Puerta del Sol - centre of Spain. Six of Spain's main roads start here and distances are measured from this square. Take a look at the stone slab showing Kilometre Zero! If you want to do some shopping start here, with the large department stores. The Casa de Correos (Post Office) is located on the Puerta del Sol. It has a beautiful facade and two lovely inner courtyards.
The Palacio Real - vast, beautiful and full of extravagant displays of wealth. Still used for state occasions though the King of Spain now resides in the Zarzuela Palace.
The Plaza de la Villa is surrounded by several historic buildings including the Casa Cisneros, a Plateresque style Palace.
Madrid's most impressive modernistic-style building is the Sociedad de Autores on the Calles de Fernando VI and Pelayo.
Madrid Province (Autonomous Community of Madrid)
Aranjuez - home to the wonderful 18th century Palacio Real, the royal summer palace and its gardens.
Alcala de Henares - The historic centre of Alcala is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its university was one one of the best in the world in the 16th century.
Buitrago del Lozoya - an attractive walled town and a 14th century Mudejar -style church and a small Picasso museum.
Chinchon - a charming 16th century village.
El Escorial - one of Spain's main tourist attractions the monastery palace built by Felipe II is fantastic. A massive square complex with pale cream walls and grey slate rooves. Inside is a fabulous library, royal appartements , works of art etc.
Patones - a charming village with good views and some good places to eat.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Madrid
Monastery and Site of the Escorial, Madrid Province
University and Historic Precinct of Alcala de Henares, Madrid Province
Aranjuez Cultural Landscape, Madrid Province
These three museums are reason alone for visiting Madrid.
The Prado Museum - one of the greatest art museums in the world, one of the most beautiful neo-classical buildings in Madrid and Madrid's no.1 tourist destination. Paintings by Goya, Bosch, El Greco, Titian and many more.
The Reina Sofia Art Centre, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, a museum of 20th century art including Picasso's Guernica depicting the Spanish Civil War.
The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza houses a major, private art collection which was given to Spain in 1993. Works by Picasso, Van Gogh and Rubens amongst others.
Other Museums in Madrid
Museo de America - houses a collection of exhibits from Spain's colonization in the Americas.
Museo Cerralbo - The 17th Marquis of Cerralbo left his art collection to Spain.
Museo del Ejercito - Spain's army museum where you can see the sword of El Cid. The museum is housed in part of the Palacio del Buen Retiro.
Museo Lazaro Galdiano - Jose Lazaro Galdiano's house and magnificent art collection which he gave to Spain.
Museo Municipal - the museum has a wonderful Baroque facade and inside exhibits relating to the city of Madrid.
Museo Sorolla - house and paintings of Sorolla and a garden designed by Sorolla.
Monasterio de la Encarnacion, Plaza de la Encarnacion - a 17th century monastery in Madrid's typically Baroque style.
Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, Plaza de la Descalzas - a monastery with a Plasteresque facade
Monasterio de Santa Marie de El Paular, Madrid Province - the monastery is still home to a community of Benedictine monks who sing Gregorian chants every Sunday evening.
Gardens of the Royal Palace, the Jardines de Sabatini and Campo del Moro are well worth a visit.
Park of El Retiro - originally a hunting ground for Philip II this is now a beautiful park complete with lake, Crysal Palace (Palacio de Cristale) and remnants of Felipe IVs Royal Palace Complex - the Casa del Buen Retiro and the Museo del Ejercito.
The Botanical Gardens of Madrid - a good collection of plants and a hothouse with cacti and tropical plants.
Paradors near Madrid
Parador de Alcala de Henares, Alcala de Henares, Madrid Province (Autonomous Community of Madrid)
Map of Madrid & places nearby