Madrid is a multifaceted city with a seemingly endless feast of bullfights, charming paths to stroll, rich history and music tradition, and a remarkable art scene. This city boasts its high culture with the voices of many poets and thinkers still echoing from the cobblestone lanes and resounding in the vast squares. Madrid’s abundant attractions guarantee a splendid holiday even if you were only to slow down, rest, and observe the continuous flow of the ever-changing scenery.
What first comes to mind upon mentioning Madrid is the Plaza de Toros de la Ventas, the city’s bullfighting arena. The Plaza de Toros, with the seats divided into the sunny-side (sol) and the ones set in the shade (sombra), is the country's largest bullring and one of the most impressive landmarks. Corridas mainly take place in May, attracting crowds of world-famous toreadors.
Madrid’s diversity and special flair make for its unique character, very different from what you might expect of a European capital. The prime example is the Monasterios de las Descalzas Reales, where you can indulge in a serene stroll within the centre of the city near the Gran Via. The tranquility (but also the beautiful frescoes, Flemish tapestries and Titian paintings) of this Medieval palace that was converted into a monastery in the 16th Century enchants all visitors and makes them want to came back for more of this peaceful atmosphere.
Aside from the famous landmarks, Madrid’s culture incorporates one of the world’s principal art museums, El Prado. The vast building contains over 4,000 great works including Spanish masterpieces such as ‘Las Meninas’ by Velasquez and many of Goya’s evocative and dark etchings including ‘Naked Maja’. The gallery also displays a multitude of works by Titian, Botticelli and boasts a collection of French Impressionist artists, thus ensuring many days of exploration.
Other reminders of the bygone palatial splendour can be seen at the Retiro, the city’s sprawling park filled with landscaped gardens, leafy shades and a large selection of fine statues. Initially conceived as the gardens of the Buen Retiro Palace, they are currently open to visitors and become crowded at the weekend, sporting the invariable presence of street performers, fortune-tellers and clowns. Other parks in the city include the Casa del Campo, which offers excellent options for people-watching and cultural immersion, as well as the off-beat Parque de Atracciones.
Madrid also has a leisurely commercial lifestyle and daydreaming at a terrace café or lounging with a cocktail in a classy bar is probably the most widely practised pastime of the Spanish capital. Paseo del Pintor Rosales, set in the western end of the Arguelles district, proves to be a particularly suitable location for such a lifestyle, followed by Paseo de la Castellana and Paseo de Recoletos. Madrid’s shopping culture, which is dominated by ritzy boutiques and designer stores, also includes the city’s famous flea market, stretching down Calle Ribera de Curtidores.
This open-air spectacle interweaves sellers of fake antiques, groceries, reproductions, used books and great deals on cheap items. If you wish to experience the city’s old-world charms and see for yourself what Hemingway saw in the city, a visit to one of Madrid’s literary cafés is a must. It is here that intellectuals, artists, and a great deal of the idle and pretentious ‘artistic’ elite come for a laid-back chat or to hold social gatherings. Having originated in the 19th Century, the ‘literary cafés’ became a traditional pastime by the 1930s.
Every day in Madrid will surely enrich your cultural knowledge and make your stay truly memorable. Get a flight, book your Madrid hotel and wait for your adventure to begin!