Reasons to visit – Best of Madrid

Last fall, after I meandered the medinas of Fez and Marrakech, the intricate maze of the souks, the ancient cities, and the deserts of Morocco, I moved on to Europe’s sunniest capital city, Madrid. A first peek for me I will return for the full Spain architecture and gastronomic tour. There’s a spicy unique rhythm to life in Spain. From the staccato of the fiery flamenco dancers, animated chatter over tapas and rioja, bustling boulevards and cobblestone walkways, the excitement is palpable in Madrid.

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Endless cultural and culinary options, Madrid, Spain’s central capital, is a city of elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks such as the Buen Retiro. There’s far more to this vibrant city than tapas, bull fighting and flamenco although you will find all three here. It’s renowned for its rich cache of European art, including the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters. The heart of old Hapsburg Madrid is the portico-lined Plaza Mayor, and nearby is the baroque Royal Palace and Armory, displaying historic weaponry. 

Goya at Prado Museum, Madrid

Over eighty museums and more than two thousand monuments -both historic and artistic, contribute to the city’s richness, Madrid’s cultural legacy offers visitors an incomparable tour: El Paseo del Arte, an Art Walk which includes the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía National Museum and Art Centre, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and, more recently, CaixaForum.

I spent several days wandering with our expert guide, she a foodie and art major, with a deep love of her city.

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Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral

Art lovers will delight in Madrid’s ‘Golden Triangle of Art’, which comprises three world-renowned galleries, including the famed Prado Museum. Admire some of Europe’s finest art before wandering through the opulent chambers and salons of Madrid’s magnificent Royal Palace. Built in the 18th century, this lavish royal residence is one of the largest palaces in Europe, and with 2,800 rooms, visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to exploring the elegant interior.

Museums Museo Reina Sofia and Museo del Prado are an absolute must for art lovers. The Reina Sofia for contemporary art (and Museo del Prado for the classics. Museo Nacional del Prado is Spain’s main national art museum. Along with the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Museo Reina Sofía, the Prado forms Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art. 

Markets and Shops.  Madrid is a shopper’s heaven, the El Rastro Sunday market is a social gathering place for madrileños. Locals come every Sunday to shop, stroll, and grab a bite at the generations-old tapas bars that dot the neighborhood.

Culinary Scene. Any trip to Madrid could become food focused due to its diverse culinary scene. Mercado de San Miguel opened as a wholesale food market more than 100 years ago. Nowadays, it’s the place to sample everything from Iberian ham to fresh fish and tapas from more than 20 stands serving up authentic Spanish food.

Spend a day outside the hustle and bustle of Madrid in the enchanting city of Toledo. This ancient city is renowned for its cultural heritage – this was where Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures peacefully coexisted in the Middle Ages. Situated on a hilltop overlooking the Tagus River, Toledo offers wonderfully dramatic views across the gorge below. Discover the history behind this multi-cultural city and admire the works of controversial artist El Greco, who once lived within the city walls.

Sobrino de Botin. For a truly memorable meal, head to Sobrino de Botin, the official oldest restaurant in the world and a favorite of authors Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sobrino de Botin opened its doors in 1725 and continues to base its dishes on its original recipes. Among those recipes? The roast suckling pig that earned a mention in Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”. Casa Botín, founded in 1725, is the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records and a benchmark of Madrid’s best traditional cuisine. Forbes magazine gave the House third place in the list of the world’s top 10 classic restaurants, together with its two specialties, the delicious suckling pig and lamb roasted in the Castilian style. Three and four times per week, shipments of the best Segovia suckling pigs and lambs arrive at the restaurant from the magical triangle for this meat: Sepúlveda-Aranda-Riaza. My guide and I spent a few leisurely hours here over a delightful Sunday afternoon. Highly Recommend!

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