Madrid: top 12 locations to admire

Madrid is an astonishing place where everyone can find something for themselves!

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Madrid, a magnificent capital of Spain, is an astonishing place where everyone can find something for themselves: art, architecture, food, music, theatre, history, nature exploring, fashion, nightlife…

Read my blog about the top things to do in Madrid – and don’t forget about my blogs about Valencia too: the top attractions and 5 most important squares



Palacio Real de Madrid

The Palacio Real is an official residence of the current royal couple of Spain – King Felipe and Queen Letizia. This is exactly the place where all the state occasions take place (the Royal Family lives in the Palacio de la Zarzuela). It was built in the 18th century as a replacement for the Alcázar, destroyed by fire, a fortress built under the Muslim rule in the 9th century.

Scale of this palace is extremely huge – there are over 3400 rooms and by floor area it’s the largest one in Europe. 

Apart from the magnificent steps, rooms filled with elegant interior items (Porcelain Room just stole my heart!), the palace is also well known for its amazing collection of art pieces by Velázquez, Goya and Caravaggio and a few Stradivarius masterpieces!

Don’t miss an impressive collection of  Royal Armoury – there is a separate entrance to it. And do
n’t forget to book a ticket online to skip the queues!

For the best views of the exterior of the palace head to the Catedral de la Almudena, museum entrance!



Jardines de Sabatini

Jardines de Sabatini (Sabatini Gardens) just north of the Palacio are nice symmetrical gardens with fountains and statues.

They are occupying the site of the 18th century royal stables designed by Francesco Sabatini that were demolished in 1933. The garden meanwhile is a project of Mercadal.


Catedral de la Almudena

Catedral de la Almudena just opposite to the Palacio Real is a comparably brand new Neo-Gothic church – its construction started in 1879, and cathedral opened its doors in 1993. Its stain glass and cupola are just astonishing – take a look!


Cathedral is named after Virgen de la Almudena – her statue is one of the main reasons for religious people to visit this location. The Virgin, according to the legend, helped and inspired Christians to take the city back from the Muslims in the medieval times.

Nevertheless, the site of it was occupied by religious building long before that.


I suggest you to enter cathedral not from the main entrance, but from the museum entrance for three reasons: for the views of Palacio Real, for the views over the city, and an opportunity to see their museum collection!



Parque del Buen Retiro

Looking for an escape from beautiful but not that green streets? El Retiro Park that has once been a Royal property is right here for you.


However, I must warn you that if you’re looking for a tranquil spot, El Retiro is not the best choice for it either as on a sunny day it’s as busy and crowded as everywhere in Madrid!

Apart from meticulously cut trees, beautiful sculptures, Grand Pond with boats for hire, Monument to Alfonso XII and numerous fountains, it has other attractions too – make sure you don’t miss the metal-and-glass Palacio de Cristal. 



Plaza Mayor 

Sadly, Plaza Mayor (once called Plaza del Arrabal) was partly closed during our visit but it didn’t stop us from admiring it –  especially Casa de la Panadería.


Once a main city market, now it’s absolutely astonishing brightly colored gem rich in history that just recently turned over 400 years old. For its today’s appearance we should praise the talent of Juan de Villanueva.  Statue of King Philip III is located in its centre – square was initially constructed during his reign.



Puerta del Sol    

Puerta del Sol is located very close to Plaza Mayor and is an extremely crowded but still gorgeous square of Madrid – and tourists mainly target Oso y Madroñ (Bear and the Strawberry Tree) sculpture, the main symbol of the city from the Middle Ages, and statue of Carlos III. The square occupies the place where the city gate once stood – and that’s why it’s called ‘Puerta’. 

All the radial roads have Puerta de Sol as the starting point – that’s why you can spot a “kilometer 0” plaque.

Interesting: Puerta del Sol is the place where many Spanish celebrate New Year!


Mercado de San Miguel

Looking for delicious snacks and local tapas? Head to the beautiful covered Mercado de San Miguel in the heart of the city (a short walk from Plaza Mayor) and make a proper tours of its 30+ stalls! Originally it opened about 100 years ago but it was restored just recently – and now its metal and glass construction looks amazing.

Gran Vía

Bustling and lively street Gran Vía is one of the main arteries of the city. It’s packed with tourists, shops of local and international brands, restaurants and a few iconic buildings such as Telefonica building (one of the first skyscrapers in Europe!) and Metropolis, the main symbol of Gran Vía. 

By the way,
The Principal Madrid Hotel where we stayed has one of the best views over the iconic Metropolis and the statue on the top.

You can also watch flamenco shows not far from there –  we went for a magnificent performance at Cardamomo.


El Templo de Debod

Original Egyptian temple dedicated to the goddess Isis in the centre of Madrid? Easily! Climb the hill, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the park and get amazed by the views over the Palacio Real!


Plaza de Cibeles

Another landmark of Madrid is Plaza de Cibeles with gorgeous Cibeles Palace and Fountain dedicated to Cybele, ancient greek mother goddess rooted in Phrygia mythology. Initially the fountain stood near the Prado Museum. Another three distinctive buildings there are the Bank of Spain Building, Palacio de Buenavista and Palacio de Linares.


Museo Nacional del Prado 

The Golden Triangle of museums is a fountain of internal art inspiration. Prado Museum is the most famous of them and doesn’t need any introduction. Just believe me that you’ll see a lot of Goya, Goya and Goya again, and I didn’t mind that at all because you have a rare chance to explore the waste landscape of his works outside Las pinturas negras.

Raphael, Titian, Durer, Velasques, Tiepolo, my personal favorite El Greco (I’ve been hunting for him everywhere!) and many other amazing European artists (some works are as early as the 12th century!) are waiting for you too. Don’t miss the temporary exhibitions as well!


Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía 

Madrid welcomes more modern art as well – head to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, named after Queen Sofia!

The building, former General Hospital,  and the inner garden are simply astonishing pieces of art by themselves, but the collection doesn’t fail to impress too: it includes Salvador Dalí, Picasso (including Guernica) and my personal eternal love Joan Miró.  

And don’t forget to look around – Madrid is gorgeous!

Hope you enjoyed my today’s blog!



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