We’ve been to Madrid a couple of times in the last year and we’ve completely fallen in love with it!
During our most recent visit to the city we stayed at the Hotel Only You Atocha. We arrived in Madrid by train from Pamplona and the hotel was in a perfect location, just across the road from the main railway station – Puerta de Atocha. This gorgeous and welcoming hotel is only a few hundred metres away from the Retiro Park and a 15 minute walk from the Prado gallery.
If you’re an art lover then Madrid is definitely the city for you! First on our list of things to do was the Prado. The Museo del Prado, with its collection of around 30,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints, is a must-see in Madrid. Our favourite artworks included Velázquez’s famous Las Meninas and Goya’s Los desastres de la guerra. The Prado has accumulated an impressive collection of Goya’s works (the museum has dedicated a whole floor to the last of the great Spanish masters) so if you’re a fan of early Spanish romanticism, we would really recommend a visit to the Prado.
Across the road from the Prado is the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. The Thyssen is the third component of Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art and it fills the gaps left by the Prado and the modern art museum, the Reina Sofia. Ruth, especially, absolutely loved the Museo Thyssen art gallery because it’s home to an amazing collection of impressionist works. The two highlights for us when we visited were the temporary exhibition on Gustav Caillebotte and the travelling exhibition called ‘Caravaggio and the Painters of the North’. Check out the Thyssen’s website for more information on their current and upcoming exhibitions.
At the opposite end of town is the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral. Both are well worth a visit and the palace contains even more artwork, including pieces by Goya, Velázquez and even the only complete Stradivarius string quintet! Andrew’s favourite part of the visit was a look round the Royal Armouries, which has weaponry and armour dating from the 13th Century!
The palace stands next to Madrid’s stunning cathedral, which was only completed in 1993. Although from the outside it looks baroque, it’s interior is fresh and modern and even hints at the pop-art movement which was popular during its construction! Although visiting the cathedral is free, it’s totally worth paying to go round its museum, which is full of treasures, and braving the climb up the 73 metre high cupola where you can catch your breath and take in the views of the city.
If that’s not quite high enough for you though, try the 92 metre high Faro de Moncloa. This former transmission tower is a bit further out of town, near the university quarter, but offers splendid views of the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral and, further afield, the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, to the north of Madrid.
Want to combine a great view with a little glass of something? The the rooftop bar at the Círculo de Bellas Artes is the place to be! We went up in the early evening and there was a great vibe, with people catching some rays on the sun loungers and relaxing after a day’s sightseeing. The terrace offers lovely views over the city centre, including the Palacio de Cibeles, the Gran Vía and the Atocha station. We could even see our hotel from it!
Although there’s an entrance fee and it’s a little more pricey than most other bars in Madrid, it’s certainly worth a few more euros for those views!
After we’d got back to ground level we walked to the Retiro Park, one of our favourite places in Madrid after stopping to take photos at the Puerta de Alacalá, one of the old city gates (and which looks gorgeous at night). The park is beautiful at any time of the day but we love it in the evening. It’s full of commuters walking home from work and locals taking a paseo or hanging out with friends over some music and a cerveza. An absolute must if you’re visiting the park is to get a rowing boat on the lake by the Alfonso XII Monument (again, great at night!). When we were on the lake the sun was starting to set and the park was flooded with orange light (muy romantic)! 😉
A little down the hill from the lake is the formal garden with the Palacio de Velázquez and Palacio de Cristal, both of which house art exhibitions and made the perfect end to our paseo back to the Hotel Only You Atocha.
We enjoyed a lovely evening meal at the hotel in the rooftop restaurant, where we tried the 5 course set meal – a delicious treat! After dinner we headed down to the hotel bar where we were served some fantastic cocktails by a guest bartender who had come from the Carlson Club in New York! The staff’s attention to detail really made our stay a special one!
The next day was our last in the capital and what better way to finish it than a bit of shopping?! There are lots of great shops to browse and our favourite has to be the Corte inglés, Spain’s biggest department store. There are several branches in Madrid, offering all your favourite brands. Our favourite, though, is their pet shop on the Calle Maestro Victoria where you can watch as Madrid’s well-to-do pamper their pets! There are also plenty of shops on the Gran Vía, the main street that runs through Madrid, including Spanish favourites Zara and Mango (and Ruth’s favourite, Swarovski)!
Our last meal before we got the train back from Pamplona was in the Plaza Mayor, the main square, where we had tapas and sangria; what could be better on a sunny day?!
Even though we’ve been to Madrid several times, there’s so much to see and there’s always something new to do! In fact, we’ve already got a list for the next time we go!
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