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Madrid's Most Beautiful Architecture and Fascinating Historic Sights



The city of Madrid is a vibrant and exceptionally charming European capital rich in history, architecture and sights.

Fortunately for the visitor, most of Madrid’s sights are concentrated in the historic core and are within easy walking distance of one another. However, as a general rule, the older the sight is, the closer it is to the Puerta del Sol, with the city’s newest sights located ever closer to the urban limits. In that halfway space but still within very comfortable walking distance of the heart of Spain, otherwise known as the Puerta del Sol, you’ll find a number of Madrid’s important sights dating from the Spanish Enlightenment period in the 18th century, like the Prado Museum, Cibeles Fountain and the Royal Palace.

In Madrid, you’ll find that the lovely urban landscape consists of wide tree-lined boulevards, fancy stone buildings, sober brick facades, quaint side streets paved with stone, as well as its dozens of unique attractions. In fact, a visit to Madrid may just not be complete without taking in the city’s top sights as we suggest below. 


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Site of a monument to Spanish novelist Cervantes and a centrally-located spot for shoppers in the chic surrounding streets. Famous Madrid tower also on-site. Located between Gran V�a and Calle Princesa. METRO: Plaza de Espa�a

Local Expert tip: A statue of the Spanish queen Isabel rests on one side of the monument while Don Quijote and Sancho Panza occupy the other.

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Parque de Templo de Debod


Home of the Debod Temple, a gift from the Egyptian government. Great second century BC Egyptian architecture. The surrounding park is quiet and solitary, allowing for a contemplative stroll after a day of business meetings or shopping excursions. Metro: Plaza de Espa�a

Local Expert tip: The exterior of the temple against the backdrop of the sky is quite beautiful at sunset.

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Nuestra Señora de la Almudena

La Almudena, now known as Madrid's main cathedral, was planned hundreds of years ago, but its development was stunted by set-backs such as a Civil War bombing and insufficient funds. The cathedral, with its neoclassical exterior and geometrical, Cubist-like stained glass windows, finally opened to the public in 1993. It continues to be controversial, architecturally speaking, because of its unique mix of traditional and abstract styles. METRO: Ópera

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Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales


Spectacular architecture resulted in this being considered the eighth wonder of the world. Situated in the heart of Madrid, you'll find many spectacular tapestries here, as well as a superb collection of paintings by Brueghel, Coello, Tiziano, Luini, Sebastiano del Piombo, Rubens, Sanchez, and Van Cleve. METRO: Sol or Callao

Local Expert tip: You don't have to be Catholic to appreciate the amazing art and history of the place.

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Museo del Prado
Photo courtesy of Dalbera


One of the world's most celebrated museums, Madrid's Prado Museum is an extensive first-class art gallery containing 16th to 19th century European art. The emphasis is naturally on Spanish art as the Prado's collection was originally composed of Spain's Royal Art Collection. Come to walk the high-ceilinged halls primarily built in the 19th century and reflect on masterpieces by Goya, El Greco, Vel�zquez, Bosch, Tiziano, Tintoretto and others. As the gallery is so large, it would be easy to spend days immersed in the Prado, so if you're short on time be sure to strategize well and hit the highlights like Vel�zquez's Las Meninas, Goya's two Maja paintings and Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Local Expert tip: Be strategic in your visit so as not to be overwhelmed by the size of the museum.

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Retiro Park is Madrid's most popular green space and for good reason. The extensive downtown park has hectares of manicured lawns and paths good for strolling as well as several picturesque gardens and multiple exhibition spaces. Flanked by stone columns and an equestrian statue, the boating lake in the middle of the park is an attraction in summer. Occasional concerts, fairs and events are held at different locations in Retiro Park. Locals flock to the park throughout the week and during all seasons, but Sundays are a particularly popular day for Spanish families, couples and groups of friends to enjoy their urban retreat.

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Plaza de Cibeles


The Plaza de Cibeles is Madrid's most famous confluence of streets, where Paseo de Recoletos, Paseo del Prado and Calle de Alcal� meet. In the middle of the roundabout lies Cibeles Fountain, a 1782 sculpture and fountain of the classical goddess Cibeles who sits in a chariot pulled by lions. Locals consider the statue to represent the city of Madrid itself and the Real Madrid team's soccer victories are celebrated there. Cibeles is surrounded by the grand white wedding cake-like Communications Palace from 1917, Linares Palace from 1900 and now the site of the Casa de America cultural center, the 1777 Buenavista Palace and now Spain's Army Headquarters, and the Bank of Spain, completed in 1891.

Local Expert tip: The iconic Cibeles Fountain becomes ground zero for Real Madrid celebrations.

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This busy crossroads is Madrid's main meeting place and crowds always loiter around the statue of the bear and the madroño ("strawberry tree") at the bottom of C/Carmen. It is also officially the geographical official heart of Madrid and therefore Spain; it holds the kilómetro cero (a plaque on the pavement outside the Casa de Correos, under the clock): the point from which all distances from the city are measured. Here thousands of revelers gather at midnight on New Year's Eve to eat their grapes, one for each chime of the clock, and drink champagne. The Puerta del Sol is also where Napoleon's Egyptian cavalry charged locals on 2 May 1808, as depicted in one of Goya's most famous paintings, El Dos de Mayo. METRO: Sol

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Plaza Mayor
Photo courtesy of Dalbera


Madrid's Plaza Mayor is a grand, historical square in the heart of the city. There you should admire the mural-like façade of what is known as the Casa de la Panadería and the equestrian statue of King Felipe III. Wander, too, around the pedestrian arcades with restaurants and shops. When the weather is nice, the restaurants set up tables with umbrellas and chairs for dining in the square. Since the 15th century, locals have gathered here for markets and important events, and they still do, like the annual Christmas market. However, due to a series of fires, the larger-than-life square's splendid architecture dates primarily from the 1700s and reconstructions from the 1800s.

Local Expert tip: Stand in the middle of the square to get the full effect, but don't forget to examine the arcades, either.

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El Palacio Real

Historic royal palace that has passed through history from the Arabs to the Austrians and finally to the Spanish, although the current royal family are not in residence. Features excellent walking tours of sumptuously furnished bedrooms, sitting rooms and throne room. Some particularly striking rooms are the Throne Room, the kings dressing rooms decorated in mosaics and stucco by Mattia Gasparini and the State Dining Room, which is still used for official banquets. METRO: �pera

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Meet Sarah Rogers

Born and raised in northern California, Sarah grew up to become an expat, traveler and wordsmith. She spent seven years in Madrid, Spain and now calls Buenos Aires, Argentina home. She has had...  More About Sarah

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