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.
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.
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
Local Expert tip: You don't need to cover yourself, but you must be respectfully quiet.
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.
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.
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.
Local Expert tip: Seek out the circular rose garden in summer.
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.
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
Local Expert tip: The bear and madroño statue is a popular meeting spot.
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.
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
Local Expert tip: Entrance to the Royal Palace includes the on-site Royal Pharmacy and Royal Armory.