Madrid is a city with so much life and culture that it’s difficult to do it justice in a few paragraphs. The city can compete with any in Europe, with one of the best art museums on the continent, showcasing Renaissance masterworks and seminal 20th-century works.
Take in all the historical sights and learn about the Spanish Empire, which spanned the globe in the 16th and 17th centuries. A caf? con Leche in a stately square, drinks at a rooftop bar, or a stroll through the Retiro or Casa de Campo on a sunny day are all things that make Madrid memorable.
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1 Reina Sofia Museum
The third museum on the Golden Triangle completes your tour of Madrid’s art collections. This museum is more modern in scope than the others and focuses on Spanish art. The many works by 20th-century artists Picasso and Dal are the best reason to visit. To prove that this isn’t overkilled, Picasso’s epochal Guernica is on display, so this is an opportunity you should not pass up.
2 Mercado San Miguel
This beautiful art nouveau marketplace, which dates from 1916, is a short walk from Plaza Mayor. It’s more of a gastronomic destination for buying the best of Spain’s offerings like cava, pimenton (parprika), and saffron than a fresh produce market (though there are grocery stalls). Tapas bars abound in town, serving all the classics like patatas bravas, gambas al ajillo, and boquerones with a glass of beer, rioja, or vermouth. To shop for groceries like a true Madrileno, go to the vast Mercado de Maravillas in Cuatro Caminos. With 200 stalls, it is Europe’s largest municipal market.
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3 Puerta del Sol
This grand square, located next to the Casa de Correos (Post Office Building), is a popular meeting place that is rich in meaning for both the city and the country. The clock at the top of the Casa de Correos will be familiar to every Spaniard, as it marks the televised countdown to New Year’s Eve. There’s also a tricky ritual: with each chime, you’re supposed to eat a grape for good luck (12 in total). Also in the square is the El Oso y El Madroo statue, which has been a symbol of Madrid since the Middle Ages.
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4 National Archaeological Museum
This museum is a journey through Spain’s rich history, with invaluable pieces gathered from all over the country. The wealth of magnificent items that predate the Roman period may surprise you. Despite being at least 2,500 years old, the best of these Iberian treasures and sculptures appear almost new. The Lady of Elche is a female bust with an intricate headdress and coils over her ears. The Treasure of Guarrazar, a Visigothic set of crosses and votive crowns dating from the 600s, is much later but no less impressive.
5 Santiago Bernab?u Stadium
Whether you support the club or not, the fact remains that Real Madrid is Europe’s most successful football team, having won a record-breaking 11 European Cups. So any football fan should make a pilgrimage to their massive 85,000-seater stadium, where history has many times over the years. A tour will provide you with panoramic views of the stadium, as well as access to the dressing room, dugouts, and other interesting features such as the trophy collection, press room, and presidential box.
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6 The Prado
The Prado is one of the best and most popular art museums in the world, and it is a must-see. The collection of masterpieces by Renaissance and Baroque masters is vast. The Garden of Delights by Bosch and David with the Head of Goliath by Caravaggio are two of the many must-see works. The Spanish Romantic Goya, whose 14 Black Paintings are a cultural reference point in Spain, has the most works hanging at the Prado.
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