Spain’s sunny summers make it a magnet for travelers seeking a laid-back relaxing holiday, but the country’s capital and largest city is no place for lazing about. Whether exploring the Madrid’s world-class art museums, gazing at architectural marvels while sipping a café con leche at a sidewalk café or rollicking the night away at tapas bars along on the Gran Vía, the many attractions in Madrid are simply too captivating to miss.
The massive size of the Palacio Real is its most imposing feature. Madrid’s Royal Palace boasts more than 2,500 ornately decorated rooms. Built in 1764, the palace served as the royal residence beginning with Carlos III. The last royals to reside there were Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenie in the early 1900s. Although the palace is still used for official ceremonies, 50 of the structure’s elegant rooms are open to the public, including an armory, pharmacy, and the palace’s lavish throne room, or “Salón del Trono,” which features a ceiling painted by the Baroque artist Tiepolo. A fresco in the grand dining hall depicts Christopher Columbus presenting gifts from the New World to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
The Gran Vía is known as the Broadway of Madrid because it’s “the street that never sleeps.” The grand boulevard runs through central Madrid from the Plaza de España to Calle de Alcalá. Although the street now seems integral to the bustling capital, it’s actually a fairly recent addition to the city. Completed in 1910, the Gran Vía is lined with hundreds of shops, restaurants and businesses. The most famous building on the boulevard is the Telefónica Building, which was the tallest building in Europe when it was completed in 1929. The clock at the top of the Baroque-American style structure is a local landmark.
The Museo del Prado is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Madrid. The 18th-century structure designed by architect Juan de Villanueva houses one of the world’s finest art collections. A 2007 expansion has made the famed museum easier to navigate. With more than 7,000 works of art representing culture and history from the 12th century to the early 19th century, however, it’s impossible to see everything in a single visit. Visitors may wish to focus on the museum’s collection of Spanish artists, including Goya, El Greco, da Ribera and Velázquez, which is inarguably the best collection of Spanish paintings in the world.
Paella. Paella is a traditional Spanish dish from Valencia. It is a rice dish that can have meat, fish, seafood, and vegetables and is characterized by its use of saffron, which gives it a yellow color and unique flavor.