The (Extra)ordinary Charm of Madrid
Madrid lacks the architectural reputation of Barcelona, the monumental history of Rome, and the prestige of Paris. In the capital of Spain one can not find an equivalent to Gaudi’s masterpieces like Sagrada Familia, the Collosseum, or the Eiffel Tower. What is then making this city so appealing to tourists? Madrid’s allure lays not in the individual sights but rather in the combined plethora of experiences. Probably no city is more energetic than it, having the perfect balance between splendor and liveliness.
Madrid’s eminent architecture includes numerous medieval mansions, Gothic churches, and royal palaces. Surrounded by peaceful gardens, The Royal Palace of Madrid is said to be one of the most beautiful dwellings in Europe. Another place worth visiting is the Temple of Debod, which is an authentic ancient Egyptian temple dating from the second century B.C. in the heart of Cuartel de la Montaña park. The temple and the gates are illuminated at night, which creates a beautiful reflection of them in the water.
For the lovers of art, the galleries in Madrid contain paintings of some of the finest artists, including home-grown talents such as Picasso, Dalí, and Velázquez. Three museums in particular are the biggest – Museo Del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Madrid is a perfect city for you to visit if you are on a budget and do not want to spend a lot of money on attractions; during certain hours of the day the entrance is free for museums as well as other popular attractions. The only drawback is that the lines of people are large and the wait is guaranteed.
Madrid is one of the greenest cities in Spain, as it has an abundance of public parks and gardens. Even at the end of December, when I visited Madrid, it was a pleasure to stroll down the parks and enjoy the crisp air and beautiful scenery. The enormous Retiro Park is a must see on any trip to Spain’s capital. Not only does this park have scenic greenery but it is also filled with marble monuments, sculptures, a boating lake, and some hidden gems like the Palais de Cristal, a magnificent metal and glass structure. This park is a very common place for the citizens of Madrid to hang out and jog. Apart from Retiro, there are numerous pleasant gardens hidden in the corners of Madrid like the Sabatini Gardens, which are done in a classic French style, symmetrical and formed into various different geometrical shapes.
Madrid is also one of the richest culinary capitals of the world. In fact, every part of the Spanish gastronomy is represented in the capital. The Spaniards’ passion for preserving the traditions of their local cuisine alongside their creativity and innovation creates a one of a kind culinary experience. From bite-size foods called tapas to sit-down meals, dining in Madrid is a splendor. Some typical dishes served in Madrid are gazpacho, a cold soup made of raw vegetables, and tortilla de patatas, a classical omelette filled with pan-fried potatoes and onions. A famous breakfast meal is churros con chocolate, a fried dough pastry served with chocolate dipping sauce. The gastronomic richness of Madrid is best represented in the famous gourmet market Mercado San Miguel. The building is declared a cultural heritage of Madrid, having a wide range of delicacies like tapas, Spanish hams, and wine.
A perfect complement to the fine art and dining is Madrid’s nightlife. With its numerous bars, the city is surely one of the most vibrant places in the world. Apart from the regular lounges common in any other city, one can also visit tablaos which are unique to Spain. There you can enjoy authentic flamenco shows, while sipping in a glass of sangria. By watching a flamenco show you can truly feel the culture of Spain through the passion of the performers that is depicted on their faces.
To complete the whole Madrid vibe one should definitely visit Real Madrid’s stadium Santiago Bernabéu. As a football fan myself, it was among the first attractions I visited. Even if you do not attend a football game, it is still worth entering the stadium, stepping into the players’ changing rooms, or at least going to its gift store. It is a three level club shop filled with merchandise with the Real Madrid logo.