A whirlwind tour of Madrid

Royal Palace

Date of visit: September 2011

Post written by Laura

Having spent many a family holiday in Spain, the Canary Islands and the Balearics back in the 1990s when my children were small, Spain is one of my most visited countries. However there is no current Spanish coverage within this blog! This is about to change with some throwback posts beginning with Madrid.

This was my second trip to Spain’s vibrant capital city and on this occasion I was fortunate to visit as a work trip! My Civil Service job is based in London… well usually… thanks to the pandemic I’ve been working at home for a year now. And other than occasional UK trips I’ve rarely had the good fortune to travel abroad for work so I was delighted to have this opportunity.

I was there for a couple of days and once the work stuff was over I set off with my small backpack and spent a few hours exploring the city. Here are some of the highlights:

Plaza Mayor

Beginning with the Plaza Mayor a huge public square in the heart of Madrid. There are often exhibitions and street entertainers and in December the square is home to a Christmas market. I didn’t try one but apparently the calamari sandwich is a popular Madrid snack and particularly in this square! They are often enjoyed with a squeeze of lemon, a blob of mayo and an ice cold beer.

The grand Plaza Mayor is enclosed by a number of historic buildings including the Casa de la Panaderia which was constructed in 1619. The Casa de la Panaderia is Spanish for bakery and back then was home to a powerful organisation that used to control the price of grain.

Bronze statue of King Philip III

Above is the bronze statue of King Philip III, also located in the Plaza Mayor. This was presented to King Philip III from the Grand Duke of Florence in 1616.

Puerta del Sol

The bustling Puerta del Sol is a 10 minute walk from the Plaza Mayor and is where the Spanish government headquarters are located. Here I met up with my European work counterparts, a friendly bunch of Spanish, Dutch and Germans and we spent an enjoyable evening in one of the many nearby tapas bars.

A Madrid cocktail selection
San Miguel Market

The San Miguel market is a covered food market which has been there in the city centre for over 100 years. Here you can find a mouthwatering array of Spanish gastronomic delights from speciality cheeses to shellfish to tapas.

Cervantes Monument
Plaza de Espana

The Plaza de España is another of Madrid’s large squares and here you can see the Cervantes monument which is dedicated to Miguel de Cervantes, one of the greatest of Spanish writers. 

The Sabatini Gardens were built in the 1930’s and are adjacent to the Royal Palace. They are free to enter and with their fountains, sculptures and trees are really pleasant to walk through.

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is the official residence of the Spanish royal family although is now only used for state events and ceremonies.

The lavish interior of the Royal Palace

On my previous visit I had taken a tour inside the Royal Palace which with its lavish displays of art and opulence was quite spectacular.

Continuing my self guided walking tour of Madrid took me through quaint smaller squares…

And past intricate and impressive buildings.

Retiro Park
Alfonso XII monument in Retiro Park

Retiro Park is one of Madrid’s largest parks and is home to many sculptures, monuments and a lake and is a lovely spot in which to relax or take a walk. Above is the Alfonso XII monument which is next to a large artificial pond.

Crystal Palace

The Palacio De Cristal (Glass Palace) is located in Retiro Park. The glass and metal structure was built in 1887 for an exhibition from the Philippines that year. It is currently closed although when open it is used for art exhibitions rather than tropical plants.

Waiting for the open top bus in Puerta del Sol

Finally although Madrid is a very walkable city one good way of capturing all of the sights of a city is to take an open top bus tour which I did on my previous visit in 2004 🙂

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