Madrid the capital of Spain is an amazing city with large boulevards, inviting green parks, art museums, churches, impressive architecture and so much more.
Let us begin with Buen Retiro Park this is the favorite of all of Madrid’s parks. It offers visitors marble monuments, landscaped lawns and plenty of green space upon which to relax and dream. It was the idea of Felipe IV in the 17th century as a preserve of kings and queens opening to the public in 1868.
Take a stroll to the artificial lake where you’ll find a huge ornamental structure the Monument to Alfonso XII on the east side along with marble lions. This is the place where people gather in the summertime to listen to music and to dance. You can get a boat and row onto the lake.
At the south end of the lake there is a structure with sphinxes to make you think you’re in Egypt. This is the Egyptian Fountain and it comes with a legend that says Felipe IV buried a large fortune right here. However park authorities will differ and tell you that the legend is not true. So when you visit don’t bring a shovel.
Also on the south side of the lake you’ll find the Palacio de Cristal an amazing metal and glass structure and the most beautiful architectural monument in the park. It was built as a winter garden for exotic flowers in 1887. Today temporary exhibitions are held here.
There is the magnificent Rose Garden that has over 4000 roses and an incredible statue of the Fallen Angel known as Lucifer. This is one of the few statues found anywhere in the world to the devil. What give me the shivers is that it actually sits 666m above the sea level.
In the southeastern corner of the park is a carved mural of Dante’s Inferno and the Jardin de los Planeles. A very quiet part of the park which is least visited but where you can find solitude on quiet pathways beneath a canopy of trees.
To the west is the Memorial Forest. A memorial to 191 victims of the March 11, 2004 train bombing and for each victim there is an olive or cypress tree growing.
In the northeastern corner of the park is an information office set up in a former royal fishing lodge. Here you can request free guided tours of this incredible park which also tell you about the bird and plant life here and about the history and architecture.
Nearby are the ruins of the Ermita de San Isidro, a small country chapel and a great example of Romanesque architecture. You’ll also see sculpted hedgerows, wandering peacocks and lily ponds in the Jardines del Arquitecto Herrero Palacios.
Plenty of playgrounds for children and in the summertime there is Puppet Land featuring puppet shows.
The Prado Museum is one of the world’s premier art galleries with over 7000 paintings. At present there are about 1,500 on display. When the museum first opened there were 311 Spanish paintings on display. A lot of artwork by Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes can be found all through the museum. Other paintings by Spanish masters include the artwork of Velazquez and visitors most often come to see his painting Las meninas found in room 12. It was completed in 1656 and is officially known as La familia de Felipe IV. There are other fine paintings that this painter has done of royalty. Other paintings of different Spanish and European Masters are on display as well as artwork by Flemish masters such as Rubens. The eastern wing offers temporary exhibitions and has a bookshop and cafe.
At one time the center of Madrid’s social life was Plaza Mayor surrounded by lots of elegant architecture. This is the location of the building that houses the Prado Museum. In the middle of the square is the most impressive equestrian statue of Felipe III. On Sunday mornings you can find people here trading old coins, banknotes and stamps. In December and early January the Christmas market is here.
To have views of awesome architecture and impressive facades take a walk down the grand boulevard Gran Via. It stretches through the center of Madrid from Plaza de Espana to Calle de Alcala. An eye-catching building is the Carrion located on the corner of Gran Via and Calle de jacometrezo and was the city’s first pre-WWI tower block apartment hotel. Also of interest is the 1920s era Telefonica building.
The French designed Edificio Metropolis has a winged victory statue atop of its dome.
The Basilica de San Francisco El Grande is one of Madrid’s grandest old churches. It has a frescoed dome that is estimated to be the largest in Spain and the fourth largest in the world. Legend has it that St. Francis of Assisi built a chapel here in 1217. The present chapel was designed by Francisco Sabatini. The nave is circular and surrounded by chapels that are guarded by marble statues of the 12 apostles; 12 prophets carved in wood sit above them at the base of the dome. Each of the chapels has frescoes and are decorated but the one that draws the most attention is the neo-plateresque Capilla de San Bernadino with the central fresco painted by Goya. The master painted himself into the scene.
On a guided visit you can see a series of corridors behind the high altar that offer artworks from the 17th to 19th centuries. In the sacristy are wonderfully sculpted walnut seats where the church superiors used to meet.
Another wonderful park can be found to the west – Western Park. It offers a marvelous and lovely rose garden Here annual flower shows and competitions are held.
To the south of the rose garden is an area called the Mountain Park due to its elevation. From the top you get a fantastic view of the Casa de Campo which is Madrid’s largest urban park. Visitors come to Western Park to see the Templo de Debod an authentic Egyptian temple.
At the La Florida Cemetery lie the casualties of the event that took place on May 3, 1808 during the French occupations when French troops executed 43 rebels at the Parque de la Montana. This event has been depicted in a painting by Goya.
At the north end of the park is one of the city’s tallest fountains, the Fuente de Juan de Villanueva. It was created in 1952 by sculptor Santiago Costa and a trio of architects and honors architect Juan de Villanueva.
A series of stairs descends toward the most western part of the park. It is at this point that the park is more formally laid out but a railway track cuts the park in two at this part. The tracks can be crossed using pedestrian bridges. Here is a modern monument honoring Goya, one of Spain’s most famous painters.
Come explore, enjoy and embrace all this and so much more that Madrid has to offer.
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