THE PERFECT CITY BREAK…MADE IN MADRID
Madrid is often described as the political and business heart of Spain. After all, the capital city is the official residence of the Spanish monarchy; site of the parliament and a rapidly-growing financial district. It’s no wonder Madrid attracts visitors for business-only reasons. But have you ever taken a city break for reasons that are pure pleasure? Given the vast number of transport links, city breaks in Madrid are a great way to take in the Spanish capital, soak up some rich culture, enjoy delicious food and drink and experience some of Europe’s finest architecture and parks. So if you only have 48 hours of leisure time to spare, what’s the best way to spend it?
Start at the heart of the city
Puerta de Alcalá is Madrid’s gateway to the city. Completed in 1778, this grand neo-classical arch monument is nearly 20m high with sculptures that symbolise Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude. This imposing structure is floodlit at night, providing a warm welcome to visitors. This is also the site of ‘The Bear and the strawberry tree’ statue. According to legend, Madrid’s original name was ‘Ursaria’ – Latin for ‘Land of the Bears – apparently because bears roamed in nearby forests. Thus the bear became Madrid’s emblem. If you ever get lost, meet at the Bear – or the Alcala – you can’t miss either! It is nothing short of a miracle that some of Europe’s most magnificent pieces of architecture survived the 20th century world wars. Palacio Real – the Royal Palace – and the surrounding areas showcase wonderful Renaissance and Baroque buildings.
A feast for culture vultures
Madrid is home to some of the most incredible global art collections. Many city breaks to Madrid will describe “the city’s art triangle” – where you’ll find the renowned Museo del Prado (home of Goya works), Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza – which holds one of the largest collections of European art in the world. However, you could also visit Ermila de San Antonio de la Florida, a beautiful chapel with frescoed art ceilings, painted by Goya in 1798. Slightly off-the-beaten-track is Ateneo de Madrid, a centre for arts, science and culture. Built in 1835, this historical site is a great place to read, and is actually the second largest library collection in Spain.
From Metropolis to meandering
Contrary to popular belief, Madrid is also a great place to enjoy vast, green outdoor spaces. El Retiro, five times bigger than Manhattan’s Central Park, first opened its doors in 1868. The park is a beautiful space which offers visitors marble sculptures (visit El Ángel Caido – the ‘Fallen Angel’), 18th architecture (the Crystal Palace), a tranquil lake and even a zoo! (“casa de Fieras”)
Food, fun…and football
Madrid is known for its tapas – visit Plaza de La Latina, the city’s Latin district, for restaurants and bars that offer authentic (and often free!) tapas. Plaza de San Miguel houses a traditional food market with an array of inexpensive, quality foods. For a more multi-cultural experience, visit Plaza de Lavapiés, a neighbourhood with cuisine from flavours all around the world. Enjoy chocolate from San Ginés, while shopping in one of Madrid’s biggest flea markets El Rastro. Virtually the entire population flocks here every Sunday for records, antiques, clothes – or any item you can possibly want! Football fans shouldn’t miss Santiago Bernabau, home of Real Madrid.
You never know who you might see! Whatever you do in 48 hours, your city break to Madrid will be more than worth it…