Spain’s capital is internationally known for its cultural diversity, vibrant nightlife and bustling restaurants. But here, we delve into why Madrid is full to the brim with history and cultural delights waiting to be discovered.
The capital of Spain, Madrid, is one of the most touristic cities in Europe. It enjoys an excellent location, right in the centre of the country, and offers excellent communications, both inside and outside the territory of which it forms part.
It’s also a very cosmopolitan and lively city. If the traveller is planning to visit the city and wants to discover some of the most historic places in Madrid, here is a list of some of the must-see places.
Madrid is full of historic monuments on every corner. The capital is full of places to visit, both for tourists and for business trips, etc. However, being a city on the larger side, it’s sometimes difficult to draw up a list of must-sees to fit into a weekend for example.
Plus, Whether you’re a connoisseur of classic, contemporary, or abstract art, the Spanish capital has something to tickle every art-lovers fancy.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of the most important monuments in Madrid, so put on some comfortable shoes, grab a map and follow us on our route!
Madrid’s Must-See Monuments
Madrid is a city with a rich cultural and historical foundation, with monuments that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Among them, you can’t miss the Prado Museum, the Plaza Mayor or the Egyptian Templo Debod. All of these sites are admirable, both for their content and their exterior architecture.
Take a look at our mentions to plan your next trip:
Probably one of the most iconic spots in the city. The Plaza Mayor is one of the most emblematic places in the capital. It was designed by Juan de Herrera and Juan Gómez de Mora, leading figures in Castilian Renaissance architecture. The square was built between 1580 and 1619, and measures 129 metres long by 94 metres wide. To enter the square, you will have to cross one of its ten arches. The most famous is the Cudillero arch. In the centre of the building is a statue of King Felipe III, the Duke of Florence.
The Plaza Mayor usually hosts different events. One of the most famous is its Christmas market, where the star product is the figurines for the nativity scene. It is also used as a space for occasional cultural events. The entire perimeter is full of excellent cafés and restaurants to choose from
Museo del Prado
This emblematic monument houses Madrid’s most important classical art works dating back to 1785. Enormous in size, this impressive building was originally designed by Juan de Villanueva as the National History Cabinet. In 1819 however, King Ferdinand VII intervened King Charles’ orders to convert the structure into a museum.
The Prado is set apart is its royal art collection. In the beginning, the collection consisted of paintings and sculptures depicting the royal residencies around Spain. After the next several hundred years, the repertoire expanded as the Spanish monarchs plucked up as many European masterpieces as possible, which still grace the walls today.
The Prado Museum is one of the most important museums in the world in terms of the pictorial collections it holds, and is the eleventh most visited museum in the world.
According to Antonio Saura, “this museum is not the most extensive, but it is the most intense”, and this is due to the fact that, among other reasons, due to lack of space, it is decided to exhibit only the best paintings, making it the museum with the most masterpieces per square metre. Right next to it, you will find the oxygenated Botanical Garden.
Puerta de Sol
Another of Madrid’s key spots is this crescent-shaped square. Puerta del Sol is one of the most popular meeting places for locals, and who hasn’t been to the Madroño or the Whale of Sol?
These two quasi-astronomical landmarks belong to the statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, the main symbol of the city, and the entrance to the Renfe-Cercanías service. The oldest building is the Casa de Correos, where the Torre del Reloj (the Clock Tower) is located. This is where, every New Year’s Eve, its hands strike the 12 chimes of the New Year. Curiosity: this clock was donated by a military man, José Rodríguez de Losada.
In this same square is the so-called kilometre zero, a reference point from which all the country’s roads start. Other popular elements in the square are the statue of Carlos III on horseback, the Tío Pepe building, and some establishments such as La Mallorquina. The latter is the city’s most emblematic pastry shop and an obligatory stop on a tourist’s route.
Puerta de Alcalá
The Puerta de Alcalá is the most famous of the ancient gates that gave access to the city, and which are still preserved in various parts of the city, along with the Puerta de Toledo and the Puerta de Hierro.
It was the first triumphal arch built after the fall of the Roman Empire, which is why it is considered the precursor of others such as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Behind the gate is the Retiro Park, which will guarantee you a pleasant stroll near the peaceful Palacio de Cristal, marvelling at one of the few statues in the world of the Fallen Angel, seeing an interesting exhibition in the Casa de Terneras or enjoying a boat in front of the Monument to Alfonso XII, where, by the way, many people tend to gather on Sunday afternoons.
Close to the impressive Plaza de España is the Temple of Debod, a temple from Ancient Egypt, which was a gift from Egypt to Spain in gratitude for its help in saving temples such as Abu Simbel from being destroyed by the construction of the Aswan Dam.
From this point you’ll be welcomed with stunning views, and just two steps away you can use the cable car to get to Casa de Campo.
Plaza de Cibeles
Football has internationalised this place across the globe. Both Real Madrid and the Spanish national football team celebrate their victories in the fountain of the goddess Cibeles. Its location is privileged: between Calle Alcalá, Paseo de Recoletos and Paseo del Prado.
The statue represents the goddess Cybele in a chariot pulled by lions. It was designed by Ventura Rodríguez, considered the last Baroque sculptor. In this square, in addition to the fountain, you can visit four emblematic buildings of the city: the Buenavista Palace, the Bank of Spain, the Linares Palace and the Palace of Communications.