Travel guide of Madrid, city of cats
Madrid, Madrid, Madrid. The Mexican Agustín Lara would define this millenary city as the cradle of the compliment and 'chotis'. Today that description is very short. The streets once visited by the poet Federico García
Madrid, Madrid, Madrid. The Mexican Agustín Lara would define this millenary city as the cradle of the compliment and ‘chotis’. Today that description is very short. The streets once visited by the poet Federico García Lorca, the filmmaker Luis Buñuel, the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset and the painter Salvador Dalí are now transited by a melting pot that coexist in harmony and a mixture of cultures.
The capital of Spain is one of its most cosmopolitan municipalities, being one of the most important cultural places of the country. Here you can find some of the most relevant artistic museums of the historical panorama. Every year, millions of tourists visit Madrid, opting for a trip to cultivate a spirit over the attractions of the coasts. And every day there are thousands of things to do in this city. Its cultural agenda unfolds in every way, offering activities for the whole family in each of its corners.
Although the winters of Madrid tend to be very cold, it is worth keeping warm to visit the city in this season. There are many tourists who go the region throughout the year, but during the colder months this number decreases, so the tourist places are calmer and more pleasant. If you want to take a walk around the city of cats, as they call their residents, do not miss our tourist guide of this beautiful city, as we promised last week.
Places you can not miss
If you visit Madrid you can not miss its museums. To start, in the area of Atocha and next to the Paseo del Prado you can find the so-called Art Triangle, dominated by the famous Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía Museum. In addition, there is also the CaixaForum, which offers an extensive cultural program and interesting temporary exhibitions. The Prado Museum has deservedly earned its fame, showing a complete and dazzling collection of painters such as Diego Velázquez, Goya, Tiziano, Rubens, El Bosco, Murillo and El Greco. It is an essential visit. Also, next to its doors is the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid, through which you can stroll for hours for a small fee.
But those are not the only museums in the city whose visit is mandatory. The National Library of Spain, the National Museum of Natural Sciences, the Museum of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando and the National Archaeological Museum are just some of the many that you can visit. Of course, you also have to go to the Royal Palace of Madrid, an impressive building with more than 2,000 rooms, garden, patio and an impressive historical armory. It dates from the 18th century and its rooms are full of art and antiques. Also, next to one of its sides are the Sabatini Gardens, which stand out for their neoclassical style and their stately geometric design. The Plaza Mayor is also full of history, presided over by the Casa de la Panadería, built in 1590 and decorated with paintings representing mythological images.
In the Puerta del Sol you can see the famous statue of the bear and the arbutus, as well as delight yourself with the mix of people, performances and entertainment that are offered daily. From there you can walk along Preciados Street to the famous Gran Vía, which has all kinds of attractions for leisure, tourism, gastronomy and commerce. Although if you want to buy, you have to visit Fuencarral Street, where all the fashion stores of Madrid are concentrated.
Also, you can not miss El Retiro Park, a historic garden that houses a lake with boats, extensive green spaces, statues, fountains and a multitude of secrets. There is one of the few statues dedicated to the Fallen Angel that exist in the whole world. And if you like animals, you can easily see swans, squirrels and peacocks. On the other hand, next to one of its doors is the Puerta de Alcalá, one of the most representative monuments of Madrid.
For lovers of oriental culture, the Temple of Debod rises a few steps from the Plaza de España. It was a gift from Egypt to Spain for helping to save the temples of Nubia. And for football fans, the Wanda Metropolitano and Santiago Bernabéu stadiums are also a must visit. The first time you go to them you will be left with your mouth open. Something similar happens with the famous Almudena Cathedral or the ‘Rastro’, the urban market that is organized next to the Puerta de Toledo every Sunday morning. And then you can finish your visits by having a drink in the Malasaña area or a wine in La Latina. You can also go to Huertas or Chueca and, if you prefer something more sophisticated, to the Salamanca district.
As in all parts of Spain, in Madrid they also like much more parties and ‘jarana’. To start the year on the right foot, after the Christmas holidays and the cavalcade of the Three Kings, on January 17th the ‘Vueltas de San Antón’ are celebrated, in honor of San Antonio Abad. The tradition says that you have to bless the animals and eat bread rolls from San Antón, blessed sweet pastries that are said to attract fortune.
Holy Week is celebrated between March and April, as in all areas of Spain. In addition to the busy processions, it is typical in Madrid to taste French toast and, of course, ‘bartolillos’, triangular fried dumplings of thin dough stuffed with pastry cream. On the other hand, on May 15th the party of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of Madrid, is celebrated. It is very typical that people come dressed in regional costumes to the meadow, where a pilgrimage is celebrated, as it used to be centuries ago. And since the people of Madrid enjoy food very much, there is also a sweet characteristic of this party: the ‘rosquillas’, which are ‘listas’, ‘tontas’, French or Santa Clara.
In August three popular festivals are celebrated: the ‘verbenas’ of San Cayetano, San Lorenzo and La Paloma, where you can enjoy a variety of attractions and typical foods, such as ‘gallinejas’, ‘entresijos’, tripes, churros and ‘barquillos’. Once again they eat typical sweets on All Saints’ Day, November 1st, when they honor their deceased loved ones and taste saint’s bones and wind fritters. Other popular festivities in Madrid are the Day of the Almudena, when they eat crowns of the Virgin, a kind of ring-shaped cake with cream filling, and the famous Gay Pride parties.
Some restaurants to remember
Madrilenian cultural diversity also reaches its impressive gastronomic display. In this way, you can find restaurants of all types, from the most traditional to the most avant-garde, differentiated by a varied range of prices. Chef as famous as Alberto Chicote have decided to open a restaurant in this multicultural city. This is how the Yakitoro restaurant opened its doors, specializing in skewers and tapas inspired by oriental culture. You’ll find one at 41 Reina Street and another at 130 Paseo de la Castellana. It is recommended to reserve a table and, if you are lucky, you’ll see Chicote walking among the tables. Another renowned chef who has his own place in Madrid is David Muñoz. Its DiverXo restaurant is located in the NH Collection Madrid Eurobuilding hotel, at 23 Padre Damián Street. Its gastronomy focuses on surprising the guests, developing an international haute cuisine in an avant-garde space.
If you like different restaurants, you can not miss The Dog and the Cookie, in 1 Claudio Coello Street. Its elegant and eclectic decor inspired by dogs and old radios leaves no one indifferent. Its cuisine focuses on rice, pasta, meat and fish, as well as an extensive selection of starters. It also offers views of El Retiro Park and dogs are allowed inside. It becames very famous some years ago when Pierce Brosnan chose it to enjoy a delicious dinner.
On the other hand, if you do not want to miss one of the most typical dishes of Madrid, do not forget to try the calamari sandwiches in one of the bars that surround the Plaza Mayor. You can also opt for a traditional restaurant, such as Casa Lucio, at 53 Cava Baja Street. Its famous fried eggs form part of the history of this city. In addition, you can enjoy a good ‘cocido’, as well as typical and seasonal dishes of Madrid cuisine in its traditional tavern.
How to get around Madrid
There are many complaints raised by public transport in Madrid among its inhabitants, although the truth is that it usually works quite well. Its price is somewhat expensive, but it is lower than in other European capitals. Therefore, you can easily move by subway, train or bus from one end of the city to another. Of course, keep in mind that you will need a Multi card to charge your trips, since they are trying to eliminate paper tickets.
Another convenient option —and more expensive— are the taxis. There are many stops throughout the city, especially next to the most important cultural points. In addition, you can also choose to hire a private vehicle with driver, such as Uber or Cabify. Some time ago there was a big price difference between their services, but now they are more equated. If you prefer to move in your own car, remember that vehicle access has been delimited in Central Madrid, creating a low emission area. Therefore, only residents, owners of electric car or those who are going to park in a parking lot can circulate around the city center. Beware, the fines are substantial. As an alternative to this, the council makes available electric motorcycles and scooters, as well as rental bicycles for a small fee. Currently, the cycle lanes are being improved, while the sidewalks of the Gran Vía have been widened, in order to provide a more civic and environmentally friendly transport.