Madrid Tourism

Short Holiday in Madrid

Most of people around the world anticipate weekend with joy, hoping to get well-deserved rest. Having to get up early and go to work can sometimes be stressful and tiring, so one is counting days until the rest is finally there. Although spending a weekend in your cozy home in front of the television set, with a large cup of coffee or tea might sound appealing, you can always be adventurous and plan a short trip. If you leave on Friday evening, you will have two days for the adventure you have planned, and you will be back home by Sunday evening, to prepare yourself for another busy week ahead of you. Organizing a trip on short notice might seem impossible, as there are so many things to think of and plan. However, with everything you need available on the internet, you can easily plan and book a short trip whenever you seem to find time to travel. This is why we want to recommend you this guide, which could be a great travel resource that will help you to organize a short holiday in Madrid.

Get to the city

Depending on where you are from, one of the easiest ways to get to Madrid is to use air transport. Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport is the main international airport in Madrid, with available flights to numerous destinations around the world. You should find tickets through an online portal specialized in selling plane tickets, or you could also go through the website of the airline company you have chosen to fly with. The website of the Madrid’s airport also features some useful information in terms of how to get to the city from the airport, how to rent a car, etc. In case you have not visited Madrid yet, this is quite helpful to find your way and get to the city in the most comfortable way.

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http://www.aeropuertomadrid-barajas.com/eng/home.html

Find your apartment in Madrid

It is advisable to book your apartment in Madrid before you arrive to the city. Since you are on a short holiday, you absolutely do not want to end up looking for an apartment on the spot. This way you would waste a lot of time, that would otherwise would be spent on sightseeing. Therefore, you should go through the online offer of apartments and other types of accommodation, and book an apartment in Madrid that would be perfect for your short stay.

It would also be great if you could find an apartment that is located in the center of the city. There are two reason why this is the best option for tourists, especially those whose visit is rather limited. First of all, the center of the city is well-connected to the airport, as this is the tourist hub of the city, so there are city buses, as well as shuttle buses, allowing you to easily get to the city from the airport. Secondly, most of Madrid landmarks are located in the central area, so if you find apartment in the city center, you will be near all of the points of interests you wish to visit while you are in the city. With short holidays, saving time on any unnecessary activities is needed in order to take the most out of your holiday.

Late dinner or an evening out

In order to maximize the time you have on your short holiday, arriving to Madrid in the evening would be perfect. Even though it would be too late for sightseeing, you could still have time to explore the city and have dinner in one of Madrid’s restaurants. Additionally, if you like going out and partying late into the night, the central area of Madrid is perfect for you. Lots of Madrid’s cafes and bars are open until early morning hours, and the central area is especially famous as the party zone.

Day one of sightseeing

Having arrived on Friday in the evening enables you to have the entire Saturday to spend sightseeing. Obviously, you will not be able to visit absolutely every landmark of Madrid during your short holiday, so here is how you can plan a day of sightseeing in order to see the most important sights in the city of Madrid.

Start at the Paseo del Prado, Madrid’s main boulevard and major tourist attraction. As you walk along the street, you can enjoy the Spanish architecture and different styles that influenced architects that created some of the most famous pieces of Spanish architecture and Madrid’s scenery. The three most well-known museums in Madrid, also called the Golden Triangle of Art, are located in the Paseo del Prado, so make sure to visit at least one of them. Whether you choose the Prado Museum with its pre-20th century art collection, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum with the large collection ranging between historical art to contemporary art, or whether you decide to visit the Reina Sofía Museum with its amazing art collection featuring the 20th century modern art, this visit will allow you to embrace the culture and art of many different epochs and influences from around the world. Since all of the museums offer quite extensive collections, the best advice is to choose one that you would like to visit the most during your short visit. As you walk around the museum of your choice you will be able to enjoy some of the most famous master pieces of the Spanish art, as well as some internationally famous art works.

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http://www.museoreinasofia.es/en/collection

As you continue your walk along the Paseo del Prado, you will also see the Plaza de Cibeles, the Fuente de Neptuno, and the Plaza Murillo. Each of these places is important part of Madrid’s history, as well as the history of Spain, as they were the places of great importance in the past.

Having in mind the number of landmarks in this area and their popularity among million of tourists arriving from the entire world during the year, it is no wonder that this part of the city is developed in terms of infrastructure to welcome such a large number of visitors. This is why, you will find lots of restaurants and cafes along the Paseo del Prado or in the nearby streets, so this would be a perfect timing to take a break and have lunch. Enjoy Spanish paella, patatas bravas, cocido madrilène or other typical Spanish dishes, and do not forget to try out the desserts, such as churros con chocolate. This would be a glimpse of how tasty Spanish cuisine is, and it will recharge you before you continue with the sightseeing of the central area of Madrid.

The next stop in your day of sightseeing should be the Retiro Park in Madrid. This park is the largest one in Madrid, as it is considered to be a great oasis in the city, hence the name, Parque del Buen Retiro, which is Spanish for Park of the Pleasant Retreat. Besides being a wonderful retreat in the heart of a busy city, the Retiro Park has great historical importance, which is why as you are exploring the park, you will learn about the Spanish history, the Spanish aristocracy life and the unique style in architecture that shaped certain parts of the park, some of which date centuries back. The Palacio de Velázquez, a large neoclassical building with the interior decorated with red brick and tiles, covered with iron vaults and glass, and the Palacio de Cristal, shaped like a Greek cross, made mainly out glass set up on the iron framework, are two most important buildings in the park, both built in the second half of the 19th century. Nowadays, both of them serve as exhibition halls, and you can visit them during your short holiday in Madrid.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Parque_del_Buen_Retiro_PalacioCristal03.jpg

A lot of small plazas, monuments, fountains and gardens are scattered around the park, which is why the walk in the Retiro Park in Madrid is an amazing experience for anyone visiting Madrid. Additionally, there are two lakes in the park, and a boat ride around the lake as you enjoy the sunset is perhaps the best way to wrap up your first day of sightseeing.

Day two of sightseeing

As you short trip slowly comes to an end, you will still have time to spend on sightseeing of the central area, in case you choose a late afternoon or an evening departure. This way, you will have a lot of time to explore the city, and here are some places to visit on your second day of exploring Madrid.

The Plaza Mayor should be your first location for the second day. This amazing square has been the central point of historical events in the past, and still is the location where major city events are held, such as the celebration for San Isidro, patron saint of Madrid. The square is completely surrounded by three to four-story residential buildings, most of which have that recognizable red-colored façade with balconies decorated with colorful flowers. The Plaza Mayor is a perfect place to have your morning coffee in one of the cafes around the square, which is especially enjoyable if the weather is sunny and warm.

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http://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/madrid/sights/squares-plazas/plaza-mayor

You should continue your walk and get to another important building in the neighborhood, which is one of the recognizable symbols of the Spanish history. The Palacio Real de Madrid, meaning the Royal Palace of Madrid, is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, but the main purpose of the building is to host official ceremonies. What is remarkable about this building is the fact that it is the largest palace in Europe by floor area. It occupies impressive 135,000 square meters, with almost 3500 rooms. Regardless if you choose to visit the interior of the palace, for which you will need more time, or if you choose to admire from afar and take photos of the impressive exterior design, this is an astounding landmark of Madrid, and it is worth visiting it, even though your visit might be short.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Madrid_May_2014-35a.jpg

As long as you are in the neighborhood and in case you have a little bit more time, you should also visit the Plaza de Oriente, located opposite the Palacio Real de Madrid. The Plaza de Oriente is a rectangular square in the historic center of Madrid, with gardens and an astonishing sculpture collection.

We should also mention an alternative, for all of travelers who like to do some shopping when on holiday. After visiting the Plaza Mayor, you can actually head to the nearby Puerta del Sol, one of the busiest places in Madrid. Besides the historic importance of the Puerta del Sol square, this is also favorite place for locals to meet, and it is also the place that hosts the New Year celebration.

The area around the square is famous shopping area, with lots of designer shops, souvenir shops, and the most famous department store in Spain, El Corte Inglés, located in the vicinity. If you enjoy shopping, this is the place where you should head during your second day of exploring Madrid. Additionally, lots of cafes and restaurants in this area allow you to choose a place where you will once again be convinced why Spanish cuisine is internationally famous.

After you sightseeing or shopping spree is over, you can go back to your apartment in Madrid and pack up so you can be home on time to prepare yourself for the next week. Having experienced the joy of traveling and exploring different scenery, culture and cuisine, you will be much eager to handle your daily tasks and enjoy being back in your routine. You need these short holiday breaks once in a while to help you recharge and distance yourself from the tasks that might have become monotonous, and might be having negative effect on your state of mind. Traveling allows you to create memories that will fulfill your life.

 

 

Visiting Retiro Park in Madrid

An interesting fact about Madrid is that one cannot walk more than fifteen minutes without coming across a green area, such as a park or a garden. Even though the city of Madrid is a large urban hub, center of commerce and business, it still is the city with the largest number of trees and green surfaces per inhabitant in Europe. Retiro Park is the largest park in Madrid and certainly one of the major attractions in the city.

Depending on where you are located in the city during your stay, whether your apartment in Madrid is in the center of the city, or you choose to rent an apartment in other districts of Madrid, you can easily use public transportation to reach the Retiro Park.

The full name of the park is the Buen Retiro Park, which is often shorted to Retiro Park, or simply Retiro. The Spanish name of the park is Parque del Buen Retiro, which means Park of the Pleasant Retreat. This name symbolizes what the park is, an oasis in the hearth of the urban city, the place to have a break of all the city hassle, a hidden retreat in the noisy surrounding of the central area of Madrid. Additionally, park also played an important role in the court life of Spain, which is why it is important part of country’s history.

History of Retiro Park

Although the park is a public area nowadays, with people being able to visit it at any moment, this has not always been the case. For centuries, the park was owned by Spanish Monarchy, and the area, which was considered a garden, had been available to members of royalty, and the guests that used to visit them.

It all started with a garden which was designed between 1631 and 1640. Count-Duke of Olivares was determined to build a royal house, which was supposed to be accompanied by gardens. Philip IV, who was on the throne at the time, thought highly of Olivares, which is why he entrusted him with this task. The goal was to build an outstanding mansion that would overshadow the villas of Roman nobles. Despite the fact that several buildings were constructed in 1630s, only two of them still remain in the park. Those are Casón del Buen Retiro, which served as a ballroom, and a building that housed the military museum.

As the construction of the building was finished in haste, the development of the garden happened simultaneously. The main asset of the garden was a pond, Estanque del Retiro. In that period, besides the visual aspect, the pond actually served for setting up mock naval battles.

When the construction of the park was finished, it became the center of the court life in Spain, as well an important center of the court life in Europe. The park was the state of the art at the time it was built, and it became a recognizable symbol of Spanish royalty. Besides being the center of the court life, the park was also a representation of Spanish art and design, with style that captured what is considered to be the last phase of Renaissance in Spain.

The situation changed after 1665, when Philip IV died. The garden was neglected, and it remained to be so until 1767 when the garden was opened for public. Prior to public opening, the garden underwent renovations and it changed the scenery. Some of the deteriorated buildings and constructions, such as old walls, were replaced, and some new buildings were added, such as Astronomical Observatory, built in the end of the 18th century.

Situation again changed during the Peninsular War in the beginning of the 19th century, when most of the palaces in the garden were destroyed. This was followed by a series of renovation projects, planting the trees and expanding the green surface, which drastically changed the original design of the garden. In 1868, the garden finally became a public park, becoming the great oasis in the center of the city.

The 20th century brought additional renovation, where statues, monuments and fountains were added into the park. Today the park is a cultural landmark of the city, as many tours include visiting the park, and some of the best known places in the park.

What to visit in Retiro Park?

Retiro Park encompasses a large area, with lot of landmarks dating from different periods, all of which are representation of the period of time that produced them. Although the park itself is a landmark, perhaps one of the most famous one in the city, there are lots of places to see in the park and here are the most important ones:

The Retiro Pond

The Retiro Pond, in Spanish the Estanque del Retiro, is the place in the park that dates back to the original garden that was first designed in this location. It is an artificial lake in the middle of the park, surrounded by trees. Additionally, some buildings have been built near the lake. Besides walking or sitting by the lake, you can always go on a boat ride.

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Image source: http://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/parque-del-retiro

Paseo de las Estatuas

El Paseo de la Argentina del Retiro is popularly known as Paseo de las Estatuas, as it is populated by a series of statues of Spanish monarchs. Although the statues were initially placed next to the Royal Palace, they were moved in the park since the palace itself is beautifully adorned and the statues would take over the focus from the palace’s extraordinary design.

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Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paseo_de_la_Argentina_(Retiro,_Madrid)_02.jpg

Palacio de Cristal

El Palacio de Cristal del Retiro is without doubt the most important feature of the park. The Crystal Palace was built in 1887 next to the lake. Built like a glass cathedral, the palace has massive glass walls, sustained by iron columns, with a large dome reaching the height of over 20 meters. There is a portal built in the classical Greek style, but the overall inspiration for building Palacio de Cristal was London’s Crystal Palace. Located right besides the lake, the palace even has a staircase leading to the lake.

The initial purpose of the palace was to be a greenhouse, a home to the exhibitions of flora and fauna from Philippines. This is why the walls have been created of glass, allowing transparent setting for the plants that have been kept in the greenhouse. However, the palace is no longer used for this purpose. Today, various city museums organize exhibitions in the Crystal Palace in Madrid.

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Image source: http://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/parque-del-retiro

Palacio de Velázquez

Built between 1881 and 1883 for the occasion of celebration of Exposición Nacional de Minería in 1883, the palace was designed by an architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, which is why it is named Palacio de Velázquez. The palace is a construction covered with vaults of iron as well as glass surfaces allowing natural light into the rooms. Like the Crystal Palace, it once served as a green house, but today it belongs to the Ministry of Culture and it houses exhibitions organized by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

La Rosaleda

La Rosaleda is a rose garden designed in elliptical shape, surrounded by hedges that are meticulously trimmed. The garden is populated with a variety of roses that are brought from different parts of Europe, mostly from other famous European’s gardens. Although the rose garden was completely destroyed in the Civil War in 1941, it was renovated and over 4000 new rose bushes were planted. However, despite the abundance of roses, the garden lacked a systematic management in plantation of roses, which is why a new rose garden was created in 1956, in the el Parque del Oeste de Madrid, where the annual rose competition is held. Still, this is a great place to visit in the Retiro Park, as the scenery is perfect for walking around enjoying the beauty of flowers around you.

Monumento a Alfonso XII

The central area of the park occupies the monument to the King Alfonso XII. The monument is a product of national competition, where the architect José Grases Riera won with his grandiose project. The monument features the statue of the king in the center, surrounded by numerous sculptures and columns. The entire monument is built from bronze and marble, 30 meters high and 86 meters long. The monument is close to the Retiro lake with stairs leading to the lake. Besides the statues, there are two lions with cupids on both sides of the monument.

This massive monument is one of the most recognizable symbols of the park, along with the Crystal Palace, and it is frequently the stop of tourists who visit Madrid.

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Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Monumento_a_Alfonso_XII_de_Espa%C3%B1a_en_los_Jardines_del_Retiro_-_04.jpg

Fuente de la Alcachofa

This fountain was built in 1781 and it was originally placed at the Puerta de Atocha. However, the fountain was moved in 1880 to the Retiro Park, where it still stands today. The fountain represents a mixture of neoclassical style and the influence of Baroque, which follows the style present in other constructions in the park, such as the Royal Palace. The fountain has a circular center with a column formed of two parts. The first one represents the sea nymphs holding the coat of arms of Madrid. The second one is located on top of the first part of the fountain and it features four cupids on a cup.

Fuente del Ángel Caído

Fuente del Ángel Caído, meaning the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, is greatly inspired by verses from Milton’s Paradise Lost. The statue at the top of the monument was designed by Ricardo Bellver. The statue was initially housed in the Museo Nacional de Pintura y Escultura. Fully cast in bronze the statue itself is over 2.5 meters high. The fountain has a pedestal, octagonal in shape, with lizards and snakes on each side. The total height of the fountain is 7 meters. It is renowned as a monument to the devil with several possible interpretations of its true meaning. This reputation of being a sculpture devoted to the devil is supported by the fact that the statue stands 666 meters above the sea level.

Activities in the park

While the visit to the park is an amazing way to spend a day in Madrid, with lots of opportunities for sightseeing, there are numerous activities organized in the park during the year, especially between May and October, when the weather is perfect for outdoor activities.

Annual Madrid Book Fair is organized every year in Retiro Park since 1967. The fair is usually organized in late May or early June each year, and during the fair various discounts are offered for the visitors. The fair is also known to gather a lot of publishers with a huge book offer.

Other activities in the park include concerts, firework shows and other cultural events, such as exhibitions, workshops, etc. If you like exercising outdoor, you will also love the park, as it is great for running, cycling and roller-skating. There is also equipment for exercising installed in the park. Playgrounds with swings and other toys for kids are also available. You can also rent a rowboat and paddle around the lake or you can enjoy horse-drawn carriages as you ride along the park.

Lots of street performers can be seen around the park, especially near the popular landmarks, such as the lake.

How to get there?

The Retiro Park is the largest park in Madrid with 1.4 square kilometers large surface. If you choose to get to the park using metro, line 2 is the best way to go, with Retiro and Ibiza being the closest metro stops.

On the other hand, if you choose to use the public buses to get to the park, there are several lines that have stops somewhere around the Retiro Park. The bus numbers that have a stop here include: 1, 2, 9, 14, 15, 19, 20, 26, 28, 32, 51, 52, 61, 63, 74, 146, 152 and 202.