Things to Do in Madrid - page 3
There isn’t much that’s more Spanish than bullfighting, and visitors to the country are often curious about the gory, controversial sport. What better place to learn and form your own opinion than in the country’s national Bullfighting Museum (Museo Taurino de Madrid), which features a collection of memorabilia and works to tell the story of bullfighting in Spain. Arranged chronologically, there is a variety of art — sculptures, drawings, paintings, and portraits of bullfighters, as well as matador costumes. Perhaps the most famous bullfighting outfit is the ‘traje de luces’ or suit of lights, and the museum has one worn by bullfighting legend Manolete on display.
The museum provides a glimpse into the interesting subculture of bullfighting and its history and tradition. Many of the items shown have been donated by famous figures in bullfighting. Don’t miss the collection of Goya’s depictions of the sport. The museum is set within the largest bullring in Spain.
Though visitors find a numerous gardens and parks in Madrid, the Royal Botanic Garden (Real Jardín Botánico) is a standout horticultural achievement. The garden features 6,000 diverse plant species, and covers about 20 acres (8.1 hectares). Conveniently-located near the Prado Museum, the garden is a perfect stop after a day in the galleries.
Círculo de Bellas Artes (CBA), a private cultural non-profit in Madrid, has become one of Europe’s most impressive private cultural centers. The center hosts exhibitions, concerts, classes, lectures, film screenings and book readings, but it’s equally popular for its cafe and rooftop restaurant, where you’ll find some of the best views of Madrid.
The organization was founded by a group of artists back in 1888, and the likes of Pablo Picasso and Jacinto Benavente have since passed through its doors. The building itself, designed by Antonio Palacios, was built in 1919 and was later declared a national historic artistic monument.
During Carnival, the center hosts a swanky masked ball — one of Madrid’s fanciest parties.
Just 30 minutes from downtown Madrid, Las Rozas Village is a shopper’s nirvana – a designer outlet village crammed with over 100 shops and boutiques. One of nine Chic Outlet Shopping malls in Europe, Las Rozas Village not only offers an impressive array of luxury brands and local designers, but shoppers can enjoy discounts of up to 60%, plus tax-free shopping for non-E.U residents.
International designers at Las Rozas Village include Armani, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Versace and CH Carolina Herrera, as well as top brands like Diesel, Timberland and Pepe Jeans, jewelry boutiques like Swarovski, and Spanish favorites like Desigual and Custo Barcelona. There’s also a range of cafés and restaurants on-site and a play area for kids.
Once a large slaughterhouse and now a center for the arts, Matadero Madrid was one of the most important architectural transformations for the city in the 20th century. It operates as a living laboratory for cross-disciplinary artistic forms, pushing the boundary of culture and creativity while honoring the structure of the past.
The city has transformed one of its largest agricultural markets into a center for the arts. Ranging from music and drama to dance and theater, it encourages experimentation and alternative forms of expression and creation. Its facilities (stages rehearsal rooms, and classrooms) are open and available to all artists.
Frequent exhibitions of the best in modern fashion, design, cinema and literature make this series of open and covered spaces one of the most fascinating cultural spots in Madrid. Some consider it to be one of the most important contemporary art centers in all of Europe.
The Sorolla Museum (Museo Sorolla)—where artist Joaquín Sorolla lived and worked until his death—offers arts enthusiasts a personal experience of the Impressionist's work. The museum not only features his vibrant paintings, but also memorializes his life. Find personal effects, correspondence, and a studio preserved down to his easels and brushes.
You may recall, as a child, losing one of your teeth and waiting for the Tooth Fairy to visit. In Spain, the Tooth Fairy isn’t a fairy at all—it's a small mouse, and his name is Raton Perez.
The story of Raton Perez was created in the 19th century by Friar and Royal Counselor Luis Coloma as a fable for the young King Alfonso XIII. The story tells of the small mouse who lives with his family in a biscuit tin and leaves money for kids after they lose a tooth. The fable tells of Raton Perez not only visiting the palace of the king but of all kids, including those in poorer neighborhoods.
Today, kids and adults alike can visit the House Museum of Mouse Perez (Casa Museo de Ratón Pérez), as described in the story, and learn about this Spanish children’s tradition. In addition to touring the home of Mouse Perez, you can view the milk teeth of famous figures such as Beethoven, Beatrix Potter, and Isaac Newton.
A day of theme park adventure is right at your fingertips while visiting Spain’s capital Madrid. Situated just a short Metro trip (or even sky-high cable car ride!) away from the center, the Madrid Amusement Park (Parque de Atracciones de Madrid) offers an abundance of theme park entertainment spread out across various zones.
Attractions vary from roller coasters to more youngster-friendly rides such as those found in the Nickelodeon Zone, where kids will also have the chance to meet many of their favorite cartoon characters. Meanwhile, during hotter months plan to cool off and get soaked on the park’s water rides, which are located in the Nature Zone. Though lines are usually rather quick, come summertime you may wish to head to the biggest rides (think: Tarantula and its swiveling seats) early in the day to avoid long wait times.
To get a bird’s eye view of Madrid, hop aboard the Madrid Teleférico (Teleférico de Madrid), a popular cable car that’s been ferrying passengers to and from Casa de Campo park since 1969. During it’s 1.5-mile (2.5-kilometer) journey — it lasts about 10 minutes — the cable car passes over the Manzanares River and offers views of many iconic Madrid sites, including Plaza de España, Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, Parque del Oeste and the Chapel of San Antonio de la Florida.
At Casa de Campo Park at the top of the cable car, visitors will find a restaurant and terrace affording some of the best panoramic views anywhere in Madrid. The restaurant serves typical Spanish fare, including paella and sangria.
The recently-restored Hermitage of San Antonio de la Florida lies a little off the beaten path but is well worth the detour. Neighbored by a more recent chapel, the original Hermitage is now a museum dedicated to the Francisco Goya frescoes within. Painted over the course of six months and depicting the life of a single saint, they’re true scene-stealers.
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Plaza de la Independencia (also known as Independence Plaza) is one of the most popular and busiest squares in Madrid and one of the most important symbols of the city. Opened in 1778 during the reign of King Carlos III, the plaza is found at the intersection of several major streets: Calle de Alcala, Calle de Alfonso XII, Calle de Serrano, Calle de Salustiano Olozaga and Paseo de Mexico. Standing at the center of the square is the Puerta de Alcala, a neo-Classical monument built in the 18th century. The huge monument consisting of several arches replaced a smaller city gate from the 16th century and functioned as the main entrance to the city.
Designed by architect Francesco Sabatini, the current shape of the square dated back to 1869 and it is surrounded by buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 2001, several gardens were added to the square and lights were added to the Puerta de Alcala, all in honor of Madrid being named the World Book Capital. In 2010, nearly 100,000 people packed the square for the MTV Europe Music Awards.
Casino Gran Vía, situated on Madrid’s boulevard of the same name, occupies a grand three-story building, formerly the Commercial and Industrial Union building, outfitted with marble staircases, chandeliers and a wide atrium covered in stained glass. Visitors will find three floors dedicated to gaming — everything from table games like American Roulette, poker and black jack to slot machines and electronic roulette machines.
Casino Gran Via is also home to three bars, including the luxe Bulle Champagne Bar, and the Circulo Mercantil Restaurant, serving upscale seasonal cuisine. Live music sets the mood nightly.
Once a seasonal home and hunting lodge for the royal family of Spain, the Royal Palace of El Pardo (Palacio Real de El Pardo) is an ornate palace that dates back to the 15th century when its construction was ordered by King Enrique III of Castile. Its location was initially selected due to the amount of wildlife suitable for hunting in the nearby woods. It was expanded and transformed in the 16th century by architect Luis de Vega, lost in part to a fire shortly thereafter and then repeatedly renovated again in the 18th century by Carlos III. The structure doubled in size during its most recent renovation in the 20th century.
The interior is decorated with chandelier lighting as well as frescoes, tapestries, and paintings by Spanish artists. There is also original 18th century furniture still being used. General Francisco Franco famously lived here after the Spanish Civil War. Today it functions a residence for visiting heads of state. Elegant manicured gardens and small fountains line the entrance to the palace.
Mapfre Foundation (Fundación Mapfre)—a private charitable organization headquartered in Madrid—has been hosting cultural exhibitions within a beautiful nineteenth century building, designed by Agustín Ortiz de Villajos, since 1989. These rotating events vary in topic and medium but focus heavily on the period beginning in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Past exhibitions have covered topics like color in the avant-garde movement, impressionism and realism, the diversity of artistic expression, collage and contemporary modern art.
One of central Madrid’s two royal monasteries, the 17th-century Royal Monastery of the Incarnation (Real Monasterio de la Encarnación) was built by Queen Margaret of Austria, and has become a primary example of Spanish Baroque architecture and an important sacred site in Spain. The monastery once operated as a convent for women mostly from royal families, and is decorated as such. The structure still belongs to the closed order of Recolet Augustines, but remains open to public by the Spanish government.
The monastery’s main chapel features frescoed ceilings painted by Francisco Bayeu, a cloister, and a main altar by Vincenzo Carducci. Various paintings and sculptures dot the interior. Many come to see what perhaps the royal monastery is best known for: its relic. a sacred orb said to contain the blood of Saint Pantaleon. It is believed to turn to liquid each year on July 26 on the eve of his feast day. Other relics housed in gold and silver are also on display.
Thirty years ago Hard Rock Café shirts from far-flung cities ranked high on every globetrotter’s list of the most coveted travel souvenirs. Three decades later, those shirts carry a bit less clout, but a trip to Hard Rock Café still holds the same magic it once did—particularly in Madrid.
Visitors to this city landmark can experience the ultimate entertainment trifecta—part restaurant, part club, part museum—and all a seriously good time. With hundreds of artifacts from the international music scene, including a risqué outfit once worn by Madonna and a bass guitar played by Aerosmith, there’s also a bright red jacket worn by Little Richard and a handwritten letter written by John Lennon posted on the restaurant wall.
Travelers can stop in for an all-American meal of burgers and fries, explore displays of authentic music paraphernalia, catch a live concert (if the timing is right) or just pop in the shop to collect yet another Hard Rock Café shirt. Because it may be 30 years later, but some rock and roll classics never go out of style.
The Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas is home to the Rayo de Vallecano de Madrid football club. Opened 1976, it holds just more than 14,000 spectators. The stadium originally held more than 20,000, but the capacity decreased when standing areas were eliminated and replaced by seating in 1996. Located on Avenida de la Albufera in a densely populated neighborhood in the Vallecas district of Madrid, the stadium is tightly surrounded by apartment buildings. As a result, it only has stands on the three sides of the stadium, with the eastern side having only a wall with advertising. This configuration is unique among top level Spanish football stadiums and creates an intimate and intimidating atmosphere.
The stadium has also hosted major musical performers over the years, including Bob Dylan, Queen and Metallica.
Spain has a rich naval history dating back to Catholic monarchs and the famous Spanish Armada. From early explorers to key naval battles, and even to Columbus’ discovery of America, much of Spanish naval history is also monumental world history. The country’s maritime legacy is on display at the Madrid Naval Museum (Museo Naval de Madrid), tucked away behind a sleek facade in the middle of downtown Madrid.
There are several rooms to explore with over 10,000 museum pieces on display, presented in chronological order. Visitors can see historic navigation instruments, paintings, charts, naval weapons, and even pieces of old ships. The collection also features artifacts from the historic Battle of Trafalgar.
A large map wall shows all of the maritime journeys of Spain from the 15th to the 18th century. Perhaps the highlight of the collection is the Juan de la Cosa map, which is the oldest known preserved map of the Americas.
A visit to Madrid’s Royal Tapestry Factory (Real Fábrica de Tapices) is like stepping back in time, exploring the rich cultural history of the exquisite carpets, tapestries, and appliqués dating from the 16th century. Founded by Philip V in 1720, it was one of many mercantile projects created to keep luxury goods in Madrid. Painter Francisco Goya was commissioned to provide several designs for now famous tapestries. Most on the tapestries still on display here are based on his work.
The museum also goes into deep detail about the history of the factory as well as the intricate process of making each tapestry by hand. Woven with a combination of silk and wool, it can take skilled workers thousands of hours to finish an individual tapestry. Present-day conservation and maintenance processes are also demonstrated. If you’re lucky, you may even see a team in the process of creating a new tapestry.
Madrid's Geomineral Museum (Museo Geominero) has nearly 10,000 rare fossils, minerals, corals and rocks on display. First commissioned by Queen Isabella in the 19th century, today it is run by the Spanish Institute of Geology and Mining as a public research facility. The museum features the mining history and geological heritage of Spain. Important figures in geology and paleontology contributed many of the exhibited items.
Museum curators organized the various materials into six collections, which include foreign fossils, mineral resources, minerals from the autonomous regions, Spanish flora and fossil invertebrates, systematic minerals, and fossil vertebrates. Samples come from both Spain and from around the world. Though English is available in some areas, many of the educational signage and exhibits are only in Spanish. The collection is housed in many large cases, and the beautiful interior of the museum is worth a visit alone.
Spain has always been known for its naval history and accomplishments, from military to exploration. The Museo de Falúas Reales, in Aranjuez, showcases several large barges used by the royal family to navigate the Tagus River. The ships utilized by Spanish royalty, ornately decorated royal feluccas, can be seen just outside of the Spanish capital at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aranjuez. Visitors can view the boats of Charles IV, Ferdinand VII and Elizabeth II, as well as a beautiful gondola that once belonged to King Philip V.
The long, narrow boats are gloriously detailed and were used in ports and on rivers. Most date back to the 17th century. There are also small historic items and old photographs of the era, marking a fascinating glimpse back in time. Be sure to explore the expansive royal gardens that surround the museum.
The Museum of the Americas (Museo de América) brings together pieces of history and culture from across the American continents, including collections of prehistoric, colonial, and ethnographic items. This Madrid museum presents a range of artifacts — from pre-Columbus Peru and Guatemala to contemporary indigenous cultures from the coast of North America. Together the exhibits aim to tell the story of the Americas over 12,000 years of history, from anthropology to religion to arts. Many of the historic items were brought back to Spain from explorers who left for the continents in search of gold, and the majority of the artifacts are from South America. Permanent exhibitions are organized into five categories or themes: awareness of America, reality of America, society, religion, and communication. A few items are particular note are the Viracocha head and the Quimbayas Treasure, and the Tudela codex which details the Aztec code of law from the 16th century. Together the artifacts show the evolution of human life on the American continents as well as the imperialism of Spain.
Detailing the history of aviation in Spain, the Museo del Aire allows visitors to explore seven hangars and six galleries in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Exhibitions include retired aircraft (about 150 in total), some of which were used by the Spanish Air Force. The site of the museum at Cuatro Vientos Airport is historically Spain’s first military airfield. Opened in 1911, it remains in use today. In addition to planes and helicopters, the museum has aircraft models and the uniforms, parts, and equipment utilized by pilots on display, as well as historic photographs and paintings. Aircraft includes the Vilanova Acedo, the Spanish version of the Blériot XI as well as the Jesus del Gran Poder, which was used on a transatlantic flight from America to Asia in 1928. Both early planes and bombers used in major wars can be seen. The majority of the planes on display were used at some point in the Spanish military.
Andén Cero offers visitors to Madrid the chance to experience travel at the time of the inauguration of the Madrid metro in 1918, when many major European cities were first opening these types of public transportation. The station where Andén Cero is located has been out of service since 1966, when its location rendered in unable to expand to accommodate more passengers. Now it is home to a transportation museum that tells the history of the metro system in Madrid, including original ceramic tiled billboards, antique furniture, and hand-painted metro maps.
A visit to the abandoned station is almost like a visit back in time, complete with a vintage ticket counter and signs that evoke a sense of nostalgia. There are also various informational displays that tell the story of the metro and the history of the city.
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