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Reasons to Love Madrid
Madrid is the capital of Spain and is its largest city. It is very cosmopolitan and sophisticated, and full of very educated people. It is also the home of the richest people in Spain, many of them aristocrats with titles. There are many reasons that these people choose to live in Madrid.
1. Madrid is the Capital of Art
Madrid stands out in the world as one of its best capitals of art. There is the artistic Golden Triangle that encompasses the Prado, the Thyssen Museum, and the Reina Sofia Museum, all within walking distance of each other. The Prado is the wonderful museum that has some of Spain's most famous art, such as the Meninas of Velazquez, the Clothed and the Naked Majas of Goya, the portraits done by El Greco, the Immaculate Virgins of Murillo, and other art from some of Europe's most famous painters of the past like Rubens. The Thyssen Museum shows the history of art from the 12th century to the modern age, while the Reina Sofia has modern art and its most famous painting is Picasso's Guernica.
Close by is the Caixa-Forum, which always has free exhibitions of great art and architecture. On the Paseo de la Castellana is the Mapfre, which has a large exhibition hall that usually has a free exhibition. There are also the Sorolla Museum and the Lazaro Galdiano Museum. The Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando has an incredibly large art collection. There is a Museum of Decorative Arts, the National Archaeological Museum, the Museum of America, the Museo del Traje, and the Romanticism Museum.
2. Madrid is a City of Palaces
The most famous palace in Madrid is the Palacio Real, with hundreds of paintings, furniture, chandeliers, gilded mirrors, clocks, curtains, carpets, and the Stradivarius Room. The palace also has a museum for its armory, the armor used by past kings like Carlos V and his son Felipe II.
Not so famous is the private Palacio de Linares at the Plaza de Cibeles, which is stunning. Its design and furnishings are incredibly beautiful and come from the 19th century. It was considered the most beautiful residence in Madrid when it was built.
Few people will have the good luck of seeing the Palacio de Liria in Calle Princesa, the residence of the Duchess of Alba, the most famous grandee of Spain. But this Neoclassic palace filled with artwork of Goya and all the other great Spanish painters is an artistic masterpiece, filled with historic furniture and great documents in the library, such as original documents created by Columbus.
The Palace of the Marques de Salamanca was owned by the Marques de Salamanca (who founded the Barrio de Salamanca) and is located on the Paseo de Recoletos and has been restored to perfection. Today it is owned by the BBVA Bank and it holds periodic art exhibitions in this palace.
There are many other palaces near the Paseo de la Castellano that are now the site of government ministries.
At Velazquez, 79, is the Italian Embassy. This was the former Palacio de Amboage, built in 1917 by the architect Joaquin Roji Lopez-Calvo for the Marques de Amboage. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in Madrid, in the Belle Epoque style.
3. Madrid is a City of Churches and Convents
The Cathedral of Almudena is a modernist building that has wonderful modern stained glass windows. Below it is the Crypt, a Neo-Romanesque church that captures the imagination. The Basilica of San Francisco El Grande is a wonderful church with large paintings, plenty of marble and other colored stones, and a jewel from the Neoclassic period. The Ermita of San Antonio de la Florida is Goya's pantheon, and he painted its gorgeous ceiling.
The Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales is where nuns from noble families lived and donated art work to the convent. The Royal Convent of La Encarnacion is similar. The Church of Santa Barbara is full of art and its design is magnificent. Other jewels are the Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha, and the Church of San Manuel and San Benito. The little known Oratorio del Caballero de Gracia is another artistic gem.
4. The Real Fabrica de Tapices
This sight is one of its kind and one can see how they weave the magnificent carpets for the royal palaces and for private use. Craftsmen who are trained for many years are experts in this craft.
5. The Gardens of Madrid
The El Retiro Park is one of its kind. It has a large artificial lake called El Estanque, where people can ride small boats during weekends. The Palace of Velazquez is used to house art exhibitions and its design is Mudejar. The nearby Crystal Palace also is used for art exhibitions. Both palaces have wonderful designs. There is a famous statue called the Fallen Angel, done by the sculptor Ricardo Bellver y Ramon in 1885, and which interprets Milton's Paradise Lost, showing Lucifer falling from heaven. Another famous statue is the Equestrian Monument to General Martinez Campos, done by the sculptor Mariano Benlliure. General Campos led a successful revolution in 1874 against the First Spanish Republic and restored the Bourbon Dynasty.
The Sabatini Gardens beside the Palacio Real have a wonderful design. The Royal Botanic Gardens beside the Prado are laid out in a formal design with geometric patterns and is full of flowers and trees. The Rosales Park contains the Egyptian Temple of Debod. The Campo del Moro is a huge park at the back of the Palacio Real.
6. The Fountains of Madrid
The fountains of Madrid are unforgettable because of their beautiful designs. Foremost among them is the Fountain of Cibeles, which represents Madrid. There are also the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of Apollo. Futbol teams and their supporters go to these fountains to celebrate their victories.
7. Gorgeous Architecture
One can visit the Plaza Mayor and find the perfect symmetry of this plaza, making it the most beautiful plaza in Spain. One can stroll through the Gran Via and find fantastic modernist buildings. One can stroll through the Barrio Salamanca and find palaces and apartment buildings that are masterpieces of design. The wide, tree-lined avenues like the Paseo de la Castellana, the Paseo de Recoletos, and the Paseo del Prado are wonderful streets to stroll through. The Puerta de Alcala used to be the entrance to the city and is a great monument. The Plaza de Colon has a monument to Columbus that recalls the discovery of the Americas by this navigator. The little know Panteon de Hombres Illustres has great sculpture dedicated to many national politicians who have passed away.
8. The Madrid of the Austrias
The Madrid of the Austrias is the old center of the city that was built during the Hapsburg Dynasty. It is a place to be discovered, street by street. The Plaza Mayor is one of its wonderful constructions. Calle Cuchilleros is a street to be explored. There are many stores here that show the traditions of Spain. The bars and restaurants are all unique and are a good place to eat tapas.
9. Wonderful Food
There are hundreds of very good restaurants in Madrid. However two are emblematic:
El Botin (Calle Cuchilleros, 17) is the oldest restaurant in the world and was founded in 1725. The restaurant is famous for its cochinillo, the roasted suckling pig. This restaurant is one of the most visited restaurants by tourists, from presidents to ordinary tourists.
Another great restaurant is Casa Lucio (Cava Baja, 35). This place is famous for its "huevos rotos", which are eggs broken over potatoes. No one ever thought that such a simple dish could be so delicious.
Pastry is one of the things one has to try in Madrid because of its delicious variety, being one of the pastry capitals of the world.
Nuns have been making sweets for hundreds of years, using recipes inherited from the Romans and the Moors. These sweets are exceedingly good and when one buys them, it helps the nuns make a living and keeps a tradition that is hundreds of years old alive.
And last of all there are tapas. There are many suggestions of tapas tours in this forum. Tapas are one of the best inventions of the Spanish.
Few tourists spend enough time in Madrid to see theater, but there is very good theater in Madrid, concentrated on the Gran Via, which is Madrid's Broadway. There are musicals, plays, and flamenco. In fact the best flamenco dancers like Sara Baras perform only in theaters, and not in restaurants.
11. Wonderful Stores
The most sophisticated stores in Spain are found in Madrid, and in great profusion. The Gran Via is filled with many good stores. Calle Serrano and Cally Goya are located in the Barrio of Salamanca and are filled with a large variety of stores, and nearby streets have their enchantments. The nearby Ortega y Gassett is the Rodeo Drive of Spain, filled with the most expensive designer stores. If one cannot find what one wants in these stores, it may not exist. And one does not need to buy anything, because one can just do window shopping. The most beautiful goods produced by man for consumers can be found in these stores. Remember that Spain produces some of the best quality shoes in Europe, as well as other leather goods such as handbags and leather clothing. Jewelry stores have very sophisticated and artistic designs. Madrid also has the best interior design and furniture stores in Spain.
If one comes to visit Spain, Madrid is a place not to be missed. Madrid is a beautiful city filled with many surprises and one really has to take the time to see them all.