Madrid is a bustling, colorful and vibrant city! And if you go in the summertime it is also extremely hot! There are many reasons I enjoyed my visit to this city, the best paella I have ever had, the long summer days including eating outside in daylight at 9 pm, and the wide variety of sites to visit and explore. If you are going to Madrid, here are the top 5 places you must visit during your trip.
1) Museo Nacional del Prado. If you are an art lover you will get lost in this historic museum for hours! It is located in the central Madrid and is known as one of the best art museums in the world and houses the most extensive Spanish art collection dating back to the 12th century. You can view works of art by Diego Velazquez, El Greco and Francisco de Goya. Do not not miss the most famous piece there called “Las Meninas” by Velazquez.
2) Plaza Mayor de Madrid. So large and so impressive this rectangular plaza was built in 1598 by King Philip III. His statue is in the center of the rectangle and is surrounded by residential buildings with balconies facing the plaza. Take some time to stroll through the many shops and restaurants. It is the scene for markets and local soccer games and in the past it has also been used for bullfights and executions during the Spanish Inquisition.
3) Puerto del Sol. Puerto del Sol means “gate of the sun” and this square holds many national landmarks that are great for tourists. There is a statue of Charles III of Spain, the clock that tolls 12 times for the eating of the Twelve Grapes at New Years, which the Spanish believe leads to prosperity. My favorite was the statue of the bear and a madrone tree which is a symbol of Madrid. It is said that Madrid used to have a large number of bears roaming around in the adjacent forests which contained the madrone trees.
4) Buen Retiro Park. This park is full of acres and acres of lush greenery, statues, fountains and people taking siestas! I saw people dressed in casual AND work clothes under the trees in the park taking a nap or siesta. Take a few hours to explore this park that once was owned by the Spanish monarchy but became public in the 19th century. There is a rose garden, the Salon de Reinos which is a small museum and the Palacio de Cristal which is a glass pavilion.
5) The Chueca Area. This is a lively hip area with shops, restaurants and a great nightlife! I had a blast in a club here and highly recommend doing this at least one night while you are in Madrid. It also a popular area for the LGBT community in Madrid.
I hope this lists enhances your experience in this amazing city!