Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of Madrid-area attractions. The Greater Madrid area is
full of attractions for all ages. As Europe's most elevated city (2,120 feet), warm, welcoming
Madrid also is quite compact. Its main north-south artery, Paseo de la Castellana (turning into
Paseo de los Recoletos and Paseo del Prado), links the city's two primary train stations,
Chamartín and Atocha. The oldest quarters are between Paseo del Prado (with fabulous
galleries) and Palacio Real to the west. Modern-day Madrid stretches east into the 19th-century
grid of the Barrio de Salmanca and north through neighborhoods of Chamberi and Chamarti. Midway,
the barrios southeast of Puerta del Sol lead to the Lavapiés district, filled with
restaurants, bars and cafes. The densest concentration of overnight accommodations are around
Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Santa Ana and the barrios of Malasaña and Chueca (for pensiones and
hostales) and along the Gran Vía (for hotels). The section of Madrid worthy of culinary
exploration is in the center, between the Royal Palace and midtown forest, the Parque del Buen
Retiro. No other European capital has a city center so congested so late into the night,
as though city ordinances demand that no one retire for slumber too early. Madrid restaurants,
eateries and bars provide a kaleidoscope of nocturnal revelry. Despite ambitious modernization
programs in the works, Madrid residents take pride in knowing their city remains refreshingly
distinct from Paris, London, Rome, or other capitals.
Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the Madrid Metropolitan Area,
with links to more details when available.
- Army Museum
Arms-and-armor aficionados gravitate to this entertaining collection on the so-called museum mile. Among thousands of items displayed are suits of armor, unusual pistols, a cross carried by Christopher Columbus and a sword believed to have been El Cid's.
Mendez Nunez 1, Madrid. Call (91) 522-8977 for more information.
- Botanical Garden
Just south of the Prado, the Jardin Botanico provides a relaxing respite from museum touring. Grounds are embellished with plants, flowers and cacti from around the world gathered under direction of King Carlos III.
Garden / Arboretum, Park Retiro. Call (91) 420-3017 for more information.
- Casa de America
As a cultural center and art gallery, Casa de America focuses on Latin America. The casa within the Palacio de Linares is said to be haunted by its builder, who made a fortune in the New World and returned to a life involving disturbing deaths.
Paseo de Recoletos 2. Call (91) 595-4800 for more information.
- Church of San Nicolas
The red brick tower of the Church of San Nicolas is one of the oldest buildings in Madrid, possibly built as part of an Arab mosque. Others believe it was built after the Christian conquest of 1085. Brickwork and horseshoe arches indicate it was crafted by either Moorish workers or Spaniards. Exhibits inside detail the Islamic history of early Madrid.
Plaza San Nicolas. Call (91) 559-4064 for more information.
- Museum of Archaeology
Sharing a neoclassical building with the National Library, the Museum of Archaeology's big attraction is a replica of prehistoric café paintings found underground in Altamira and Cantabria, where access is quite restricted.
Calle Serrano 13. Call (91) 577-7912 for more information.
- The Prado Museum
The Prado, Madrid's chief attraction, was commissioned in 1785 by King Carlos III as a natural science museum. By completion in 1819, emphasis had shifted to art gathered by royalty since the era of Ferdinand and Isabella. Works of Spanish masters Goya, Valazquez and El Greco are here along with masterpieces of Flemish and Italian artists.
Paseo del Prada. Call (91) 420-3662 for more information.
- Queen Sofia Art Center
Madrid's modern art museum, often called the Sofidu after the Pompidou modern art center in Paris, showcases Picasso's famous Guernica, depicting the horror of 1937 Nazi bombing of the Basque town of Guernica. Also on display are major Cubist and Surrealist works including Salvador Dali's The Great Masturbator (1929), and The Enigma of Hitler (1939).
Santa Isabel 52. Call (91) 467-5062 for more information.
- Plaza Santa Ana
As the center of Madrid's thriving nightlife, Plaza Santa Ana is also the heart of the theater district. A statue of playwright Pedro Calderon de la Barca is on a base depicting scenes from his works.
Plaza Santa Ana.
- Plaza Mayor
Lined with bars and eateries with abundant tapas, the Plaza Mayor is a fine place for coffee breaks, lunch or early evening drinks when touring. Friendly pigeons scout for crumbs.
- Royal Palace
Opulence reigns within the 2,800 Royal Palace rooms where a two-hour guided tour winds along for more than a mile of gilded splendor. Highlights include King Carlos III's private Rococo décor apartments, the grand throne room and
the banquet hall seating up to 140 for state dinners. The royal library has a first edition of Cervantes' Don Quixote, the royal music museum has five stringed instruments by Stradivarius, and the royal pharmacy has vials and flasks used for the king's medications.
Calle Bailen. Call (91) 559-7404 for more information.
- Royal Tapestry Factory
Operating continuously since 1721, the Royal Tapestry Factory crafts rugs and tapestries for Spain's royals. Both modern methods and traditional tapestry-making techniques are showcased alongside an exhibit of tapestries created through the years representing what is on display at palaces throughout Spain.
Fuenterrabia 2. Call (91) 551-3400 for more information.
- Taberna de Antonio Sanchez
As Madrid's oldest tavern, looking much as it did when opening in 1830, the Antonio Sanchez has dark walls lined with bullfighting paintings, a zinc bar and a pulley system for hoisting wine casks from the cellar. Meals are served in a rear dining room, with bull's tail stew among specialties.
Meson de Paredes 13. Call (91) 539-7826 for more information.
- Thyssen Museum
As the newest of Madrid's three major art centers, the Thyssen's collection of 800 paintings traces the history of Western art. Showcased are examples from 13th century Italian Gothic through 20th century American Pop. Works were assembled by Swiss industrialist Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and his father. In 1993, the baron, urged on by his wife (a former Miss Spain), gave the collection to Spain.
Paseo del Prado. Call (91) 330-2800 for more information.