Madrid: A Cultural Hub

Madrid is a beautiful, diverse and cultural hub of Spain and is a perfectly accessible city for short breaks. The city is only a short flight away and you can be exploring the city in an hour of arrival in the country. Madrid is a small, buzzing city with so much to offer and there are more than a few must-dos if you’re planning a trip to Madrid.

The heart of the city lies in the Plaza Mayor and the surrounding streets with its beautiful architecture epitomising the Spanish baroque. The winding streets are buzzing with street performers, especially around the Plaza, and there is an abundance of places to grab Tapas whilst on the move. If you are looking for a more relaxed approach of exploring the city, by wandering the streets you will stumble across a few cultural gems. In the literary quarter you can find the homes of a few of the Spanish literary greats such as Lopa de Vega and Calderón de la Barca.

If you are an art enthusiast, Madrid houses some of the world’s greatest masterpieces in the Museo Nacional Del Prado and the Reina Sofia. Both are free with a valid student card. Prado is home to 50 of the 140 Diego Velazquez paintings and has an entire floor dedicated to the works of Francisco Goya. If you are more interested in the period of surrealism, the Reina Sofia is home to works of Salvador Dalí and the 20th century’s most famous painting, Picasso’s ‘Guernica’. Another outing that will take a few hours is delving into the history of the Palacio Real on the North side of the city. The palace, in terms of the building itself, is the largest in Europe and has some exquisite interior decor and beautifully furnished rooms that are still used for functions and banquets hosted by King Philipe today.

The weather in Madrid is perfect at this time of year and can be enjoyed in some of the cities parks in which you can relax in the Mediterranean sun. The Parque del Retiro, which is only a short walk from the Prado Museum is a must visit. You can rent a rowing boat for six euros and enjoy floating around and sunbathing on the lake. Retiro park is the perfect place to feel guiltlessly lethargic! The Botanical Gardens are also some to be admired, located at Plaza de Murillo, with its beautiful symmetrical pathways leading to the attractive library and archive at the centre of the garden. However, my personal favourite afternoon excursion was a walk to Casa de Campo just north of the Palace.

Walking in the Spanish heat can be exhausting, so alternatively there is the metro system which can take you straight to the outskirts of the park. Casa de Campo differs from the other parks of Madrid as it contains winding trails through woodland, rather than typical luscious green space. The most appealing element of this park is the great outdoor pool; entry is only three euros and the pool is fantastic for an afternoon of relaxation. A further bonus about Casa de Campo is the cable car that leaves from the centre of the park and carries you over the city with a fantastic view of the woodland and of the city skyline. It is a great way to see the city from a bird's eye view and saves the half an hour walk back to the city centre. The cable car drops you off in Parque de Oeste, which is around a ten minute walk to the palace. If timings suit, I would recommend going to Parque de Oeste in the evening, for then you will see the sunset behind the amazing Egyptian Temple Depod which is in the heart of the park and is well worth a visit.   

Madrid has plenty of great places to eat and drink, whether it be a quick Tapas stop, or if you want to indulge in their favourite cultural dish of paella. If you want to gain the true cultural experience, I would steer clear of the places in the Plaza de Mayor, simply because they are more pricey and are more popular in terms of a tourist destination. A must visit is the world-famous choclateria San Gines, just off Arénal street, there is a great atmosphere as you sit on the little bustling side street enjoying some of the most delicious churros. Other exciting cultural stop off’s include the Mercado de San Miguel and the Mercado de Jamon, where you can truly emerge yourself in the Spanish cuisine.

Madrid may be a small city but will not fail to deliver; the weather is stunning and the food is great, so what is not to like? Four days is a perfect amount of time to lose yourself in Spanish culture and to embrace what the Spanish capital has to offer. If you manage to visit the attractions listed above, without a doubt you will have got the best out of your four days in Madrid.

SOURCE: RED BRICK
By Lily Wilde

http://www.redbrick.me/travel/madrid-cultural-hub/

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