WHAT I DID IN MADRID.

After 2 weeks of acquainting myself with Spain, I finally had to say Hasta Luego to España in Madrid. I’ve seen many cosmopolitan cities in Europe, but only a few have left me as quite enamoured as Barcelona and Madrid. Even though Barcelona outshines Madrid with Gaudi’s art nouveau aesthetics and touristic appeal, I simply couldn’t bring myself to leave Spain’s capital out of my itinerary.

 

Madrid defines the modern day Spain. The city brims with a vibrant vivacity. The streets abound with captivating edifices. It’s easy to get around Madrid with its excellent metro system. But you could walk around and explore the REAL Madrid, taking in the photogenic sights from afar for free and enjoying some Churros Con Chocolate en route. I only had 48 hours with Madrid, but it didn’t take me that long to fall in love with its charm and fellow Madrileños.

 

This is what I did in Madrid.

 

 

Puerta del Sol.

 

I began my city walk from La Puerta del Sol (The Gate of the Sun). This historic hemisphere is the centre of country’s radial network of roads (km0.) In Spain, all roads lead to Madrid. La Puerta del Sol is also the home to the official symbol of Madrid, ‘El Oso y El Madroño’. This twenty-ton statue depicts a giant bear eating fruits from a tree. It’s believed that the female bear symbolises the fertile soil of Madrid and the berry tree symbolises the aristocracy.

 

 

Plaza de Cibeles

 

At the intersection of Calle de Alcalá, you’ll find the grand Plaza de la Cibeles, a roundabout surrounded by some of Madrid’s iconic buildings including the monumental Cibeles Fountain. Cybele is the Greek goddess of fertility. At the heart of the square, the colossal white facade of Palacio de Cibeles stands in all its Gothic splendour to distract the tourists. This notable building, which once served as the headquarters for the postal service, became the City Hall of Madrid in 2007.

 

 

Gran Vía

 

Calle Grand Via in central Madrid is happening and highly entertaining. ‘The Great Road‘ stretches from Plaza de España to the iconic Beaux-Arts Metropolis, connecting many popular neighbourhoods of the city. A stroll along this luxurious street won’t cost you a penny unless you get an urge to splurge on a shopping excursion. This teeming thoroughfare is lined with popular Spanish clothing boutiques, cafés and restaurants. While you immerse yourself in a photo walk, admiring the elegance of early 20th-century architecture along Gran Via, look for the Schweppes logo and stop by Plaza Callao. If Gran Via is Spain’s Broadway, Callao can be considered as the Time Square where Madrid’s cinematic and theatrical scene thrives day and night.

 

 

Parque del Retiro.

 

If you need a place to disappear from the bustle of the city, head to Buen Retiro Park, located very close to the Puerta de Alcalá.  ‘Parque del Retiro’ literally means “Park of the Pleasant Retreat” in Spanish. The park belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century and was reopened to the public with various recreational activities, art galleries and gardens. There are 350 acres to explore in this glorious Green Oasis. Rent a horse carriage or paddle a rowboat in El Retiro’s artificial lake. You can lay your picnic blanket on the grass and simply enjoy the sunshine with banjo sounds playing in the romantic background. El Palacio de Cristal in Retiro Park caught my fancy at first sight. This crystal palace is made almost entirely glass and iron framework. The brick base is decorated with ornate ceramic art. This greenhouse originally contained exotic plants from the Philippines but is now used for exhibitions hosted by the popular art museum Reina Sofia. Crystal Palace can still be visited by anyone without a fee. Admire the natural vistas through the vitrine while you relish in the artefacts inside.

 

 

Plaza de España

 

Plaza de España in Madrid is located in one of the busiest traffic intersections, at the western end of the Gran Vía Street. Adjacent to the plaza, two of the city’s largest skyscrapers (dating from the 1950s) Torre de Madrid and Edificio España loom above the urban sprawl of the city.  In the centre of the square are a large fountain and a monument of Cervantes, a great figure of Spanish literature known for writing “Don Quixote”. Around the bronze equestrian Statue of Don Quijote de La Mancha and Sancho Panza, there are many relaxing spots for the pedestrians who need a contemplative moment over coffee after a long, tiring day.

 

 

Plaza Mayor

 

After a long from Plaza De Espana, I reached Plaza Mayor, the main square of Madrid. It was big, bold and beautiful. The sun was setting and the colourful façade of frescos were saturating with golden hues. The oldest restaurant in the world, Sobrino de Botin is located in the Plaza Mayor. This grand arcaded square has been the centre of festivities, theatrical performances, bullfights, royal coronations and public executions. Today, this open space is an epicentre of Madrid life where you can watch the square abuzz with life.

 

 

 

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