• Vicki Scheck

Why I Love Madrid

Crystal Palace, Retiro Park, Madrid

When a good friend told me that she thought Madrid was the most beautiful city she’d ever seen—and she'd seen a lot of them around the world—that was all I needed to hear. And it certainly did not disappoint.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen more fountains in one city. Here, there are matching ones on either side of the street.

Some of the not-to-be-missed sites of this city are the Prado Museum, the Royal Palace and Retiro Park. In addition, visitors will want to spend some time just walking around, sampling tapas, and maybe taking in a flamenco performance.

Retiro Park

On the first day of our trip, we spent a few hours combatting jet lag in the sunshine of Retiro Park.

Notice the crown at the top of the gate. Originally, Buen Retiro Park (“Park of the Pleasant Retreat”) was only available to royalty, but in the 19th century King Charles III opened it to the public—so long as visitors were “clean and well-dressed.”

Incredibly beautiful, it is 350 acres of gardens, lake, monuments and sculpture.

In addition to its natural and architectural beauty, Retiro Park is a ‘feel-good’ place, full of street musicians, parents pushing prams, and little blue-bottomed boats floating across a manmade lake.

Del Prado Museum

Madrid’s Prado Museum is considered one of the greatest art museums in the world, and undoubtedly has the best collection of Spanish art.

One of my favorite paintings there was Vicente López’s wedding portrait, “María Christina de Borbon, Queen of Spain.” It was especially López’s treatment of the jewels, embroidery and lace that had me mesmerized.

Palacio Real (Royal Palace)

Reputedly the largest palace in Europe, at 1,450,000 square feet, Palacio Real is not to be missed. Built to impress, you really cannot even imagine its wow-power. (Seriously, I think I said "wow" on entering nearly every room.) In addition to its décor, music lovers might be interested in seeing the world’s only complete Stradivarius string quintet.

Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas

The Neo-Mudéjar (Moorish)-style Las Ventas Bullring has been called an architectural wonder. The arena has hosted concerts—including The Beatles, Diana Ross and Coldplay—as well as other sporting and theatrical events. And, of course, there are bullfights.

Shown above is a statue of a matador named Yiyo, who in 1985 enjoyed a moment's triumph over the bull. (Note the sword in the bull’s back). But alas, that proved to be a fatal error in judgement. The bull rose up and gored him, and they both died within seconds of each other.

Out and About in Madrid

Not all architecture in the city is Mudéjar, however. The building below is reflective of much of what we saw. Madrid really is a beautiful city.

It is also a very walkable city—and you never know what you’re going to see. Here is a sampling.

If you find that you need some positive reinforcement while out and about (and who doesn't?), San Ginés comes highly recommended for its churros and dipping chocolate. Word to the wise: we suggest splitting an order!

Before dinner we had a group flamenco dancing lesson at Villa Rosa. Much better to watch the professionals do it!

When it was time to move on to the next stop, we left on a high-speed train from the Atocha Train Station. In designing the wrought-iron renewal-style station, the architect collaborated with Gustave Eiffel (whose last name may ring a bell).

Certainly neither of those men was responsible for the current décor of the ladies’ restroom, where each stall was different from the next. You almost don’t mind parting with your hard-earned admission euro when there’s this much creativity and humor in the loos!

Next time: the ScheckTrek Pick for hotel in Madrid.

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