The 9 Essential Madrid Sights for Art and History Lovers
Go beyond sports and Mediterranean cuisine. Madrid is a top destination for art and history enthusiasts, too.
Spain’s capital city is elegant, expansive, and very busy 24/7. It also holds some of the largest collections of European art and weaponry. And there are many museums, historic landmarks, and other repositories that you can visit. When you’re tired of taking in Spanish history, the scenic parks await.
Check out some of the most popular tourist attractions in Madrid.
1. Tour the Prado Museum
What is Madrid known for? It’s many museums, one of the most famous being the Prado Museum. It opened in 1819 and now features over 2,000 paintings and hundreds of sculptures. And the exhibits have Spanish, Italian, and Flemish artist signatures.
It’s also one of the busiest museums in all of Spain. So, make sure you get your ticket early in the day. But if you’re on a tight budget, you can try to get in for free during the last two hours of the schedule.
It’s truly one of the essential Madrid sights for art and history lovers.
2. Visit the Royal Palace and Gardens
Sometimes referred to as the Spanish Versailles, it’s a royal court with impressive statues and lavish gardens. You can even take your own photos of the statues of Spanish kings and visit the apartments of King Charles the Third.
It has breathtaking interiors and features just about everything you could think of – from marble flooring and silk wall hangings to chandeliers and famous paintings. The palace walls feature works made by the likes of Goya, Rubens, Caravaggio, and other masterful artists.
The Royal Armory is also a nice stop for history buffs. The 3,000 exhibits tell the story of the Spanish military. And some of these pieces date back to the 16th century.
3. Stand in the Puerta del Sol
You can’t go to Madrid without standing in the heart of the city. It’s a big town square that acts as a central hub of transportation and occupies a unique position. That’s in reference to the sun.
But this is not just a place with gorgeous architecture and geography.
It’s also the site of many historic events. The most important being the site of where Spain made a stand against Napoleon in 1808. And it’s also the site of the Second Republic proclamation of 1931.
Aside from being rich in history, it’s known to be lively both day and night. It’s also a great place to grab something to eat or drink. And if you’re interested in the local nightlife, in and around the square are some of the hottest locales in the city.
4. Grab Your Dose of Contemporary Art
The Contemporary Art Museum is a must-see if you’re looking for something more modern. It opened in 1986, making it one of the newer, and yet highly popular, museums in the world.
It’s where you can also see the works of Picasso and Salvador Dali, among many other famous artists. The building itself has three glass towers around the elevators and a beautiful garden in its courtyard that has a variety of quirky sculptures.
The exhibit occupies over nine acres. It will take you a while to take it all in, but there are also a cafeteria and a restaurant for when you need a break.
5. Visit Spain’s Egyptian Monument
The Temple of Debod is a gift from Egypt to Spain back in 1968. It’s an ancient temple located in La Montana Park and is one of the city’s most intriguing spots.
The temple has original decorations, peaceful gardens surrounding it, and impressive shrines. A visit here’s considered as one of the most unique things to do in Madrid.
6. Tour the Archaeological Museum
Visiting the Archaeological Museum is a must if you want to learn more about Spain’s history. In fact, it has an impressive collection of artifacts that predate the Romans.
Here you’ll find pieces over 2,500 years old that still look amazing and even almost new. The restoration and preservation work on this collection is most impressive and, as an art lover or history enthusiast, you won’t want to miss it.
7. Step Into the Oasis of Buen Retiro Park
This park offers 296 acres of lush scenery away from the busy streets. While the park is still part of the town, it acts as an oasis for those seeking peace and quiet and clean air.
It’s also one of the most elegant public parks you’ll see, as the park has many fountains and reflecting pools. From time to time, you can even catch an art exhibit right here. Like any other park, you can also relax in shade here or drink a cup of coffee at an open-air café.
And for nighttime travelers, the park’s historic observatory is the place to be on a clear night.
8. Experience Street Performances at the Plaza Mayor
Madrid is a hotspot for art lovers from around the world, but it doesn’t just offer museum exhibits. There are also some lively spots that are a must-visit.
The Plaza Mayor is a large open square that’s thriving with life. It’s also convenient, as there are many cafes where you can sit down and watch street performers. It’s also a great place to visit when on holiday if you want to sample holiday markets.
The place definitely has a touristy vibe to it. Yet it has an authentic ambiance that offers a unique experience. It even comes with a guided walking tour where you can learn about the history of the square from 1617 to the present.
9. Visit the Old Royal Hunting Grounds
What was once the Spanish hunting grounds for the royal family is now a great park to spend time with the kids. When you’re done taking in the scenery, architecture, and works of art, you’ll want to stop here for a while.
For starters, you can go on a walk and have a picnic. But you can also go kayaking on the lake or hop on one of the dozens of theme park rides. Casa de Campo is also home to the Zoo Aquarium where you’ll find a dolphin show, giant pandas, and many other unique displays.
Visit One of the Best Places to Live in the World
Madrid has a lot to offer for tourists of all ages. While many may see it as a destination for sports fans, perhaps even more people visit for its many art, history, and architectural gems.
This city is teeming with life and gorgeous exhibits and it’s worth a longer stay.