Monday, September 3, 2012

Places to go in Madrid, Spain

There are great places to go in Madrid. I will give you the most famous ones. Have a great time!

The Prado Museum

Thanks to Charles III of Spain, 1759-88, Madrid has museums, parks, government buildings on par with Rome, Paris, and London. Hew spared nothing to make this Castilian town equal to those other Western capitals. The Prado Museum was one of those attractions.

This highly-acclaimed art museum is one of the most-visited attractions in Madrid, summoning the attention of lovers of great art from around the world with its expansive collection of a variety of works.

The Villanueva Building

Originally planned as a Natural History Museum, Charles III knew exactly what he wanted. An expansive grand rotunda, a central gallery full of natural light, and a cube-shaped space on either end formed the architectural elements. The facade was designed in the Neo-Classical style.

During the Spanish War of Independence construction stop and the building was used by the Calvary. During the way, a fire destroyed part of the building and much of the original construction supplies were stolen.

After the war, King Ferdinand VII restarted construction on The Prado and 10 years later, the attraction opened its doors as The Royal Museum of Painting and Sculpture.

By the early 1900s, the art collections had outgrown the building and additions were planned. The first addition was made in 1918 and more rooms were added again in the 1950s and 60s. Two additional buildings were added to the Prado Complex, Casón del Buen Retiro and the Palacio de Villahermosa,  finally providing ample room to display the amazing collection.

Retiro Park

Originally built for the Spanish King Phillip IV, the Retiro Park was opened to the general public in the 1800's. Its regal patronage provided for many beautiful buildings. With a facade of glass, the Crystal Palace is one of the most beautiful.

Designed for leisure, the park provides boating, bicycling, picnicking, quiet strolls and just passing the time. Automobiles are not allowed. Street entertainers perform throughout the park and you will find numerous 'terrazas' (open air bars) where you can drink something or enjoy an 'horchata' (made from tiger nuts or almonds). The city provides many special events such as a huge book fair held annually. A little secret - you will find a statue of the 'Angel Caido' - The fallen angel. While you will find statues of Lucifer or the fallen angel in other places such as the Brooklyn Art Museum, this one is said to be the first statue in the world dedicated to a fallen angel.

Royal Palace

With so much talent in Barcelona, it is strange that the royal family turned to 18th century Italian school of architecture, for their palace. In a short 17 years the builders created a masterpiece with over 2000 rooms. The tourist get to see an amazing array of priceless furniture, clocks, tapestries, carpets, porcelains, as well as royal collections of paintings, sculptures and frescoes. Another little secret - housed in the palace you will find a small Armory Museum with a unique display of arms and armor used in Europe during the time of three of its Kings.

Cybele Fountain

A fitting rallying point for Real Madrid soccer fans, the fountain of the goddess Cybele in a carriage pulled by lions is stunning.  Designed by Ventura Rodriguez in the 18th century on orders of Carlos III. Located in an urban area with high value building around it, it is a favorite walking spot in Madrid. Ranked as a must see by US News.
And if you are lucky enough to visit after a victory by Real Madrid, have a ball. It is a favorite hangout for local fans.

Plaza Mayor

The Plaza Mayor, was originally a market place but with the help of King Phillip II and Phillip III, it was turned into a grand square with a street level arcade. Designed by Juan de Herrera, it took over 50 years to get started and was finally finished by Juan Gomes de la Mora, a successor to Herrera. The plaza was completed in just 2 years.


Puerta del Sol

The Puerta del Sol is the most central square in the Spanish capital and it has been called the Kilometer Zero Spanish radial road since 1950.

It is a popular site for locals, especially the last night of the year. At New Year's Eve, crowds gather at this square to welcome the New Year and eat twelve grapes at the rhythm of the strokes of the clock tower of the Casa de Correos impressive building seen in the background. This clock is mythical in Spain and was donated by José Rodríguez de Losada in the nineteenth century. The Puerta del Sol is a meeting place, a place of transit between different parts of Madrid.

Puerta de Alcala

Like most large cities, the old walls of the city were joined together with large imposing gates. These cities have long grown past these gates and now stand as reminders of the glorious past. Puerta de Alcala is a prime example of that tradition. Built in the 1100's, Puerta de Alcala was built by the supreme order of Carlos III, designed and supervised by  Sabatini. Puerta de Alcala marks a transition in Spanis confidence and is one of the monuments in Madrid you should visit and explore. Located in the square of Plaza de la Independencia, Puerta de Alcala is built in a strategic place since the monument is very near to the city not to mention it’s close to another nice Madrid attraction to visit, the Parque del Buen Retiro.

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

If you have a car or can take a tour bus you should not miss the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. It was built in 1561 by King Philip II as a royal summer residence. The Palace is situated in with beautiful gardens between the rivers Tagus and Jarama, near the town of Aranjuez, an our of Madrid.. Selected for the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 2001, the construction we see today boasts a long history, during which it was expanded and renovated several times. The east side of the palace is complemented by a beautiful garden known as, Parterre Garden, and the north side has a small island which was built and called, Garden Island.

The palace's important art and historical collections include the Museo de la Vida en Palacio, describing the daily lives of Spain's monarchs. The huge gardens, built to relieve its royal residents from the dust and drought of the Spanish high central plateau, uses the waters of the two adjacent rivers for aeration. The Jardín de la Isla is on a man-made island bounded by the River Tagus and the Ria Canal. The Jardín del Principe contains a miniature palace and the Museo de las Falúas Reales, housing the collection of Spain's royal pleasure barges.

Basilica de San Francisco el Grande

The Basilica of St. Francis has a round floor plan and boasts the largest dome in Spain, at 108 feet in diameter, even larger than that of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. It was built in 1760 by King Carlos III on the site of a Franciscan Convent that claims to have been founded by St Francis in 1217.

The church has three chapels, including the Chapel of San Bernardino de Siena with a magnificent painting of the saint by Goya. Little secret - notice the figure on the right in the painting that is not looking up. It is a self-portrait of Goya himself.

Casa Juan Guas carved the seven main doors from American walnut and the 16th-century Gothic choir stalls are from La Cartuja del Paular, in Segovia province.

Almudena Cathedral

The history of Almudena Cathedral could have been written in Hollywood. 
First, the site on which Almudena Cathedral now stands was originally occupied by Madrid's first mosque, as Catholicism re-established itself, a new church dedicated to one of Madrid's patron saints, Santa María de la Almudena took the site. As befitting the new capital of Spain, plans for a grand new church began in the 16th century; but, construction was constantly postponed due to church opposition from the powerful archdiocese in Toledo who didn't want to lose his power base to Madrid.

After hundreds of years of haggling, in 1868, Madrid received permission from Toledo to construct a new church dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena. Construction began in 1883 based on a Neo-Gothic design. The first part to be completed was the crypt, which contains a 16th-century image of Madrid's patroness the Virgin de la Almudena.
A year later, in 1884, Pope Leo XIII created the Diocese of Madrid, giving Madrid a bishop and raising the status of the new Almudena church to a cathedral. The building plans were updated to reflect the elevated status of the building.

Construction on the cathedral progressed slowly and came to a complete halt during the civil war of the 1930s. The process began again in 1944, when the new architect changed the style to a Neoclassical style that would match the Royal Palace next door.

Almudena Cathedral was completed in 1993 and consecrated in person by Pope John Paul II that same year. A statue of the pope in front of the cathedral commemorates the momentous occasion. The cathedral was given another publicity boost with the sumptuous wedding of Prince Felipe and Doña Letizia in May 2004, the first such royal event in nearly a century.

Hope this will help you. Madrid is a beautiful place to go. I have such good memories of the time I was there.


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