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Sights in Madrid, Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain and has an impressive history and scenic parks, museums, and churches that are certainly worth exploring.

  • Basilica de San Francisco El Grande—a basilica built by Carlos III on the site of a Franciscan convent founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1217 with a large dome that is the largest in Spain, seven main doors made from American walnut, three chapels joining the circular church with one containing a famed Goya painting, and 16th century Gothic choir stalls; Pl. de San Francisco
  • Caixaforum—an arts complex designed by two Swiss architects that appears to float on the public plaza and has a vertical garden designed by a French botanist; inside are huge exhibition halls that display ancient and contemporary art; Paseo del Prado 36
  • Campo del Moro (Moors’ Field)—a park with shade trees, winding paths, and lawn that lead up to the Palacio Real and inside the gardens is the Museo de Carruajes (Carriage Museum) that has royal carriages and equestrian gear from the 16th to 20th centuries; Paseo Virgen del Puerto
  • Casa Museo Lope de Vega—the former home of famed Spanish playwright Fray Lope Felix de la Vega who wrote 1,800 plays and attained great success in his lifetime that now is a museum with whale-oil lamps, candles, bed-warming pans, poetry readings, and workshops; Calle Cervantes 11
  • Catedral de la Almudena—this cathedral adjacent to the Royal Palace had its first stone laid in 1883 by King Alfonso XII and its structure consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993 and in a classical and Gothic style with a wooden statue of Madrid’s female patron saint, the Virgin of Almudena, who was discovered after the conquest of Madrid by Christians in 1085; Calle Bailen 10
  • Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Queen Sofia Art Center)—Spain’s national museum of contemporary art that has works by all of the major Spanish painters and sculptors such as Picasso, Miro, Goya, and Dali displayed in a manner that puts these works into their historical context with the highlight piece on the second floor, Picasso’s Guernica, that depicts the Nazi bombing of the ancient Basque town of Gernika in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, and the fourth floor dedicated to art created post-World War II; Calle de Santa Isabel 52
  • Centro de Conde Duque—an imposing building that was used as a military academy and astronomical observatory in the 19th century that after a fire in 1869 was renovated and converted into a cultural and arts center with a modern art museum and temporary art exhibitions; Calle Conde Duque 9 and 11
  • Museo Arqueologico Nacional (Museum of Archaeology)—a large neoclassical building that is a museum with three floors with Spanish relics, artifacts, and treasures such as La Dama de Elche, a bust of a wealthy 5th century BC Iberian woman whose headwear is a precursor to traditional Spanish dress, Visigothic votive crowns discovered in 1859 that date back to the 7th century, and the ivory crucifix of Ferdinand and Sancha; Calle de Serrano 13
  • Museo Lazaro Galdiano—the former mansion of writer and editor Jose Lazaro Galdiano that has décor and paintings by Bosch, El Greco, Murillo, and Goya among others; Calle de Serrano 122
  • Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo—a museum inside the Centro de Conde Duque that was founded in 2001 and has 200 modern art pieces by local artists; Centro de Conde Duque, Calle Conde Duque 9 and 11
  • Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza—this museum opened in 1992 that is located within the 18th century Villahermosa Palace and has a collection of almost 1,000 paintings that depict the history of Western art from 13th century Italian Gothic to 20th century American pop art with highlights such as Hans Holbein’s Portrait of Henry VIII, an impressionist halls, and German expressionist works; Paseo del Prado 8
  • Museo de Historia de Madrid—a museum founded in 1929 in a former 17th century hospice that has paintings, drawings, pictures, ceramics, furniture, and other objects that illustrate Madrid’s history with exhibits divided into four major historic periods: Empire, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, and Modern Times; Calle Fuencarral 78
  • Museo del Prado (Prado Museum)—one of the world’s most renowned art museums that was renovated in 2007 with an addition of a large new wing and building centered around the remains of the Cloister of the San Jeronimo el Real which features works by Zurbaran and Antonio de Pereda; highlights of the permanent collection are works by three renowned Spanish masters: Goya, Velasquez, and El Greco and pieces by Flemish, Dutch, German, French, and Italian artists; Paseo del Prado
  • Museo del Traje (Costume Museum)—a museum that depicts the evolution of Spanish dress from royal burial garments to the introduction of French fashion by Felipe V and 20th century couture by Balenciaga and Pertegaz; Av. Juan de Herrera 2
  • Palacio Real—this palace built on the land where Muslims built their defensive fortress in the 9th century was commissioned in the early 18th century by Felipe V with classical French design and inside are 2,800 rooms including King Carlos III’s private apartments; a grand throne room with the royal seats of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia; a banquet hall that seats 140 for state dinners; a music museum with the world’s largest collection of stringed instruments; a painting gallery with works by Spanish, Flemish, and Italian artists; the royal armory with historic suits of armor; and the royal pharmacy with vials and flasks used to mix the king’s medicines; Calle Bailen
  • Parque del Buen Retiro (The Retreat)—Madrid’s largest park with formal gardens, fountains, lakes, exhibition halls, children’s play areas, outdoor cafes, and a puppet theater; Puerta de Alcala
  • Plaza de Oriente—the plaza in front of the Palacio Real that is surrounded by stone statues of Spanish monarchs including one that is the first bronze equestrian cast with a rearing horse
  • Plaza de la Cibeles—a majestic plaza with a well-known fountain, Fuente de la Cibeles (Fountain of Cybele), that depicts the nature goddess driving a chariot drawn by lions
  • Plaza de la Paja—this plaza was the most important square in medieval Madrid with the focal point being the Capilla del Obispo (Bishop’s Chapel) built between 1520 and 1530 that was the site where peasants gave their tithes (1/10 of their crop)
  • Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (St. Ferdinand Royal Academy of Fine Arts)—a museum that displays 500 years of Spanish paintings from Jose Ribera and Bartolome Esteban Murillo to Joaquin Sorolla and Ignacio Zuloaga with a gallery that displays paintings up to the 18th century including some Goya paintings; Calle de Alcala 13
  • Real Jardin Botanico (Botanical Garden)—a garden with plants, flowers, and cacti from around the world; Pl. de Murillo 2
  • Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Royal Monastery of St. Lawrence of Escorial)—a granite monastery commissioned by Felipe II built from 1563 to 1584 with treasures from the Spanish empire; a pantheon with the tombs of every king but three since Carlos I and royal children; a colorful library with ceiling paintings by a follower of Michelangelo and 50,000 rare manuscripts, codices, and ancient texts; San Lorenzo de El Escorial
  • Zoo-Aquarium—a comprehensive zoological park with a large variety of animals including an albino tiger, dolphins, and wild birds; Casa de Campo
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Sights in Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is the beautiful capital of Portugal that has a history of great exploration, seafaring, and culture. It is a great place to explore with several museums, Europe’s largest indoor aquarium, and art galleries.

  • Aqueduto Das Aguas Livres—formerly the water source for the city, this aqueduct stretches for more than 11 miles with 35 arches that cross the Alcantara river valley beyond the Amoreiras shopping complex and the largest arch is said to be the highest pointed arch in the world; Praca des Amoreiras 10
  • Arco da Rua Augusta—a triumphal arch that provides a view of the buildings built after a terrible earthquake with elevator access and two flights of stairs to the top where visitors can ring a bell and admire the panoramic views over Praca do Comercio and the River Tejo in one direction and look at the streets below along Rua Augusta; Rua Augusta 2
  • Basilica da Estrela—a white basilica located at the top of one of Lisbon’s seven hills with scenic views from its dome that was built at the end of the 18th century under the rule of Queen Maria I and has black and white marble walls and floors and an elaborate nativity scene; Praca da Estrela
  • Casa dos Bicos—an Italianate former residence built in 1523 for Bras de Albuquerque, the son of Afonso, the viceroy of India and conqueror of Goa and Malacca, with a façade studded with pointed white diamond-shaped stones and the top two floors dedicated to Jose Saramago, the only Portuguese-language winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature; Rua dos Bacalhoeiros
  • Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida—a museum located within a 19th century mansion where the collector that gave his name to the museum once lived and amassed a collection of furniture, porcelain, clocks, paintings, gold, and jewelry; Rua Rosa Araujo 41
  • Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George’s Castle)—a castle built by the Moors and previously fortified by Romans and Visigoths with a statue at the main entrance of Dom Alfonso Henriques whose forces invaded the castle and drove the Moors out of Lisbon and ramparts that provide scenic views of the layout of the city, a snack bar, a museum with archaeological finds, and a formal restaurant; Rua de Santa Cruz do Castelo
  • Elevador de Santa Justa—the Santa Justa Elevator was built in 1902 by Raul Mesnier who studied under Eiffel (architect of the Eiffel Tower) and provides views of the Baixa district and beyond; Rua do Ouro
  • Fundacao Arpad Szenes-Vieira da Silva—a former royal silk factory that has artwork from the museum’s collection and exhibitions featuring pieces by Picasso, Chagall, and other artists; Praca das Amoreiras 58
  • Igreja E Museu de Sao Roque—a church completed in 1574 that was one of the world’s earliest Jesuit buildings with a plain austere exterior and an interior with gold and marble, eight side chapels that have statues and art dating back to the early 17th century, and a chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist that was designed and built in Rome and reassembled in Lisbon in 1747 with rare stones and mosaics resembling oil paintings; Largo Trinidade Coelho
  • Jardim Botanico—a botanical garden laid out in 1874 with 10 acres of paths, benches, and 15,000 species of subtropical plants; Rua da Escola Politecnica 58
  • Jardim Botanico da Ajuda—Portugal’s oldest botanical garden that was laid out in 1768 by an Italian botanist with ornate fountains, four acres of greenhouses filled with a variety of plant species, and a tropical garden with plants from the Azores, Madeira, and other former Portuguese colonies; Calcada da Ajuda
  • Jardim Zoologico—a major attraction with more than 3,000 animals from over 330 species including a Tigers’ Valley, gorilla house, petting zoo, and animal shows as well as cafes and picnic areas; Praca Marechal Humberto Delgado
  • Lisboa Story Centre—an interactive museum that has multimedia exhibits illustrating the history of Lisbon with a central focus on Portuguese maritime discoveries and a theater with a reenactment of the 1755 earthquake that ravaged the city; Praco do Comercio 78-81
  • Lisbon Cathedral (Se De Lisboa)—the main cathedral in Lisbon that was founded in 1150 to memorialize the defeat of the Moors on the site of the former Moorish mosque with a rose window, 13th century cloister, and a sacristy with treasures such as the relics of St. Vincent the Martyr who is the official patron saint of Lisbon; Largo da Se
  • Monserrate Park and Palace—an estate west of Sintra that was laid out by Scottish gardeners in the mid-19th-century at the request of Sir Francis Cook with the central building being a Moorish three-domed palace that was home to Gothic novelist William Beckford and other feature include gardens with streams, waterfalls, and Etruscan tombs; Estrada da Monserrate
  • Mosteiro dos Jeronimos—a UNESCO World Heritage site that is an example of the Manueline architectural style named after King Dom Manuel I with elaborately sculpted details with a maritime theme and a large spacious interior with six nave columns and a latticework ceiling, the building is the resting place of Vasco da Gama and the Portuguese national poet Luis de Camoes; Praca do Imperio
  • Museu Berardo—a museum located within the Belem Cultural Center that has a significant private collection of modern art by artists such as Picasso, Warhol, and Portuguese artist Paula Rego, visiting exhibitions, a restaurant, several cafes, and rooftop gardens with a large terrace that has jets of water spray from the ground; Praca do Imperio
  • Museu Calouste Gulbenkian—the museum of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation set within gardens filled with walkways, flowers, and ducks that is home to the collection of Armenian oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian which features Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, and Asian art and European acquisitions as well as a modern collection of 9,000 pieces from the 20th and 21st centuries including sculptures, paintings, and photographs; Av. De Berna 45
  • Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga—a large art museum housed within a 17th century palace once owned by the courts of Alvor that has a nicely displayed collection of Portuguese art from the 15th-19th centuries, Flemish art pieces that were influential to Portuguese artists, and other European artists; Rua das Janelas Verdes
  • Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporanea—a museum on the site of a monastery that focuses on Portuguese art from 1850 to the present covering movements such as Romanticism, Naturalism, and Modernism; Rua Serpa Pinto 4
  • Museu Nacional do Azulejo—a stately museum dedicated to Portuguese tilework that is housed within the 16th century Madre de Deus convent and cloister with displays of glazed tiles, pictorial panels, and large tile pieces; Rua da Madre de Deus 4
  • Museu Nacional Dos Coches (National Coach Museum)—a museum with a great collection of gilded horse-drawn carriages with the oldest on display made for Philip II of Spain in the late 1500s and three carriages created in Rome for King John V in 1716; Av. Da India 136
  • Museu da Farmacia—a museum in an old palace that covers over 5,000 year of pharmaceutical history from prehistory to fictitious potions with ancient objects related to pharmaceutical science and art and pharmacies shipped intact from other parts of Portugal and a 19th century Chinese pharmacy from Macau; Rua Marechal Saldanha 1
  • Museu da Marioneta—a museum with displays of puppets from Portugal and other countries with frequent puppet shows; Convento das Bernardas, Rua da Esperanca 146
  • Museu de Marinha—one of the city’s oldest museums founded in 1853 that illustrates the significance of seafaring to the country through maps and maritime codes, navigational equipment, full-size and model ships, uniforms, and weapons; Praca do Imperio
  • Museu do Oriente—a museum located in a former fish store that opened in 2008 that illustrates the story of the Portuguese presence in Asia and an overview of Asian cultures through maps and charts from Portuguese maritime exploration and painted screens from China and Japan; Av. Brasilia, Doca de Alcantara
  • Museu do Teatro Romano—a small museum that occupies a space that once was a Roman amphitheater and features artifacts such as columns; Rua de Sao Mamede
  • Museu-Escola de Artes Decorativas—this museum located within the 17th century Azurara Palace has objects dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries such as hand-embroidered Portuguese carpets based on Arabic designs, silverwork, ceramics, paintings, and jewelry; Largo das Portas do Sol 2
  • Oceanario de Lisboa—Europe’s largest indoor aquarium that features a large saltwater tank featuring a variety of fish including several types of sharks, habitats resembling the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans with puffins, penguins, sea otters, and tropical birds; Esplanada D. Carlos I (Doca dos Olivais)
  • Padrao dos Descobrimentos—a large monument built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator that was built on the site that was a departure point for many voyages of discovery including Vasco da Gama for India and the Spanish Armada for England in 1588; Av. Brasilia
  • Palacio Nacional de Sintra (Sintra Palace)—one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks known for its conical twin white chimneys that dates back to the late 14th century and is the only surviving palace in Portugal from the Middle Ages designed in a Moorish, Gothic, and Manueline style; the chapel has Moorish-inspired azulejos from the 15th and 16th centuries and the ceiling has the coats of arms of 72 noble families; Largo Rainha D. Amelia
  • Palacio da Ajuda—a royal residence since converted into a museum that had its last royal resident, Queen Maria, die there in 1911 with fixtures preserved in their original state and overviews of how Portuguese monarchs lived, 18th and 19th century paintings, furniture, and tapestries; Largo da Ajuda
  • Palacio da Pena—a castle that is a mixture of pastel turrets and domes that was originally a monastery but was converted into a castle by Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg who had the castle designed by a German architect in a variety of styles from Arabian to Victorian; the castle is surrounded by a park filled with trees and flowers from throughout the former Portuguese empire, hidden temples, grottoes, and a swan lake and inside the castle is Victorian and Edwardian furniture, ornaments, and paintings; Estrada da Pena
  • Panteao de Santa Engracia—a former church that serves as Portugal’s National Pantheon with the tombs of former Portuguese presidents and monuments to famous explorers and writers; Campo de Santa Clara
  • Parque Eduardo VII—Lisbon’s version of Central Park that was named in honor of Edward VII of England after his visit in 1902 that has lakes, waterfalls, statues, and vibrant plants and on the west side features a 1930s greenhouse garden with habitats arranged around a nice pool
  • Pavilhao do Conhecimento—the Knowledge Pavilion or Living Science Centre that has permanent and temporary interactive exhibits related to math, science, and technology, a café, a media library, a gift shop, and a bookstore; Alamada dos Oceanos
  • Quinta da Regaleira—a privately owned mansion in Lisbon that was built in the early 20th century for a Brazilian mining magnate and has gardens with statues, water features, grottoes, lookout towers, and an underground tower; Rua Barbosa do Bocage 5
  • Torre de Belem—a UNESCO World Heritage site with openwork balconies and domed turrets that was built between 1514 and 1520 on an island in the middle of the Rio Tagus to defend the entrance to the port and was dedicated to St. Vincent, the patron saint of Lisbon, and inside are cannons, dungeons, and a tower-top birds-eye view across the Tagus and the city; Av. Brasilia