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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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