Fun things to do in Madrid

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Madrid

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    Lest we Forget.

    by planxty Written Jan 4, 2014

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    If you have read many of my other pages here on VT, you will know that I am fascinated by war memorials and graves and this is as true in foreign countries as it is in my own. Naturally enough then I just had to take a few images of the monument you see here although I did not know exactly what it was at the time. I have subsequently found out that it is the Monument to Fallen Heroes which is confusingly also known as the War Memorial, the Obelisk and Monument to the Heroes of May 2nd. It is all the same thing.

    The Heroes of May 2nd referred to were insurgents in 1808 who were shot on this very spot on the orders of a General Murat. Whilst it looks considerably older, this monument was only erected in 1985 and unveiled by King Juan Carlos I on 22nd November of that year, as the image indicates.

    I could not find a way into the monument as it was behind high fencing so apologies that some of the images are not all they might be. Worth a look if you are passing.

    Monument to Fallen Heroes, Madrid, Spain. Detail, Monument to Fallen Heroes, Madrid, Spain. Detail, Monument to Fallen Heroes, Madrid, Spain. Detail, Monument to Fallen Heroes, Madrid, Spain.
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    Not what I thought at all.

    by planxty Written Jan 4, 2014

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    I stumbled on the Casa de America (House of America) building more or less by accident whilst wandering along Calle del Alcala from Retiro Park back into the centre of the city. I had already visited the Casa del Arabe (see seperate tip) and was expecting this place to be more or less the same set-up only for the Americas rather than the Arab region. I wandered in the main entrance of the magnificent building you see in the image to be confronted by a very polite but slightly bemused young lady With my non-existent spanish and her limited English, comunications were not the easiest but the usual international smile and gesture system soon had me informed that no, I could not actually enter the place but that there was an exhibition to the rear of the building. I thanked her and followed her directions.

    I subsequently found out that the main structure is a working building although guided tours are available if pre-booked on +34 902 40 02 22 and take place on Saturdays and Sundays at 1100, 1200 and 1300 hours. They cost €8 or €5 concessions with free admission for disabled people and children under 12. There are no tours in the month of August.

    So what is this wonderful building that people want to come and see? It was formerly the Linares Palace built in 1873 by, and named for, the Marquis of Linares, one Jose de Murga and his story is somewhat tragic. Unusually for his time and social class, de Murga's father had encouraged him to find a love match rather than take a bride for her position. He duly obliged and marched up the aisle with the tobaconist's daughter. In due course they had a daughter and then things went horribly awry for the poor couple.

    The apparently liberal thinking father revealed to the Marquis on his deathbed that he had had an affair with the wife of the tobaconist and that he was, in fact, the father as well as father in law of his son's wife. You can imagine what this meant. The Marquis obtained a Papal Bull stating that the couple could live together in chastity and so the Palace was effectively built on an upstairs / downstairs basis with each having their own quarters. Interestingly there was no kitchen in the Palace with all food being portered in from a nearby restaurant. The saddest fate befell the poor innocent daughter who was sent away to an orphanage and totally disowned and her ghost is said to haunt the place to this day. I was not in Madrid over a weekend but I shall definitely make a point of visiting the next time I am in the city.

    Having gone to the rear of the building I walked through a delightful garden and spoke to another equally charming young lady with somewhat better English who informed me that there was an exhibition on the exploration of the Pacific over the last half-millenia and that there was no entrance fee but a suggested donation of a few € (I cannot remember exactly how many but it was not exorbitant). She regretted that the initial video presentation was only in Spanish but it turned out to be very professionally done and I got the gist of it all right.

    Onwards and upwards and I visited the exhibition you can see in the images which contained some very interesting nautical artefacts. In fact, a good proportion of the exhibition seemed to have been loaned from the nearby Naval Museum (see seperate tip). I should point out that exhibitions here are temporary and this particular one finishes on 02/02/2014 when a new exhibition will be installed, so check the attached website for details of what is current.

    Although I cannot vouch for the main part of the building, the exhibition section I visited appeared to be fully wheelchair accessible.

    Well worth a visit.

    Casa de America, Madrid, Spain. Casa de America, Madrid, Spain. Casa de America, Madrid, Spain. Exhibits, Casa de America, Madrid, Spain. Exhibit, Casa de America, Madrid, Spain.
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    Perhaps not for the animal lovers.

    by planxty Written Dec 23, 2013

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    Again, this is another tip that I am not quite sure where to put. This establishment could easily fit into restaurant, things to do or nightlife sections but as I did not eat there (other than the proferred pincho) and visited in the afternoon I have decided to make it a "things to do".

    I was wandering fairly aimlessly around Madrid having just visited the wonderful Buen Retiro Park (see various seperate tips on this page) with no real idea of where I was going other than vaguely back towards the centre. Well, I say my walk was aimless but this is not strictly speaking correct. My aim was simple and it is a thing I am happy to do wherever I travel. Certainly it is lovely to see the major tourist sights anywhere and I would not have missed them for the world but I have a great love of just walking about and seeing what I can find. The concept of the "see city X in a four hours bus tour" is absolute anathema to me. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do and life on that particular glorious autumnal day in a city I had so long wanted to visit was indeed good..

    OK, sorry if this is a bit of a lengthy preamble to what is effectively a tip on a slightly over-priced bar but I just wanted to explain. Having walked along Calle de Alcala from the Independence Monument, I had become a little thirsty which regular readers of my tips will not be surprised by! Realistically, the first "proper" bar I came across was going to be patronised by planxty. I did walk past a couple of terribly pretentious looking cocktail bars / coffee shops that sold alcohol or whatever they were but then I saw the El Toledo and in I went.

    The place was quiet and there were only two women siting at the bar with whom I managed a very basic conversation with my almost non-existent Spanish and their very broken English but they were certainly friendly enough. I found Madrillenos to be like that.

    Looking round the place I noted the usual items of food around and the chef / barman was evidently cooking up something very lovely for the evening in a huge pot in the semi-open kitchen. However, what caught my eye, almost inevitably, was that this was a bar / restaurant dedicated to bullfighting and hence the title of this tip. The images may give you something of an idea. There are a number of stuffed bulls heads around the bar with the rosette of the matador that had dispatched them, there were photos (some signed) of the said matadors, everything was dedicated to bullfighting. It appears that the bullfighters themselves even patronise this place.

    I was not ready to eat although I did peruse the menu and found it extensive but even by the standards of central Madrid, it did seem a bit pricy. I had a couple of beers, accompanied by the "pincho" (free bar nibble) provided by the barman and moved on.

    El Tablon has a large dining area to the rear and I suspect it is not really a daytime haunt although it is friendly enough. There are cheaper places about off the main Calle de alcalo but it is worth having a quick drink in here just for the interest value. Looking at the price of the "special offers" for food and also the menu, you would need a fairly large wallet to dine here.

    A decent place to relax from your explorations.

    El Tablon bar, Salamanca, Madrid, Spain. El Tablon bar, Salamanca, Madrid, Spain. El Tablon bar, Salamanca, Madrid, Spain. El Tablon bar, Salamanca, Madrid, Spain. El Tablon bar, Salamanca, Madrid, Spain.
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  • planxty's Profile Photo

    Another unusual fountain.

    by planxty Written Dec 17, 2013

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    I have written another tip on this page about the slightly unusual "artichoke" fountain in the Retiro Park in central Madrid which had intrigued me a little but for fountain afficionados there is another treat in store in the gardens. It appears the Madrillenos do like a man-made waterspout that is a little out of the ordinary and I soon stumbled upon the delightful construction you can see in the images which is known as the Fuente de Galápagos or Galapgos Fountain in English.

    The fountain is obviously eponymously named for the small group of islands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador which had been "discovered" by the Spaniard Fray Tomás de Berlanga. It does not actually commemorate this event, which had happened centuries before in 1535, rather what it represents is the birth of Queen Isabel II in 1832 and was constructed to the design of José de Mariategu.

    A close look at the fountain reveals many references to the wonderful fauna of the archipelago for which it is named, including tortoises and frogs. There are also four cherubs which feature largely in the design. I am no expert but apparently the symbolism of the piece refers to such virtues as long life, fertility, wisdom and rectitude. I am not sure how experts work all this out and I shall content myself with noting that to my completely untutored eye it was a very beautiful edifice and it is well worth a look and a photograph if that is what you like to do.

    Fuente de Gal��pagos, Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain.
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  • planxty's Profile Photo

    An unexpected surprise.

    by planxty Written Dec 3, 2013

    Although there has been settlement of various sorts on the site since pre-history, it is generally agreed that modern day Madrid was "founded" in the late 9th century by the Emir Mohammed I of Cordoba and originally named al-Majrit which means source of water. This name has gradually metamorphosed into what it is today. It should not surprise the reader that the city was thus founded as the Moors (Arabs) controlled most of modern day Spain for a long time.

    I was making my way to the Jardines del Buen Retiro, a wonderful park which forms the basis of several other tips on this page and just happened upon this rather impressive building which, on closer examination, seems to have served as a school in a former incarnation. It is now the Casa Arabe (House of Arabs) and I really had no idea what it was although it was certainly going to be subjected to the lens of my new camera which was being premiered that day. Regular readers of my pages will be glad to hear that news after the number of spoiled images I had with my old one!

    With the external photographs duly captured, I approached the place and saw, if my appallingly minimal Spanish did not desert me, that it was a centre for various exhibitions, cinema screenings and other cultrual activities as well as housing several permanent offices. I went in not knowing quite what to expect and was met by a security set-up that would not have been out of place in a sensitive Government area. It came complete with scanning arch etc. although I was not required to go through any of this. I spoke to the rather stern security guard who told me to go in but not, repeat NOT, to go upstairs. OK, I can take orders.

    I was still not quite sure what this place is but the attached website explains fairly comprehensively.

    "Casa Árabe and its International Institute of Arab and Muslim World Studies is a consortium formed on July 2006 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and the Spanish Agency for International Development, the autonomous communities of Madrid and Andalusia and the town councils of Madrid and Cordoba.

    It is presided by the Foreign Affairs and Cooperation minister, and the presidents of the Andalusian and Madrid regional Governments and the majors of Madrid and Cordoba are deputy presidents. Its High Board of Trustees is presided over by Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain.

    The main goals of Casa Árabe, with headquarters in Madrid and Cordoba, are to strengthen bilateral and multilateral policies, to promote economical, cultural and educational relations, as well as supporting the development of training and knowledge on the Arab and Muslim world."

    I wandered past the gift / bookshop into the first exhibition space which I had completely to myself. This room was a small exhibition of photographs of the Arab world which i found very good as I attempt (normally without much success) to do a bit of amateur photography myself.

    Moving on, I came to the main exhibition which featured the work of Faraj Daham, a Qatari artist. In truth, it was not much to my taste, being very repetitive but I am certainly no art expert and I am sure the man is well-respected amongst the art community or he would not be exhibited here.

    That really was the whole of the place and it only took me a short time to go round. I did see signs for a cafe but I did not bother with that as I had already had my morning coffee. I would not suggest that the traveller makes a journey just to see this unless they have a specific interest in an exhibition there but if they are heading for the Retiro Park, it is certainly worth popping in for a while. Best of all and unlike most attractions in Madrid, it is free.

    the Casa is open from Monday to Thursday from 9:30 am to 16:30 and Fridays from 9:30 am to 14:30.

    Casa del Arabe, Madrid, Spain. Casa del Arabe, Madrid, Spain. Exhibition, Casa del Arabe, Madrid, Spain. Exhibition, Casa del Arabe, Madrid, Spain. Exhibition, Casa del Arabe, Madrid, Spain.
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  • littlebush's Profile Photo

    No great sites but a few things to see

    by littlebush Written Oct 8, 2013

    Madrid isn't blessed with great sights to see apart from various buildings and squares.
    Here's what we did:
    -plaza sol-the centre and main square. Pretty dull really just full of tourists and people dressed up in all the costumes u can think of.
    -plaza mayor-much nicer, with character this huge square surrounded by old buildings reminded me of San Marco in Venice.
    -Mercado Dr San Miguel-this food market is a great place to visit. Mainly full of tourists but it has ham,cheese,olives,wines,beers...everything for sale.
    -plaza de oriented-in front of the palace with fountains this is a nice place to relax for a few mins
    -parquet del buen retiro-big nice park with boating lake.
    -templo de debod-2000year old Egyptian temple. Free entry nothing too great.
    -nightlife-great bars and loads of them.
    -food-tapas all the way

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    Centro Centro

    by Redang Updated Feb 24, 2013

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    This bulding was the Palacio de Comunicaciones (Post Office), but it became the City Hall.in 2007 and adopted the name of Palacio de Cibeles in 2011.

    I bring this tip not for being the City Hall but the various attractions you can find there.

    For example, permanent and temporary exhibitions, cafe, newspapers and magazines you can read, concerts, but the main attraction, from my point of view, is the terrace, excellent point to enjoy great views of Madrid.

    For the terrace itself:
    Tuesday to Sunday: From 10.30 to 13:30 h. y from 16.00 to 19.00 h. (10,30 am to 1,30 pm and from 4 pm to 7 pm.
    Closed: Mondays, 1 and 6 of January, 1 of May, 24, 25 and 31 of December

    You must book at the desks on floor 2.
    Price: 2 € (Feb. '13).

    Palacio de Cibeles (Madrid, Espa��a/Spain) Madrid (Espa��a/Spain) Madrid (Espa��a/Spain) Madrid (Espa��a/Spain) Madrid (Espa��a/Spain)

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    Espacio-Fundación Telefónica

    by Redang Written Feb 24, 2013

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    This building was the highest of Madrid for some years, and it's the headquarters of Teleónica (the Spanish phone comapny).

    You can find here permanent (for example, the History of communications) and temporary exhibitions.

    Price: Free.

    Telef��nica (Madrid, Espa��a/Spain)

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    Madrid City Tour - Bus

    by vichatherly Written Feb 21, 2013

    Using these open top bus city tours is a great way of seeing the city if you don't have a great deal of time.

    I only had a morning to get around, and so after seeing Picasso's Guernica, I hopped onto the bus to catch a brief glimpse of the rest of the city centre sights.

    This tour has two routes, I only managed to see a part of the blue route. It's a bit expensive, at 21 Euros for the day, but it showed me things that I wouldn't otherwise had seen on my short trip to Madrid.

    Madrid City Tour
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    Fundación Mapfre

    by Redang Written Feb 2, 2013

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    This is another place where you can enjoy excellent temporary exhibitions, and for free.

    There are two venues:
    - Salas Recoletos:
    Paseo de Recoletos 23
    28004 Madrid
    Metro: Banco de España (line 2) and Colón (line 4).
    Tren de cercanías/Commuter train: Recoletos (lines C-2, C-7, C-8 and C-10.
    Bus: 5, 14, 27, 37, 45, 53 and 150.

    - Sala Azca:
    Avenida del General Perón, 40
    28020 Madrid
    Metro: Santiago Bernabéu (line 10).
    Bus: 5, 14, 27, 40, 120, 147 and 150.
    Teléfono: 91 581 16 28

    Fundaci��n Mapfre (Madrid, Espa��a/Spain)

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    Street Entertainers

    by GentleSpirit Written Dec 6, 2012

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    I usually don't pay much attention to street entertainers in most places. Madrid, for some reason, seems to have a good number of very good street entertainers who really do an excellent job, some of their acts are quite complex.

    For me personally, my favorite one, and I wish i had gotten a photo of him, was this guy that stood stationary (i think on a ladder). If you dropped a coin into his bowl his little dog, an adorable little white dog, would bark. So, naturally, people start throwing two coins in quick succession, and the dog barked out for each of them, getting it right every time!

    I walked down the street (he was on the Gran Via) and found a small supermarket. As the guy was taking a break I gave him a small bag of food for his dog and a sandwich for himself. He was thrilled!

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    Day Trip to Toledo Viator/Julia Tours Madrid

    by kls67 Written Oct 25, 2012

    I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about doing a organized TOUR bus trip - however I must say, Isabel from Julia Tours made every minute of this fun and pact full of history and facts. Even though we suffered through torrential rainstorms, what seemed like a flash flood and part of group that was way too aged to be on this swiftly paced walking tour - I recommend her heartily. We actually like her so much we decided the next day to follow her through Avila and Segovia.

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    Calle Gran Via: The Broadway of Madrid

    by TooTallFinn24 Updated Jul 12, 2012

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    Calle Gran Via (Great Street) is the main shopping street and we often heard it called the "Spanish Broadway," during our visit to Madrid. It is a very wide street filled with large hotels, movie theaters, and places to eat. It was also the street, just down from the Plaza Espana Metro Stop, where our small bed and breakfast was.

    The street is busy all the time. From our hotel room we could hear noise of not just cars but people talking along the street all night. In the morning the City hoses down the street as a means of cleaning it. When we first saw that we were certain it had rained the night before.

    The Gran Via was first conceived by urban planners in the mid 19th century, Madrid's urban as a means of connecting the Calle de Alcalá with the Plaza de España. It took years to find a suitable route and many prominent buildings had to be destroyed to make room for the new street. Construction of the street began in 1904 and it took an astounding 25 years to complete the work on it. The street actually starts at the elegant Edificio Grassy at the intersection with the Calle de Alcala.

    As an urban planner I liked the extra wide sidewalks that were designed to give the street not only adequate space for pedestrians but to further define it from other big streets in Madrid. There are numerous metro stops along the Gran Via perhaps every four or five large blocks.

    Calle Gran Via and Alcia Street Doem of the Metropolis Building on Gran Via Gran Via Near Our B & B Building on the Gran Via at Dusk Edifico Grassy: Where Grand Via Starts

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    Parque de la Montana - Mountain Park

    by IreneMcKay Written Jan 1, 2012

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    Located just a short walk from the Plaza de Espana this beautiful park contains the Egyptian Temple of Depod. This temple was given to the people of Spain when they helped save it from being flooded by the building of the Aswan dam. There were fantastic views from behind the temple. This turned out to be a great place to watch the sunset.

    Sunset from the park. Night view of the cathedral from the park. The Temple of Debod.
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    A pleasant walk

    by unaS Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    From the Puerta del Sol to the Plaza de Los Cibeles there is a lovely stroll along the Calle de Alcala.

    A continuation of the Gran Via it crosses the city from east to west, a wide, tree lined avenue.
    Lots of traffic, but also lots of places to see, to stop for a coffee and people watch or to enter the Parque del Retiro.

    It ends where it crosses the Avenue de America - about 6 km altogether (it is longer, but from here leads to the outskirts of the city).

    Many beautiful buildings, and Museums are along this route. The Real Academia de Bellas Artes, the Metropolis building with the towering bronze sculpture on top, through the Plaza de la Independencia and the Puerta de Alcala. One passes the Plaza de Cibeles, and Neptune, the Instituto Cervantes, and lots and lots of shops for those that are interested in shopping trips.

    A lovely walk, a nice area to take photographs and an historical avenue.

    The Metropolis Building Puerto de Alcala
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