Monuments & highlights, Madrid
It's just a big square plaza with very expensive restaurants, nothing to see, nothing to do. Only 'nice' thing is the Casa de la Panederia, wich is 400 years old, with nice fresco's.
Unique Suggestions: walk though the nice small streets next to the plaza
Faro de Madrid. This lookout tower is grotty, the windows haven't been cleaned since who knows when and the interior wasn't much better. Frankly, my advice would be to save your money and spend it and your time at the nearby museum.
I suppose some people like it but the Alcazar does nothing for me at all. Hence an unconnected photo of one of the mudejar churches where there was a service in progress - unfortunate but I suppose it is what they are meant to be for.
Although it looks like it had been one of the gates of the city, this arch, located in the Moncloa district, this arch was let built by fascist dictator Franco in memory of his victory over the legally established Republic in the Spanish civil war.
The modern construction behind it is known as the "Lighthouse of Moncloa" an observation platform that can give you a glimpse of the huge city.
Unique Suggestions: If you are in the area, you should not miss the Museum of America, which hosts really interesting exhibitions about American indigenous people and the interaction between the Spanish and the American cultures. You can see the tower of the Museum in the bottom of the picture.
Plaza Mayor may be Madrid's biggest tourist attraction, but it's still definitely worth seeing! Inaugurated in 1620 during the reign of Felipe III (whose statue can be found in the center of the square), it served as a marketplace until the nineteenth century.
Madrid has two tourist traps. The first is the Puerto de Sol, which is full of shady characters who have a great interest in the contents of your wallet. The Puerto is the center of the city: all buses go here and all roads lead here. Think of it as Madrid's Times Square. It has all the same stuff: nudie bars, overpriced restaurants, cheezy souvenirs, and large neon billboards. In this case, the billboard offers Tio Pepe sherry. That's pretty cool.
The Puerto looks better at night. Here, we see El Corte Ingles, Madrid's super-groovy department store o' the Gods. They'll relieve you of your cash as well, but at least you can get cheezy CD's of Spanish Euro-beat dance tunes in return.
The Second of our Tourist Traps of Madrid list is the Plaza Mayor. This is actually really beautiful and impressive, but the cheeziness around it detracts from its charm. The Hapsburgs built this as the 'plaza mayor' (duh) and for years, everything was done here: executions, bullfights, parades, disco, you name it. Now it's just prettily filled with overpriced restaurants.
The tour of the Royal Palace (El Palacio Real) seemed like a tourist trap to me, unless you've never seen a European palace before. However, don't miss just walking around the palace and the gardens around it.
I know it's a tourist trap, but the Plaza is still really attractive. Don't look too closely at the artwork, though...