Madrid, as the capital and largest city in Spain, has plenty to offer. First of all there is the food. From churros con chocolate to tapas and paella, you will be able to find all typical tasty Spanish foods in this city. The many old buildings, plazas, palaces and churches are witness to its incredibly rich history, which sometimes was quite turbulent.
I visited Madrid for a week in November 2012, arguably the perfect time for a visit as there are noticeably less tourists and temperatures are still comfortably warm. It can get scorching hot in summer and, being located in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula, there are no beaches or seas where you can cool down. I was glad I chose that period of year to visit this bustling and fascinating city. There are many interesting sights to see and places to visit and I saw and went to all of them.
The enormous Royal Palace is not where the King of Spain lives – he lives in another palace, just outside of Madrid – but this is where banquets are held and where ceremonies take place. Inside there are the Royal Armory and Royal Pharmacy, both museums you can visit. Next to the palace stands the Almudena Cathedral, which can be visited as well (for free).
The monumental Plaza de Oriente, with its couple dozen sculptures, lies on the west side of the building. The place is also flanked by beautiful gardens, known as the Campo del Moro Gardens. Great views of the Royal Palace can be seen from there.
This impressive square in the center of Madrid is a popular place to hang out among locals and tourists. It’s an almost perfectly symmetrical rectangle. The square is filled with restaurants, cafés and terraces to relax on a sunny day.
One of Spain’s major tourist attractions, the Prado Art Museum displays one of the greatest art collections in the world. It mainly features paintings, about 2,000 of those, but on display are also sculptures, coins and drawings. It has a vast collection of paintings in storage, which can’t be shown due to lack of space.
Buen Retiro Park
“Park of the Pleasant Retreat” in English, this is one of the biggest parks in Madrid. It’s a majestic park in the true sense of the word. Before it became a public park in the late 1800s, it belonged to the royal family. Features are a quiet lake, sculptures, the Crystal Palace and other monuments.
The Plaza de Cibeles is a square where a few of the major streets of Madrid connect. In the middle of the square sits the famous fountain of Cibeles, a symbol of Madrid. The most spectacular building is the magnificent Cibeles Place, the former post office, which now serves as the Madrid City Hall.
Puerta del Sol
The Puerta del Sol (“Gate to the Sun”) is the beating heart of Madrid. Now one of the busiest and most important squares in all of Madrid, the gate used to be a part of the 15th-century city wall that surrounded the city. The Puerta del Sol is the center of the radial network of Spanish roads, a starting point for the numbering of all streets in Madrid and all highways in Spain.
These previous attractions and landmarks are the ones that you really should not miss. You could easily visit all of those in two-or-three-days’ time, perfect for a weekend away in other words. If you have more time, I would like to recommend the following spots: Gran Via Avenue, Plaza de España, Thyssen Museum, El Rastro Market (large flea market) and San Miguel Market (covered food market).