Once upon a time, on a bit of a whim, I ended up in Madrid. I went with a group of total strangers through an art trip offered by a local college. I was pretty desperate to get out of town and I wanted to go somewhere refreshingly far away. I am so glad I took the chance on that trip! Not only did I see and learn a lot, but I made some great long term friendships.
Because I was working on my Bachelor’s degree in Humanities and Fine Arts at the time, it was right up my alley and I actually earned college credit for the trip. It was also the closest to studying abroad that I ever got too. Madrid has wonderful so many wonderful things to see and do! I was able to tour great museums, seeing the works of art I’d only ever read about in my art history classes. Seeing some of these most important works of art history in person was amazing; I was in a state of art-lover induced bliss as we toured museum after museum. We spent a day in the Reina Sofia, marveling at the works of Dali and Picasso. As I worked my way through the massive building towards what I consider Picasso’s most impressive piece, I could literally feel myself getting closer to its presence. The light changed, and there was an electricity in the air, which was accompanied by throngs of on-lookers, until rounding that last corner, and there it was: Guernica. This piece of art is so massive and so moving, I could have spent the day soaking it in. This piece was guarded and photography was strictly forbidden. But having studied its history and meaning, the state of Spanish civil unrest, and seeing it in person, has allowed it to forever be etched in my memory. I am still obsessed with this piece. During my trip, I was able to do a presentation on Dali, a favorite artist of mine, on a busy street corner in front of the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales.
If you’re interested in taking in the museums, gardens, and culture of this great city, be sure to plan plenty of time to stroll through the museums, wander the bustling city streets, and of course, to enjoy a good tapas crawl!
Plan a whole day to explore the Museo Nacional del Prado, which includes some of my favorite works – Goya’s 03 de Maio 1808 and Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. This museum is an art lover’s heaven which I happen to think it rivals the Louvre! Several other great art spots include the Lazaro, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Museo Arqueologio Nacional.
A spontaneous train ride to Toledo allows for viewing some of Velasquez’s work and touring their beautiful cathedral and charming city streets. Strolling down the cobbled streets under a canopy of fabric shades and lanterns, passing by churches and cafes is a quintessential Spanish experience.
Also in close proximity to Madrid is the Castillo de Manzanares el Real which gives you a nice break from the city and is very cool to tour, complete with an impressive wood spiral staircase.
The great thing about Madrid is that there is so much to see and do. My favorite spots where the Palacio Real de Madrid which is so beautiful in its full Rococo style, and it has a great armory. Plaza Mayor is the hub of the city. I spent tons of time here eating, strolling, and people-watching, and bought a beautiful painting from a local artist. Other spots not to miss are the Royal Botanical Gardens and El Retiro Park where you can see the Crystal Palace, Napolean monument, and Forest of Remembrance. This stoic portion of the park has 192 olive and cypress trees planted for each victim of the train bombing at the nearby Atocha station.
An evening at Casa Patas for authentic flamenco dancing is a must, but you may not want to sit in the front row. The rapid and sharp turns of the dancers caused sweat to go flying into the crowd.
So whether you love art, history, culture, food, or anything in between, Madrid has something great for you!
Sounds like a fantastic trip! I think I would love the history and of course the food. Thanks for sharing your experiences there!
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Would love to visit Spain. Looks like a great adventure and fabulous food. Thanks for sharing!
It is such a great place! Paella, churros and chocolate, and so much yummy goodness!
I have still never been to Spain – i have no idea why as it was the country I dreamed about visiting when I was a kid. Fortunately, living in Europe means I can get over there quite easily! Great post and the tapas bar crawl sounds right up my street!
Yes, you’ll have to get over there soon! You will love it!
I love how you speak so romantically about this City and with so much passion, it’s great! You make me want to travel here and check out the art galleries! I agree with you on the flamenco show though – it’s a must-see, the dancers are beautiful.
Hey, thanks! I just love how it made me feel. Cities have feelings, vibes, scents, and I just love them! There was a certain plant that I smelled for the first time ever in the botanic gardens in Madrid. I’ve come across the smell of that same plant a few other times during my travels and it automatically transports me back to Madrid! Such a great city!
I visited Madrid twice last year, but only as a transit point and definitely didn’t spend enough time there. Honestly, I failed to see most of the beautiful places you’ve shown above. I really must go back for a real visit.
I know Segovia makes a good day trip from Madrid, but didn’t think of Toledo. How long does the train take to get there?
Toledo is only about 30 minutes by train. What a great day trip!
I love this post because of the insight it gives me that I could not have gained during my mere 4.5 hours in Madrid! However, it is so so beautiful no matter how much time you spend there. I actually also blogged about my time there if you would like to check me out! https://anywherewithbrooke.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/madrid-spain-airport-layover/
I loved your post too! You captured a lot in 4.5 hours!!
Thank you so much!!!!
We definitely want to spend more time in Spain – and Madrid is way up on the list of cities to see. Great tip on the Flamenco Dancers…did not know there was a “splash zone”! 😉
Either did we, until we saw the front few rows get sprayed – so glad our group was sitting near the back! There are so many other Spanish cities I would love to visit!
These are amazing pics! Looking at them made me want to go there and see the incredible architecture and designs. It all looks so romantic at the same time historical. This is a Spanish city that I will bookmark. Have a nice day! xx
Awesome post. I’m leaving Barcelona and heading to Madrid in a couple of days. This post made me more excited. Hey I nominated you for a Liebster Award. Go check out my last post for more info! Keep up the awesome posts!
Awe thanks so much for the nomination – I really appreciate that. I would love to accept it, but I have been nominated in the past. I’m sure there’s other bloggers who would love the recognition though. Thanks again!!
I plan to share your post in my blog https://hellocreativestimes.com. Since you have enabled sharing on your post, I am assuming that you are allowing others to share this post. However, if you have any objection to sharing your post, please let us know as soon as possible. Thank you.
No objections – thank you for considering me! Please be sure to link back to me and give me proper credit for my work though. Have a good day!
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