Madrid’s three world class art museums and two royal palaces alone would set the pulses racing, but there is more to this exciting and diverse capital than its tourist sights. The fashion boutiques of the Salamanca district showcase Europe’s top designers and are just the tip of a shopping iceberg, perfectly complementing the informality of the fascinating El Rastro market, while Madrid’s world famous tapas bars vie for attention with gourmet restaurants and humble tabernas in a city which never sleeps. To simply watch the world go by, head for the supremely elegant Plaza Mayor.
The former residence of Spain’s Bourbon rulers boasts more rooms than any other palace in Europe. With priceless collections of tapestries, clocks, paintings, furniture, even Stradivarius violins, there is something here for everyone (see Palacio Real).
This world famous art gallery is Madrid’s obvious must see. The outstanding collections of Spanish and European painting reflect the taste of royal connoisseurs (see Museo del Prado).
This magnificent square, now lined with shops, has been the focal point of the city ever since Madrid became the capital of Spain’s world empire in the 16th century (see Plaza Mayor).
When the daughters of Spain’s aristocratic families withdrew from the outside world in the 17th century to live a life of devotion, they donated their wealth to this royal convent in the form of fabulous works of art (see Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales).
The roots of Madrid’s famous flea market go back more than 400 years. The location in Lavapiés, one of Madrid’s most colourful working class neighbourhoods, is another plus (see El Rastro).
Madrid was the envy of the world when it outbid the Getty Foundation and other front runners for this priceless collection of European art, which attracts around three quarters of a million visitors every year (see Museo Thyssen Bornemisza).
No visitor should miss the chance to see Picasso’s Guernica , the world’s most famous 20th-century painting. This fabulous museum also showcases other modern Spanish greats including Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and Juan Gris (see Centro de Arte Reina Sofía).
Once the preserve of royalty, this beautiful park in the heart of the city is now enjoyed by visitors and Madrileños alike (see Parque del Retiro).
Spain’s fascination with America began with Columbus’s voyages in the 15th century, but this museum casts its net wider than the former Spanish colonies to embrace the entire continent (see Museo de América).
Set against the stunning back drop of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains, Felipe II’s awe inspiring palace and monastery was founded as a mausoleum for Spain’s Habsburg rulers (see El Escorial).