The Madrid of today wears its history proud in a very modern society.
Our mode of transportation was the Madrid subway system, Metro de Madrid. We found the tunnels and trains to be some of the cleanest we have seen in large metropolitan areas. Madrid’s population is of over 3.3 million people and most of them use public transportation.
With close to 300 stations, it is not difficult to find a hotel near a Metro station in the city center or even the outskirts. To limit our travel expenses, we found a hotel that had a shuttle from the airport and a Metro station across the street.
We took the Metro to the Plaza de España exit. The Plaza de España is a park where you can find a monument to Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. The park was full of people enjoying the afternoon.
As we walked down Calle Bailén, we passed the offices of the Spanish Senate, which are about a block away from the beautiful Palacio Real.
Before we continued our trek, we decided to stop at a small restaurant with a sidewalk eating area, overseeing the Palacio Real. We could not go another moment without trying a Spanish Paella. The Paella was excellent and gave us the energy for the rest of our walk.
We walked past the Palacio Real and through the Plaza de Oriente. This park is located in the location of the Habsburg Palace. The park features an equestrian monument on a fountain of King Phillip IV.
A short stroll south brought us to the Plaza Mayor. Known by many names since it was completed in 1619, the plaza has been the site of executions, bullfights, soccer games and public celebrations. On this summer day, it was a spot to sit and people watch. Street actors posed for photos, dressed as anything from Roman centurions to Mickey Mouse.
A few blocks away sits the Puerta del Sol. The Puerta del Sol, or Gate of the Sun, was one of the gates to the city of Madrid in the 16th century. Today, this is the location where Madrid holds its city’s New Year’s eve celebration, around a clock which counts down the end of the year.
We continued our walk down the Calle Alcala, one of Madrid’s main streets, you will reach the intersection of the two most famous streets in Madrid, Calle Alcala and La Gran Via. This area features many popular high end stores.
Just a few meters away is the Paseo del Prado. Lined with trees, the Paseo del Prado is one of the nicest streets in Madrid and runs past the Museo Nacional del Prado (Prado Museum), where we ended our day.
Established in 1819, the Prado Museum is considered one of the best collections of European art, featuring masterpieces by artists such as Fra Angelico, Tintoretto, van der Weyden, Rubens, Velázquez, and Goya. Its most well known piece is Las Meninas by Goya. Be sure to check the hours of operation and days of closure of the Museum before planning your trip.