At the beginning of June, I spent four days in Madrid, visiting a Spanish friend who is living there and studying for her Master’s degree. I am already longing to go back. The city is beautiful, filled with gorgeous architecture, elegant parks and expansive boulevards.
On the first day of my visit, we went on a three-hour walking tour around the city. I chose to go on the Spanish-language tour, but it is available in English too. We began in Plaza Mayor. Like many Spanish cities, Madrid is a city filled with plazas (squares), but Plaza Mayor is the main square — popular with locals (madrileños) and tourists alike.
Our tour guide pointed out the difference between the shape of the roofs: Plaza Mayor was built during the reign of the Habsburg Dynasty (also known as los Austrias or Casa de Austria). Instead of the flat roofs found in other parts of Madrid and much of the rest of Spain, the Habsburg roofs were built following the Austrian style of architecture: sloping roofs so that the snow could easily slide off.
A few steps from Plaza Mayor is Restaurante Botín on Calle Cuchilleros (which translates as Knifemakers’ Street). Founded in 1725, it is the oldest restaurant continuously operating in the world, and it has the Guinness World Records certificate to prove it!
The front of the restaurant displays a complete replica of its interior in miniature, dolls-house proportions. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a very good photo of it as I was taking a photo through the window and you can see the reflection of the other side of the street.
During the tour, we passed La Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena (known as Almudena for short). Construction of Almudena began in 1879, but the project was abandoned during the Spanish Civil War and it wasn’t until 1950 that plans for the cathedral were restarted. It was finally completed in 1993, so it’s a modern cathedral compared to the centuries-old churches elsewhere in the city.
The cathedral is directly opposite El Palacio Real — the official residence of the Spanish royal family in Madrid. On the day of our tour, the palace was closed to visitors as the king, Felipe VI, was visiting.
Guardsmen on beautiful horses paraded around the street in front of the palace. The temperature that day was 97°F (36°C), so they must have been sweltering hot in their thick cloth uniforms.
This wonderful city has so much to offer, and I packed a lot of sight-seeing into my brief visit! I’ll share more photos and stories from my travels in Madrid soon, including a day trip to the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage city of Toledo.
Have you visited Spain before? Would you like to visit Madrid?