Travels in Madrid: Part 3 – art galleries, Egyptian temples and more

After the busy sight-seeing in Toledo on the second day of my trip to Spain, my friend had to work on the third day, so I ventured out into Madrid on my own. I decided to go to El Museo Nacional del Prado — one of the most magnificent art galleries in the world.

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Before you can enter the museum, you have to go through a more basic version of airport-style security: bags through the scanner as you walk through a metal detector. As I only had a small backpack, I was allowed to carry it with me but people with any larger bags had to leave them in a room behind the security desk.

El Prado is filled with priceless art and has a fine collection of European paintings dating from the 12th century through to the early 19th century. And the building is absolutely huge. I spent a few hours in there and I still didn’t have time to see everything — there are around 7,600 paintings and 1,000 sculptures! It’s one of those places that you could revisit again and again, and each time you would see something new that caught your attention.

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It has collections by Goya, Velásquez, Rubens, El Greco, Tintoretto, Raphael, Bosch and many more. Walking through the different rooms in the museum, each one had a different feel. Some of them were dark and oppressive, with the paintings using lots of black, while others were more tranquil. And there were lots of paintings with religious themes: Christ on the cross, beatific Madonnas and light-filled depictions of The Immaculate Conception.

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La Anunciación by Fra Angelico (circa 1395–1455) – Galería online, Museo del Prado. Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

Naturally, you’re not allowed to take any photos inside the museum (even cellphones are prohibited), but if you want a taste of the art collections, they display images on their website — Explore the collection. And you can even visit them on Google Maps — 14 of their most well-known works are displayed in high-resolution on Google Earth and Maps.

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Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. Galería online, Museo del Prado. Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons

After visiting El Prado, I went back to my friend’s apartment for a siesta. Then we went out for drinks and a meal in the evening. In Spain, most people eat their evening meal around 9 or 10 pm, and the streets of central Madrid were full of people out enjoying the cool evening air (it dropped to around 71°F/22°C after being 90°F/33°C during the day).

At night, the city was still busy with people and it wasn’t hard to find a place to sit outside and enjoy a meal, even at midnight. That’s one of the things that I like about going to countries like Spain and Greece — the cities don’t shut down early, or become places where people only go out late to party and get drunk.

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The impressive monument Puerta de Alcala sits in the middle of a busy roundabout in central Madrid. I snapped this photo on my phone during an evening out.

On my final day in Madrid, we used the Metro to travel around various places, visiting Templo de Debod, the famous Gran Vía (known as the Spanish Broadway), and Barrio de las Letras — Madrid’s literary quarter where writers such as Cervantes, Góngora and de Vega once lived. On the pedestrian streets, you can find quotes from these authors written in gold lettering. Very poetic and beautiful!

Plaza de Santa Ana is a pretty square in the las Letras area, with lots of restaurants and tapas bars. I particularly liked the architecture. Built around 1848, it has a spacious and lively atmosphere.

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Plaza de Santa Ana

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A statue of Pedro Calderon de la Barca (1600 – 1681), a Spanish playwright

After having an excellent lunch at Taberna Alhambra near Puerta del Sol, we strolled around Templo de Debod and enjoyed relaxing in its pleasant park, visiting Gran Vía on the way. To get the best view of Gran Vía, you should go up to the top floor of the luxury department store El Corte Inglés, where I took this photo:

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El Templo de Debod is only a five-minute stroll from Gran Vía, and it has an interesting history. It’s a real Eygptian temple, dating back to 200 BC and it was built close to Aswan in Upper Egypt. So how come it’s now in Madrid, some 3000 miles away?

In the 1960s, the construction of the Aswan High Dam posed a threat to many archaeological sites in Egypt. As the Spanish government had helped save the Abu Simbel temples in Egypt, Templo de Debod was given as a gift of gratitude to Spain in 1968.

Imagine how painstaking the work must have been to carefully dismantle this second-century temple, transport it and reassemble it! A lot harder than IKEA’s flatpack furniture. 😀

The slideshow shows pictures of the temple with views looking across the park toward La Almudena cathedral.

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Although I was only in Madrid for a few days, I saw a lot of the city and it was a wonderful experience. I’ll certainly be making a return visit, and visiting more places in Spain is on my list for next year. I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring Madrid through my blog posts and photos.

Where in the world do you want to travel? Do you have a favourite city or region which has captured your heart?

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7 thoughts on “Travels in Madrid: Part 3 – art galleries, Egyptian temples and more

    • I loved it! It was such an experience, especially walking round on my own. Some of those paintings are so intense. I’m disappointed I didn’t get time to visit El Reina Sofía to see Picasso’s Guernica (that was one of the paintings I studied during undergraduate classes on the Spanish Civil War). It would have been amazing to see it in person. Never mind, that’s a reason for making a return trip next year. 🙂

      Greece is beautiful, especially the islands. And the food is so good! Poor Greece — the people are having a tough time at the moment, with the government’s austerity measures and 75,000 refugees stranded in the country.

      Japan in cherry blossom season would be wonderful to visit.

      Like

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