Known as the "lungs of Madrid", few cities can boast such a large park (118 hectares, or 291.5 acres) in a central location. There's a large boating lake and the park has three art galleries, Casa de Vacas, Palacio de Cristal and Palacio de Velázquez. On weekends and holidays, it fills with madrileños (citizens of Madrid) and performers of all sorts, including mime artists and jugglers, painters, singers, puppet masters and fortune-tellers. It was built as a royal park in the 17th Century and until 1868 it was exclusively reserved for the aristocracy. Whether you want to take a romantic stroll through the rose gardens of the park or enjoy a free summer concert, the Buen Retiro is a delightful place for a day out.
It's an officially listed building that contains important works of art considered to be national treasures. It has impressive collections of sculpture and paintings as well as a Neogothic library, antique glassware and lamps produced by the royal supplier (La Fábrica de Vidrio de la Granja). It's now a popular venue for cultural events, social events and press conferences. Its facilities include a sauna, gym, swimming-pool, reading room, bars and two restaurants. The Casino is a private club dating from 1910 and public access is restricted to the restaurants only.
The Prado Museum is Spain's national art gallery and home to one of the world's foremost collections of European art from the 12th to the 20th Centuries, and one of the most impressive collections of Spanish art across the globe. Carlos III commissioned Juan de Villanueva to design this beautiful building to house the Natural History Cabinet but was instead employed by his grandson, King Ferdinand III, to host the vast Royal collection, including revered works of art like The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch and Death of the Virgin by Mantegna. Soon after, it opened to the public as the Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures in 1819. Over the past 200 years, the museum's collection was enhanced by generous acquisitions and donations. These included thousands of paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures by the likes of Goya, Diego Velázquez, El Greco and Bosch. In July of 2005, the Council of Ministers approved an expansion plan which increased the museum's total space by 50 percent and allowed for 500 more works of the permanent collection to be showcased. On October 30, 2007, the annex opened with a collection of 19th-century Spanish artwork which enabled the Prado to reclaim its glory as the crown jewel of Madrid's art scene. A work of art in itself, the historic museum is a Spanish Property of Cultural Interest.
Commissioned by Philip V, the Royal Palace of Madrid is a grand spectacle designed by the architect Juan Bautista Sacchetti. The plans were drawn up and the foundation stone was laid in 1738, but it would be another 17 years before Sacchetti's work was realized. Over the years, successive generations of the royal family furnished the palace with a lavish collection of artwork, antique furniture and decorative details, its halls illuminated by sparkling chandeliers and adorned with artwork by the country's masters. From the ceiling of the Throne Room and the floral motif of the Gasparini Room, to the secrets of the Royal Pharmacy, the Royal Palace is full of treasures. The Royal Armoury, the Paintings Gallery and the Royal Chapel house impressive collections of weapons, artwork and stringed instruments respectively, each offering a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the Kings of Spain. Today, the Royal Palace plays host to State Ceremonies and is a popular tourist attraction.
You can embark on a journey through the life and work of Valencian painter, Joaqua Sorolla (1863-1923), in this fascinating museum. It's located in what was his home and studio, donated to the Spanish state by his widow. Some 300 canvasses and thousands of drawings are spread throughout the three floors. The first floor contains his home and the three studios where he worked. The second floor displays most of his paintings and the ground floor is devoted to his drawings. According to Sorolla, the world was a calm and peaceful place and you'll find this museum to be an oasis of tranquility. He was a master of light and shade and concentrated on painting the female form as well as children and the sea.
Built in 1856 in the same style as La Scala in Milan, this grand theater is dedicated to a particularly Spanish form of 17th-century light opera called zarzuela that includes spoken as well as sung parts. It's also used for performances of classical opera, dance, and concerts. At Christmas time the Spanish National Ballet Company presents their new work here to expectant audiences. The traditional semicircular seating area has three galleries with private boxes and holds up to 1259 spectators.
Estatua de Carlos III is a landmark in Madrid. This equestrian statue was built in 1994 and is nestled on Puerta del Sol. At nine feet (2.7 meters) high, this bronze monument is by Miguel Angel Rodriguez and Eduardo Stride who reproduced the work of Juan Pascual de Mena. It commemorates Carlos III, considered one of the best mayors of the city despite not officially holding that post. Several inscriptions throw light on the history of his time, as well as highlights the names of scientists and artists during his reign.
Even in the country that loves to party every weekend, this is a special occasion. To celebrate properly you'll either want to go to a private party or head for the public festivities in Puerta del Sol. This is where thousands gather to see in the New Year to the sound of the chiming clock. The crowd keeps itself merry with cider and cava (sparkling wine) and it's all transmitted live on TV. You need to take along 12 grapes to eat with each chime of the clock in order to bring you good luck throughout the year. Sparkling wine helps wash the grapes down.
Puerta del Sol (Sun Gate) is one of the most popular and commercial areas in the old town. Five hundred years ago it was just another city gate with an image of the sun drawn on it, hence its name. Nowadays, the square is famous for being the center of the national road network. The plaque on the pavement outside the old Post Office building denotes 'kilometer 0'. The distance between Madrid and every other part of Spain is measured from here. Thousands of locals and tourists flock to the square once a year to await the chimes of the clock that officially announces the New Year.
Located Calle de Alcalá, Real Casa de la Aduana houses the headquarters of Ministry of Economy and Finance of Spain. The 18th-century building is designated as Bien de Interés Cultural in 1998.
This Cuban run establishment treats all those who enter to wonderful live salsa music and very strong drinks. In addition to the music, you can delight in watching salsa dancers show off their talent, and they even offer lessons! Open until the early hours, this is a fun place to get a taste of something a little different here in the Spanish capital.
The country's principal showcase for new, young dance talent attracts dancers, choreographers and musicians from all over Spain. They hope to use this important competition to launch themselves on a professional career. Over 100 hopeful performers compete every June on Teatro Albéniz's stage. Only a dozen acts reach the final heats that are presented to the public.