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Top Rated Attractions in Madrid

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Buen Retiro Park

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.

Casino de Madrid

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.

Museo Nacional del Prado

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.

Royal Palace

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.

Sorolla Museum

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.

Teatro de la Zarzuela

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.

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