I really loved Madrid. It wasn’t that touristy when I was there and it has a great relaxed atmosphere with a ton of culture. As always, here are my tips for Madrid:
- Most museums are free for students or have certain days and times when they are free to the public. Booking in advance can save you some time in museum lines.
- The public transportation is pretty new and functional. Google Maps works great with the transportation system, though keep in mind if you’re going to the airport with the subway there may be an extra cost. Walking is also a great option.
- Stay up late. The hours are shifted in Spain, with late lunches and late dinners (around 8 pm).
- The permanent must sees were: Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and Prado for a range of artwork, Sorolla Museum, and Guernica at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
- Nice outdoor spaces: pay a quick stop by Plaza Mayor, check out the park by Rio Manzanares and the art at Matadero, Parque del Oeste and the Temple of Debod, Real Jardín Botánico, and Parque Retiro
- Places to eat: go to San Ginés for chocolate and churros. The Calles Cava Alta and Baja generally have good tapas, as do mercados, or markets. I also had good food at Taberna la Concha and La Rue
- Lots of restaurants will have a menu del dia, or daily menu, which often is three courses and wine for a very reasonable price.
Another day, another adventure. This time I set my sights on the Prado. The Prado’s big temporary exhibit was on Goya in Madrid, and I decided to check that out first. Goya happens to be another artist whom I have mixed feelings about, but I decided to give him a shot. While I wasn’t overly wowed by the Goya exhibit, I did have a wonderful time walking around the rest of museum and identifying pictures from my old Art History class. The piece of art that surprised me most was one by Hieronymus Bosch, or El Bosco. I remember hating learning about his piece The Garden of Earthly Delights, but once I saw it in person I found it mesmerizing. It was one of the few pieces that I kept coming back to.
Another thing that I really liked about the Prado was that they had artists working in the museum. The artists seemed to be tasked with recreating various paintings live, and it was fascinating to see the amount of effort that the original pictures must have taken and to see their duplicates worked on in front of you.
After I had finished with the Prado, I attempted to go to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, or the museum that houses Picasso’s Guernica. Unfortunately was it closed, so I decided to go to the nearby botanical gardens, the Real Jardín Botánico. I have a huge soft spot for parks and gardens, and the botanical gardens didn’t disappoint. They were beautiful as well as shady.
Once I had finished there, I walked through another park, the Parque Retiro. It was both larger and much more well sculpted than the botanical gardens, and I especially enjoyed the man-made lake towards the Northern end of the park where you could rent boats and paddle your way across. Because I was on my own, I resisted the temptation to rent a boat since it looked like it would be more effort that I particularly wanted to undertake by myself.
From there I continued to head North. One of the last museums on my Madrid bucket list was the Sorolla Museum, or a museum dedicated almost exclusively to the work of the artist Sorolla. The museum is actually in the artist’s old home, and it provides visitors with a good mix of culture and art. While several of the rooms have been converted into display rooms, a good number of them are preserved and are as they would have been during Sorolla’s lifetime. My personal favorite was his old studio.
After that it was pretty much time to call it a day, grab some grub, and then hit the sack.