How we visited Madrid in two days
We went to Madrid at the end of September when the official tourist season was over.
While driving to the hotel we realized there are many places to see and our host Paul confirmed this when he gave us a map with all the sights to visit. The Royal Palace, the parks, the museums, the business center and the city center... We would need two weeks to see all of them, not the meager two days we had at our disposal.
So we had two options: either we become Superman or Flash and HUSH! off we go getting it all done in one day - with one day reserved for tasting the local delicacies and by the end of the trip becoming super fat superheroes - or we take the city tour bus and get off at the sights that interest us the most. Since we are not from planet Krypton and the Speed-force hasn’t endowed us with powers either, we walked over to the bus stop.
Our apartment was in the city center so we started our tour directly in Plaza de Espana, where Torre de Madrid and Edificio Espana are fiercely rising to the sky. Built by the mid 20th century, they are among Madrid´s tallest buildings (142 m, respectively 117).
Opposite of the Royal Palace is Plaza de Oriente, a beautifully shaped garden with the statue of Philip IV in the middle of it.
We continued our walk to the south to visit the Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande which is renowned not only for its neoclassic style and interior design, but also for paintings by Zurbaran and Francisco Goya.
The opening hours of the Basilica are very limited: about 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. We arrived 1 hour early because the official website had incorrect information due to changes in the mass timetable, so we had an hour to kill and decided to wander around.
We checked Google maps and found out that Plaza Mayor was close by. The construction of this square was ordered by Philip II and completed during the time of Philip III. In the center of the square there is the statue of Philip III. On the north side of the square is Casa de la Panaderia, initially the main bakery of the town, nowadays the Madrid Tourism Center. This building has an interesting facade with frescoes restored in 1992.
Around Plaza Mayor there are many other squares like Plaza del Biombo, Plaza de la Villa, Plaza del Cordon, Plaza Comandante las Morenas, Plaza de la Cruz Verde, Plaza Paja and churches like St. Andrew´s Church, Iglesia de San Isidor, Basilica de San Miguel, Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales. Also near Plaza Mayor is Teatro Real which celebrates this year its 20th anniversary since its reopening in 1997.
It was founded at the beginning of the 19th century, but in 1925 it was closed due to the serious damages caused by the construction of Metro de Madrid and it took more than 70 years to reopen it.
There are many coffee and souvenir shops in the area, but we wanted to get back to the Basilica in time. And it was worth going back, as the interior is amazingly rich in paintings and there is a nice exhibition in its sacristy.
On the way back to the apartment, we went through Puerta del Sol which is sort of the Spanish Times Square and it´s not a gate as the Spanish name says. This square is the center and zero point of the Spanish Road system and due to its famous clock, the New Year´s celebration is also held here.
The square is famous for the statue of Philip III and The Bear and the Strawberry Tree, symbol of the city as seen on the Coat of Arms of Madrid.
The next day, we separated from our parents. We went to visit the Royal Palace and the parents visited the Museo Nacional del Prado which has a rich collection of several thousands of paintings, including works by Goya, Bosch, El Greco and Velazquez among many others. Near Prado is Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas, Museo Naval de Madrid which are a real paradise for fine art lovers. The Thyssen-Bornemisza museum has famous works on display by painters like Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer , Rembrandt, Tiepolo, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro , Paul Gauguin, Francis Bacon, just to mention a few of them.
We met up with the parents and jumped on the city tour bus at the Prado after they got bored of paintings and we finished our tour of the palace.
The route of the Hop-on-hop-off bus passed by Plaza de Neptuno, Puerta de Alcala, Museo de Esculturas, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium (Forza Real Madrid!), Serrano, Gran Via and the AZCA Center.
When all was said and done, and we were heading off to the airport to fly to Granada, although we did not have superpowers we still felt like superheroes, and the best part of being a speedster on a bus is that the only ticket we got was the prepaid one.