Spain Guide


Madrid Tourist Attractions Things to Do

When it comes to things to do, sights to see and places to visit Madrid has just about everything even a beach (or at least a simulated one at the nearby aqua park.)

As you'd expect of one of Europe great capitals, Madrid has one of the finest art collections in the world, Michelin rated restaurants, royal palaces and castles, designer shops and a wealth of sports and leisure activities.

Top of most tourists' lists is the impressive Prado Museum, commissioned in 1785 by King Carlos III as a natural science museum. These days it's home to masterpieces by the all time greats of the art world Velazquez, Goya, El Greco, Raphael, Botticelli, Rubens and Rembrandt to name but a few. If you're seriously into art you'll need to visit El Prado more than once as less than half of its priceless collection is ever on display at any one time.

The Arte Reina Sofia Museum is a world famous gallery of contemporary art focusing on Spain's three greatest artistic giants Picasso, Dali and Miro.

Its centrepiece is Picasso's mural Guernica, one of the best known and disturbing anti war statements of 20th century art. The devastation of the Basque village of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War provided the inspiration for this internationally acclaimed masterpiece.

The Reina Sofia collection also demonstrates artistic trends from the 1940s through to the end of the 20th century and has temporary exhibitions of sculpture, films and photography.

At the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum you'll find more than 800 paintings, sculptures, carvings and tapestries. The artwork here ranges from the classical to the contemporary and includes more than 50 paintings regarded as being among the world's greatest masterpieces.

For an insight into the city's origins and chequered past visit the National Museum of Archeology where you can see artifacts from prehistoric times through to the 15th century. Here you'll find relics of the ancient civilisations which all left their mark here Iberians, Greeks, Egyptians, Roman, Carthaginians and Moors.

At the Museo del Ejercito you can see a fascinating display of 27,000 items of ancient armour and military memorabilia including a sword allegedly carried by the Spanish hero El Cid. There are suits of armour, Moorish tents and even a cross carried by Christopher Columbus.

A visit to the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) is a must. Tourists are admitted to about 50 of the 2,800 sumptuous rooms which were first used as a royal home by King Carlos III in 1764.

The fairytale 19th century Crystal Palace in Madrid's loveliest public gardens of El Retiro, near the El Prado Museum, is also one of the top 10 on the tourist trail.

The kids will no doubt prefer a visit to the Casa de Campo park, once a royal hunting ground, now a 4,000 acre wooded playground with a boating lake, sports and leisure activities, zoo and funfair.

The zoo has more than 6,000 animals including lions, tigers, gorillas and koalas. There are dolphin and sea lion shows and a huge aquarium with sharks swimming in more than two million litres of seawater.

In the aviary you can see eagles swooping up bait from the lake, falconry displays and Egyptian vultures demonstrating their prowess at cracking open ostrich eggs with a stone.

To the west of the city there's the Aquoplis water park with its kamikaze rides, fun pools, play areas and restaurants.