From Madrid to Heaven! The most popular saying about the city. Many stories tell the origin of this saying however, we are left with the verses written by the playwright Luis Quiñones de Benavente, that read like this:
«Pues el invierno y el verano,
en Madrid solo son buenos,
desde la cuna a Madrid,
y desde Madrid al Cielo».
Madrid, capital of the State since 1561, also known as La Villa y Corte, is the most populous city of Spain, accounting for 3.2 million inhabitants in the city and 6.5 million in the metropolitan area. Madrid holds the seat of government, the residence of the Spanish monarch, and it is the political, economic, and cultural center of the country.
The origins of the city foundation are underpinned by Arab roots, Visigothic basilicas, and remainings of the Jewish quarter which can be found within the historic district. The medieval city changed its course when Felipe II took up his residence in Madrid and made it the capital of his kingdoms. From then on, Madrid became Villa y Corte, its population grew exponentially, changing the urban distribution and developing commerce.
Hence, with a vast artistic and cultural patrimony, heritage of centuries of a rich and passionate history, Madrid has witnessed the birth of celebrated and universal personalities such as Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, Francisco de Quevedo, Jacinto Benavente, Jardiel Poncela, José Ortega y Gasset, Gregorio Marañón, Juan Gris, Juan de Villanueva, Ruperto Chapí, Federico Chueca and Joaquín Rodrigo, among others, and many other intellectuals, artists and celebrities that lived and enriched the city.
Madrid is a cosmopolitan city, faithful to its customs, culture, and art, while, at the same time, it is a modern place, which hosts cultural, economic, and political centers. It is an open and joyful city for those willing to discover it, where culture, gastronomic, business, leisure, and entertainment activities are blended, being one of the strongest and diverse tourist attractions in Europe and the World.
Also, we are pleased to announce that Unesco has added Madrid's Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park to the World Heritage list. Unesco described the locations as a landscape of arts and sciences, indeed the Paseo featured several prominent structures including squares with historic marble sculptures and fountains such as the Plaza de Cibeles, which is described as "an iconic symbol of the city".
With this new designation, Madrid has become the first urban historic landscape to be declared in Europe, the second worldwide, after Rio de Janeiro, and thus, Spain becomes the third country with the most properties declared World Heritage.
Madrid has an outstanding transport network which facilitates access to the city and circulation within it. Public transport connects every corner of the city, which allows us to discover it, as we would say in Madrid, like a cat. More information can be found below, through the official Madrid tourism website.
The Prado Museum, which is commemorating its 200th anniversary this year, is the crown jewel of one of the city’s most popular tourist itineraries: the Paseo del Arte, where you'll also find the Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofía museums. The Prado's walls are lined with masterpieces from the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools, including Velázquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May, 1808. Its collection comprises 8,600 paintings and over 700 sculptures, so we recommend deciding what you want to see before stepping into the museum. If you are short on time, Prado's website suggests three itineraries, lasting 1, 2, and 3 hours and covering the museum's most important masterpieces.
Parque del Retiro
Covering over 125 hectares and comprising more than 15,000 trees, El Retiro Park is a green oasis in the heart of the city. In it, you’ll find all kinds of interesting monuments and gardens, including the Jardín de Vivaces, the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (Andalusian-inspired classicistic gardens), the Jardines del Arquitecto Herrero Palacios, the Rosaleda rose garden, and the Parterre Francés, which holds a Mexican conifer that is nearly 400 years old and is believed to be Madrid’s oldest tree.
Home to the Kings of Spain from Charles III to Alfonso XIII, Madrid's Royal Palace takes us on a journey through the history of Spain. Though it is no longer the royal family's home, it continues to be their official residence.
The palace, inspired by sketches made by Bernini for the construction of the Louvre in Paris, is built in the form of a square and looks out over a large courtyard with galleries and a parade ground. The decoration of the palace's rooms and their layout have gradually changed over the years as the building has been adapted to suit the needs of its residents.
This portico-lined square is situated at the heart of Hapsburg Madrid, the old part of the city and one of the capital’s most charming districts.
Before Madrid became a capital city, with its wide avenues and boulevards, its footprint consisted of narrow streets, alleys, and passageways, which today take us back to the times of swashbuckling swordsmen and medieval rogues.
The foundations of Plaza Mayor were laid, when Philip II's court moved to Madrid, on the site of the former Plaza del Arrabal, where the town's most popular market was located towards the end of the 15th century. In 1617, architect Juan Gómez de Mora was commissioned to create a greater uniformity amongst the buildings in this location, which for centuries had hosted popular entertainments, bullfights, beatifications, coronations and the occasional auto de fe.
Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum
Located on the Art Walk, this wonderful museum holds a vast collection that traces the history of European painting from the Middle Ages right through to the late 20th century. Italian primitives, the German Renaissance, 19th-century American art, Impressionism, German Expressionism and Russian Constructivism are the most widely represented schools and movements in the museum, whose impressive collection boasts over 1000 works of art.
Puerta del Sol
This bustling square located bang in the centre of Madrid is one of the city’s most famous sites. With its semi-circular shape, it is a junction for many of the city’s historical and busiest streets such as Mayor, Arenal, Alcalá and Preciados, as well as the starting point for all major radial roads in Spain.
Originally the site of one of the city’s gates, Puerta del Sol should be at the top of your list of places to visit. Sitting atop the Casa de Correos building, the current headquarters of the Madrid regional government, you’ll find the famous clock that all eyes turn to on the last day of the year. For over a century now tradition has it that people across the country usher in the New Year by eating 12 lucky grapes to the twelve chimes of midnight struck by this clock.
Reina Sofia Museum
Located on the Art Walk, the Reina Sofía houses paintings by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and Juan Gris as well as one of Spain’s most famous artworks, Picasso’s Guernica
Opened in 1990, this is Madrid’s Spanish contemporary art museum par excellence. Its collection, which comprises over 22,400 works, spans much of the 20th century and is divided into three sections titled The Irruption of the 20th Century. Utopia and Conflict (1900-1945), Is the War Over? Art in a Divided World (1945-1968), and From Revolt to Postmodernity (1962-1982). In Room 206 you’ll find one of the museum’s highlights: Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica. Showcased by the Spanish Republican Government at the International Exposition of 1937 in Paris, the mural depicts the bombing of the old Basque city of Gernika in April 1937 and has become a lasting image of the horror of war.