Since we had never been to Madrid prior to this trip, Joann and I did some research and talked to some friends who had been before. The general consensus was to enjoy museums, vino y jamòn, and just the history of the city itself! I couldn’t be happier with that as a foundation of our short time in Madrid.
Our hotel, The Westin Palace Madrid, is in perfect location if you would like to be within easy walking distance to all three main museums in Madrid – Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Museo Reina Sofía. Together, they are known as the Golden Triangle of Art.
I won’t be the one to pretend to know things about art or anything like that. I’m the furthest thing from an art lover. What I do know is that I enjoyed all three. They were all different, featuring different works from different countries and eras.
My favorite works were Picasso’s Guernica, located in the Reina Sofía, and Goya’s Black Paintings, which are featured in the Prado.
I won’t go into much detail about the things we did because I’d just be regurgitating stuff I read on Wikipedia or Trip Advisor, but here are the main things we did during our 3 days in Madrid.
Buen Retiro Park is a large and beautiful park just on the edge of the city center, a 10 minute walk from The Westin Palace and very close to the Puerto de Alcalá. The park is lovely to walk around, seeing street vendors and performers, countless large sculptures, fountains, and more. There is even a large artificial lake in the middle of the park where you can go for a boat ride.
Retiro Park is so huge that we didn’t even get a chance to see all of it. I would imagine you could easily spend a half day or more here just wandering around, taking in sights or even just lounging anywhere. Plenty of people were doing it when we went.
Puerto de Alcalá is a grand gate in the eastern part of the city. Carlos III demanded a majestic gate for royalty to enter the city, as he did not feel the original Puerto de Alcalá was fit for a king. The original one was demolished and the one you see now was completed in 1769. We saw it multiple times during our stay since it was close to the hotel. It was much nicer at night than it was during the day.
Puerta del Sol is the more famous and much busier gate in the city. It is where several roads meet and is a beautiful place to hang around on sunny day and people watch. Tourists and Madrileños alike were swarming this place when we were there.
The Plaza Mayor is the main plaza in all of Madrid. It is a huge rectangular plaza surrounded by three-story buildings on all sides. There were a few shops and restaurants surrounding the Plaza, but, other than that, there isn’t much to see unless there is a scheduled event. For us, it was just a check off the list of touristy things to see. It is a very short walk away from Puerta del Sol.
The Palacio Real was probably my favorite sight from our trip. Literally, The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family. Apparently, the current King and Royal Family do not live there; they live in a less ostentatious palace. You are able to tour the palace for 10 Euros (I think) and it is well worth it. The current palace is almost 300 years old, but the site was originally used as a fortress in the 9th century. Everything about it was awe inspiring – the architecture, the history, the opulence. It was amazing to see how royalty lived. There were so many different rooms, all with different purpose, and the palatial decor was fitting for a structure that old and historical. I definitely recommend spending a good bit of time in the Palacio Real.
I think there are a number of things to do and see in Madrid, and we were only there for 3 days. Had we been there longer, we might have tried to venture outside of the city for a day trip. Maybe next time though.