Madrid, Spain

Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain
Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain | Source
Source
Plaza de Cibeles. Madrid, Spain
Plaza de Cibeles. Madrid, Spain | Source
Paella, national dish of Spain.
Paella, national dish of Spain. | Source
Palacio Real in Madrid, Spain.  Royal Palace which is used for diplomatic and state meetings and visits.
Palacio Real in Madrid, Spain. Royal Palace which is used for diplomatic and state meetings and visits. | Source
La Gran Via in Madrid Spain.
La Gran Via in Madrid Spain. | Source
Although bullfighting originated in the southern region of Spain, Andalucia, it is performed all over the country.
Although bullfighting originated in the southern region of Spain, Andalucia, it is performed all over the country. | Source
Madrid is easily accessible by the great metro system it has.
Madrid is easily accessible by the great metro system it has. | Source
Plaza de Santa Ana in Madrid famous for its elegant night life.
Plaza de Santa Ana in Madrid famous for its elegant night life. | Source
The modern business section of Madrid.
The modern business section of Madrid. | Source
The Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain's national and world-renowned art museum.
The Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain's national and world-renowned art museum. | Source

Madrid, the capital city of Spain

One of my favorite European countries to visit is Spain. Part of the Iberian Peninsula, it shares the peninsula with Portugal to the west. Spain is so interesting because it is a country of so many contrasts. Each region in Spain is unique and even has its own language dialect, although the country is united by Castillian Spanish, the official language of the country. Castillian Spanish was once the language of the king, the monarchy in Spain, and so many hastened to learn it and speak it. Today, it is the Spanish that is spoken by everyone and taught in school, but English has replaced the language in the business world, and today all of European business uses English.

And, of course, where did the Castillan Spanish language originate, but in Madrid, the modern capital city of Spain. And this is where our visit begins. The vibrant, colorful, passionate city of Madrid is one of my favorite cities in all of Europe. The people are friendly and enjoy meeting foreigners, especially Americans. There is much to see and do in this city of more than a million people. It is large and constantly moving and there is always something to do in this capital city. Madrid defines the Spanish people as its beauty, culture and passion is palpable.

One place I always stay while in Madrid is the Hotel Espana at the Plaza de Espana. It is centrally located right off La Gran Via, which is the main drag through Madrid and the main shopping and business center of the city. It is moderately priced even with the euro now as the currency in Spain. Moderately priced, however, is about $200 U.S. per night, but you are in a European capital city, and that is moderate. At each end of the block is the Metro (subway) which runs throughout the city and can get you anywhere even out the outskirts (suburbs) of the city. Across the street is a small park with statues of, who else, but Don Quijote, Sancha Panza and the author who created these fictional characters, Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra. These are the characters that represent the Spaniards and their passionate history and culture.

One of thei first places to see in the city, and the center hub of the capital, is the Plaza Mayor , the main square in the capital city which is lined with elegant shops and cafes. This is where the Spanish people meet each evening and promenade around the square. This is the social hub of the city and when visiting friends, you always meet here for a drink, tapas, or dinner, or just browsing in the beautiful shops under the arches. Here you will meet the true madrilenos, what the people from Madrid are called. La plaza, built in the 1700's, is the older architecture from Spain's history, but it is beautiful and not to be missed. Every city in Spain is built up around a plaza mayor and is the first place to seek out for information about the city. Here, there is a visitors office to obtain maps, brochures and listings of hotels. Usually a friendly Spaniard will help you call for a hotel and translate for you.

Two places right off the Plaza Mayor not to be missed are the Chocolateria and El Botin's. The Chocolateria is a small sweets shop that serves the best churros y chocolate, the thick, syrupy hot chocolate and cinnamon and sugar dusted long twisted donuts of Spain. Dunking the churro in the chocolate is a must and this is a sweet that is not to be missed while in Spain, especially Madrid.

El Botin's is a small touristy cafe, but no one wants to miss it because Ernest Hemingway frequented this cafe and wrote many of his journals and notes for his forthcoming novels about Spain. As I said, it is touristy, but not to be missed because of its literary significance.

For a cool afternoon on a hot Spanish day, visit Spain's version of Central Park, El Parque Retiro.This land was donated to Madrid from one of Spain's monarchs, Alfonso XXII, and in it stands a grand monument in his memory. It is a beautiful wooded park with gravel pathways and mounds of beautiful flowers, especially bougainvillea, twisting and winding along the pathways. In the center is a man-made lake at which you can rent rowboats and go row boating. Here is where you will find the large monument to Alfonso XXII as his statue watches over the placid row boaters in the lake. Also, not to be missed is the lovely glass greenhouse and gardens that are the source of all the beautiful plants and flowers in the park. And, of course, dotted along the pathways of the park are heladeria's (ice cream shops and stands) so you can find refreshment to cool off in the park.

As you walk out of the south end of El Parque Retiro, all you have to do is cross the street and there you are at the Prado Art Museum, Spain's national art museum. Here you will see Spain's fine collection of art, starting, of course, with the Spanish painters: El Greco, (originally from Greece, but lived his life in Spain) Valazquez, Goya, Zubaran, Murillo, Picasso, Miro, and Dali are all on display here. You could spend days just viewing the Spanish collection. Then there are galleries holding art from all over the world that the nation owns and displays at the Prado. There is something for everyone here.

Within walkiing distance from La Plaza de Espana, is El Palacio Real (The Royal Palace). Here, is where King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia entertain the diplomats that travel to Spain on official business. The king and queen live in a residence outside of Madrid but stay at the Royal Palace when in Madrid or entertaining guests. While the part the figurehead king and queen live in is private, there are many public rooms, beautifully decorated, for the public to view when on tour of the palace. This is also something not to be missed.

If you are the type that likes to shop til you drop, then off to the Puerta del Sol you must go. Here is the main pedestrian street full of all the clothing and shoe shops you can think of featuring stores from all over Europe and even America. There are cafes and ice cream shops along the way so you can sit and rest and get lunch, snacks, beverages and drinks. Spain's large department store, El Corte Ingles, can be found in the Puerta del Sol, and literally offers everything you would want to buy by even having a grocery store in the basement. It is a one stop store. Spanish fashion is very colorful and very fun!

If you want to stand in the exact center of Spain, you will find a metal plaque embedded in the sidewalk in front of the Post Office. From here, all roads take off from Madrid throughout the rest of Spain.

If your shopping tastes run in the designer clothing category, then off to theSalamanca sectionof Madrid you must go. Here you will find such Spanish designers as Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrerra, Balenciega, as well as all the rest: Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Prada, Chanel, Donna Karan New York, Max Mara, etc.

Lastly, even though Spain as a nation is now struggling with what to ultimately do with the cultural past-time of bullfighting, if you visit the Corrida of Toros(bullring) in Madrid on any Sunday between April to October, you can view bullfights if you want. But, you must have a strong stomach because they really do kill the bull in the end. It can be gruesome and difficult to watch. But, if you want to experience the ultimate passionate past-time in Spain, this is it. The matadors, (toreros) are magnificent to watch and literally sparkle and shine in their traje de luces (suits of light) covered with sequins in the bright Spanish sun.

As far as dining goes, any restaurant or cafe will serve you jamon serrano, calamari, paella riojas wine, tapas and cafe con leche. Food is always fresh in Spain with colorful vegetables on sale at the many farmer's markets that spring up each morning in different parts or sections of Madrid. Food is bought fresh daily as refrigeration is not as good there as in the U.S. So, what is bought is eaten that day. Meat and fish are also fresh each day at the outdoor and indoor markets. Grocery stores usually offer American products.

The easiest way to get around Madrid and probably the cheapest is by using the fine Metro (subway) system they have in the city. It is clean and fast, although crowded during the rush hour times. Hang on to purses and wallets during these rush hour times as there are pickpockets and especially during the summer at the height of the tourist season. If using a taxi, be sure to negotiate the price BEFORE accepting the taxi ride so you are not charged an exorbitant amount of money at the end of a five mile ride, for example.

Once you have seen Madrid, then you are ready to venture out and see the other important cities in the region of Castilla, but that is for future hubs,

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved Suzannah Wolf Walker

The beautiful Retiro Park and the Alfonso XII monument.  Alfonso donated the land to Madrid for a park for the people.
The beautiful Retiro Park and the Alfonso XII monument. Alfonso donated the land to Madrid for a park for the people. | Source
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Traveling in Spain

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Comments 13 comments

MarieAlice profile image

MarieAlice 3 years ago from Peru

Hi I was living in Spain for the past 6 years and just moved back to Peru a few months ago..... Madrid is a beautiful city with lots of thing to do, a place people must visit when going to Europe!! Thanks for sharing!!!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

Hi Suzette! Thanks for the history lesson and virtual tour of Madrid. My daughter visited last summer and she enjoyed her stay.

I'm ready for a bullfight now! To watch, not participate :)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

Suzette,

Thanks for the virtual tour of Madrid. Although I have traveled to more than 30 countries and island nations, I have never been to Spain. I'd like to visit the Iberian Peninsula some day.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and awesome. Thanks for the great tour of Madrid. Great pics. Passing this on.


torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 3 years ago

Hi suzettenaples,

Thanks for this hub about Spain. Ive always wanted to learn more about a Spanish speaking country and to eve visit one sometime in the future. Voted up


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

A vivid description and wonderful tips. If you have any travel photos from your time there, I'm sure they would add even more to this great hub!


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

Suzette,

Some of my friends have traveled to Spain to works and study. They tell me Spain is a wonderful country. Ever since I read about Spain in my history class in school, I have always taken interest in Spain.

I enjoyed reading this travel article. You could perhaps make it more interesting by adding more pictures and videos.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK

Suzette, what a wonderful city - my friend (going through a crisis at the time) went to her local airport and hopped on the first flight out she could find which had a seat and ended up in Madrid! There began a lifelong obsession with the city which she still has to this day. I remember her telling me all about the promenading and that nobody came out until about 10pm - she has visited since then and still loves the city. Great hub, your descriptions made me want to visit too.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thank you to all the above for taking the time to help out this lonely hub by commenting. Your comments and suggestions are much appreciated. I am taking care of some personal business right now and have not had the usual time to devote to HP, but at some point I will be back to a more regular time here. Each and every one of you are such fine writers. Thank you!


joanveronica profile image

joanveronica 3 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

Great tour of Madrid! Thank you for sharing, and I'm so glad you liked the Spanish culture! Chileans have a dual nationality agreement with "la Madre Patria" (Spain), so I felt the Hub was sort of connected to my nation as well! Voted up, also ABI. Shared.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Hi suzzette. What a wonderful hub and what a vibrant and colorful city. My Polish grandmother, who traveled a lot, always said Spain was her favorite -- location, culture, weather, food - she loved it all. I feel like I have just taken a whirl wind tour of Madrid. Thank you. Sharing. Theresa


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

Spain is just another place for my bucket list. I have read so much about Spain, and would love to visit.


James-wolve profile image

James-wolve 3 years ago from Morocco

Madrid is a beautiful city .I ve many friends there.I enjoyed this hub from your lens!

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