Madrid has been the capital of Spain continuously since 1606. The many palaces, churches and monuments provide a beautiful city for touring. Our apartment, very close to the old town and to several Metro stops, was a great base for seeing the sights.
On our first day out, we ran into another protest march and it wasn't our last. We did luck into seeing a bit of the changing of the guard at the Palacio Nacional which happens the first Saturday of each month. We enjoyed beautiful weather, visiting the national cathedral, the crypt of the cathedral and taking a walking tour of the old town. Madrid is a great city for walking and we marveled at the beautiful buildings from the last last five centuries.
A Triad of Important Museums in Madrid (no photos allowed)
El Prado--The Godfather of Spanish museums contains the finest and most significant national treasures. We made an extended visit, viewing the old masters of Spain--Velazquez, El Greco, Goya, Murillo and more. The modern masters can be viewed in one of the other two important museums. The most important work and pride of the Prado is Las Meninas by Velazquez. Painted in 1656, it has inspired many interpretations by great master painters.
Museo de La Reina Sofia--This museum, contains the impressionists and the modern artists such as Picasso, Miro, Tapies, Dali and Arroyo. In the Reina Sofia, you will find Picasso's Guernica. It is the painter's interpretation of the horror of the bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, ordered by Franco and carried out by Hitler and Mussolini. Because of the war, mainly women and children lived in the village. Picasso was living in Paris at the time he painted it and won a prestigious award for the work. He would not allow Guernica be shown in Spain until Franco's demise.
Thyssen Bornemisza--My favorite collection was given to the Spanish government by Swiss collectors and contains many European as well as Spanish impressionists.
After visiting these three museums in about as many days, we were ready for a break from standing in a museum for 3-4 hours. Remember, my limit is two hours, but these places are vast and amazing.
Palacio Real de Madrid--Royal Palace of Madrid
Make an online reservation if you can for the important museums. You will bypass the big line, to wait in a small line for your entry. It is well worth it. We took the audio guided tour of the magnificent Palace. Again, photography is not allowed in most of the spaces and security abounds. The Palace was begun in 1738, after the previous building was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve 1734. King Felipe v ordered a new palace built that could never be destroyed. Consequently, there is very little wood in the palace and a luxurious use of marble, alabaster, iron, copper and precious metals. The Royal Armory on the palace grounds contains the body armor of Carlos V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, as well as armor for the cavalry and the ceremonial armor for the boys. Check out the helmet made for Carlos V, who had red hair and a beard!
There's more to Madrid than palaces and art. I'll show you those next time!