Madrid Free Walking Tours + Monument & Sights Guide
Seen from above, two features are easily noticeable: the grand north-south artery Paseo de la Castellana which dissects the city and connects the old city to the newer barrios in the north and is surrounded by formulaic grid formations. In contrast, the old city, is an untangled mess of streets centred around Puerta del Sol, the heart of old Madrid. Madrid is divided into 21 barrios (neighbourhoods), each with their own individual flavour.
Here is a very rough guide for the uninitiated:
The historical barrios of Madrid are Los Asturias, Sol and Centro, they are buzzing with life and contain many of Madrid’s most important monuments.
To the south, the narrow streets and beautiful architecture of La Latina, is famed for its huge Sunday flee market – El Rastro. La Latina with its rough and ready multicultural neighbour Lavapiés form the basis of alternative Madrid and are packed with great bars and restaurants.
To the east lies Paseo del Prado, home to Madrid’s best galleries and museums and the large city park El Retiro.
Salamanca / Serrano / Goya lie to the north of El Retiro and are home to Madrid’s wealthiest and thus the place to go designer-shopping.
Malasaña / Tribunal / Chueca are eclectic areas lying north of the historic centre. During the day home to some of the city’s best restaurants and shops, at night taken over by people filling the bars and squares, and drinking long into the night. Chueca is also the centre of Madrid’s gay community.
Madrid Free Walking Tours
Monument & Sights Guide
Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida
(Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida)
Monument Type: Church
Address: Glorieta de San Antonio de la Florida, s/n
Opening Times: Tues – Sun: 9.30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Information: One of the lesser known treasures of Madrid, the Neoclassical Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida is best known for its ceiling and dome frescoes painted by the Spanish artist Goya. The frescos, which were completed over a six month period, portray miracles by Saint Anthony of Padua and every June 13, a lively pilgrimage is held in which young unwed women come to pray to Saint Anthony and to ask for a partner. The chapel is also the resting place of Goya.
Plaza de España
What is it? Large square and popular tourist spot
Where is it? Located at the the western end of Gran Vía, just north of Palacio Real (Royal Palace)
Information: Located on the spot that the Napoleonic soldiers used to execute prisoners taken during the May 2nd Uprisings, Plaza de España is one of Madrid’s most well-known squares. Its most notable feature is perhaps the statue to Spanish novelist, poet and playwright Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. It was designed by architects Rafael Martínez Zapatero and Pedro Muguruza and sculptor Lorenzo Coullaut Valera in the 20th century and includes a stone sculpture of Cervantes, overlooking bronze sculptures of his two most famous creations Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
Palacio Real de Madrid
(Royal Palace of Madrid)
Monument Type: Palace
Address: Calle Bailén, s/n
Opening Times: Oct – Mar: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Apr – Sep: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Price: General Admission: 11€ Students, Pensioners: 6€: Oct – Mar: Mon – Thu: 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Apr – Sep: Mon – Thu: 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Free
Information: The Royal Palace in Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal family, although it is only used for state ceremonies, and is the largest palace in Europe by floor area. The current Baroque Palace which stands on the site today was constructed in the 18th century however it was built on the foundations of numerous seats of power tracing a lineage back to the Royal Alcazar of the early Castilian rulers. The palace contains a treasure chest of artworks including pieces by Goya, Caravaggio and Velázquez as well as numerous highlight important texts and maps.
Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena
Monument Type: Cathedral
Address: Calle Bailén, 10
Opening Times: Mon – Sun: 9 a.m. – 8.30 p.m.
Price: Donations of 1 €
Information: Construction only began on Madrid’s largest cathedral in 1879, and was originally Gothic revival in design. The interruption caused by the Spanish Civil War in 1936 saw the design change a little when construction resumed in the 1950s as a new baroque exterior was adapted to match the grey and white façade of the Palacio Real, which stands directly opposite. The Neo-Gothic interior is uniquely modern with chapels and statues given over to a vast range of styles. Construction was completed until 1993, when it was consecrated by Pope John Paul II.
Real Basílica de San Francisco el Grande
(San Francisco el Grande Basilica)
Monument Type: Basilica
Address: Plaza de San Francisco, s/n,
Opening Times: Tue – Fri: 10 a.m. – 12.30 p.m. & 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Sat: 10.30 a.m. – 12.30 a.m. & 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Jul & Aug: Tue – Sun: 10.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m. & 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Price: General Admission: 3 € Groups, Students, Pensioners: 2 €
Information: The San Francisco el Grade Basilica was designed in the Neoclassic style in 2nd half on the 18th century and once acted as the national pantheon and enshrined the remains of famous artists and politicians. The building itself has a sober, vertical façade with its principal feature being its massive 33m wide in diameter dome. In its interior hang a number of paintings by masters Zurbarán and Francisco Goya
Puerta del Sol
(Gate of the Sun)
What is it? One of the busiest and well-known squares of the city
Where is it? Located in the very heart of Madrid
Information: Originally constructed as one of the gates in the city wall in the 15th century, today Puerta del Sol in the symbolic heart of Madrid. It was during the 17th – 19th centuries that the square first gained its notoriety as meeting place of the masses, as crowds used to mill around the House of the Post Office which today serves as the office of the President of Madrid. Other notable features include the mounted statue of Charles III of Spain, the famous Tío Pepe neon advert on the square’s eastern side and the statue of a bear and a madrone tree (madroño), the heraldic symbol of Madrid. Underneath the square lies the Puerta del Sol Metro hub served by lines 1, 2 & 3.
What is it? Madrid’s most picturesque square
Where is it? Located in Madrid Old Town
Information: Plaza Mayor is Madrid’s best looking square and is located a few blocks away from Puerta del Sol. The origins of the square date back to 16th century but what we see today is the result of reconstruction in 1790 after a series of enormous fires. The square, or rectangle, to be more precise, is surrounded by residential buildings with 237 balconies facing the Plaza. There are 9 entrance-ways and over the years has seen an enormous array of events including bullfights, football matches, public executions and even “autos de fe”, heretical trials held during the Spanish Inquisition. Nowadays the square is lined with old and traditional shops, the tourist information office and many extremely expensive cafés.
Plaza de la Villa
What is it? Quaint small square with architecture of contrasting styles
Where is it? A short walk west of Plaza Mayor
Information: The largest building on the picturesque Plaza de la Villa is the 17th century, Casa de la Villa, the old medieval town hall. Also on the square is the Casa de Cisneros, a plasrtesque style resident and the even earlier Torre de los Lujanes, a 15th century Mudejar tower. At the centre of the square lies a statue to lvaro de Bazan, the Spanish Admiral who planned the failed Spanish Armada attack on England.
Plaza de Cibeles
What is it? Neo-classical square that has become an iconic symbol of Madrid
Where is it? at the junction of Calle de Alcalá (east – west), Paseo de Recoletos ( north) and Paseo del Prado (south)
Information: The busy roundabout of Plaza de Ciebles is dominated by four prominent buildings that are located in three different adjacent districts: Centro, Retiro and Salamanca . The baroque Palacio de Linares was built in 1873 by a rich banker but later fell into disrepair until in 1992 when it was completely renovated. The Buenavista Palace was constructed in 1777 for the Duchess of Alba and is surrounded by French style gardens. Today it is the headquarters of the Spanish Army. The Bank of Spain has been frequently modified since its construction in the latter half of the 19th century, and the most iconic building of them all the Palacio de Cibeles and the Cibeles fountain. The fountain, named after Cybele (or Ceres), the Roman goddess of fertility, depicts the goddess sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions. The Palace was once home to the Postal Service but today is Madrid City Hall.
Parque del Retiro
(Buen Retiro Park)
What is it? One of the largest park’s of Madrid
Where is it? To the east of the old city, behind el Prado Museum
Information: For an escape from it all Buen Retiro Park fits the bill. The park which originally belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, when it became a public park, covers an area of1.4 km2 and is located on the edge of the city centre. Notable features include the Estanque del Retiro, a large artificial pond and the monument to King Alfonso XII close-by. The park also contaisn a number of art galleries in the Crystal Palace, Palacio de Velázquez, and Casa de Vacas buildings (with the Crystal Palace being the most extraordinary)
Golden Triangle of Art
Monument Type: Art Gallery
Address: Paseo del Prado, 8
Opening Times: Tue – Sun: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Price: General Admission: 9 € Students, Pensioners: 6 € Mon: 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. Free
Information: Forming old point of Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art is the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which began life in the 1920s as the private collection of Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon and has evolved into a collection of over 1,600 paintings. In many ways the Thyssen-Bornemisza fills the historical gaps in its counterparts’ collections: containing as it does the Italian primitives and works from the English, Dutch and German schools lacking in the Prado and the Impressionists, Expressionists, and European and American paintings from the second half of the 20th century missing in the Reina Sofia. The art here spans eight centuries of European paintings giving highlights rather than in-depth displays.
Museo Nacional del Prado
Monument Type: Art Gallery
Address: Paseo del Prado, s/n
Opening Times: Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sun: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Price: General Admission: 14 € G.A + Guide: 23 € Pensioners: 7 € Students, Children: Free: Mon – Sat: 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. & Sun: 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.: Free
Information: The Prado Museum is Spain’s national art gallery and widely regarding as one the finest collections of European art anywhere in the world. Based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and unquestionably the best single collection of Spanish art there are a large number of works by Francisco de Goya, the artist most extensively represented in the collection, and Diego Velázquez. Other masters represented are Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, El Greco and Hieronymus Bosch but that is to name but a few as there are around 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints and 8,200 drawings. The building itself was designed in 1785 on the ordrs of Charless III in order to house the Natura History Caibnet but it wasn’t long before it became the centre of Spanish art. Visit this museum!
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
(Queen Sofía Museum)
Monument Type: Art Gallery
Address: Calle de Santa Isabel, 52
Opening Times: Tue: closed: Mon, Wed,Thu, Fri & Sat: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sun: 10 a.m. – 2.30 p.m. (whole museum) 2.30 – 7 p.m. (selected galleries only)
Price: General Admission: 8 € Mon, Wed,Thu, Fri & Sat: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Free
Information: Inaugurated on September 10, 1992 in a building that was once an 18th century hospital, the Reina Sofia forms the southern-most tip of the ‘golden triangle of art’ and its collection is mainly dedicated to Spanish Art. Its undoubted highlights are its collections of Spain’s two greatest 20th century masters, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. To be found here is also the incomparable ‘Guernica’ perhaps Picasso’s most famous work.