Follow Spain’s arteries to its heart and you find yourself in Madrid; a cultural capital with a rich history that cannot be ignored.
Spain is a vastly diverse country. The regions of Cantabria and the Basque Country offer luscious green landscape to the north, while Valencia and Andalucía are better known for their coastal resorts and Moorish heritage. However it is the capital of Spain, Madrid, with its lively cultural scene and its typical Spanish essence that make it such a great destination for school trips. Perfect for Spanish language learners and art and design students, here are my recommendations and why I love Madrid.
The grand, imposing architecture of the Prado Museum is a direct reflection of the majestic works it houses. Step inside and you will find an impressive collection of European art dating from the 12th to the 19th century with works by artists such as Goya, Velasquez and El Greco. Make sure you see ‘Las Meninas’ by Velasquez, this is one of the museum’s biggest attractions.
The Reina Sofia Museum, with its glass and steel design and 20th century pieces, brings art to the modern era. Here you will find works by Miró, Dalí and Picasso. Don’t miss one of Picasso’s most famous works, ‘Guernica’, which depicts the destruction of a Spanish town called Guernica during the country’s Civil War.
In Spanish ‘el toro’ means bull, and the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas is the capital’s arena for bullfighting. This is a tradition which dates far back into Spanish history, and still remains as an important part of Spanish culture today. Although the bull fights themselves can be gruesome, a tour of the bullring provides a fascinating insight into this tradition.
The Palacio Real or Royal Palace of Madrid is the largest of its kind in Western Europe, with 3,000 rooms in total. It’s the official residence of the King of Spain, although it’s actually only used for state events. Visit the palace and you can tour the decadently designed rooms as well as the Royal Armoury.
One of the largest parks in Madrid, Retiro covers 125 hectares and is a great place to rest after lots of sightseeing. The most popular aspects are the lake for rowing and the Glass Palace which is used for temporary exhibitions. The park also features the statue of the fallen angel; this is thought to be the only statue in the world depicting the devil!
Finally if you need a rest from walking, a ride on the teleférico (cable car) is a perfect option. It runs from the centre of Madrid to Casa de Campo, an enormous expanse of green space to the west. You can see all the famous sites from a very different perspective.
Madrid is not only famed for its tourist sites; the food is an attraction in itself. To get a taste for Spanish cuisine make sure you wander round the Mercado de San Miguel and explore everything it has to offer – I recommend the croquetas and churros con chocolate!
The best way to get around Madrid is by public transport and visitors to the city can buy a travel card valid for 1,2,3 or 5 days which is valid for use on buses and the metro. The network is efficient and clean so it’s perfect for navigating the city and is conveniently linked to Barajas Airport.
Before you go, it’s useful to know a few Spanish words…
Hola – Hello
Gracias – thank you
Por favor – please
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