What’s the best way to learn about a city’s culture and history? Should you go online and read dozens of articles? Should you sign up for classes or watch tons of videos? There are honestly dozens of tools at your disposal these days. But, in our opinion, the best way to learn about a city is to embark on a walking tour.
Think about it; walking tours let you get up close and personal with history. All those famous buildings and national landmarks that you’ll see in books and videos? You’ll get to explore them on a walking tour. All those famous and infamous leaders that you’ll read about in textbooks? You can learn so much more about them by speaking with the locals.
Today, we’re going to show you how to make the most of a walking tour of Madrid. We’re going to showcase some of our favorite parts of Madrid — landmarks, monuments, businesses, and museums that really inspire us. Even if you don’t follow our guide to the letter, we hope that the following attractions and exhibits inspire you too. And when you touch down in Madrid, don’t forget to seek out a locker for all your luggage storage needs.
Royal Palace of Madrid
Not every city can say that it has a royal palace, but Madrid can. This building is the home of the Spanish Royal Family and has been since the 1700s. Italian Architect Filippo Juvarra drafted the earliest designs of the palace, but numerous other Architects had to also work on the building over the years. The end result is this gorgeous ivory palace, replete with a sparkling pool and a garden. Yes, we just used the word “replete” in the 21st Century. This palace is just that awesome.
Museo Nacional del Prado
Remember when we asked, “what’s the best way to learn about a city’s culture and history?” Well, museums are definitely up there. Check it out; Museo Nacional del Prado is dedicated to preserving all things Madrid. They have exhibits about the Royal Family, the city’s humble beginnings, and more art pieces than you can shake a stick at. Visiting the Museo Nacional del Prado can’t teach everything that there is to know about Madrid — there isn’t a single place that can. But, this venue will definitely broaden your horizons.
El Retiro Park
Picnics. Football games. Birdwatching. Boating. You can do it all at El Retiro Park. Picturesque doesn’t even begin to describe this place. El Retiro Park has more than 125 hectares of open space for visitors to enjoy. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention El Retiro Lake and the Monument to Alfonso XII. There we go using old English words again. Madrid is really bringing out our inner 18th Century poet.
The Church of Saint Anthony of the Germans
There’s something hauntingly beautiful about Baroque architecture. The elevated roofs and towering spires associated with Baroque buildings make you feel small… but in a good way. It’s surreal, right? The Church of Saint Anthony of the Germans is a prime example of what we’re talking about. This Roman Catholic church was constructed in the 17th Century, and it’s still just as awe-inspiring as the day it was built. We have architect Pedro Sánchez to thank for this church’s breathtaking design.
Honest Greens Hortaleza
You can work up a mean appetite on a walking tour. Trail mix and protein bars only go so far. After a while, you need to sit down and enjoy a real meal. Enter Honest Greens Hortaleza, one of the healthiest restaurants in Madrid. Honest Greens specializes in serving Mediterranean and European food. Lamb, falafel, salad, pasta — it’s all on the menu and it all tastes so good.
Temple of Debod
The Temple of Debod is unlike any other landmark in Madrid because it’s not even originally from Madrid. Here’s the scoop; the Egyptian King Adikhalamani had this temple built back in the 2nd Century. The early 2nd Century, by the way. Like, “B.C.” early. Anyhow, the temple gets built and folks worship at the temple for centuries. Then, in 1960, the United Nations relocated the Temple of Debod to Spain to save it from being torn down. The rest, as they say, is history in the making.
The Museo Nacional del Prado covers a wide variety of topics. We’re not knocking their hustle, that’s why we love that museum. But we love the Museo Cerralbo for the opposite reason; this venue is completely and utterly dedicated to the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo, Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa. All of the art pieces featured here were from his collection. All of the artifacts on display were gathered by the Marquis himself. Even after all these years, Aguilera’s passion for art and archaeology still lives on.
Casa Botín opened for business in 1725 and has never closed its door since then. The Guinness Book of Records officially recognizes Casa Botín as the oldest active restaurant in the world. Not just in Madrid. Not just in Spain. The world. That fact alone warrants a visit, but it doesn’t hurt that the food here is amazing. Before your walking tour of Madrid comes to an end, you should definitely do yourself a favour and make a reservation.
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
Santiago Stadium had to be the final stop in our walking tour of Madrid. Seriously, there was no way that we could write this article and not mention the home of Real Madrid. Do you know how many people visit the stadium during the off-season? Some of the most important games in football history have played out right here. A wise man once said, “always save the best for last.” Honestly, we can’t think of a better Madrid landmark than Santiago Stadium.
(Main Photo by Alex Vasey )