What is special about Madrid?

Tiếng Việt

For this question, I think I cannot give you a precise answer. Madrid may lack the cache of Paris, the mystery of Venice or the nonchalance of Amsterdam. But Spain’s crowning capital is simply graceful and it has nothing to be envious of.


Madrid is a city of elegant boulevards, gorgeous mansions, and expansive, manicured parks. It is also renown for its world-class collections of European art, including works by Goya, Velázquez, and other Spanish masters. The heart of Madrid beats at Plaza de la Puerta del Sol where everything seems restless and the passions of Europe’s most passionate country are the fabric of daily life. For a few days, we were able to soak up this vivid atmosphere and caught a glimpse of life in this fascinating city.

1. Exploring the Old Centre of Madrid

While Plaza de la Puerta del Sol is the current centre of Madrid, the centre of old Hapsburg Madrid lies at the portico-lined Plaza Mayor. Constructed in the 16th century during the reign of Philip III, the plaza in Herrera style with its distinctive red facades is perhaps the city’s best-known plaza. It has nine entrances and is surrounded by three-story buildings with 237 balconies facing the plaza. At the middle of the square is the statue of King Philip III on horseback, one of the most valuable artworks to be found on the street of Madrid.

Historically built outside the city walls, the Plaza Mayor was used for public ceremonies and events such as bullfights, markets, symphonies, tournaments and occasional auto-da-fé (execution in the name of faith). Today, the square is ringed by shops, cafes and restaurants and it is one of the main stops on any tourist visit. For outsiders, the Plaza Mayor also function as a good navigation point as many streets in Madrid’s old quarter intersect here.

Plaza Mayor

Not far from the Plaza Mayor is the magnificent Palacio Real (Royal Palace), the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid. The construction started in the 16th century under the reign of King Phillip V who wanted to build a new palace on the location of a 9th-century Alcázar (Moorish Fortress). With over 3400 lavishly decorated rooms, Palacio Real is the largest royal palace in Europe by room area and it is often considered as the Spanish interpretation of Châtaeu de Versailles.

Despite its elaborate design and colossal size, King Felipe VI and the Royal Family do not reside here and the building is only used for state ceremonies. Several rooms in the palace are opened to the public, and thus visiting is possible. The admission fee costs 10€, but it is free for EU citizens or students of EU universities. Directly opposite the palace is the beautiful Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid.

Palacio Real de Madrid
Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Almudena
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2. Strolling along Calle de Acalá

Running from Puerta del Sol to the northeastern outskirts of Madrid, Calle de Acalá is the longest and probably the most grandiose boulevard in the city. The street is flanked by a splendid range of unequal buildings, including several landmarks and government offices, for instance, the beautiful Metrópolis, the Banco de España (Bank of Spain), and the iconic symbol of the city of Madrid, Plaza de Cibeles. Completed in the 1910s, the neo-classical complex comprises of the Fountain of Cibeles, which portrays the Roman goddess of fertility, and the spectacular Palacio de Cibeles – the current seat of the City Council.

Metropolis on Calle de Acalá
Plaza de Cibeles

My favourite building on this boulevard is, however, the Círculo de Bellas Artes. On the 7th floor of the so-called “Circle of Beautiful Art”, you will find yourself standing atop of Madrid as the entire city stretches out under your feet.

Círculo de Bellas Artes

3. Relaxing in the Parque del Buen Retiro

Meaning “Park of the Pleasant Retreat”, the Parque del Buen Retiro (Buen Retiro Park) is a green oasis in the centre of bustling Madrid. The park belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until 1868 when it became a public park and a recreational area for the Madrileños, as well as the venue for a variety of events. With over 125 hectares, it is one of the largest green areas in Madrid and it is filled with beautiful sculptures, monuments, galleries and peaceful lakes.

Buen Retiro

The garden’s most extraordinary architectural element is the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) designed by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, an example of cast-iron architecture in Spain. Opened in 1887, the glass pavilion was initially built to house a collection of exotic plants from the Philipines, then a Spanish colonial possession. Today, the building was mainly used for temporary exhibitions.

Palacio de Crystal

4. Chocolate con churros for Breakfast

Elsewhere, churros might be just an ordinary snack. But at Chocolatería de San Ginés, it is a  gourmet experience. Located not so far from the Plaza Mayor, Chocolatería de San Ginés is counted as one of the oldest cáfes in Madrid. It is small, yet easy to be recognised thanks to the queue of customers who eagerly try their signature dish: chocolate con churros – unsweetened deep-fried dough dipping in hot dark chocolate. An incredibly good match!

Chocolatería de San Gínes

5. Dining at Mercado de San Miguel

Situated in the heart of Madrid, Mercado de San Miguel does really exceed the usual definition of a food market. Originally built in the 1910s and reopened in 2009 after several years of construction, it is one of the oldest and perhaps most beautiful markets in the city. The market is not a traditional grocery market but rather a gourmet hall. Inside the fancy glass wall of Mercado de San Miguel, tourists and Madrileños mingle and enjoy tapas and other delicacies from every corner of Spain, varying from seafood, paella, to wine and sweets. Beer and champagne are also available.

Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel
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Madrid có gì đặc biệt?


Tôi nghĩ rất khó để có thể có được một câu trả lời chính xác cho câu hỏi này. Madrid không mang vẻ hào nhoáng của Paris, không bí ẩn như Venice, và có lẽ cũng không phóng khoáng như Amsterdam, nhưng thủ đô của Tây Ban Nha là một thành phố xinh đẹp và tràn đầy sức sống. Điều này được thể hiện rõ nét qua những đại lộ xa hoa theo phong cách Belle Époque, những biệt thự và cung điện cổ kính, những công viên được chăm sóc cẩn thận, cũng như khu vực trung tâm Plaza de Puerta del Sol luôn luôn nhộn nhịp. Có người từng nói với tôi: “Sự tấp nập và nhộn nhịp là một phần của thành phố này”. Suy cho cùng, Madrid dù sao cũng là thủ đô của đất nước sôi nổi nhất châu Âu mà.

Círculo de Bellas Artes

1. Tham quan khu Phố cổ

Quảng trường Plaza Mayor – trái tim của thành phố Madrid cổ – nằm cách trung tâm Plaza de Puerta del Sol vài con phố. Quảng trường theo phong cách Herrera được xây dựng vào khoảng thế kỉ 17, dưới sự trị vì của Vua Philipe III và được sử dụng cho các sự kiện lớn như lễ hội, chợ Noel và các sự kiện văn hóa khác. Ngày nay, nó là một địa điểm du lịch nổi tiếng của Madrid và thường được dùng để xác định vị trí trên bản đồ.

Plaza Mayor

Từ Plaza Mayor, bạn có thể đi bộ đến cung điện hoàng gia Palacio de Real Madrid. Mặc dù được xây dựng cho hoàng gia Tây Ban Nha, nhưng Vua Philip VI và gia đình không sống ở đây. Palacio de Real Madrid chủ yếu được sử dụng cho các nghi lễ và do đó bạn có thể vào tham quan. Với hơn 3400 phòng, nó là cung điện lớn nhất châu Âu tính về diện tích phòng. Giá vé vào tham quan là 10€ nhưng miễn phí với công dân EU hay sinh viên của một trường đại học thuộc EU. Đối diện cung điện là nhà thờ Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena, nơi đặt giáo hội Madrid.

Palacio Real de Madrid
Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Almudena
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2. Đi dạo trên Calle de Acalá

Calle de Acalá là đại lộ dài nhất và nổi tiếng nhất Madrid. Nhiều văn phòng chính phủ và tòa nhà quan trọng được đặt trên con đường này, bao gồm tòa nhà Metrópolis, Banco de España (Ngân Hàng Trung Ương Tây Ban Nha) và biểu tượng của thành phố – quảng trường Plaza de Cibeles.

Metropolis on Calle de Acalá
Plaza de Cibeles

3. Thư giãn trong Buen Retiro

Từng là khu vườn của hoàng gia cho đến năm 1868, công viên Buen Retiro là một trong những công viên đẹp và lớn nhất Madrid. Với những tượng đá, hồ nước và hàng cây cắt tỉa cẩn thận, bạn dường như lạc vào một thế giới khác, thoát khỏi sự ồn ào náo nhiệt của cuộc sống thường ngày. Trong công viên, Palacio de Cristal (Lâu đài thủy tinh) – một tòa nhà bằng thép và kính được xây dựng vào năm 1887 – có lẽ là công trình ấn tượng nhất.

Buen Retiro
Palacio de Crystal

4. Chocolate con churros

Có lẽ ở một nơi khác churros chỉ là một món ăn vặt thông thường, nhưng ở Chocolatería de San Ginés nó là một đặc sản. Vài bước chân từ quảng trường Plaza Mayor, bạn sẽ tìm thấy quán càfe này, quán tuy nhỏ nhưng rất dễ dàng để tìm ra vì lúc nào cũng có một hàng người xếp hàng để thử món chocolate con churros – bánh chiên (giống quẩy Việt Nam) nhúng chocolate đen nóng của quán.

Chocolatería de San Gínes

5. Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel vượt xa định nghĩa của một khu chợ thực phẩm. Nó là khu chợ cổ nhất và đồng thời là đẹp nhất Madrid. Bên trong tòa nhà bằng kính, khách du lịch và dân địa phương cùng nhau thưởng thức tapas và các món ngon từ khắp nới trên đất nước Tây Ban Nha, từ hải sản, cơm paella đến các loại rượu và bánh ngọt.

Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel

40 thoughts on “What is special about Madrid?”

  1. Calum Labrador – Quezon City – Hello! I'm Calum, 20 years old, and soon to be a slave to the corporate environment. This blog will chronicle my quest for a life of travel, in hopes that through my stories, you will be inspired to pursue your next big adventure. I'm excited to see the world with you all!
    Calum Labrador says:

    Love the post, Len! It really gets you wanting to go to Madrid someday. Good job!

    1. You will love it, dear 😉 Especially the food. So delicious and affordable. If you intend to visit many museums, choose Sunday. They are mostly free.

  2. pedmar10 – Morbihan ,France – I am a lover of travels to Europe and Americas , and lately Africa and Asia as well ,who like to share my experiences of the last 44 yrs with the world, visiting so far 80 countries; living in 6 and Citizen of 4, and speaking fluently 4 languages. I can deal with sports especially football/soccer and love music, arts, wine collector/drinker,and go out to restaurants, and just visit the world. My background comes all the way from Candelaria and Pajara in Tenerife, Spain where my grandparents came from ;not knowing each other then, to Punta Brava, west of Havana, Cuba. There , my parents born in Cuba met and later on I was born there too. 100% guanche (annexed Tenerife to Spain on April 10 ,1496). I left Cuba as many have to Madrid, Spain where I lived for 4 years. Then, move to Perth Amboy ,New Jersey USA(living there 13 yrs) ; where I became a US Citizen and learned English. Afterward, went to the university in Florida, ERAU, and upon graduation decided to moved there to Ormond by the Sea, near Daytona Beach, finally moving to Hialeah, next to Miami , then another moved to Silver Lakes division in Miramar, Broward county, Florida; in Florida I lived a total of 18 years. Finally , moved to France in 2003 ,Versailles call me for its royalty, and working in Paris was great. It was time to seek frontiers again and moved to Brech near Auray, Morbihan in Brittany , and later move to not too far Pluvigner. Total so far in France has been 18 years, and counting. Moving average a home every 5 years hopefully this will be my last. Cheers All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means or stored in a retrieval system of any nature, without the written permission of the copyright holder, me. No part of this work may be modified, without the written permission of the holder, me.No part of this work may be exposed to public view in any form or by any means, without identifying the holder as the author, and with the before mentioned permission.
    pedmar10 says:

    Good photos praise writing, of my old town/ Have you heard: From Madrid to Heaven and a hole in the sky to look down on it everyday ::)

  3. This post was great! It was nice to read about all these places that I wish to go to one day. And your photos are amazing must I say!
    my blog ♡

  4. Fede – Human, temple and culture lovers and travelaholic. I attend university in Siena where I study languages but as soon as I have enough money and free time, I organize trips around. Trying to get the best out of my travels and getting to know better the world ;)
    Fede says:

    Nice article! Everyone tells me Madrid is nothing special and a normal european city so I gave up on the idea but your article convinced me to go one day

    1. Before my trip, I also heard the same thing. But things turned out differently. I even felt safer in Madrid than Barcelona, and the churros alone are already worth a trip 🙂

  5. jmacindoe – Toronto, Ontario – New blogger writing about travel, photography and whatever else peaks my interest. http://macindoe.ca/
    jmacindoe says:

    Lovely post and collection of shots. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Bama – Jakarta, Indonesia – Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.
    Bama says:

    My best friend who lived in Spain for nine months said to me that he loved Madrid more than Barcelona. Judging from your photos I guess he’s right. Your photos are so sublime, but that image of Palacio de Crystal with the autumn foliage is really special.

    1. Thank you very much, Bama! 🙂
      I agree with your friend. Madrid is somehow more lovable than Barcelona. Additionally, the chance that your wallet or bag got stolen in Madrid is lower than in Barcelona. You can see it very clearly through the way locals wearing their bags 🙂

  7. The article says everything….place, people, and especially if you are on a road trip you feel hungry so crunch your hunger from delicious breakfast, tasty lunch, and mouth licking dinner.
    .

    1. Indeed. Spanish food left strong impression on me. They are not only tasty but also affordable 🙂 Thanks for visiting!

  8. vinneve – I believe in this quote "Life is a JOURNEY, travel it well." Wherever we may end up so long as there is LOVE we will be happy!
    vinneve says:

    Beautiful photos that I feel like going there now haha!

      1. vinneve – I believe in this quote "Life is a JOURNEY, travel it well." Wherever we may end up so long as there is LOVE we will be happy!
        vinneve says:

        Hope you can check my blog too. Cheers 🙂

  9. PurplePumpernickel – I am a MostlyVegetarian, AspiringWriter & StayHomeMomWife, who plays, eats & runs in Singapore. I am still waiting to Grow Up.
    PurplePumpernickel says:

    Lovely captures & highlights of Madrid – thank you for this glimpse into a beautiful city I’ve never been to.

  10. lifeintrips – India – I like to capture moments in words just to relive them again, love to travel, try different kind of foods, enjoy life to fullest, writing is my passion. Indian, compelled by the culture to diversify and explore the whole world and pen it down.
    lifeintrips says:

    Beautiful pictures…

  11. Nice post, Len, and a beautiful selection of images! When we were last in Madrid, we enjoyed a pleasant retreat in Parque del Buen Retiro. We didn’t try churros though – gourmet churros sound intriguing! I don’t think I’ve actually ever tried them: when we were in Argentina, we tried to, but accidentally ordered something else 😀 hahah. The perils of traveling! (In Finland, you can’t get churros, as far as I know)

  12. Laleh Chini – Author of “Climbing Over Grit” - Winner of “Canada Book Award”-Member of Authors Without Borders-lalehchini.com
    Laleh Chini says:

    I want Churros, LOL

      1. Laleh Chini – Author of “Climbing Over Grit” - Winner of “Canada Book Award”-Member of Authors Without Borders-lalehchini.com
        Laleh Chini says:

        I know, very high in calories too, LOL.

  13. It’s always nice to see your own city through the eyes of someone who sees it for the first time! Glad you liked Madrid! I wouldn’t compare it with Barcelona, for me, they are completely different cities!! It somehow reminds me to Paris, but Madrid is not as grandiose… and still, it’s very welcoming! 🙂

    1. Indeed. The Metro in Madrid is nicer and shop-keepers are friendlier than in Paris 🙂 I also like the fact that I can explore the city without much concern about the touts sticking to me like glue. There are some in Plaza Mayor, but they are not so intrusive.

  14. bigworldawaits – Hello, my name is Sarah C and welcome to my blog bigworldawaits. I finished my Undergrad studies in Business Administration. I currently resides in Las Vegas NV. I work as a Sr. Loan Processor but my desire is to be a digital nomad. I intend to show you my experiences on different food, cultures, the world and adventures through tips, ideas, and stories. You can find me exploring the world one plane, train and automobile at a time. Come join me!
    bigworldawaits says:

    I enjoyed reading your post!
    – Sarah
    http://bigworldawaits.travel.blog

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