1. Museo Nacional del Prado
The Museo del Prado is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Madrid. The 18th century structure designed by architect Juan de Villanueva houses one of the world’s finest art collections. A 2007 expansion has made the famed museum easier to navigate. With more than 7,000 works of art representing culture and history from the 12th century to the early 19th century, however, it’s impossible to see everything in a single visit. Visitors may wish to focus on the museum’s collection of Spanish artists, including Goya, El Greco, da Ribera and Velázquez, which is inarguably the best collection of Spanish paintings in the world.
2. Palacio Real
The massive size of the Palacio Real is its most imposing feature. Madrid’s Royal Palace boasts more than 2,500 ornately decorated rooms. Built in 1764, the palace served as the royal residence beginning with Carlos III. The last royals to reside there were Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenie in the early 1900s. Although the palace is still used for official ceremonies, 50 of the structure’s elegant rooms are open to the public, including an armory, pharmacy and the palace’s lavish throne room, or “Salón del Trono,” which features a ceiling painted by the Baroque artist Tiepolo. A fresco in the grand dining hall depicts Christopher Columbus presenting gifts from the New World to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
3. Retiro Park
Known as the Parque del Buen Retiro or El Retiro, the park is a 350-acre spread of gardens, fountains and buildings located at the edge of the city center. Retiro Park began as a monastery in the 1500s. It was expanded into a royal park when Phillip II moved his court to Madrid in 1561. It’s been part of the public domain since 1868. A favorite spot for tourists and locals alike, the park features a large artificial pond where people can rents kayaks and canoes. An arcing colonnade structure on the east shore is the Monument to Alfonso XII. The Paseo de la Argentina, known as the Statue Walk, is ornamented with statues from the Royal Palace depicting Spanish kings through the ages.
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