In Spain, to go on a “paseo” is to take a slow, casual walk. Like a stroll in the park or meandering through the city going wherever the streets lead you. It is how we approached a recent visit to Madrid.
We haven’t spent much time in Madrid. One day and night on either side of a trip connecting through the city has been the norm. That’s not nearly enough time to do the city justice, so we decided to change our norm. Dare I say that the sunny warmth of Valencia left us craving winter weather for the holidays? I doubt that many will sympathize, but we headed north looking for some cold air. The trip took us through Madrid and this time we stayed for a few days.
The Royal Palace of Madrid
We set aside time for sight seeing, hoping to hit some of the tourist spots that we always miss when passing through Madrid. It didn’t work out that way. Signs reading “Cerrado. Disculpen las molestias” greeted us at each gate. You don’t really need to know Spanish to understand that this means you’re not getting in.
It happens to us often in Spain; businesses close for no apparent reason. The Royal Palace of Madrid was closed for three days straight for an official celebration. We continued on to the Templo de Debod, also closed for an unexplained period of time. Our next plan was to ride the Teleferico de Madrid, a cable car traveling over the Parque del Oeste, but this time we smartened up and checked the website calendar: “Cerrado Hoy”. At least we saved ourselves the walk. Lesson learned (again) – always check before you go, regardless of the posted hours, and have a backup plan.
The capital and largest city in Spain still had plenty of sights to keep us entertained. In the midst of the holidays, the plazas were busy with Christmas markets and the streets sparkled at night with lights. Despite the cold winter air, life was taking place outside. Perfect for those of us just wandering around looking to experience a few December days in Madrid. And perfect for a photo essay.
On the outside looking in. The Royal Palace was closed to visitors for three straight days for an official celebration. Guess which days we were in Madrid?
The Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple from 2nd century BC that was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government and rebuilt in Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montaña Park.
The La Almudena Cathedral adjacent to the Royal Palace was just completed in 1993
Equestrian statue of King Felipe IV in the Plaza de Oriente next to the Royal Palace. A feat of balance in the 1600’s, thanks to design suggestions by Galileo it was the first equestrian sculpture in the world to stand on its hind legs.
In the Parque de El Retiro (Retiro Park), the cold didn’t discourage people from boating on the Estanque Grande del Retiro, a water feature created in the 17th century…or from soaking up the sun on the steps of the Monument to Alfonso XII…
…or from strolling along Calle Nicaragua through the park
…or skipping by the Fuente de la Alcachofa
A translucent structure of glass and iron rising out of the trees in the heart of the park, the Crystal Palace was built in 1887 as a greenhouse.
Now used as an exhibition space, it currently holds a work called “Palimpsesto” by Doris Salcedo. Water droplets on the floor form the names of those who have drowned over the last 20 years trying to emigrate in search of a better life.
In a neighborhood called La Latina, the colorful Mercado de la Cebada is more than just a fresh food market.
The Mercado de la Cebada also serves as a meeting place for locals with eateries, wine bars and craft beer.
The Casa de la Panaderia, built in the Plaza Mayor in 1619, originally held the main bakery of the city. It’s now a municipal building with the Madrid Tourism Center on the first floor.
Everbody loves bubbles at the Christmas market in Plaza Mayor.
There were a few people at the Plaza Mayor Christmas market that night
and lots of people getting into the spirit picking out a Christmas hat
Lights along Calle de Hortaleza
The Puerta de Alcala (the Alcala gate), a monumental gate built into the former medieval city wall in 1778, dressed in its holiday best
Puerta de Sol, one of the busiest squares in Madrid at the very center of the city and the country. It is the 0 km point from which all roads in Spain are measured. That is the official clock that will chime the eating of the twelve grapes of the New Year.
The atmosphere was festive at Platea, an old art deco cinema transformed into a gastronomic food hall with multiple levels. DJs and live performances take place on the stage throughout the day.
The entrance level (El Patio) is surrounded by tapas bars and our favorite spot – a Vermuteria. You can order directly from each bar on this level.
A Canalla Bistro by our own Valencian chef Ricard Camarena on third level and a cocktail bar and night club on the very top levels. The lower level holds an international food court and large seating area where you order from a server.