Summary. Madrid, the capital City of Spain, has always been one of my favorite cities in the world due in part to my Spanish heritage but also because as cities go, it's quite lovely. For starters, the City has some of the best tapa bars in the Country but also a beautiful expansive City park, a Palace, Museums, and rich history. Be sure to taste some of my most favorite Spanish foods here like Paella, Jamón, Chorizo, Croquettes, Manchego, Spanish Tortilla, Olives, Patatas and so many more. Though the entire Metropolitan area is quite large, the majority of the site-seeing is within walking distance of the Central neighborhood of Sol. Public transportation is easily accessible as well.
Our first day in Madrid started with a stop at Queen Sofia Arts Center aka Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. This 20th Century art museum that holds collections from two of Spain's most famous artists of that Century, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. This museum holds Picasso's well-known painting, "Guernica." Photographs are not allowed which is why you do not see any photos here. That being said, we will confess that we did snap a photo of the Guernica (sshhh), and that photo of us with the Guernica may be on our coffee table (sshhh). We are definitely not advocating breaking the rules though. The rest of the museum is about an hour stop unless you're a particular fan of this type of art.
From there we walked to Retiro Park, a 15,000 tree park in the heart of Madrid. You can rent a row boat and enjoy some time on the park's Lake or simply stroll through this manicured park and enjoy the greenery and sculptures. We elected to take a leisurely stroll through park before making our way to the Puerta de Alcalá (first photo below), which is located in the Plaza de la Independencia right near the entrance of Retiro Park. Completed in 1778, this Neo-Classical gate was built at what was once the main entrance of Madrid.
Next we walked to the Museo del Prado. On the way, we viewed the Palacio de Cibeles, Madrid's City Hall and then the neoclassical Fuente de Neptuno, an 18th Century, fountain and sculpture.
Museo del Prado. Museo Nacional del Prado holds the best collection of Spanish art including Las Meninas by Velázquez and collections from Francisco Goya. The museum also holds priceless paintings by Rembrandt, Monet, and other well-known artists. The museum itself is large and art enthusiasts can easily spend all day here. As we had visited this museum on a prior trip, we elected to go during the free admission hours were are Monday to Saturday, from 6 PM to 8 PM; Sundays and holidays, from 3 PM to 5 PM. Otherwise, admission is 15 euros per person. If you do go to the free hours, we recommend arriving early as a line that wraps around the building will form ahead of the 6 PM hour.
Paella Dinner. In Spain, most restaurants do not start serving dinner until 9 PM. More touristy areas will cater to tourists and serve dinner earlier. After the Prado, we headed out to eat dinner at an hour that my family will say I am usually in bed. At the recommendation of a family friend that lives in Madrid, we went to the Taberna La Carmela to order a traditional Spanish dish, Paella. This seafood and rice dish is known for its essential ingredient, saffron, and also happens to be a family favorite. A delicious dinner out in this beautiful City was a perfect end to this sightseeing day.