Just the other day I realised that the people of Madrid actually know very little of their city. Madrid is not just the modern-day capital of Spain, but has been so for over 500 years, which has had a significant impact on the physical makeup of the city.
The capital was at one point known as Madrid de los Austrias.
First of all, one of the places where this is best reflected is in the central plaza de Ópera, where the Royal Theatre is to be found. However, not only is Ópera home to a temple of Spanish art, but also Madrid’s Royal Palace. Despite being most commonly found at the Palace of Zarzuela, this palace is the official residence of the King of Spain and its origins date back to the IX Century. It is very ornately decorated, but characterised more by Bourbon extravagance than the sobriety of the Austrias.
Next to the Royal Palace stands Almudena Cathedral (the Senate, one of Spain’s legislative chambers, is also located next to the Royal Palace), however, in all honesty this cathedral cannot compare with those of central Europe, besides, if you are in search of a beautiful and unique cathedral, I would recommend visiting Burgos cathedral.
Having visited Almudena, we should make out way up calle Mayor until we reach Plaza de la Villa, the site of the former town hall. The former town hall is place truly worthy of an extended visit, nevertheless, the same is even more true of the next stop on our route, San Miguel market, especially for those eager to delight in the exquisite taste which the people of Madrid and Spaniards have when it comes to gastronomy.
However, it should be pointed out that you are more likely to encounter high cuisine in this market rather than simple fare, in other words, it is of higher quality than that on offer in the average Spanish bar. This is due to the fact that this market has become very popular among the middle and upper classes, and for that reason the cuisine has changed.
We will complete our tour at the Puerta del Sol, from which point all of Spain’s highways originate.
Sol is a very special place and a true cultural melting pot where street artists, tourists and locals alike all rub shoulders.
Furthermore, it’s the perfect place for sightseeing (it is the centre, everything is within reach) and for a spot of shopping. When it comes to shops and Spanish department stores, the department store of choice is El Corte Inglés, which is one of my favourite places to go shopping, especially with Christmas just around the corner when I’ve got presents for the children on my mind.