Top 5 Things to do in Madrid

by | Apr 15, 2016 | Europe, Madrid Top Attractions, Spain | 5 comments

My List of Top 5 Things to do in Madrid

With only 2 days left in our trip, how could we absorb the essence of this magnificent city? To make it easier to hit the highlights, we stayed in a lovely hotel on a pedestrian-only street, just off Puerta del Sol, in the heart of Madrid. From there, we could walk to all the destinations on our list!

Number 5: See Picasso’s Guernica in the Reina Sofia Museum

Guernica has been on my must-see list for a long time.

Guernica is the ultimate anti-war statement. You do not want to hang this painting in your living room. This stark black, white and grey mural screams with pain and agony. It is 25′ of despair.

Picasso made Guernica in response to the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. He entrusted Guernica’s safekeeping to the MoMA in New York. He vowed that it would never hang in Spain until a republic was established.

Picasso lived in Paris during World War II. When a German officer saw a photo of Guernica, he asked him:

Did you do this?

Picasso responded:

No, you did.

After Franco’s death, Spain ratified a new constitution. In 1981, after much pressure and negotiations, MoMA reluctantly turned over one of its most valued treasures to Spain.

Number 4: Visit the Prado

The Statue of Neptune is an iconic image of Madrid.

This beautiful statue sits in middle of the boulevard in front of the Prado.

The Prado is a massive museum, surrounded by vast gardens. It houses Spain’s greatest art treasures.

We did not have the luxury of extended time to explore the museum. Instead, we focused on seeing just two highlights. We timed our arrival for 6:00 PM because there is no admission for the final two hours of the day.



Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez is the crown jewel of the Prado.

This treasure from Spain’s golden age is an enigma that blurs reality and illusion. Its multiple focal points allow the viewer to be both an observer and a participant in the scene.

The complexity that is created by multiple focal points reminds me of Escher’s works.

The Garden of Earthly Delights is the road to Hell.

Our vision of hell was created by Hieronymus Bosch in The Garden of Earthly Delights over 500 years ago. We are still fascinated by demons and everlasting damnation.

The Prado is launching a major exhibition of Bosch’s works opening in May. This ambitious showing is expected to attract thousands of visitors to the Prado.

Number 3: Take a Tour of the Royal Palace of Madrid

I plan to return to this magnificent palace!

The Royal Palace of Madrid is one of Europe’s most magnificent palaces. Its opulence is overwhelming. It has over 2,000 rooms, all highly decorated with a treasure trove of priceless antiquities.

We were very glad that we opted for the guided tour offered by the museum. Our tour guide was amazing. At first, she was a bit robotic, just providing us with the basic tour info. She came alive when we started asking questions. She gave us insights and information that we could never have discovered on our own.

Sadly, photos are not permitted inside the palace so I cannot share any visuals with you.

One of the highlights of the palace is the Stradivarius Room, with the only collection of decorated instruments that the Stradivari family made as a set.

Number 2: Take Time for a Stroll and Shopping in this Pedestrian-Friendly City

Sometimes you see more by slowing down.

The pedestrian-friendly streets of Madrid are alive with crowds …. strolling, dining, drinking, having fun.

We had lots of fun when we stopped to look at others having fun.

Number 1: Feast on Ham

Hamming it up in Spain

What is the perfect souvenir from Spain? Ham! ….Ibérico ham, a dry-cured ham from the black Iberian pig. It is everywhere in Spain…..and it is delicious! The highest quality is Jamón ibérico de bellota, made from free-range pigs that feast on fresh-fallen acorns. Connoisseurs of Spanish ham can taste the subtle undertones of acorns as they savour each slice of Spain’s finest ham.

Our first lunch in Spain was Ibérico ham and beer.

Slicing Ibérico ham is a real art.

Each delectable slice is paper thin, with just the right amount of wonderfully marbled fat.

Ibérico ham is the centerpiece of this tapas plate
This slab of pork belly fat is an essential ingredient in spaghetti carbonara.
Who knew that bacon, eggs and cheese on pasta could taste so heavenly!

Ibérico ham is all natural

Ibérico ham, with no added preservatives or colouring, from healthy free-range animals, is prized as a natural food choice. The Chinese have developed a passion for all Spanish pork products and in particular, Ibérico ham. China is the second-largest market in the world for Spanish pork. China’s appetite for Ibérico ham is raising some concerns in Spain. Instead of just buying the finished product, the Chinese are buying the means of production. “I liked it so much, I bought the company” is a famous advertising slogan that describes China’s latest buying spree.

Last year, Fosun, one of China’s largest financial and industrial conglomerates, bought a stake in the parent company of Cinco Jotas, one of Spain’s top brands of Ibérico ham. [Spain’s Prized Ibérico Hams Can’t Cure Fast Enough for China DEC. 1, 2015 The New York Times]

Another concern in Spain is that the Chinese will start producing their own Ibérico ham.

A potential trade dispute between Spain and China is whether Chinese producers can label their products as Ibérico ham. Does Ibérico describe a breed of pig, regardless of whether it is raised in Spain or China, or does Ibérico describe a breed of pig that is raised only in the Iberian peninsula?

Trade lawyers will get rich on establishing ownership rights over the Ibérico tradename. In the meantime, Chinese tourists are flocking to Spain to dine on Ibérico ham in its natural setting.

Well, that is my list of top 5 in Madrid.

The time has come to say a fond farewell to Spain……. and

Hello Vietnam



Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray