8 Epic Sights and Monuments You Can’t Miss in Madrid

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Madrid is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. With an expansive art realm and a mouthwatering food and wine scene, you may forget that Madrid is also full architectural wonders: neoclassical palaces, charming fountains and unique green spaces. In fact, Madrid happens to have 2,294 monuments — so you better start now if you want to see them all! If the thought seems too overwhelming, though, we’ve narrowed it down for you. Here are some of the most epic sights and monuments you just can’t miss in Madrid, Spain — and if you can’t fathom exploring them all on your own, Insider’s Madrid can give you a curated private tour.

Palacio de Cristal

Madrid’s most famous park, El Parque de Buen Retiro, is already a must-see when visiting Madrid. Inside the park’s iron gates, the Crystal Palace awaits, nestled upon a small lake shared by ducks, turtles and other flora and fauna. A structure created almost entirely of glass, there’s nothing like seeing the sun streaming in through the glass windows and looking up to the green treetops hovering over the clear rooftop. If you’re lucky, you may catch a temporary art exhibit inside the palace, fulfilling both the need for nature and creativity in one go.

The Crystal Palace in the Retiro Park. Image by Diego Delso / Wikipedia.

Puerta de Alcalá

Madrid was once a walled city and this monument used to be one of its five entrance points. Flanked by blooming flowers and the aforementioned Retiro park, you can spot the city of Madrid below through the gate’s arches. When walking around the stone ‘door’, you may notice some small marks: cannon shrapnel damage from the Spanish Civil War. After all, the gate does date back to the late 1700s — it’s bound to have some scars!

The gate of Alcala. Image by Juanlufer4 / Wikipedia.

Palacio Real

We know Buckingham Palace and Versailles get all the attention, but Madrid’s Royal Palace is actually the largest royal palace in Europe in surface area. You can pay an entrance fee to to explore some of the 3,418 rooms (beyond the bedrooms and ballrooms you can also check out the royal library and pharmacy), but we love simply admiring the outside of the palace. The grounds are bordered with 44 statues of historic Spanish royals and the Sabatini gardens filled whimsical labyrinths of trimmed hedges and ponds.

The Royal Palace at night. Image from Madrid Destino Cultura Turismo y Negocio.

Templo de Debod

Bewildering as it may seem, an Egyptian temple sits peacefully in the heart of Madrid’s city center. The temple dates back to the 2nd century BC, but was given to Spain as gift from Egypt in 1968. The temple arrived in Spain disassembled in stones and was rebuilt in the Parque Oeste, piece by piece until it finally opened to the public in 1972. Locals and visitors have been enjoying colorful sunsets seen from the temple and its surrounding park ever since.

Templo de Debod in fall. Image by Lori Zaino.

Plaza de Cibeles

The busy traffic circle may not seem appealing on paper, but when you see the beautiful Cibeles Palace, you’ll immediately be impressed. The massive structure was once a post office, but is now the mayoral office. Don’t worry though, many parts of the building are open to the public, like the lobby and the building often houses art and fashion exhibitions. The rooftop, which overlooks the bustling rotunda and beyond, is a chic place to enjoy a sunset cocktail. Below, you’ll see the Cibeles Fountain, another emblematic structure in Madrid. The fountain depicts Cybele, the Greek goddess of fertility pulled by two lions on her chariot.

Cibeles Palace and fountain. Image by Lori Zaino.

Catedral de Almudena

Built on the site of a former mosque, Spain’s cathedral is relatively new compared to many of its other monuments, officially consecrated in just 1993, over 100 years later when construction first began. Although most Christian churches have an east-west orientation, this one is unusual in that it has a north-south orientation to match with its neighbor, the Royal Palace. The Cathedral has services you can attend if that’s your thing, but you can also walk through to check out its Neo-Gothic interior free of charge too.

The Almudena Cathedral and Royal Palace. Image by Lori Zaino.

Edificio Metrópolis

Perched on the corner of one of Madrid’s most exciting streets, this impressive building is the perfect jumping off point to start your trek down Calle Gran Vía. Although the street is known for shopping  with many stores housed in refurbished movie theaters, don’t forget to look up to see some spectacular architectural wonders — the Metropolis building is just one of them. The design of the building is French-inspired, and you’ll be in serious awe of the dome at the top which is covered in 24-karat gold and presided by an angel.

The Metropolis Building. Image by Max Alexander / Wikipedia.

Plaza Mayor

This majestic plaza may just be Madrid’s most emblematic sight. Although it can be touristy and crowded, you can’t leave Madrid without seeing this special square, which has 237 balconies that face its center. With the red walls and newly-renovated fresco facade, the bustling plaza is home to cafes and pubs where you can chill out and grab a beer. The ambiance is quite different than what it once was back in the day — a spot for town meetings, the site of Spanish inquisition trials and even home to bullfights.

The Plaza Mayor. Image by Sebastian Dubiel / Wikipedia.

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Your Guide To Spain’s Fashion, Shopping and Designer’s Scene

When you think of fashion capitals around the world, New York, Milan, Paris, London and Tokyo may first come to mind. But don’t discount Madrid, a European capital with some seriously chic style,  talented designers and fashionable brands, or even Spain in general. After all, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville are all spots budding with fashionistas too! Here are just some of the designers and shops to know and check out during your next visit to Spain.

Bimba y Lola

This brand has colorful and versatile garments for everyday wear — think stylish separates and soft leather handbags and wallets. The spring campaign, #ThisisSUMMEROFLOVE, with its bold and vibrant florals and details like feathers, stripes and dots has us believing that this summer will indeed, be filled with love.

Photo by Bimba y Lola

Roberto Verino

Whether it’s preppy menswear suits or an elegant, glittering gown, Roberto Verino has been trending on the Madrid fashion scene since 1984. With his designs in over 46 stores and 76 Corte Inglés locations, the designer is a staple on the Spanish fashion front. His SS18 collection, Dream Island, makes us want to hop on a yacht and take a spin around the Mediterranean: think nautical stripes, crisp white linens and soft cotton. The leather bomber jackets and cigarette pants rewind us back for vintage-inspired spring.

Photo by Roberto Verino

Sita Murt

Sita Murt grew up designing her own knitwear and named her brand after herself in the 1990s. With light, flowing fabrics and simple, modern designs, Sita Murt has made a name for herself in spots like Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona. Check out one of her shops to purchase a red, wide-leg jumpsuit or voluminous, earthly green and beige separates this season.

Adolfo Dominguez

Another designer who’s been hot on the Spanish fashion scene since the 1980s, Dominguez has created a brand aesthetic and always sticks to it: using loose and natural fabrics. Although his designs move with the current trends, he always seems to stay true to his original aesthetic while creating stylish and wearable clothing. This spring, it’s all about color, with vivacious pinks, bright golds and rich royal blues.

Photo by Adolfo Dominguez.

Teresa Helbig

Known for her dresses, Teresa Helbig creates garments that are both romantic and bohemian, but modern enough for a 21st century, all-encompassing female. Impeccably designed and sewn, you’ll turn heads in a Teresa Helbig dress, that’s for sure. She’s also known for her made-to-measure bridal wear. For SS18, get ready for bold and gold from her collection, Rien ne va plus.

Photo from the Teresa Helbig Facebook page.

Juana Martin

Coming straight from Córdoba, Spain, you can feel the Andalusian flavor this designer’s garments emit immediately. However, her talent lies in making ruffles and flamenco-inspired pieces relevant to city living. So don’t be surprised if you end up taking back a little bit of Andalusia to New York, London or Singapore with you. Pickup a flowy, white sundress or an layered orange tea-length number for this summer.

Photo by Juana Martin.

Uterqüe

Although this company is owned by Spanish group Intidex, the fashions found at this shop seem original, despite the fact the brand boasts 82 stores around the globe. Uterqüe still hasn’t made a debut in the UK, Australia or the United States, so it’s best to visit Spain to shop, where you’ll find 34 of the stores. The store feels like an upmarket Zara, with snazzy fashions appropriate for pretty much any occasion. The spring collection is full of exciting colors and silky fabrics, so stop in to check it out.

Photo by Uterqüe.

If you want to shop these brands and more, Insider’s Madrid will create a personalized shopping or fashion tour for you around Madrid, ensuring you discover all the coolest Spanish brands that perfectly cater to your individual style and budget.

If you want to dig even dipper into Spain’s fashion roots, a textile, food and fashion tour from Corazón will take you to different cities in Spain, giving you exclusive opportunities like meeting cape-makers and silk painters in Madrid, taking a patchwork class from former Givenchy model Lola Barasoain in La Rioja and touring the Valgañon family factory (which has been said to  manufacture for the likes of Hermés, Givenchy and others) in the country town of Ezgaray and  is known for its mohair and cashmere scarves.

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Your Guide To Exploring Madrid’s Expansive Art Scene

It’s no secret that Madrid is famous for having some of the most impressive art in the world. Besides the acclaimed museums the city is known for, there’s also an abundance of lesser-known spots to see some truly inspirational paintings, drawings, prints, architecture, photography, sculptures, street art and more. Here’s your go-to guide to exploring Madrid’s multifaceted art scene.

Photo of La Guernica painting from Wikipedia.

The art triangle: a Madrid must-see

No visit to Madrid is complete without wandering through its three most famous museums, conveniently located in a triangle in the heart of the city center: the Museo del Prado, where you’ll spot famous works by Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, home of Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, and the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, which houses a comprehensive collection featuring the likes of Claude Monet, Jackson Pollock and more.

Hoping to see it all? Sign up for a curated Fine Arts Tour from Insider’s Madrid, guiding you through your choice of museums (and/or galleries) in Madrid.

Photo by Museo del Prado.

Go to ARCOmadrid at IFEMA

You’ll be impressed with how many well-known modern artists select this festival to unveil their work. ARCOmadrid, the city’s largest COntemporary ARt festival takes place annually at IFEMA, the city’s trade fair venue. ARCO this year is February 21st – 25th. See ‘historical avant-garde, the contemporary classics, and modern art. The galleries display painting, sculpture, installations, photography, video, new media, drawing, and etching.’ IFEMA also hosts other various art events throughout the year, like FERIARTE, the art and antique festival. This year, IFEMA will also be hosting ARCOLisboa and Estampa, another contemporary art fair. Stay tuned.

Museums with a more personal touch

Tucked away in local neighborhoods of Madrid, more personal museums abound. Start by exploring work by the great luminist, Joaquín Sorolla. The Museo Sorolla is set in the artist’s private home and  showcases work throughout his career, all while keeping in the style of his home when he and his family once lived there. The gardens are modeled on the Alhambra Palace’s ornate Generalife gardens. Set in the Tribunal area of Madrid near Malasaña and Alonso Martínez, the Museo de Romanticismo goes beyond just paintings with furniture, stamps, drawings, clothing garments and more from Spain’s Romanticism period. Set in the former residence and magnificent mansion house, the Museo Cerralbo houses the collection art, furniture and objects belonging to the house’s former owner, the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo.

Photo by Museo de Romanticismo.

From meat to art

The Matadero is one of the most eclectic spots in Madrid to experience art and culture. A former slaughterhouse dating back to 1911, the space is now dedicated to different art forms like cinema, theater, music, books, contemporary design and more. You could spend a couple hours here — or an entire vacation soaking up all the cultural activities and events offered.

Hit the streets 

Madrid’s boulevards and streets feature nonstop architectural wonders, but there’s also literal art too. Street art is most prevalent in the bohemian, hip neighborhoods of Lavapiés and Malasaña. You can spot some special graffiti simply walking around, or for several murals in one spot, stroll past the Tabacalera in Lavapiés.

Colombian artist Fernando Botero also has a few of his oversized masterpieces scattered around the city and the Parque de Juan Carlos I offers a day filled with blooming trees and flowers, plus some unique abstract sculptures.

Photo of the walls of the Tabacalera by Guillermo de la Madrid and Madrid Street Art Project.

Galleries galore

Museums aren’t the only way to experience art in Madrid. In fact, the city is full of galleries, some of the most interesting located near the Reina Sofía on the street Doctor Forquet. Slowly but surely this street is becoming a mecca for art aficionados and the gallery count is 15 and growing. If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry — Insider’s Madrid can create a special gallery tour just for you, guiding you alongside curator, art appraiser and writer Cristina Anglada.

Check out the calendar

Many exhibition spaces in Madrid are dedicated to showcasing temporary art, such as the Fundación MapfreFundación Canal or the Espacio Fundación Telefónica. Each of these halls changes exhibits frequently, showcasing photography, fashion, paintings, drawings, sculptures and more from new and emerging artists to famous, well-known big timers. Make sure to see what’s on during your visit to Madrid.

Photo of the previous Houdini exhibit by the Fundación Telefónica.

Remember, Insider’s Madrid would be happy to curate any specific art tour you’d like, guiding you through your desired combination of museums, galleries, art fairs, exhibitions and more. For more information or to personalize a tour, contact us at info@insidersmadrid.com.

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Insider’s Blog Bites – Janet Echelman in the Plaza Mayor

To celebrate the 400 year anniversary of the Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s city council has an art initiative called, “Cuatro Estaciones” (Four Seasons), which brings outstanding urban art by eminent artists into the Plaza Mayor 2017-2018. Starting TODAY until February 19, you’ll be able to see American artist, Janet Echelman‘s, bright & colorful, mesh art installation. 45m long, 35m wide, & 21m high, this intricately braided & knotted, hand-split rope moves with the wind and is choreographed with spectacular lighting creating undulating color below the blue Madrid sky.  

Join us on our walking tour & get the Insider’s Madrid scoop!

Plaza Mayor Madrid Janet Echelman

Plaza Mayor Madrid Janet Echelman3

Plaza Mayor Madrid Janet Echelman 2

 

 

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6 Reasons Why You Need To Check Out Spain’s Up & Coming Fashion Scene

Milan, Paris, Tokyo and New York may come to mind when you think about fashionable destinations around the world. But we have a little secret: Spain is that up & coming fashion haven you need to explore. Sure, it’s famous for tapas, wine, bullfighting and siestas, but the fashion scene, which has been growing immensely over the past several years, is now on everyone’s radar. Here’s why:

Fashion Weeks Galore

Spain has several fashion weeks (even in smaller cities like Valencia or the island of Ibiza), the most famous being Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid which occurs twice per year. This particular week has a lineup of talented Spanish designers such as Andrés Sarda, Juana Martin, Roberto Torretta and many more. The EGO portion showcases young and emerging designers — Spain is full of youthful creativity. BCN 080, also a biannual event, is Barcelona’s fashion week, home to the world-famous brand Custo BCN. Make sure to check out the catwalks, as these events are on deck for January and February.

Capes designed by Devota y Lomba and Teresa Helbig walk the Madrid runways. © IFEMA.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

Spain is home to some seriously trendy boutiques, especially in Madrid. If you’re hoping to experience a little bit of the city’s special shopping scene, sign up for a Shopping Tour with Insider’s Madrid. You’ll discover items like merino wool, leather goods (even see items made in their workshops), ceramics, gourmet food products and more. Make sure to leave some space in your suitcase!

If you want to go a step further and really get up close and personal with Spain’s impressive textile and fashion industry, sign up for a Corazon Textiles, Food and Fashion Tour, which includes going behind the scenes at famous brand Loewe while also checking out handmade cashmere items made in small villages, seeing locally-made designs at family-run workshops and visiting world-renowned fashion museums.

A glimpse of Madrid’s vintage shopping seen at The 2nd Room. © The 2nd Room

Flamenco is Fashion

Spanish fashion has a variety of unique style influences and one of these is flamenco. Flamenco isn’t just a genre of music or dance, for some, it’s a lifestyle. Seville even houses the We Love Flamenco fashion week, a six-day event dedicated to flamenco and it’s many colors, shapes and styles. This season, which happens to be in January this year, has over 48 different fashion shows, so get ready for ruffles.

Bold and red are two common trends spotted during flamenco fashion shows © We Love Flamenco Facebook page

Famous Designers

The names Adolfo Dominguez, Hannibal Laguna, Roberto Verino, Balenciaga or Jesus Del Pozo may ring a bell. Did you know these are all Spanish fashion designers? It’s true – some of the biggest names in fashion hail from Spain, so make sure to check out their boutiques and designs when visiting.

Roberto Verino floral prints on the Madrid catwalk © Ifema

Blushing Brides

Both Madrid and Barcelona also have Bridal Fashion Weeks, so if you’re planning on tying the knot, you can check out all the dress and accessories trends coming this April. You may spot something ideal for your coming nuptials. In fact, the aforementioned Corazon Textiles, Food and Fashion Tour takes you behind the scenes with wedding dress designer Isabel Zapardiez (whose designs walk the Barcelona Bridal Week catwalks) and even give you a wedding dress fitting.

A wedding dress at the 2017 edition of Barcelona Fashion Week by designer Immculada Garcia. © Barcelona Fashion Week.

Made in Spain

Check out your tag — and if it says ‘Made in China,’ it’s time to head to Spain, because there are plenty of handcrafted goods created right here in Spain. Those summery shoes everyone wears are called espadrilles and are decidedly Spanish. Seseña is a famous brand of capes made here in España — Hilary Clinton is a fan of the brand, and Pablo Picasso was actually buried in one of these capes. Many small boutiques make fascinators, or tocados, which are hair pieces artfully crafted for your most important special occasion. Alicante is famous for its leather industry which makes soft and supple handbags and shoes. Hand-crafted jewelry can be found all over the country too.

Handmade jewelry by Helena Rohner in Spain. © Helena Rohner

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