1. Retiro Park
Akin to New Yorks Central Park, Retiro Park is Madrid’s perfect “getaway” destination on a hot, summer day or beautiful fall night if you don’t have the time to leave the city but still want to escape the hustle and bustle for even just an hour. Approximately 350 acres large, Retiro Park is full of open fields and spaces, misty fountains, rose gardens, and “secretive” little corners where it’s very possible and highly probable to get lost in a good book or conversation with a friend. No visit to Retiro Park is complete without a visit to the Crystal Palace or a boat-ride on Retiro Pond.
2. Templo de Debod
A Egyptian temple in Madrid? “I didn’t know the Egyptians ever made it that far North,” you might be tempted to ask yourself. Like most questions in life, including “will I ever not pay taxes?” and “am I gaining weight?” the answer for all three is no. The Debod Temple was gifted to the Spanish Government from Egypt and opened to the public 1972 as a sign of gratitude for their assistance in saving and relocating several priceless temples as water levels threatened to eternally submerge them after the opening of the Aswan High Dam in 1960. Once located in Upper Egypt and decorated by Roman Emperors Augustus and Tiberias, the Debod Temple now stands in Madrid’s Parque del Oeste (East Park), yet another of the cities gems.
3. Gran Via
It could be argued that Gran Via is Madrid’s equivalent of Times Square as it’s equally adorned with large advertisements for Broadway productions, upscale shops and restaurants and impressive architecture. Seen as a focal point and main attraction for Madrid, Gran Via, literally meaning Great Way, is both a principal street and tourist destination. Walking the street, admiring the architecture and stopping for a glass of Sangria is more of an obligation and less of a suggestion.
4. Puerta del Sol
Perhaps the heartbeat of Madrid, Puerta del Sol is where everything happens. Rich with history and surrounded by impressive buildings, Puerta del Sol is a wide and very spacious plaza that both invites and overwhelms you with its openness. You can take a picture by the famous bronze bear statue eating strawberries, a nod to the Madrid coat of arms from the 13th century, or walk in to any number of shops or cafeterias to escape the Spanish sun. Not only is Puerta del Sol a fascinating stop but it also marks the exact spot where all radial roads in Spain are measured from as Kilometer 0.
5. Plaza Mayor
Visiting Plaza Mayor for a quick cup of café con leche or a beer and some tapas with friends is an absolute must. Perhaps one of the more “touristy” things you can do in Madrid, lounging around Plaza Mayor, located in the city center next to Puerta del Sol, is just as much fun as it is stereotypical. You wouldn’t dream of visiting Rome without throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, and the same could be said for a cup of coffee in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor.
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