After departing Nice, France we flew to Madrid, Spain and found that the Madrid Challenge bicycle racing event was taking place on the Paseo del Prado. As our hotel was located a short distance off the intersection of the Plaza de las Cortes & the Paseo del Prado, our taxi driver (after repeated attempts) finally told us that he could not get us to our desired destination. The bicycle racing event barriers were effectively blocking crossing access (cars & pedestrians), requiring pedestrians to walk to the Estacion del Arte circle, and then walk back up the Paseo del Prado to our hotel.
With tens of thousands of people watching the bicycle racing, we quickly realized that we were not going to be able to walk on the Paseo del Prado while rolling our suitcases behind us! Celeste fired up her cell phone mapping Application, and found us a "back street" route to reach the hotel.
Even though it wasn't exactly the arrival we had anticipated, we were glad to arrive and start our Madrid exploration. The back street route wound up revealing some interesting pubs & restaurants, so it was useful information for use later.
DoubleTree by Hilton Madrid-Prado
During our trip planning, we had researched VRBO for a Madrid rental that would give us
quick downtown access, and be close to the places we wanted to see. Not finding anything
that fitted our requirements exactly, we decided to stay at the
DoubleTree by Hilton Madrid-Prado.
We made that decision because the hotel is very nicely located, and within easy walking distance of most of the Madrid
sites we planned to visit.
Here are examples of how well located this hotel is; a number of art museums are located within three blocks, the Royal Palace area is a 1.7 kilometer walk and the Paseo del Prado (a major Madrid street) can take you from one end of Madrid to the other.
Royal Palace: Entrance
As you can see, tourists and other visitors are already lined up to gain entry. The good news for us is that these people are waiting to buy tickets, and we had obtained our tickets online and were therefore able to walk right in.
Royal Palace: Entrance Queue
Located on Calle de Bailén. We took a taxi there to be sure that we were "early visitors". Even though we were early, the lines at the visitor's entrance were already filled with people waiting to purchase an entrance ticket. So we used our cell phone to obtain online tickets and we were immediately allowed to enter the "advance purchase tickets" entrance!
Plaza de la Armería
From the visitor's entrance, you have to walk across the Plaza de la Armería court yard and then walk to the entrance area - which is to my right below the flag.
Royal Palace Entry
The entrance to the Palace is in the center of this picture, and the walled area on the
left overlooks the Campo del Mora gardens.
The entire Royal Palace complex is in really excellent condition, and considering it's construction was completed in 1755, it is in amazing condition.
Philip IV of Spain
This bronze baroque statue of Felipe IV (Philip IV of Spain) stands at the centre of the Plaza de Oriente park across the Calle de Bailén from the Royal Palace.
Plaza de la Armería History
The Plaza as it exists now was laid-out in 1892, according to a plan by the architect Enrique María Repullés. However, the history of this square dates back to 1553, the year in which Philip II ordered a building to house the royal stables. This picture is looking south from the Palace and that is the St Mary Royal of the Almudena adjacent to the Palace complex.
Salon de las Columnas
The neoclassical Columns Room in the Royal Palace was used for the celebration of dances and banquets until the year 1879 when Alfonso XII's first wife died.
Palace Grand Staircase
The Palace Grand Staircase is composed of a single piece of San Agustin marble. Two lions grace the landing, one by Felipe de Castro and another by Robert Michel.
Our interior tour of the Palace was not a guided tour (there is a guided tour available), as we wanted to be able to move about at our own speed and to view rooms of our own selection. Needless to say, the entire interior is a stunning living museum.
Inside the palace rich materials were used: Spanish marble, stucco, mahogany doors and windows and important works of art, particularly frescoes by leading artists of the moment as Giaquinto, Tiepolo and Mengs and his Spanish followers Bayeu and Maella.
Lunch in the Parque del Oeste
After we completed our tour of the Royal Palace, we decided to walk north into the Parque del Oeste and find a place for a quick lunch. We wanted "quick" because we were on our way to the Teleférico de Madrid, which is a cable car from the park to the Casa de Campo. This isn't a long walk, and you will pass through a couple of nice parks along the way.
On our way to Casa de Campo
It is the largest public park in Madrid (6.8 square miles), and was once a
royal hunting preserve.
Taking the Teleférico de Madrid out to the park beats trying to drive out there, this is a direct route, and we didn't have to look for a parking location!
Madrid views from the Cable Car
The views of Madrid & the Royal Palace from the cable car, cannot be duplicated anywhere! We recommend taking the ride to get a break from the city and enjoy the Casa de Campo from the air.
We had decided that the plan for our next day was for us to visit some of the nearby museums. We tried to obtain tickets for the del Prado, but it was "sold out" that day. So we decided to visit the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza which was only several blocks north of our hotel on the Paseo del Prado.
Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside the Museum but they have a really good collection of art works and it is nicely laid out for visitors.
After the Museum, we we looked for a lunch spot by walking along the Calle de Antonio Maura to the Puerta de España. This is considered to be the entrance to El Retiro Park.
El Retiro Park: Retiro Pond
This is the Estanque grande del Retiro in the El Retiro Park, a beautiful lake surrounded
by a huge number of trees and flowers everywhere! The park is an excellent place to enjoy
nature, get some shade, or just stroll along admiring the park's natural beauty.
Although the lake is man-made, the placid waters in front of the massive columns and statues of the Alfonso XII monument are a sight to see, especially around sunset. You can even rent a rowboat for a few euros and paddle around the lake.
Click here to go to the official Park Website.
El Retiro Park: Walkways
This walkway in the park gives you some idea of how well kept and how beautiful the entire park is. The major paths and walkways are used by families, runners, bikers and rollerbladers, and the circular route through the park is approximately 1.9 miles in length.
El Retiro Park: Rose Garden
This view is looking west toward the Prado Museum, as we were headed back to our hotel. You can see a few of the more than 4,000 rosebushes in the garden.
Churros at Las Farolas
We had read a number of people's reviews about Madrid, and many of those stated that one must try the chocolate churros at Las Farolas.
Churros at Las Farolas
The Churreria-Chocolateria Las Farolas restaurant has been in business for over 100 years, and they have several other locations scattered about Spain.
We suggest stopping that you consider stopping at Churreria-Chocolateria Las Farolas. The best churros & chocolate we have ever had! They are located at Calle Mayor, 11, 28012, Madrid, Spain at the intersection of Calle Mayor and Calle de San Cristobal.
Another round at La Taberna de Mister Pinkleton
This was during a break in the Flamenco show, the musicians and dancers were changing costumes, so we ordered another round of sangrias - which by the way, were quite good.
You can acquire your tickets online at Viator in advance of the show, highly recommended, as we saw a lengthy line waiting to purchase tickets at the door when we entered with our reservations.
La Taberna de Mister Pinkleton serves drinks & food as well as dinner if you so choose. We don't have any flamenco experience, but we thoroughly enjoyed the show.
Tapas at La Meripepa
They had a great beer on tap, and we ordered what we thought was going
to be a couple of "small plates" and wound up with a full meal!
WARNING: We were hungry, but there was so much food that we almost could not finish it all !
Our next day's adventure was to visit Toledo, only 87 kilometers from Madrid. We got our tickets from Viator. You would have to select from several different types of bus tours, we took the "Toledo half day" tour.
Bus Tour to Toledo
This is the first view we had of Toledo as the bus crossed the River Tagus. I would assume that the bus followed this route to give our tour group a great view of Toledo, and if so they certainly made it nice for us!
The river nearly encircles Toledo, as it winds its way back to the west of Spain - and - if you look at a map of Spain & Portugal the River Tagus will eventually enter the Atlantic at Lisbon.
Original Jewish area of Toledo
This Jewish emblem notes the boundary of the original Jewish section of the old city. However, during the Spanish Inquisition all Jews were expelled from Toledo and none live there today.
Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes
The courtyard of the
Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes.
This is a beautiful building and quite famous!
The original church was completed in 1504, commissioned by King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. Mass is still celebrated here!
It is decorated with an altar (mid-16th century) from the former Santa Cruz Hospital by sculptor Felipe Bigarny and painter Francisco de Comontes, depicting scenes from the Passion and the Resurrection, as well as two scenes of the Santa Cruz legend.
Jardines del Cabo Noval
We had just exited Jardines del Cabo Noval (park near the Royal Palace) and had
entered the Teatro Real area when we saw this street performer. Yes they are
pan-handling, but you have to admit that it was a unique costume!
I should mention that it was a warm day, and we were wondering how this street performer could remain still for such long periods of time without hydration?
Dinner at Fogg Bar Birras & Cheese
This was our last dinner in Madrid, we ate at the
Fogg Bar Birras & Cheese
on the Calle de Moratín about 1.5 kilometers from our hotel.
That item in the picture above is a Spanish version of nachos with a guacamole sauce and it was delicious! The restaurant had a very good draft beer selection, of which we put to good use too.
The name of this establishment might make you think that it was just another pub, but their food was quite good and the restaurant filled up rapidly while we were enjoying our dinner.
- 2018 Europe Trip Overview & Guide We started in Paris and it has been called many things, but we like to think of it as one of our favorite cities in Europe, click here to read more.
- Mont Saint-Michel, France: We did this as a day trip from Paris, there is a lot of mis-information on the Internet about how to do exactly that, so click here to view our Mont Saint-Michel page and see how we did it.
- Nice, France: The capital of the French Riviera along the Cote d’Azure. A city of rich culture and history with a laid back vibe - a vibe very different than Paris. Click here to view our Nice France page.
- Principality of Monaco: Monaco is only a short train ride (~20 kilometers) from Nice and is more scenic than the images we took could possibly capture. Click here to view our Monaco page.
- Madrid Spain: The capital of Spain, and neither of us had ever been there so we were anxious to see what it was all about. Click here to view our Madrid page.
- A Week in Portugal: This destination was the centerpiece of this trip to Europe., click here to view our Portugal page.
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