There is a lot to love about Madrid. It is home to two of the greatest art museums in the world—the Prado and the Reina Sophia. It has beautiful sprawling gardens—try the botanical garden and the palace grounds to start. Like Barcelona, more terrific food and clothes for reasonable prices. More inexpensive hotels and pulsing nightlife. It’s cheap and accessible and well worth a stop on your trip.
WHERE YOU SHOULD GO:
Now here’s a treat, one of the greatest museums in the world, with rooms that are unforgettable. Don’t miss the Hieronymus Bosch rooms with their freaky animals and demented saints—better than any evening on ecstasy you’ve ever had. And the Velasquez dwarfs. And the whole wing of Goya’s, but do save some time for his last, black paintings: a giant eating a man, and witches preparing for a sabbath, and a dog’s head looking accusingly into spiritual light. You might even want to go back, because three or four hours doesn’t make it.
The Goya room captivated me. Something about it was so modern for his time, The use of abstract forms and simple colors made it the kind of art I want to buy someday, put it up in my house.
~Stella wants to rescue that poor little dog.
Velasquez. Yes. No wonder the Parisians started copying the Spanish style.
THE RIENA SOFIA
This converted hospital is one of the grandest spaces for modern art (note the terrific glass elevators). It also features a great courtyard filled with trees where, on hot days, you can have lemon ice on the patio. You’ll see all sorts of great work that you probably won’t recognize, but something you will is Picasso’s Guernica—one of the most famous paintings of the 20th century—and many other very strong Picassos’ (in contrast to the Picasso museum in Barcelona). There are usually one or two traveling exhibitions as well.
This was by far my favorite city for art. Seeing the Guernica live and in all its glory was chilling. I had always head about the impact of this painting, but never really understood it. Now that I have the image of it burned into my mind, I feel like I understand it even more every day.
No wonder it’s so hard to find a good Miró gallery. They’re all at the Reina Sofia.
THYSSEN BORNEMISZA MUSEUM
Across the street from the Prado, this private collection is one of the jewels in the museum crown, and a mind boggler all its own. Its laid out chronologically, and much more accessible than many museums, and you’ll go from the Middle Ages through the 20th century.
THE PALACE GARDENS:
Beautiful sculptures and loads of couples making out—seems to be the place for exhibitionist who don’t have bedrooms of their own.
IF DADDY’S PAYING:
You might want to do a little tour of the PARADORS: state owned hotels, usually in historic buildings, with great accomodations and restaurants. Try the one in TOLEDO—you know, where the bulls run—or any of the towns you plan to visit. They’re too expensive for most students but if Daddy’s paying at least let him do it in style (especially if you’re dragging him along).
WHERE TO EAT:
Madrid has some terrific restaurants and they’re less expensive than anywhere else. Take advantage.
LA FINCA DE SUSANA (C/Arlabán, 4) is really classy, but also informal and low key. Show up 30 minutes early and you’ll usually always get a table (but expect a line).
MONTANA (C/Lagasca, 5 ) looks fancier, but it’s owned by the same folks. This one is all black and white with fake bookshelves that advertise their fakes. Dress up (black) and fit right into the ambience. (Oh, and the food’s terrific too.)
GIJON (on the Paseo) is one of the oldest cafés around, and if you’re there on a Sunday you’ll have all the local ladies in their finery. You don’t want to miss is their fish soup, it’s some of the best.
This story was brought up to us by the San Francisco Art and Film for teenagers
Photo Credits, Flickr Creative Commons, from top: