There are a lot of things to both do and see in Madrid, so let us just for some time (the time it takes to read this) imagine that I am your guide.
I would tell you to meet up at Puerta del Sol (the sun gate), which is the very centre of not only Madrid, but of Spain. I would tell you to have a look at the beautiful buildings surrounding the square like a half circle, while waiting for me.
We will then walk to the intriguing, 600-year-old Plaza Mayor (the main square), surrounded by some of the oldest buildings in Madrid. This square and the streets around it, were built to impress and show off the wealth and power when Spain was a glorious empire. We will go down Calle Mayor, pass by the old town hall, and end up at the cathedral (La Almudena) and the Royal Palace. If you like gardens and parks, you should persuade me to take you to the beautiful and quiet gardens around the palace.
We will continue along calle Bailen towards a central and exciting neighbourhood called La Latina, and tell you while passing through it, that you must get up early on Sunday morning so you can take a walk to El Rastro. Every Sunday morning, they turn the entire neighbourhood into an open-air market, so if you want to buy gifts and not too tacky souvenirs, El Rastro is the place.
By now, you realise that you are hungry, thirsty and your feet are hurting. We will press ourselves into a tiny and overcrowded bar, packed with Spaniards that seem to have the time of their lives. We will order a small glass of beer (“una caña”) and some tapas (appetizers) will come for free.
With our renewed energy, we will continue to the neighbouring neighbourhood called Lavapies (“wash feet”), another central district, which has become a true melting pot of cultures and ethnic groups (over 70 nationalities live there, I have read).
This is where we will find a typical Spanish restaurant that serves “Menu del dia”, a fixed menu of the day, where we will pay very little money for 3 dishes and beverages. We will end the meal with a strong café solo, and a chupito (shot), because there is more walking to do.
We are going downhill, when you ask me, “What is that building over there with an exciting sculpture in front…it looks like a hospital?” “You are right”, I say, “it was a hospital, but now it is one of the hottest museums of modern/contemporary art in the world, where you among other highlights will find Picasso´s “Guernica”.
We are about to enter the “art triangle”, having left this museum called “Reina Sofia”, we will in a short time, and on the same side of the street find another musuem, von Thyssen-Bornemisza, containing a private collection, now owned by Carmen Cervera – an ex Miss España. To complete the triangle, you now cross the road, and you will stand in front of one of the world’s most important museums of classical art, the El Prado museum.
We will continue our walk past the museum, but now you are tired and want this walk to come to an end. That is why we head towards another of Madrid´s treasures, the wonderful El Retiro park. We will immediately find a terrace there, sit down, stretch our legs and get something to drink, and enjoy it while resting our eyes on sculptures, fountains, families, kissing couples, clowns, people selling fake Ray Ban sunglasses and others just walking around having a nice time.