Sight-seeing in Madrid

Madrid Travel Blog

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Temple of Debod
This was set to be the main day of sight-seeing in Madrid and I had fairly firm plans on what to do. I first went by Metro from Gran Via to Principe Pio and took a long walk along the via Florida to the Ermita de San Antonio de Florida.  By Spain's high standard of church architecture this would not have been particularly impressive but for one thing - or rather one man - Goya. his remains are there if that appeals to you; it leaves me stone cold. The iimportant thing is that he did the paintings on the interior of the dome. Unlike Goyas I was to see later, these were in very bright colours.

I took a bus back to Principe Pio and walked from there to the templo de Debod. This is a genuine second century Egyptian temple which was taken down rather than letting it be flooded when the Aswan Dam was created in the 50s.
Royal Palace (END view!)
San Francisco el Grande - from cathedral dome
it was crated and given to Spain by the Egyptian government in return for Spanish help with the dam. I had seen it from the bus the day before and I was not too excited by what I might see closer up. The actual building looked very small. I think there was an element of optical illusion here because there are actually two floors with some really beautifully inscribed stones at hte top with individual lighting. If I had missed one of these firat sights, I'm afraid Goya would have lost to Debod!

I had intended to go to the Opera House next and then to the Royal Palace.
Cathedral dome view 1
However this plan soon died. The Opera was only open for guided tours in what I was warned was 'machine gun' Spanish and that's way above my standard. The Royal Palace has tours in English but it meant a long wait.
Plaza Mayor 1
I thought I would walk down to the  Basilica de San Francisco el Grande, a church with the third largest dome in Europe. On the way I was about to pass the cathedral, thinking the cost was a bit high wnen I noticed that entry to the cathedral museum included entry to the dome. I knew I would never manage the walk but was assured I could go by lift so that was that.
Cathedral dome view 2
What views! However the Royal Palace now showed at its full size and I wilted at the prospect of a guided tour. It's a magnificent building but I wondered how much I wanted to see the inside. I think you will have guessed by now that I chickened out!

Somewhat to my surprise I was extremely impressed by the interior of the cathedral. I have not seen this mixture of neo-Gothic and far more modern styles anywhere else and I should never have expectd it to come off so well.

From the dome I had looked at San Francisco and I was more than ever keen to see it but, like many north Europeans, I am not siesta minded. it had just shut and would not open again for some hours. I had better finish here because I still find myself wanting to curse.
Actually I was more than ready for something to eat by this time and rapidly adjusted my plans. I had long wanted to see the National Archaeology Museum so I decided to get something to eat first and then set out for the museum.
San Francisco el Grande - from cathedral dome
A brief glance at my map and notes persuaded me to head for the Calle Cava Baja for three reasons.
1. It was highly reputed for tapas - and if I didn't eat something else soon I was in danger of turning cannibalistic
2. It was near
3. It headed towards the Plaza Mayor so I could see that as well.

I settled for the Toma Jam ón on the grounds that they had four courses on their lunch menu, each consisting of a choice between two tapas dishes. It turned out not only to have delicious tapas but a friendly waitress as well.

The trouble with eating is that it gives time for thought and looking at maps - not a bad thing in itself but something almost certain to lead to more sight-seeing and more walking. It did.
Plaza Mayor 1
I went on t the Plaza mayor, as I had planned. It seems to gain less attention in books than the one at Salamanca - personally I would rate them roughly equal.

It would have seemed churlish not to see the Mercado San Miguel, that was very close, a bulding from the end of the 18th century and the last of its kind in central Madrid. I half - but only half - wished I had eaten here sitting on a low wall. Then I went to have a look at the Plaza de la Villa near the Calle Mayor. This is not one of Madrid's larger squares but very picturesque. Its fine buildings include the ayuntamiento (City Hall). Quite why I decided to walk to the Plaza del Sol and getthe metro there. I suppose t was because I had liked it on a previous visit - no such luck this time; it was like a barely started building site.
Plaza Mayor 2


At last I made my way to the archaeological museum but I was in for some disappointments here. First the Plaza Colon was another building site - a right mess. This was a pity as it is normaly a pretty spectacular place. Then the museum itself was being developed and there was only one large hall open - free during the works. It should be really great when it's finished and perhaps I shall manage to go again some time - it will be well worth while.

My additions earlier to my schedule meantthat I could return without a delay and find the Basilica de San Francisco open. I went in to fnd a guide speaking Spanish and realised (to my pleasure and surprise) that I could follow most of it. Suddenly the nave lights went out and he turned on another area. I followed the party round a whole lot of rooms. This was very enjoyable but I was really exhausted. I decided on an early meal and a very early night.

Glynnes says:
Truely informative. Thanks!
Posted on: Jul 31, 2010
Eric says:
I'll have to take the time to explore more of Madrid -- like you I've mainly used it only as a stop-over. I might head to Spain/France for a surfing trip later this summer, and if so I'll definitely try to spend a few days in Madrid.
Posted on: Jul 22, 2010
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Temple of Debod
Temple of Debod
Royal Palace (END view!)
Royal Palace (END view!)
Cathedral dome view 1
Cathedral dome view 1
Cathedral dome view 2
Cathedral dome view 2
San Francisco el Grande - from cat…
San Francisco el Grande - from ca…
Plaza Mayor 1
Plaza Mayor 1
Plaza Mayor 2
Plaza Mayor 2
Mercado de Miguel
Mercado de Miguel
Plaza de la Villa 1
Plaza de la Villa 1
Plaza de la Villa 2
Plaza de la Villa 2
In the Museo Archeologico
In the Museo Archeologico
Madrid
photo by: vulindlela