Tag Archives: Spain

15 Fun Things to See and Do In and Around Madrid’s Puerta del Sol

imageBustling, reverberating, full of life — these words describe Puerta del Sol, the Gate of the Sun in the midst of Madrid. A gargantuan, pedestrianized plaza of an irregular shape, it serves as a focal point from which important streets such as Calles Preciado and de la Montera branch out and lead to various major Madrid spots, like Plaza del Callao and Gran Via, respectively.

Needless to say, Puerta del Sol is the heart of Spain.

Whether you’re a backpacker, a first-time traveller, or a high-flying businessman-jetsetter en route to Madrid, it is a must that you include Puerta del Sol in your itinerary. All you need is a whole afternoon – and you will simply be awed by the place and its immediate surroundings.

Here are 15 things to see and do in and around Puerta del Sol:

1. Step on the Kilometro Cero Marker

imageThe Kilometro Cero marker is proof that Puerta del Sol is the heart of the country. Located on the sidewalk in front of the Ayuntamiento building, take a picture of the marker with your feet stepping on it. It’s a tradition done by first-time visitors of the square.

2. Ogle at the Oso y el MadroñoimageThe Bear and the Strawberry tree statue is regarded as one of the city’s important symbols. In fact, you will find its depiction in the official coat of arms of Madrid. El Oso y el Madroño is one of the most visited attractions of the square.

3. Be amused by the square’s street performersimageimageStreet performers are permanent fixtures of the square. One can be the Predator, Edward Scissorshands, or various other interesting characters, each of which is eager to grab the attention of passing tourists. Be wary about taking their pictures, however, as it isn’t free. See to it that you have at least a euro to pay afterwards.

4. Brought along your little ones? Delight them with kid’s face paintingimagePuerta del Sol is the ultimate fun place for kids if only because of the presence of the street performers dressed up as various fantasy characters. Heighten their excitement further by having their faces painted with the likeness of popular cartoon heroes like Spiderman and Incredible Hulk.

5. Shop till you dropimageEl corte Ingles is arguably the most popular retail chain in the country. The best times to shop — and get more out of your Euro — are the months when prices are at their lowest, like the mid-year months of July and August, and post-Christmas month of February.

6. Ride the Madrid MetroimageSol Metro Train Station has several access points in the plaza.  It’s one fast ride that connects Puerta del Sol to other spots of Madrid. Adequate signs make walking thru metro‘s labyrinth-like passageways easy even for first-time riders.

7. Explore the Nearest (and equally popular) squareimageThe historic Plaza Mayor is an enclosed square that once served as a bullring. Walk through the porticoed paths on its sides and check out the souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants. Need assistance in touring Madrid? Drop by the city’s largest tourism office, housed at the square’s Casa de la Panaderia

8. Buy all the souvenirs you wantimageLooking for an authentic abanico? Buy a traditional Spanish fan at Casa de Diego. Plaza Mayor boasts of shops that offer tons of souvenir items of all types, like porcelain statues of Flamengo dancers or toreros, Madrid shirts, mugs, and plates, keychains, and many others.

9. Sit by the central fountain
imageIn the midst of the square are two fountains, both of which have ledges that serve as popular resting places. Any spot here is perfect for you to people watch, gaze at the Casa de Correos and the giant billboards, or simply rest and while the time away.

10. Stroll around the royal gardenimageA must-see is the Jardines de Sabatini, which is a few hundred meters away from the plaza and just beside the Palacio Real. In contrast to the dizzying pace at Sol, here you’ll experience a relaxing promenade. Filled with manicured hedges and lush greeneries, stroll by the garden’s sandy paths while enjoying the magnificent view of the Palace from time to time.

11. Chomp on a bocadilloimageTake a filling break by having some bocadillos of Museo del Jamon, located along Calle Major (or at Carrera de San Jeronimo). Jamon, lacon, chorizo, cheese — you can eat all your favorite bocadillos for 1 euro a piece. Have them served with a cold glass of cola or a chilled copa of beer. What an affordable snack that will get you going for the rest of the day.

12. Visit nearby churchesimageimageThe San Gines Church (above) and Almudena Cathdral, located along Calle Arenal and Calle Bailen respectively, are popular among the locals and Madrid old-timers. Both are two of the most revered in the city, and are often the sites of the yearly major religious events.

13.Have a feel of Spanish royaltyimageAppreciate the facade of the stately Palacio Real in Calle Bailen, or even explore its interior and marvel at the fine furniture and work of art created by Spain´s most admired artists and craftsmen.

14. Relish on a Suckling PigimageA few hundred meters from the square, along Calle Cuchilleros, is Sobrino de Botin, famous for its roasted suckling pig. Order whole so you could cut it into half using the plate’s edge. Eating at Botin affords you the bragging rights for having dined at the world’s oldest restaurant.

15. Wiggle your way around on a segwayimageTour the plaza and beyond by renting one of those fast-riding, two-wheeled, foot-controlled contractions. Many who had done so swore the segway was a uniquely exhilarating way of exploring Sol.

The list doesn’t stop here. In fact, there must be tons of exciting things to do that make for a truly memorable visit of the square. Drop on by if you’re in Madrid, and find out for yourself why it is a must-see. Do so, for your trip to Madrid, Spain is never complete if you didn’t see Puerta del Sol.

Let’s Partake Some Fish: Bar Santurce and Its Grilled Sardines

Did you know that sardines is at the bottom of the food chain of the marine kingdom? It is always the hapless prey, in other words. No wonder sad and lowly is how some describe this particular fish, a kilo of which couldn’t even fetch more than a few euros at popular Madrid mercados like Tetuan and Maravillas.

Just nonsense! Sardines is not sad and lowly, many would certainly retort. The fact is that if you grill it right (assuming you want to do it yourself), you will quite a tasty meal. This is what Bar Santurce at El Rastro has been doing all this time – serving deliciously grilled sardines to the sheer delight of its diners.

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It’s ironic that I am an avowed fish lover, but I have yet to make an effort to know any restaurant in Madrid that serves fish as tapas or platos prinicipales. No doubt, there are tons in the city but I haven’t done any serious rounds. So far, the restaurants I tried mostly specialize in meat dishes.

So, dining at Bar Santurce last Sunday was something new.

Actually, I learned about the place by accident last year, when I visited El Rastro’s flea market and wandered off to General Vara del Rey. It’s nothing fancy, which must be why prices are inexpensive. Still, it is hugely popular because of its reputation for serving some of the tastiest sea foods in the neighborhood

 

 

. I thought I must have a taste of what it offers.

(Why the love for sardines? For one thing, it tastes great, maybe because of all the fats that it has, a quality of the herring species. Sardines somehow doesn’t leave any nasty aftertaste unlike others, or at least the typical fishy flavor that makes people shun fish in the first place. Another reason is its massive nutritional value. Go for sardines, and you get the necessary quantity of omega 3 and oils that are good for the heart. Thirdly, pair it with baguette and this combination becomes a delectable non-meat meal anyone can enjoy.)

It was a Sunday and so as expected, the place was full. Tourists, locals, out-of-towners – all were dining, drinking, and chit-chatting. The floor was littered with paper napkins, and bottles were everywhere.

Kind of chaotic, I thought, as I was half-amused, half-stupefied by the scene. The smallness of the place only magnifies it further. I proceeded to the bar. Eager to see how the fish was cooked, I took the empty space nearest the griddle.

“Una racion de sardinas,”I gave my order to the cook, who nodded as he continued to lay the fish neatly on the hot metal plate. Within minutes, the fish changed their color from glimmering whitish silver to something of a darker hue, a signal that they are ready to be served. All the cooking created white smoke, which I thought smelled strong but not offensive. What’s certain was that it only made me hungrier.

Finally, the cook put my sardines on my plate, sprinkled some sea salt, and uttered a rushed “Buen Provecho” as he handed it to me. My bocadillo de calamares came shortly afterwards.

imageSardinas, grilled and sprinkled with liberal amounts of salt (sea salt I suppose)

Darn, it was a beautiful row that almost covered the plate. Excitedly, I finished a piece in seconds, then another, and then another, stopping only to lick my fingers or use the napkin to wipe off the oil from my hands. I continued to gobble on my meal, eating it like how you eat a corn on a cob. The other pieces, I just picked the fish meat from the bones as the latter stayed on the plate.

All this while I “dealt” with my squid sandwich at the same time. I ate until everything was gone.

While was famished when I came, minutes later I was so full I felt like I was ready for a year-long hibernation.

I’m done! Hasta la proxima, Bar Santurce!

Well, this “next time” happened to be last Tuesday.

I thought last Sunday was enough, and it satisfied my craving for fish. I thought that was the end of that, and that I couldn’t eat no more. But just a few hours later, I was wishing I had some more. This prompted me to plan another visit.

So I was back two days later, only to be surprised that the bar had no diners. Somehow, I was expecting it because I came at around 3:30PM, and the place was about to close. When I asked the cook about it, he said weekdays are slack days for most restaurants in the area as few people would visit or even pass through El Rastro.

Anyway, that Tuesday was better since I had some gambas and green peppers.  Media racion of sardinas, gambas and peppers – these are some of Santurce’s great stuff. Instead of bocadillo, I settled for a trozo of baguette. All this for a little over 10 euro – it’s such a delicious, healthy meal at an affordable price. Omega and calcium from sardines and gambas, fibre and Vitamin C from green peppers – who would protest that it isn’t?

imageI asked for just a half-order of deep-fried Gambas, and discovered they are great with bread

imagePicante? No. Delicioso? Absolutamente! Coma pimientos de padron con las sardinas. The bar recommends fried green peppers with sardines to make for a more delectable meal

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Here’s a few tips I want to share if you plan to dine at Santurce:

1. If you’re happy dining with crowds, go on a Sunday when there is a constant flow of customers during most of its business hours (9am to 4PM). Otherwise, skip the weekend riot by choosing any other day of the week instead, including Saturday. The bar is closed on Mondays.

2. Fish are served on white plates – and with nothing else. And so, diners are expected to dig in with their bare hands. For those who wouldn’t dare have their “dainty, little fingers” all oiled and dirtied, cutlery is available upon request.

3. Sardines holds its own as far as taste is concerned. I don’t know about other grilled fish lovers but for me, sardines when grilled is just everything that I could ever want – and then some. Whether it is grilled plain or sprinkled with lemon – it is just pure heaven. Like they say – small in size, big in taste.

Now having said that, remember that sea foods commonly cause allergy. Never compromise health. Before you indulge or even have your first bite, be sure to know your allergies.

4. Blatant taking of pictures is frowned upon by the staff. They will not be shy to call your attention especially if you’re taking shots of other diners. Albeit, if you train your digital camera or cam phone on your own food or the menu on the wall, this is fine by them. Just ask for permission, and hope for a positive response.

5.Dishes are inexpensive, and what’s more, you can order media racion, meaning half an order. The best thing to do is to dine in groups and share everything that’s on the menu.

imageBar Santurce on a Tuesday! Had it all for myself that afternoon 

Where: Plaza Gen. Vara del Rey, 28005, Madrid (at El Rastro)

Hours: 9Am to 4PM (Sundays) 12Noon to 4PM (Saturdays and Weekdays except Mondays) Its website says they’re also open Thursday to Saturday evenings, from 7.30PM to 10.30PM. 

Call them before you visit, at 646238303.

Chinchon: An Under-an-hour Travel Getaway from Madrid

imageThe town of Chinchon, Community of Madrid, as viewed from the clock tower

Time and again, I try to be far from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, and all the stress and craziness that go with this big city. And enjoy a breather of sorts, even if only for a day.

This makes living in Madrid an advantage because of the nearby towns I can run to in a heartbeat whenever I have the urge to get away from it all. Just waiting for everyone to explore are the beautiful towns of Toledo, Segovia, and San Lorenzo de El Escorial — amazing World heritage sites as declared by UNESCO.

Of course, small pueblos also abound. These are lesser-known towns within the periphery of Madrid. Found under the radar, you’d be surprised that they are just as enthralling, and boast too of fascinating tourist sites.

One is Chinchon, Spain, a member of the Community of Madrid,  and a place that I’ve always wanted to visit ever since I learned it’s a mere 45 kilometers away from the capital. The town is known for its strong religious traditions, particularly the commemoration of Christian holidays thru passion plays, processions, and even concerts. What piqued my interest is its square, which doubles as a bullring, and so you know bullfighting is alive in this part of Spain. I looked forward to seeing the castle ruins and the clock tower as well.

Raring to explore the town, I decided that it’s time to hit the road and go on a solo trip as a way of celebrating my birthday.

And so, I was off to Chinchon.

The early morning of last Tuesday, I rode Metro Linea 6 at Nuevos Ministerio, and got off at Conde de Casal. Then, I proceeded to Avenida de Mediterraneo where buses 337 wait. Within an hour, I reached my destination. The trip didn’t tire a bit.  Instead I stayed invigorated, excited on what I was about to discover.

I found myself in the middle of the pueblo, which is noticeably tiny, quiet and rustic, like you’re in the countryside. I headed to the square and found the much-fussed-about pasteleria located on one of its corners. I must have a taste of its famous sweet, rounded pastry, which is described online as a soft bread that’s pretty much like a doughnut sans the filling. I bought two, gobbled one after the other, finishing both within minutes. Saccharine pastry balls, they were delicious indeed, just like what they say!

As I ate, my gaze wandered around, and saw a group of tourists roaming the Plaza Mayor. The square itself got my attention because of its appearance, being “dressed up” as a bullring. I wondered if this is a permanent thing or it just looked that way because of a forthcoming bullfight event.

Next, I ventured outside the square. First stop is the clock tower, which could be reached by walking up a steep road of a few hundred meters. The tower is on an elevated land high enough to afford anyone a magnificent view of the town below, including the faraway castle ruins.

Like other Spanish towns, the streets are narrow and winding. They are hardly level, but run uphill and down instead. Still, I have to say that strolling around this town, from one site to another, was fun and relaxing.

One thing you’ll love about Chinchon is that most sites of interest, with the exception of the Old Castle, are near one another and not spread out. I had an easy time hopping from one place to the next.

I almost skipped the tourism office deeming I didn’t need an area map; but I did go anyway, because I wanted to ask if walking to the castle is doable. The people at the info counter assured me I’d reach the site within 10 minutes. They even gave instructions on which streets to take in order to get there the fastest. Some enthusiastic Chinchonites, indeed.

My final word about the town? Make it your next day trip destination. Tiny and unhurried it may be, but it packs in places of great allure. The town folks are friendly and helpful, especially those manning the square’s pastelerias, the alimentacion, and the tourism office.

Here are some of the Chinchon, Madrid attractions that you mustn’t miss.

The Counts’ Castle

imageSpread in a land found on the highest point of the town is the Counts’ Castle, or Castillo de los Condes. Also called the Chinchon’s Castle, it was the residence of the royals at the time when Cabreja was allowed to own a land in the area. Now in ruins, it is still under the ownership of the counts.

The Clock Tower

imageTorre del Reloj in Spanish, it was the only structure left standing and unscathed after the 15th-century Our Lady of Grace Church was destroyed during the War of Independence (Guerra de la Independencia).

Church of Our Lady of the Assumption

imageIglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Asunsion, with its bright-hued and solemn facade, is a sight to behold as you walk up the steep, winding calle known as Las Columnas de Los Franceses. Inside is the Blessed Virgin painting by Goya, Spain’s illustrious painter who lived in the town for some time. Nearby is the Clock Tower.

Hermitage of San Roque

imageThe Ermita de San Roque is dedicated to the town patron, the feast of which is on the 16th of August. You will encounter this monastery upon entering the square thru Calle de los Huertos.

Teatro Lope de Vega

imageTeatro Lope de Vega now stands on the land where Palace of the Counts once stood. De Vega was a great Spanish artist, writer, and Chinchon admirer.

More Beautiful Chinchon Scenes

imageTourists inspect the display window of an artisan shop as they go about the town square

imageThis wooden gate is one of the five entrances that open to the Plaza Mayor

imageBright-red wooden fence encircles the middle of the town square

imageThe Casa Ayuntamiento or the town hall building

imagePart of the pillared walkways that surround the Plaza Mayor-bull ring

imageBreathtaling view of Chinchon from the area of the Old CastleDelicious pastries in Chinchon are aplenty such as pelotas de frailePelotas de Fraile are sweet, soft balls of bread resembling a doughnut, but with no filling inside

imageTeta de Novicia, a local, sweet delicacy, is so-called because of its bosom shape

image Anis liquor and garlic are two of Chinchon’s prized products

ajos, chinchon, madrid, spainAjos de Chinchon hang on the wall of a lottery shop. Touching it is supposed to bring bettors good luck. And so, I did after I bought a ticket

How to reach the castle

The Castillo de los Condes, lying on a low hill next to the town, appears distant and unreachable when viewed from the Clock Tower, but it’s actually an easy walk from the Plaza Mayor. This 16th-century Renaissance castle still stands mightily. It’s a pity, however, that some portions had already crumbled.

No one is allowed inside — it is said that nothing is found in the interior. Empty and forsaken, still, I couldn’t help but admire the impressive facade and the mighty bridge of this otherwise haunting fortress.

From the square, you walk thru the length of Calle del Convento starting at the Plaza del Convento, until you turn right to Calle del Castillo. Walk time: Around 10 to 15 minutes

How I traveled to Chinchon, Madrid:

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I recommend traveling to (and from) Chinchon by bus because it is convenient and easy on the pocket as well.

1. Take the Metro Linea 6 and get off at Conde de Casal Station.

2. From the station, proceed to Ave de Mediterraneo, where found are parked green buses en route to various locations.

3. Look for the La Veloz-owned buses, and take number 337 — it will bring you to the town in less than an hour.

A bus is scheduled to go to the town every 30 minutes to an hour (during weekends) with trips starting at 7am. Tickets sell at 4.20 euros.

Map

Take a Break from Jamón: My 5 Spanish Pork-based Dishes Worth Indulging In

2018_072723_2137_542If you think Spain is all about jamón, think again. The Spanish pork-based cuisine is rich and diverse, certainly a lot more other than the well-loved cured pork. Countless delectable cerdo dishes, served as tapas and raciones, are waiting for you to relish.

Forget jamon for awhile. Here are five typical mouth-watering pork dishes that you must try:

1. Cochinillo

image19Having a cochinillo means ordering a whole pig, a piglet to be exact, one that’s roasted in a special oven for several hours. Perhaps all parts of Spain offer this dish, albeit the town of Segovia is said to serve the perfect Cochinillo asado.

What’s cooked are piglets a few weeks old, and normally, the dish is enough to feed six to eight people. You get to savor slices upon slices of tender, succulent meat, but only after first indulging in the dish’s crunchy, caramel-brown, fat-layered skin.  I purposely went to Segovia to experience their much-touted cochinillo. Simply delicious. However, I had to settle for a portion since I was in my lonesome.

2. Callos a la Madrileña

2018_072508_0013_621The sticky bit-salty sauce is what made me fall in love with this dish, apart from the tenderness of the callos meat itself. One of the more popular, traditional Spanish comidas, callos is served in numerous bars and restaurants, big and small, in Madrid and all around Spain. I brought some at home once, but instead of eating it with bread, I had it top a plate of hot, steaming rice.

If you’re in the vicinity of Calle de Alcala, try dropping by at Bar Manduka, a highly patronized restaurant bar, where a warm welcome greets clients and waiters are quick to serve. Their callos might be a bit spicy, and excessive in flavors even, but that is exactly why I love it.

3. Orejas a la Plancha

image5One typical Spanish dish that you must try is the orejas a la plancha. It’s pig’s ear, cartilage and all, grilled in olive oil, salt and spices. While looking forward to having a taste of this unusual pork fare, I was constantly reminded to eat at specialty restaurants lest I end up chewing forever on tough cartilage and cringe on the sight of hairs still present in the skin.

Finally, I opted for Cafe Aurelio, the first restaurant I checked around Calle Bravo Murillo that serves orejas.  Salted and grilled in oil, what made it especially flavorful was the orange-reddish sauce on top. Suffice it to say that their version was a delight, and made me a huge fan of the dish, and the cafe as well. I must say Orejas is one tapa worth choosing over all others, and you’d gladly share with friends over ice-cold refresco or chilled cerveza.

4. Chistorra

image7Salty, spicy and with a hint of sour is how I describe another favorite cerdo dish, a Spanish sausage from Aragon, never mind if it is on the greasy side. If you’re limiting your fat consumption, however, go for the type with a mix of beef.

I like that the chistorra at Museo del Jamon, our designated restaurant for friends visiting Madrid, comes with a reddish sauce that I love dipping my bread in. It is another dish that I’d rather eat with rice, along with a vinegar-garlic-pepper concoction to dip it in. Sounds weird,  but hey, it works for me.

5. Torrezno

2018_072723_2111_682 I had my first Torrezno on our way to Barcelona, when we made a quick stop in a food cafeteria in Zaragoza. I heard about so much about the dish, and had been wanting to try it, when lo and behold, there they were, a heaping plate of half-inch thick strips of fried pork displayed in the bar counter. We bought three, one for each of us, together with a small basket of pan slices. Cold but still crunchy, the taste almost blew us away.

Torrezno is served as a tapa and common in the Spanish city of Soria. A crunchy dish of marinated pork belly, it is fried in olive oil and chopped bite-size when served. Like chistorra, torrezno has a high fat content, but many in Spain consider it as a snack, and the perfect tapa to complement some rounds of drink. The one in the photo above is from Bar Los Torreznos near Goya Metro Station, quite different from the typical chopped strips I was expecting. But still, it was a great treat, especially when I ordered some pimientos del Padron to go with it.

Outside Madrid: Royal Town of Aranjuez

Aranzuez isn’t a huge, highly sought-after town, but it’s far from being hidden and obscure. It is one jewel of a Spanish pueblo, being the site of a spectacular royal palace. Still, many would consider it to be low-key compared to the more popular day trip destinations like Toledo, Segovia, or even the faraway exciting getaways like Santiago de Compostela.

There’s no bit of a doubt, however, that this town 80 kilometers away from Madrid can hold its own, boasting of some of the most alluring sites and attractions.

Aranjuez and its Royal Palace

aranjuez palace in plaza de las parejasThis town presents a great appeal to those who are interested in royal history, and this is thru the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, an 18th century palace that once served as the residence of the King of Spain. With the collaboration of distinguished Spanish architects such as  Juan Herrera, Juan Bautista de Toledo, and Francesco Sabatini, the royal edifice was built using a  mix of Renaissance and French style in its design.

It was in 1523 when the palace was officially declared the royal property of the Spanish Monarchy.  Beloved royalties who lived and died there were Elisabeth Fernese, wife of Philip V and Elizabeth of Valois, wife of Philip II.  Likewise, the Palacio Real was the site of the signing of various important treaties.

If you haven’t been to Aranjuez, Spain, it’s high time that you do. The Palacio Real will certainly amaze you. It is easy to find since it is right in the midst, as if to assert its prime importance as the town’s top tourist attraction.

Apart from the palace, other major attractions are its sprawling plazas, the Tagus River, and the Casa del Labrador.

Where to start your Aranjuez tour

imageThe Ayuntamiento Building at Plaza de Constitucion. The statue in front is Alfonso XII

Aranjuez is less than an hour away – whether by bus or by train. It’s one of those charming towns that are near Madrid, and very easy to reach — you’ll be there even before you know it.

You might want to start your tour at the Plaza de la Constitution, where you can see the Ayuntamiento — simple yet stately in its facade. On one side of the square stands a metal board marked on which is a map specifying all the major places of interest to see. Or you can head straight to the tourism office for a tour map plus instructions and advices on how to get around the town.

I spent the whole day exploring Aranjuez, and had a great time discovering all the reasons why the whole town was declared a World Heritage Cultural Landscape by the UNESCO. The Royal Palace was just impressive. You can see the grandness of the structure from the pictures that I took. I must say that my shots of the palace are all postcard-worthy. Equally impressive are the gardens and plazas, the surrounding bodies of waters, and the Casas.

Aranjuez might be small, but it can very well compete with the much larger and more touristy Spanish towns. Needless to say, it must be one the first town-members of the community of Madrid that you must visit. Engaging locals, lots of eager tourists, amazing tourist attractions, what more can you ask for? Add Aranjuez to your must-see town list, do visit and explore it, and I assure you it is all worth your while.

What to see in Aranjuez, Spain

1. Royal Palace of Aranjuez

imagePalacio Real de Aranjuez in Spanish, this UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site was once the King’s official residence. One of the more popular Royal Sites, it now serves as a museum and is open to the public.

2. Iglesia de San Antonio

imageKing Ferdinand VI assigned Spanish architects Gonzalez Velazquez and Santiago Bonavia to build what was intended as a royal church, and one dedicated to San Antonio de Padua – St. Anthony’s Church or Iglesia de San Antonio. This Italian-inspired church from the 1700’s sprawls in one end of the Plaza de San Antonio. Nearby is the Tourism Office.

3. Iglesia de Alpajes

imageThe Alpajes Church, also called the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, is a small church located in the old Alpajes quarter. Eventually, the said quarter was incorporated into the expanded Aranjuez town.

4. Parterre Garden

imageThe beautiful Parterre Garden is the most colorful of all that surround the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, where beautiful flowers of all types and hues are found. The flowers were in blooming and exploding in all colors that the whole garden was such a fascinating sight. Parterre is in front of the West portion of the Palace.

5. Jardin del Principe

imageLiterally, it means the Prince’s Garden. The Jardin was a pet project of Charles IV which started when he was still the Prince of Asturias. Consisting of 150 hectares of land, it must have been the largest Madrid garden that I’ve seen so far. It took 19 years to build the garden, and was finished in 1908, at the time when Charles finally became king.

6. Casa del Labrador

Casa del Labrador, Aranjuez, Community of Madrid, SpainOne of the royal family of Spain’s favorite residences in Madrid, the Casa del Labrador is a World Heritage site. Public viewing and visits are allowed although I wasn’t able to because I visited Aranjuez on a Monday, when most of the sites are closed.

7. Jardin de la Isla

imageA beautiful garden found in the northern portion of the palace, the Jardin de la Isla is so-called because it is situated in the middle of bodies of water, by the Tagus River or Rio Tajo, and a man-made river.

8. Cascada de las Castanuelas

imageLocated beside the Jardin de la Isla, the Cascades was built to regulate the course of the Tagus River and to collect water for the gardens.

9. Tagus River

imageRio Tajo in Spanish, it is one of the main  bodies of water that surround the palace. Tagus River is of utmost importance to Aranjuez’ environment as it sustains the lives of a number of animal varieties, especially the waterfowl.

How to get to Aranjuez, Spain:

imageVia Bus: Take the 423 bus, found at Estacion Sur, Madrid’s biggest bus station. The latter can be reached via Metro Madrid Linea 6, at Mendez Alvaro.

Fare is 4.20 euros, and tickets are bought on the bus itself.

Via Train: Cercania train tickets are available at the ticketing counters of Chamartin and Atocha stations. Traveling by train is more or less the same as that with bus travel – around an hour.

For specific journey schedules and ticket prices, please refer to Cercania’s website.

Map of Royal Palace of Aranjuez:

Ten Nearby Madrid Towns that are Bona Fide Day Trip Destinations

alcazar segoviaSo charming is Madrid, Spain that first-timers are likely tempted to stay within its confines and just revel in its beauty. True enough, every barrio of the city is unique and fascinating that you can’t help but hop from one place to another, walk thru paseos, loiter around the plazas and calles, and soak up on what it can offer. Trust me, I did all this a countless number of times — and every time, it’s just insane fun.

Be amazed by everything within the city proper

Everywhere in Madrid are breathtaking sites and attractions — world-class museums like Prado and Reina Sofia, among many others; towering basilicas and cathedrals such as San Gines and Almudena; and gargantuan parks and gardens like Retiro and Sabatini, respectively.

And I must say the city is a gastronomic paradise as well. Restaurants and cafes of different shapes, sizes, and culinary delights are scattered all over; there’s Museo del Jamon, Bar Santurce, Botin, Cafe Melo’s Bar, to name a few of my favorites. I swear there must be a food joint that offers sumptuous Spanish comida in every street corner.

Madrid is where you blend easily with the crowd at evening street parties and gatherings — commonplace events happening everywhere in the city, every day of the week. The city is where you can witness and experience solemn processions that venerate the Lady and various saints; and participate, to your heart’s delight, in thunderous festivals held all throughout the year.

Exciting nearby Madrid towns, nonetheless

Still, did you know there’s so much to see and discover on the outskirts of the city? Not a few towns are situated very near the capital, and needless to say, all are a must-visit as they boast of tons of attractions as well.

I had traveled, wandered, and explored quite a number of these pueblos. Referred to as day trip destinations, they are so near that you can visit, experience and relish these places, and be back in the city — all within the day.

Here are my top 10 beautiful and exciting towns near Madrid:

1. Avila

Bright yellow walls of AvilaOne of Spain’s major Castilian pueblos, Avila is famous for its perfectly preserved Murallas or Town Walls. The haunting Catedral de Avila is touted as one of the first Gothic churches built in the country. And if you happen to be in town, be sure to have a taste of its popular yema, a special, sweet delicacy, apart from its other traditional pastries.

How far from Madrid: 2 Hours
Recommended Mode of Travel: Autobus – Avanza Bus (at Estacion Sur)
Cost of Fare: More or less 14 euros (lda y vuelta)

2. Alcala de Henares

imageThe town is known for being the birthplace of famous Spanish Writer, Miguel de Cervantes. In front of his home are the bronze figures of Don Quixote and Sancho Pancho, the main characters of the Cervantes’ novel, the Don Quixote de la Mancha. The prestigious Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso or the University of Alcala is the reason this pueblo within the Community of Madrid is called the University Town.

Number of hours from Madrid: 50 minutes
Best Travel Option: Cercanias trains. Get your ride at Nuevos Ministerios, or other select Metro stations such as Chamartin and Atocha.

3. Colmenar Viejo

imageSome might find Colmejar Viejo to be a bit of a sleep town, but it is definitely one of the Madrid towns that are easiest to go to — Colmenar is just some 30 kilometers from the city of Madrid. A major attraction is the tiny, historic hermitage calle the Ermita de Santa Ana,  and the Basílica dela Asuncion de Nuestra Senora.

Distance from Madrid: 37 kms. (less than an hour)
Best Travel Option: Autobus 721 at Plaza Castilla
Cost of Fare: 7.20 euros round trip

4. Manzanares el Real

Manzanares el Real Castle is also called Castillo de los MendozaA town made famous by its two castles, the New Castle of Manzanares and the Castillo Viejo. The former is also a fortress and said to be the most preserved castle within the Communidad de Madrid. If you love to hike, the nearby Pedriza Mountain can be reached by walking in just under an hour. Continue further up the hill beside the mount and you will encounter the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Peña Sacra.

How far from Madrid: 50 kms. (less than an hour)
Enjoy going there via: Autobus 724 at Plaza Castilla
Cost of Fare: 8.40 euros Ida y Vuelta

5. Town of Chinchon

imageSome 40 minutes or so away from Madrid is the quaint and tranquil pueblo of Chinchon. Its plaza mayor is a bit peculiar because it is shaped like a bullring. The fact is that the square is used actively for the sport; because of this, Chinchon is recognized as one of Spain’s bullfight towns. Must-eat are Teta de Novicia and Pelotas de Fraile, delightful, traditional breads sold in pastelerias within the town’s plaza mayor.

How far from the capital: 45 kms. (55 minutes)
Recommended travel option: Veloz Autobus 337 at Avenida de Mediterraneo
Fare Cost: 4.20 euros one way

6. Segovia

The Roman Acqueduct at Segovia, SpainIf only for its historic Romano Acueducto and breathtaking Alcazar or fortress, I’d take the bus or train trip to Segovia in a heartbeat. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of seeing these wondrous Segovian landmarks. The aqueduct, for one, is the main symbol of the town. Did you know that this ancient structure still works, and is capable of transporting water throughout the city? The Alcazar, on the other hand, is compared to the castle of Disney — both are charming and enthralling. The whole town itself enjoys the fine distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. By the way, don’t leave without having a taste of its savory and mouth-watering delicacy – the Cuchinillo or suckling pig.

Recommended mode of travel: RENFE train (Chamartin)
Time of travel by train: Less than 30 minutes

7. San Lorenzo El Escorial

imageI recommend this place if you are looking for a fine and quiet respite, away from the noise, and the hustle and bustle of Madrid. Be sure to check out the interior of the fabled Monastery, which once served as a royal palace of the King. Visitors will be mesmerized by the grandeur of its library, while the mighty courtyard of the Old Testament kings is something to marvel at. You must also see the Pantheon, where the remains of many royalties are kept.

How far from Madrid: 45 kilometers
Best Travel Option: Catch the autobus 661 at Moncloa, if you want to go the Galapagar route. Take 664 if you want to pass by the Valley of the Fallen gates.
Fare Price: 4.20 euros one way

8. Toledo

imageOne of the most visited towns within the Community of Madrid is Toledo,  not only because it is very near Madrid, but also because it is filled with many spectacular attractions. The alcazar is its most recognizable landmark, a magnificent site lying in the town’s highest peak. You can enjoy the best view of the edifice from the historic Tagus River. Other interesting sites to see in Toledo are the Museo de Separdi, the Toledo Cathedral, the Ancient Walls and Towers, and the Transito Synagogue.

Distance between Madrid and Toledo: 45 minutes
Recommended Bus: ALSA autobus, at Plaza Eliptica.
Price of autobus ticket: 5.39 euros single trip; 9.70 euros for ida y vuelta tickets.

9. Aranjuez

image Aranjuez is bestowed the title, Spain’s Royal Town, and rightly so. The stately Palacio Real sprawls right in its midst in all its pomp and grandness. The palace, the beauty of which rivals Madrid’s own Palacio Real, is accentuated by gardens of manicured hedges and multi-hued flowers dedicated to both the King and Queen. It is surrounded by gushing waterways — natural and man-made. The Iglesia de San Antonio, the town’s Royal Church, sits in one part of the plaza of the same name, and is considered as one of the Aranjuez’ major attractions.

How to go: Via 423 autobus at Estacion Sur bus station, Mendez Alvaro.
Fare cost: 4.20 euros, one way

10. Cuenca

imageAnother town in the Castille La Mancha region is Cuenca, which is a little over two hours away from Madrid, making it as one of the farthest nearby towns. Still, you’d realize the rather long trip is well-compensated after seeing the breathtaking Casas Colgadas, or Hanging Houses. Another must-see is the mesmerizing Cuenca Cathedral, looming on one end of the Plaza Mayor, opposite the arch gates.

Hours from the capital: 2 hours
Best travel option: Via autobus Avanza, at Estacion Sur
Price of bus fare: 25 euros for round-trip tickets

6 Madrid Markets Worthy of Your Visit (If You Want to Enjoy Great-tasting Tapas, and Much More)

2018_071317_4455_570I must say mercados in Madrid are worth my time. It is sheer joy whenever i wander thru any of these city markets because I always get a great deal from every experience — and I am not talking about the usual produce and food items that you would love to fill your kitchen countertop with. When we talk about Madrid markets, it’s a given that the freshest bounties are on sale. Quality meats and poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables, spices and grains of every shape and hue, every traditional goodie that you can think of — all are yours for the taking.

Needless to say, Madrid mercados offer more. On top of the list are delectable served-within-minutes and ready-to-eat Spanish comidas like bocadillos and tapas sold by food kiosks integrated within. Typically found on the establishments’ upper levels, the kiosks are often patronized by customers who decide to take a quick snack after a tiring hour or two of wandering around, scouring every nook and cranny of the market to buy their daily needs. It’s apparent that many prefer them over bars and cafes, owing to the former’s less formal setting.

Rich history — this is what city markets have accumulated, having been around for ages. An example is Mercado San Miguel, which was built in the early 1900’s.

Interesting architecture — others are popular to tourists mainly because of the uniquely-designed edifices that house them. If only for this reason, Madrid markets are easily considered as Madrid attractions.

Place for chat — food markets of Madrid have their food kiosks complete with tables and chairs, allowing for diners to spend half of their time dining, and the rest, engaging in some animated, seemingly endless conversation.

Here are six Madrid food markets where you can enjoy great tapas and comidas, apart from getting some great buys to fill your kitchen counter and fridge:

Mercado San Anton

imageimageThis mercado in hip Barrio Chueca is a favorite hangout among tapa lovers — there is a great number of kiosks from all three floors for everyone to choose from. Of course, you may opt for the usual Spanish tapas and bocadillos, but likewise, there are foods from European and Asian countries. On top of the establishment is a sit-down restaurant, La Cocino de San Anton, that features a terrace that affords diners with a spectacular view of the surrounding vicinity below. By the way, the hamburguesa (photo above) served by Asador La Manuela sells for 6 euros — a filling treat you must try at San Anton.

Location: 28004 Calle de Augusto Figueroa 24B
Business hours: Monday to Saturday: 10:00AM to 10:00PM (market area); Monday to Sunday: 10:00AM to 12:00MN (Tapas area, 2nd level)
Official Website: San Anton Market

Mercado de Maravillas

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This market lies the midst of the Cuatro Camino neighborhood, along the busy, boisterous Alvarado part of Bravo Murillo, where people come and go, passing through continuously, day in and day out.

This market is known for its fresh and cheaply priced chicken and seafood, which is why I prefer going there whenever I have the chance. Everytime I drop by Maravilla, I never fail to have my fill of two of my favorite Spanish comidas — empanadas and paellas. While there are a number of food stalls that sell empanadas, one particular kiosk at the back of the market really stands out because of its ultra-hot chilli-based sauce. Every time is a burning hot, tear-inducing and lip-numbing gastronomic experience even with just a piece of this meat filled empanada.

My craving for paella makes me pass by at Raypi, located near the entrance. More like a restaurant than a food kiosk since it has a dining area, Raypi boasts of really delectable paellas — never mind if they are served as tapas. Other popular food fare served at the restaurant are boquerones, orillas planchas, and many others.

Location: Calle de Bravo Murillo 122 Madrid 28020
Time Open:  Monday to Friday: 9:00–14:00, 17:30–20:30; Saturday: 9:00-3:00
Official Website: Mercado de Maravillas

Mercado de San Miguel

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Especially if you are a first-timer in Madrid, everyone’s advice must be for you to see Puerto del Sol, perhaps the most touristic spot of Madrid. Near this famous Spanish square is the Mercado de San Miguel, wnich is the perfect place to stave off your hunger. The market is well-known for its structure made of iron and glass; its spectacular facade always leave me to awe  whenever I set my eyes on it. Imagine being able to enjoy a plate of Paella for only 4 euros — this is one reason why I often pass by this market whenever I am at Sol or Plaza Mayor.

Location:Plaza de San Miguel 28005
Operational Hours: Sunday to Wednesday: 10AM to 12MN; Thursday to Saturday: 10AM to 2:00AM
Official Website: Mercado San Miguel

Mercado de San Ildefonso

imageimageYou will find San Ildefonso Mercado in the same league as San Miguel as far as popularity is concerned. This food market is the most visited among all other similar establishments within Madrid Centro, and probably the whole of the capital. Like San Miguel, you can find Spanish tapas and comidas of every kind, and what’s more, they are affordably priced. I visit this market from time to time if I want a fill of its paella tapa. Opens beyond 12 AM during weekends.

Location: Calle 57 Fuencarral 28004 Madrid
Hours Open: Sunday to Wednesday-12PM to 12AM; Thursday to Saturday-12:00PM to 1:00AM
Official Website: Mercado San Ildefonso

Mercado de la Cebada

2017_112621_4029_753A stone’s throw away to the La Latina Metro Station is the Mercado de la Cebada, one of Madrid’s largest street food markets. Cebada is popular not only because it is found within a boisterous, highly populated barrio, but also it is just beside Campo de la Cebada, where major activities of the neighborhood are held. While much of the space inside is occupied by sellers of raw food stuff like meats, poultry, and fish, it also offers a good number of options in food kiosks that sell great food, especially if you’re looking for a place to enjoy some affordable, quick eats on a weekend. My first time at the market found me in awe of its sheer size, which is a good thing because I enjoyed wandering through this labyrinth filled with stores offering goodies of every kind.

Location: Plaza de la Cebada 28005 Madrid
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 9:00AM-2:00PM, 5:00PM to 10:30PM; Saturdays: 9:00AM to 6:00PM; First Sunday of the Month: 11:00AM to 5:00PM
Official Website: Mercado Cebada

Mercado de San Fernando

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2017_112621_4901_527While San Fernando operates as a food market, it is more of a non-traditional one, since here you can stumble upon shops selling unique stuff other than food, like craftsman items, clothes, books, and vintage pieces. Of course, like the typical market in Madrid, it also has food kiosks selling Spanish comidas and tapas, as well as gastronomic delights from other countries. If you are a beer lover or want to have a taste of some quality brew, under its roof are brewery bars serving beers, great-tasting ones that give you all the reasons to keep coming back.

Its book shop by the way sells items that are priced according to its weight — the name is La Casquería.

Location: 41 Calle de Embajadores 28012
Time Open to the Public: Monday: 9:00AM to 2:00PM, 5:00PM to 9:00PM; Tuesday to Thursday: 9:00AM to 9:00PM; Friday to Saturday: 9:00AM to 11:00PM; Sunday: 11:00AM to 5:00PM
Website: San Fernando Market

5 Amazing Edifices of Epoch Habsburg’s Madrid de los Austrias

Old Madrid of the 1600’s experienced a major political upheaval when the city was occupied by Europe´s Imperial court of Habsburg. The Spanish Kings who reigned during this glorious epoch, likewise known as the House of Austria, were Kings Felipe II and Felipe III, with the latter tirelessly working to develop the urban aspect of the new center of Habsburg.

Fortunately, the legacy of this empire is very much visible today to one and all and everyone; the remnants of such glorious era are found in the midst of the capital. Which part of the city did the Casa de Austria occupy? This so-called ancient center of Madrid is situated along a significant portion of Calle Mayor, running towards the southern part.

And indeed, as I visited this particular stretch of the street, everything that represents the Madrid de los Austrias, is very much intact, what with the beautiful edifices built during those times well-preserved and in use. You hop from one splendid building to another, and you realized how grand the contribution of the Habsburg Empire is to the development of Madrid.

One only has to tread Calle Mayor, the end of which reaches Catedral de Almudena, and he will have a good glimpse of these Hadsburg edifices. Especially if you find yourself within Puerta del Sol and Plaza Opera, you are sure to have yourself immersed within the glorious Habsburg Era.

Here are 5 of Madrid de los Austrias must-see beautiful edifices:

1. Casa de la Villa

2018_012121_5902_531A must-see edifice of the Madrid Austria District is the Casa de la Villa. Day in and day out, locals and tourists alike troop to one of Madrid’s oldest squares, Plaza de la Villa, to wander around this historical area and appreciate the former town hall of the city. Constructed under the helm of Spanish builder Juan Gomez de Mora, Casa de la Villa did serve as the headquarters of Madrid’s city administration – but did you know that it once served as a prison to the incarcerated?

Direccion: Plaza de la Villa 5, Madrid 28005

Nearest Metro Stations: Vodafone Sol (Lines 1 to 3); Opera (Line 2, Line 5)

Nearest attractions: Mercado San Miguel

2. Casa de la Panaderia

2018_012121_5844_425What houses Madrid City Administration’s tourism office is the Casa de la Panaderia, standing in the middle of Plaza Mayor´s northern part. With porticoes in front and its two sides capped by towers, it advises tourists on which Madrid sights and attractions to visit. Damaged by the 1672 fire, this historical edifice underwent major repair and renovation. Take notice of how a marked portion of its facade is painted by semi-nude, somewhat mythical figures — they are said that to have been painted in order to compliment the rich history of of the city.

Nearest attractions: Casa de la Carniceria (also inside Plaza Mayor), bocadillo restaurants, Chocolateria San Gines

3. Real Casa de Correos

2018_012121_5938_277One of the most popular representatives of the Madrid de los Austrias is the Real Casa de Correos, an imposing building with an open tower, within which hangs a bell. Come midnight of December 31, revelers gather to witness the pealing of the bell 12 times, signaling the start of the New Year.

Direccion: Puerta del Sol

Metro Station: Sol (nearest station), Opera, Sevilla (all three belong to Metro Line 2), Callao (at Plaza de Callao, Metro line 3)

Nearby attractions: Plaza Callao

4. Casa y Torre de los Lujanes

2018_012121_5831_370These edifices have the distinction of being two of the oldest buildings in Madrid. Both are integral parts of the ancient Spanish square found along Casa Mayor called the Plaza de la Villa. The Torre de Lujanes is known to be the former prison of King Francis I, who was captured upon his defeat during the Battle of Pavia of 1525. And indeed, while the place is currently dominated by modern buildings and establishments, the square itself somewhat brings you back to centuries ago when it exudes power and authority.

Location: Within Plaza de la Villa of Austria District, Madrid

Nearest Metro Station: Sol, Opera

Nearby sights and attractions: Plaza de Santa Isabel II, Palacio Real

5. Palacio de Santa Cruz

imageThe old but beautiful edifice of the Austrian dynasty is the Palace of Santa Cruz. Formerly known as the ¨La Carcel de Madrid,¨ it did act as a former prison of the city, with convicted prisoners sent to the Plaza Mayor to be executed. Later on, it was turned into a palace to become a residence of Rey Felipe IV. Palacio de Santa Cruz is currently the home to Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain.

Plaza Provincia Madrid 28012

Nearby attractions: Parroquia de Santa Cruz, Museo de Jamon

How to go

Metro Stations: Sol (Lines 1,2,3); Tirso de Molina (Line 1); Lavapies (Line 3); Opera (Lines 2,5); Sevilla (Line 2). All stations are a 5 to 15 minute walk to Calle Atocha.

7 Museums Really Worth Seeing When in Madrid

Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Antoni Gaudi, Joan Miro — the list of great artists of Spain seems endless. This must be why there are countless museums in the country, enough to house all the precious works of art of these magnificent Spanish men of art.

In fact, many museums and art institutions are found right within the City of Madrid. Hence, if you’re bound for the Spanish capital as a first-timer, planning to roam around and tour the place, keep in mind that in order to complete your Madrid adventure, you have to check out and explore some of the city’s museums.

When in Madrid, never miss on museum hopping, as the city is acknowledged for its unique and exciting museums, each of which boasts of countless valuable items on display that you can ever lay your eyes on. In fact, Madrid museums are home of millions of art collections such as sculptures, paintings, and artifacts; these are not just the creation of Spanish maestros, but also artists from all over the world. Irreplaceable historical articles and archaeological finds are likewise on display, with many of them from the country itself, while others are from Asia and other European countries.

I’ve visited and explored the following 7 Madrid museums, and needless to say, I was so much impressed that this prompted me to write an article that will make readers become more aware of them and even be enticed to pay them as well. Admission to some are free all days of the week, while others offer free entrance on certain days, and still others have free admissions on specific hours of the day. What’s true for all is that they are exciting ones that you must see and explore.

1. Museo del Romanticismo

2017_091022_0739_493A hundred meters or so away from the busy Metro Station of Tribunal, in downtown Madrid, is the Museum of Romanticism, its accessibility of which makes it one of the most visited museums in the city. The museo occupies an 18th century edifice that’s a stone-throw away from the tourist-magnet stretch of Calle Fuencarral. The floors feature different rooms of a house or Spanish casa that’s typical of the olden days.

Direccion: Calle San Mateo 13 28004 Madrid

Admission is free on Saturdays, starting at 2PM

Regular admssion price is 3 euros

2. Museo de Historia de Madrid

History of Madrid MuseumAlso within the hip Chueca neighborhood is the popular Museum of the History of Madrid, housed within the former San Fernando Hospice building. And as its name implies, the museo boasts of valuable paintings and historical items that represent the  strata of society, ways of living, types of clothing, and means of livelihood of Madrileños from different eras. Visit the Museum and appreciate numerous artifacts from as early as the middle of the 1500’s up to the modern times.

Address: C/ Fuencarral 78 28004 Madrid

Admission: Free all days of the week

3. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

2017_072317_5046_898Part of the three-member art promenade group, also known as the Triangle of Art, Thyssen’s permanent collection is mainly the history of painting coming from different European countries from the Middle Ages up the modern 20th century. Italian, Russian, German and American works of art are among the important displays with the museum.

Free Entry: Every Monday, limited to the Museum’s Permanent Collection between 12Noon and 4PM

Direccion: 8 Paseo del Prado 28014 Madrid

Regular Admission: 12 euros, covers at exhibits, both permanent and temporary

4. Museo de America

imageMoncloa is famous for the Victory Arch of Madrid, or the Moncloa Gate, and also the Spanish Air Force, or the Ejercito del Aire.  Likewise a crowd-drawer is the Museum of the Americas, considered to be one of the city’s major centres of culture and the art. Here  you will find numerous historical and archaeological items on display every day of the year. Many are not only from Spain and the US, but also from the Latin countries as well.

Direccion: Avenida Reyes Católicos 6 28040 Madrid

Admission: Free during Sundays. The rest of the days of the week: €3

5. Museo de los Caños del Perral

imageThe metro station of Opera does not only serve as an integral component of the city’s efficient transport system, but it is also home to a below-the-ground archeological museum — the Museo de los caÑos del Perral. Virtually a museum located underground, it displays valuable archaeological remains that provides efficient plumbing for fountains of the city, during the 1500 and 1600’s.

Address: Within Opera Metro, Plaza Reina Isabel II

Admission: Free if you are a Metro train rider, 1.50 euros if you´re visiting from outside the Metro facility

The museum is open to the public on on weekends, Fridays to Sunday. Time open: 11AM to 1PM, 5PM to 7PM.

6. Chamberi Ghost Museum

imageWe have featured one metro station that’s permanent home to an underground museum. Still, there is another that doesn’t function anymore as a train station, but was converted into an actual museum- this is the Chamberi train station. For some reason, this station got closed down by the Metro administation. Eventually, it was turned into a museum, displaying artifacts that tell about the Metro’s early days.

Direccion: Plaza de Chamberi, Madrid

Admission is Free, but open only on Friday, 11AM – 1PM and 5PM – 7PM; and Saturday and Sunday, 10AM – 2PM

7. Prado Museum

imageStrategically located along the Paseo del Prado is probably Spain’s most famous museum bearing the same name. It is a must-visit if you are a museum-phile as it contains a great number of art and painting work from and the whole of Europe. What was originally a museum intended for Spain’s Royal family, if only because of its rare collections, visitors will be enthralled to see some of the best Spanish art paintings and pieces like Goya, Rembrandt, Titian, and Velasquez.

Operational hours: 9AM to 8PM. Closed on Sundays.

Regular Admission fee: 6 euros

Free Admission: From 6PM to 8PM, Tuesday to Saturday; 5PM to 8PM, Sunday

Real Fábrica de Tapices de Santa Bárbara

2018_052609_0312_057Want to see how things are done inside Spain’s premier tapestry and weaving factory? The site is right here in Madrid, and is known as the Royal Tapestry Factory, or in Spanish, La Real Fábrica de Tapices de Santa Bárbara. And like the name says, it is a factory cum workshop that churns out tapestries, rugs and carpets that are not just beautiful, but also has tell rich stories to tell, mainly because the factory has been in operation since 1720.

Its almost 3 centuries of existence make it a living museum, where everyone who wants to learn more about how Spanish weaves and tapestries where made and evolved thru the ages. Real Fabrica de Tapìces gives guests the opportunity to see and observe how the factory’s craftsmen create and repair tapestries, and go about their tasks as commissioned by companies, organizations, and private individuals.

It was a project by then King Philip V that’s meant to produce these luxurious tapestries and carpet items within the Spanish capital. It was intended to replace the Gobelins Factory of France, in order to meet the supply requirements of the different Spanish courts.

Did you know that once involved in the Royal Factory was the young Francisco Goya? He was asked to create beautiful tapestry designs for items that were used to decorate two popular Madrid royal palaces, the El Pardo and El Escorial palaces. Such designs are known as cartoons, and a great number of them are found today at the Prado Museum.

2018_053018_5351_273Workers busy weaving and creating beautiful tapestries for various clients

2018_052609_0238_191Looms are an indispensable component, but there are a variety of tools as well, that are necessary in the creation of a intricately woven tapestry

Philippine Tapestry Exhibit at Real Fabrica de Tapices

I was a guest at a recent event on Real Fabrica that was in collaboration with the Philippine Embassy in Madrid. I witness the launching of the launching of the Piña-Seda, a series of exhibition that featured Philippine Weaving and Embroidery. It was realized thru the efforts of the Philippine National Museum, a number of Philippine local governments, namely Kalibo, Aklan, and Lumban, Laguna.

2018_060314_0838_071Philippine Ambassador to Spain Philippe Jones Lhuillier was proud of the untiring and continuing works of the Filipino embroiders and weavers that ensured the preservation of the piña-seda.

The ambassador expressed his gratitude to the Real Fabrica de Tapices for working with the Embassy to ensure the realization of a Philippine tapestry and weaving exhibit. He acknowledged that the event will place more attention and appreciation of people from this part of the world to Philippine textiles.

2018_052609_0229_087Visitors intently watch a Filipino weaver create beautiful fabrics, obviously appreciative of the highly artistic skills the textile artisan displays right in front of them

2018_052609_0248_373Typical Philippine weave instruments on display during the exhibit

2018_052609_0208_513An array of traditional Filipino shirts called the Barong Tagalog, intricately embroidered and woven by hands

Location

Calle Fuenterrabia 2 Madrid 28014

Nearest Metro: Menendez Pelayo

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday, 10AM – 2PM
You may join guided tours scheduled every hour. Tours at 12PM are conducted in English.

Admission Price

5 euros

Map