If on your trip to Madrid you want to see some of the city's most interesting places, a visit to the Paseo del Prado (between Plaza de Cibeles and Plaza de Carlos V), El Retiro Park and the Jerónimos neighbourhood is a must. This entire area, under the evocative title "Landscape of Light", was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2021 in the category of Cultural Landscape. Here you can walk along the first of Europe's tree-lined promenades, visit world-famous museums such as the Prado, discover monuments that are a symbol of Madrid such as the Puerta de Alcalá, or sit quietly in magical spots like the gardens surrounding the Palacio de Cristal. In fact, thanks to this area, Madrid has become the first historic urban landscape in Europe to be declared a World Heritage Site.
Centuries linking nature, culture and science
One of the reasons why this landscape has been chosen by UNESCO is its ability to bring together nature, culture and science in an urban environment. In fact, as early as the 16th century, Madrid became the first European capital with a large tree-lined avenue where all citizens (regardless of class) could enjoy leisure and strolling. At the time of the Enlightenment, the Paseo del Prado was home to various institutions such as the Natural History Cabinet, the Royal Botanical Garden and the Royal Observatory of Madrid, and created an urban model ahead of its time that spread to other cities in Spain and Latin America. At present, this area covers an area of 190 hectares –75% of which is green space– and has 21 Assets of Cultural Interest.
Museums for all tastes
Walking along the Paseo del Prado you will find three of the city's most famous museums: the Reina Sofía Museum (if you start your visit in the Estación del Arte area), the Prado Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Madrid Museum. Velázquez's Las Meninas, Picasso's Guernica, Goya's black paintings... The number of world-famous works of art that you will be able to see in these museums will impress you.In this area you can also visit other interesting museums such as the Naval Museum, the National Museum of Decorative Arts, the National Museum of Anthropology, the CaixaForum and its curious vertical garden, and more.
Some of the most beautiful gardens in Madrid
Next to the Prado Museum is the Royal Botanical Garden, which has a herbarium with more than one million specimens, an archive of nearly 10,000 drawings, and 5,000 species of living plants. Strolling through this garden is a delight and it is worth stopping to see its collection of bonsais, its sculptures, its greenhouses... Throughout the year it also organises interesting activities such as photographic exhibitions or moonlit musical walks.But if there is one famous green space in the capital, it is undoubtedly El Retiro Park. With over 125 hectares and more than 15,000 trees, spending a day here is an experience. You can try a boat ride on the Estanque Grande under the gaze of the monument to Alfonso XII (which is also a viewpoint), see an exhibition in the Palacio de Velázquez and Palacio de Cristal, photograph famous statues such as the Fallen Angel or the spectacular fountains, marvel at the rose garden or the shapes of the French parterre... But, above all, walk and "lose yourself" in all its nooks and crannies to see how locals and tourists alike find here a place to exercise and relax in the heart of nature.
Nooks for reading and contemplating the universe
In this area of the Paseo del Prado you will also find two other places that are well worth a stop. On the one hand, especially if you are a book lover, you will really enjoy the Cuesta de Moyano, a beautiful pedestrian street with 30 wooden stands selling books on philosophy, literature, art, essays, out-of-print volumes, old comics, etc. They usually organise signings with authors and different activities such as poetry readings.On the other hand, a guided visit to the Royal Observatory of Madrid, located on a hill next to the Retiro Park, is highly recommended. Among other gems is the reconstruction of the reflecting telescope designed by the famous astronomer William Herschel.
Monuments and viewpoints to remember
In addition to all this impressive cultural offer, you will also find some of the most famous sites and monuments in Madrid: the fountains of Neptuno and Cibeles, Madrid City Hall (which also houses a great cultural centre, a restaurant and a viewpoint with one of the best views of the city), the Casa de América, the Congress of Deputies, historic hotels such as the Ritz and the Palace, the church of Los Jerónimos, the Stock Exchange and the Puerta de Alcalá.This historic area declared a World Heritage Site helps to highlight Madrid as one of the most interesting cities in the world to travel to and joins the four existing World Heritage sites in the region: El Escorial Monastery, the historic centre of Alcalá de Henares, the cultural landscape of Aranjuez, and the Montejo beech forest. Come and let yourself be illuminated by the light of knowledge, by the light of books, by the light of the sun filtering through the leaves of the trees and by the light of Madrid's famous sunsets. This light is for everyone.