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Interesting and little-known places in Madrid

Madrid

Madrid

Discover a different city

Beyond the traditional tourist sights of the Royal Palace, the Prado and the Retiro Park, every street, every roof, every historic building in Madrid seems to hide a fascinating story. Travellers who want to find the city’s lesser-known treasures can find fairytale gardens, streets full of books, amazing viewing points… Let’s discover the other faces of Madrid.

Parks and gardens that are not El Retiro

El Retiro is the most important park in Madrid. But it’s not the only one. A bit further from the city centre, the Parque del Capricho is tucked away in Alameda de Osuna. Its gardens are delightful, with classical-style temples and fountains, a palace, and a laurel hedge maze. Very nearby, Parque Quinta de los Molinos is ideal to visit in February and March when its hundreds of almond trees are in bloom. If you like the idea of a “secret garden” in the city centre, you’ll love the Jardín del Príncipe de Anglona.

In search of lost books

As you walk around the capital, you may come across a whole street devoted to books: Cuesta de Moyano. Strolling next to the botanical gardens as people browse the bookstalls in search of dusty tomes is a wonderful experience. Book lovers will also like the Pasadizo de San Ginés and its bookshops, where you can find all types of volumes and enjoy a glass of wine while you browse.

El Capricho park

Lovely small museums

Some of the capital’s smaller museums are in beautiful old buildings and worth a visit as much for their tranquil atmosphere as for their unusual or very personal collections. For example, the Sorolla Museum, the Cerralbo Museum, the Museum of Romanticism and the Lope de Vega House-Museum all have hidden gardens where you can take a break from their interesting collections to sit and listen to the murmur of the fountains.

Around the Royal Palace

This iconic Madrid monument never disappoints. But not everyone knows that you can see it from different angles. For example, La Almudena Cathedral is just opposite the palace. We recommend visiting the cathedral museum for a unique view of the Royal Palace from the balcony. And there are other surprises to the rear of the Cathedral, such as its magical crypt and remains of the former Muslim city wall. Less than five minutes’ walk away is the charming Plaza de la Villa, and the smallest square in Madrid: Plazuela de San Javier.

Room in the Sorolla Museum, Madrid

Looking up

In Madrid it’s worth looking up now and then, because the roofs are populated by mythological figures. For example, the lovely roof terrace at the Círculo de Bellas Artes is presided over by a sculpture of the goddess Minerva. Surprisingly, the roof of Calle Alcalá 16 boasts two horse-drawn chariots. And next to the San Miguel market, at Calle Milaneses 3, if you look up at the roofline you’ll see a winged man who seems to be smashing into the building: the sculpture “Air Accident”.

Alternative viewpoints

As well as the views from the Town Hall and the Círculo de Bellas Artes, it’s worth taking your camera to places like the Faro de Moncloa and its viewing platform 92 metres up, or the Dalieda de San Francisco (a botanical garden next to the impressive dome of the Basilica), or climbing the stepped street of Cuesta de los Ciegos.

The Goddess Minerva at the Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid
View of Madrid from the rooftop terrace of the Círculo de Bellas Artes

New markets

Any Madrid native can tell you immediately which is the most popular market in Madrid: the Rastro, every Sunday. But in recent years alternative markets have appeared, such as the Motores Market at the Railway Museum and the Producers Market at the Matadero de Madrid, among others.

Madrid markets

An Egyptian temple and Arab baths

To see an unforgettable sunset (they say the colours of the sky over Madrid are second to none) you can go to the Temple of Debod. Not everyone knows that you can go inside this temple, which dates from the 2nd century BCE and is the only Egyptian building anywhere in Spain. And talking of the cultural mix in Madrid, to hark back to its Islamic past, you can visit the city’s only Arab baths, created over a three-hundred-year-old cistern.

Temple of Debod, Madrid
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