Madrid, Spain

Madrid is so large it may seem intimidating to explore. However, the main historic attractions are fairly concentrated in the city center. So strap on good walking shoes and enjoy the sites of Spain’s capital city.

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1 Introduction to Madrid, the Capital City of Spain

Since it was founded during the 9th century, Madrid has grown into Western Europe’s third largest city with a population of 6.5 million people. It became Spain’s capitol city in 1562 and quickly evolved into a world leader through the end of the 18th century. The city offers a wonderful blend of modern achievements coinciding with the preservation of historic landmarks. Two examples are (on the left) the Royal Palace of Madrid, built in 1755. The former residence of the Royal Family stands side-by-side with the Almudena Cathedral (on the right) constructed in 1993.

Plaza de la Armería, 1, 28013 Madrid, Spain

2 Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, Spain

Spain has beautiful cathedrals in Seville, Toledo, Granada and Barcelona. So it is surprising the Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid did not have an equivalent cathedral until the end of the 20th century. The Gothic Revival design of Catedral de la Almundena was created by Francisco de Cubas in 1879. After extensive delays, the Santa Maria la Real de La Almudena was finished in 1993. Surrounding the 65 foot diameter dome are statues of the 12 apostles. It is dedicated to the Virgin of Almundena. This religious statue of the Virgin Mary was buried into a city wall in 714 for protection against an Arab attack. According to legend, after Madrid regained its independence in 1083, the icon was miraculous revealed during a procession led by King Alfonso VI of León and Castile on November 9, 1085. A 16th century replica of the patroness of Madrid is on display inside of the cathedral except during a procession on the November 9 feast day.

Calle de Bailén, 10, 28013 Madrid, Spain

3 Crypt of Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, Spain

Palacio Real and Almudena Cathedral are adjacent on a street named Calle Bailén so they visually grab a tourist’s attention. Consequently, it is easy to miss Parroquia Santa la Real de la Almundena, better known as The Crypt. It is located on the south side of the cathedral around the corner on Calle Mayor. Construction of the Romanesque chapel began in 1883 and was finished in 1911. Supporting the interior of Cripta de la Catedral are 558, 10.8 foot columns. Along the floor are burial vaults of Spanish elite. It is a unique experience to visit.

Calle Mayor, 90, 28013 Madrid, Spain

4 Royal Palace of Madrid in Madrid, Spain

While the King of Spain from 1700 – 1724, Felipe V (Philip V) commissioned architect Fillippo Juvarra to build a royal residence after the Alcázar on this site was destroyed by fire in 1734. In 1764, King Charles III was the first monarch to live in the Palacio Real de Madrid. In 1931, Alfanso XIII was the last king at the Royal Palace before fleeing the country. Since then, the Baroque palace has been reserved for state functions and a daily flow of tourists. Only a portion of the 1.4 million square feet and over 3,400 rooms – Europe’s largest palace – is available to tour.

Plaza de la Armería, 2, 28013 Madrid, Spain

5 Gothic Kings Statues at Plaza de Oriente in Madrid, Spain

Plaza de Oriente is a square adjacent to the Royal Palace of Madrid. It was commissioned by Queen Isabella II, designed by Narciso Colomer and opened in 1844. The park has a display of twenty Spanish monarchs called the Gothic Kings. The statues were created in the mid-18th century to adorn the Palace of Madrid. However, it was determined the collection was too heavy for the roofline. An example of these limestone sculptures is this likeness of Fernando I de León. Fernando the Great became the first Emperor of All Spain in 1056.

Calle de Bailén, 17, 28013 Madrid, Spain

6 Felipe IV Equestrian Statue at Plaza de Oriente in Madrid, Spain

The centerpiece of the Central Gardens at Plaza de Oriente is this equestrian statue of Felipe IV. Sculptor Pietro Tacca created the tribute in 1640. The artist required Galileo’s help to design the 39.4 foot, bronze statue so it could be supported on the back legs of the rearing horse. Philip IV was the King of Spain from 1621 through 1665. He was the second to the last ruler in the Spanish Habsburg line dating back to 1496. Despite his moniker of Philip IV the Great, historians claim his rule began the decline of Spain’s world power.

Calle de Bailén, 17, 28013 Madrid, Spain

7 Teatro Real at Plaza de Oriente in Madrid, Spain

In 1818, Ferdinand VIII established the Taetro de Oriente, named after its adjacency to the Plaza de Oriente. However, the grand theatre did not open until 1850. During most of its early history, the Royal Theatre was the venue for the Madrid Royal Conservatory until it closed in 1925. From 1996 until 1988, it staged performances by the Spanish National Orchestra. Following a major renovation, the National Theatre regained its heritage as a premier opera house.

Plaza de Ote, 5, 28013 Madrid, Spain

8 Sabatini Gardens at Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain

Palacio Real is surrounded by beautiful gardens such as Jardines del Campo del Moro and squares like Plaza de Oriente. The least famous, and therefore least crowded, is the Sabatini Gardens on the palace’s north side. The delightful, 6.3 acre park features sculpted bushes and trees in geometric shapes. The namesake for Jardines de Sabatini is Francesco Sabatini, an 18th century architect who designed the royal stables that once were located on this land.

Calle de Bailén, 2, 28013 Madrid, Spain

9 Spanish Senate Building in Madrid, Spain

Since the Spanish Constitution was passed in 1978, Spain has been a constitutional monarchy. The country’s political structure consists of a Head of State (the king), a Prime Minister (also called the President of the Government) and a Council of Ministers. The legislative branch has two groups of mostly elected officials: the Congress of Deputies and the Senado. The headquarters for the 265 members of the Senate is the Palacio del Senado, a building at the Plaza de la Marina Espánola that was constructed in 1590 for an Augustinian convent. This modern structure by architect Salvador Gayarre was added in 1991.

Calle de Bailén, 3, 28013 Madrid, Spain

10 Royal Asturian Mining Company Building in Madrid, Spain

This red brick, domed Victorian building was designed by Manuel Martinez Angel. It served as the Madrid headquarters of the Belgian Royal Asturian Mining Company when it opened in 1899. Real Compañía Asturiana de Minas was founded in 1853 and focused on the extraction of coal and zinc in Spain.

Plaza de España, 8, 28008 Madrid, Spain

11 Cervantes Monument at Plaza de España in Madrid, Spain

In the center of Plaza de España – Spain’s Square in English – is a tribute to one of the greatest writers in Spanish literature: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The author’s likeness sits in the middle overlooking two characters he created in the early 17th century. On the left is Don Quixote and next to him is his partner in fantasy, Sancho Panza. Most of the Cervantes Monument was designed by Rafael Zapatero and sculpted by Lorenzo Valera. The first phase was completed in 1930. Additional fictional characters were added in 1957 by the sculptor’s son, Federico Mendigutia.

Plaza de España, 187, 28008 Madrid, Spain

12 Don Quixote Statue on Cervantes Monument in Madrid, Spain

Fans of historic literature immediately recognize Alonso Quixano clutching his lance while riding his horse Rocinate during his delusional quest to restore chivalry. When the “Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha” by Miguel de Cervantes was published in 1605, it was Europe’s first novel. After the second part of the knight-errant story was released in 1620, Michael Cervantes reputation grew as the finest author of the Spanish Golden Age. He still ranks among the world’s best novelists. This bronze, equestrian statue is part of the Cervantes Monument at Plaza de España.

Plaza de España, 187, 28008 Madrid, Spain

13 Edificio España in Madrid, Spain

When Edificio España opened in 1953, the high-rise by architect Julián Otamendi qualified as Spain’s tallest building. The Neo-baroque design has 25 floors with an elevation of 384 feet overlooking Plaza de España. The Spain Building began as a luxury address for offices, a hotel and apartments. By 2007, it stood empty. Ownership of the iconic building traded hands three times in eleven years. It was purchased in 2005 by Banco Santander and then sold in 2014 at a steep discount to Dalian Wanda, a Chinese holding company. The Murcia Barka Group announced its bid in 2016. The Madrid-based real estate firm plans to convert Edificio España into a luxury hotel by 2019.

Calle de la Princesa, 19, 28008 Madrid, Spain

14 Torre de Madrid in Madrid, Spain

Located at the Plaza de España near the Edificio España is Torre de Madrid. The high-rises share the same architect, Julio Otamendi. The white, concrete building became the tallest in Western Europe when it opened in 1957, a distinction it maintained for ten years. The Tower of Madrid has an elevation of 466 feet or 541 feet when you add in the antenna. At inception, the 36 floors were a mix of residential and commercial space. The landmark now also houses the Barceló Torre de Madrid hotel.

Plaza de España, 18, 28008 Madrid, Spain

15 Parque del Oeste in Madrid, Spain

The Parque del Oeste is a 215 acre public greenspace. The park has been expanded and enhanced several times since it was established in 1906. Western Park’s highlight is the Templo de Debod, a shrine built in Aswan, Egypt, in 200 BC. After the temple was gifted to Spain in 1968, it was reconstructed here in 1972. The Mountain Park section is situated on top of a tall hill which was previously a landfill. This elevation provides great vistas. Seen here behind the water fountain and reflecting pool are two landmarks of Plaza de España: Torre de Madrid (left) and Edificio España (right). A short distance away is a panoramic view of the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral.

Calle Ferraz, 1, 28008 Madrid, Spain

16 Schweppes Sign on Edificio Carrión Building in Madrid, Spain

Perhaps the most iconic site on Gran Vía is the Schweppes neon sign at the pinnacle of the Edificio Carrión Building. Playing second fiddle to the sparkling water brand is the Vodafone name. This Art Deco, marble and granite structure from 1933 marks an edge of Callao Square, one of the busiest plazas in Madrid. This building houses an enormous movie theater called the Capitol.

Calle Jacometrezo, 2, 28013 Madrid, Spain

17 Primark Flagship Store on Gran Vía in Madrid, Spain

In the fall of 2015, Primark opened their flagship store in Madrid. The Irish retailer has five floors – almost 40,000 feet – of floor space offering low-cost men’s and women’s apparel. At the building’s summit is a statue of Phoenix, the mythical bird who rose from the ashes. The property was constructed in 1924 for the Madrid-Paris Society, Madrid’s first department store. 32 Gran Vía was purchased in 2015 by Ponte Gaedea, a holding company owned by Amancio Ortega, Europe’s wealthiest man.

Gran Vía, 32, 28013 Madrid, Spain

18 Telefónica Building on Gran Vía in Madrid, Spain

Since the Compañia Telefónica Nacional de España was founded in Madrid in 1900, it has grown into a worldwide provider of telecommunications with revenue exceeding €50 billion. CTNE remains Spain’s dominate telephone provider. In 1929, the company moved into their headquarters on Gran Vía. At 289 feet, the Telefónica Building was Madrid’s tallest building for 24 years until 1953. Edifico Telefónica was designed by Ignacio de Cárdenas in collaboration with American architect Louis Weeks.

Gran Vía, 28, 28013 Madrid, Spain

19 Landmark Buildings on Gran Vía in Madrid, Spain

The Gran Via has cut a path through central Madrid since its completion in 1929. The boulevard stretches from Plaza de España in the west to this intersection of Calle Alcalá in the east. Along this street – called the Grand Way by some and the Spanish Broadway by others – are shops, restaurants, hotels, apartments and city landmarks. On the left is the Metropolis Building. Edificio Metrópolis was designed by Jules and Raymond Février and constructed in 1901 for an insurance company, La Unión y el Fénix. At the dome’s pinnacle is the winged goddess Victoria. Next to it with the Rolex sign is Edificio Grassy. This 1917 building by architect Eladio Laredo houses the premium retailer Grassy Jewelry plus a clock museum. In the middle is Telefónica Headquarters, Europe’s first skyscraper when it opened in 1929.

Calle de Alcalá, 42, 28014 Madrid, Spain

20 Cervantes Institute Headquarters in Madrid, Spain

The Cervantes Institute was established in 1991 by Spain’s government to promote Spanish culture, language and literature across the world. The non-profit group’s reach is across twenty countries. Cervantes Instituto is named after Miguel de Cervantes, one of Spain’s most celebrated writers and the author of “Don Quixote.” Their headquarters are located inside Edificio de las Cariátides. Architects Antonio Palacios and Joaquín Otame are responsible for the Greek Revival design of the Building of the Caryatids. The original occupant in 1918 was Río de la Plata Bank.

Calle de Alcalá, 49, 28014 Madrid, Spain

21 Palace of Linares in Madrid, Spain

The neo-baroque design of the Palace of Linares was built in 1837 for wealthy banker, Mateo de Murga, the Marquis of Linares. It is one of several beautiful landmarks surrounding the Plaza de Cibeles. Equally fascinating is the history. When the owner’s son married a tobacconist’s daughter, he did not know she was his half-sister. After his father confessed the truth on his deathbed, José and Raimunda sought advice from Pope Leo XIII. The couple was allowed to live together in chastity. So they created separate living quarters in the father’s mansion. Legend claims their ghosts haunt the building. The Linares Palace is now the offices of a cultural center named Casa de América. The exquisite interior is available for tours.

Plaza Cibeles, 2, 28001 Madrid, Spain

22 Fountain of Cybele in Madrid, Spain

Fuente de la Cibeles is the centerpiece of Plaza de Cibeles. Within the fountain created by Ventura Rodríguez in 1782 is Cybele. She was a mother goddess from the ancient kingdom of Phrygia who was later modified in Greek and Roman mythology. The Romans, who called her Great Mother, often displayed her riding a lion-drawn chariot showing dominance over the world’s children. The sculptures were a collaborative effort between Francisco Gutiérrez and Roberto Michel. Interestingly, the Fountain of Cybele is where fans of the Real Madrid football team celebrate their victories.

Calle de Alcalá, 3, 28014 Madrid, Spain

23 Cybele Palace in Madrid, Spain

When seen from across Plaza de Cibeles, you are convinced this Gothic structure with its 230 foot central tower is a magnificent cathedral. However, the 1909 design of the Communications Palace by Antonio Palacios was the headquarters for Correos, Spain’s postal, telegraph and telephone service. It also housed the Postal and Telegraphic Museum. Since 2007, it has served as City Hall for Ayuntamiento de Madrid, the City Council. There is also a cultural center inside called CentroCentro.

Plaza Cibeles, 1, 28014 Madrid, Spain

24 Porta de Alcalá in Madrid, Spain

Defining the northwest corner of Parque de el Reiro at the Plaza de la Independencia (Independence Square) is Porta de Alcalá. Carlos III commissioned architect Francesco Sabatini to design the impressive Citadel Gate through the city’s former medieval wall. When finished in 1778, it was proclaimed as the first triumphal arch since the fall of the Roman Empire. Among the sculptures of stylized warriors and military equipment are three lion reliefs. The latter represent the sovereignty of Charles III of Spain.

Plaza de la Independencia, 1, 28001 Madrid, Spain

25 National Library of Spain in Madrid, Spain

King Felipe V established the Palace Public Library in 1712 as a repository for at least one copy of every book published in Spain. As acquisitions occurred and its mission expanded, so did the collection. With now more than 26 million items, Biblioteca Nacional de España is one of the world’s largest public libraries. This impressive, 1896 neoclassical building was designed by Francisco Alarcón. Flanking the entrance of are two statues of learned men. On the left is Isidore of Seville. San Isidoro was a 7th century scholar and philosopher plus the Archbishop of Seville. On the right is Alfonso X. Known as The Wise, he was King of Castile and León during the 13th century.

Paseo de Recoletos, 20-22, 28001 Madrid, Spain

26 Christopher Columbus Monument in Madrid, Spain

Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II agreed to finance Cristóbal Colón’s goal of finding a sea route across the Atlantic Ocean to the East Indies. Instead, Christopher Columbus discovered the Bahamas in 1492. Three subsequent expeditions claimed more of the New World for the Spanish crown. Unfortunately, the end of his maritime career was marred with claims of tyranny, imprisonment and lawsuits against the Catholic Monarchs. Yet his discoveries helped the Spanish Empire generate incredible wealth and world dominance during the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1893, sculptor Jerónimo Suñol created this white marble monument. The Christopher Columbus tribute was erected at a roundabout called Plaza de Colón to celebrate the 400th anniversary of his first voyage to America.

Plaza de Colón, 28001 Madrid, Spain

27 Torres de Colón in Madrid, Spain

In a metro area of about 6.5 million people, it is surprising Madrid has only thirty high-rises above 200 feet. Two are from the 1950s, most were built at the end of the 20th century and the four tallest were completed before the market crash of 2009. An anomaly among the modern glass edifices is the Torres de Colón. The unique design of these twin office towers by Antonio Lamela is locally called The Plug. The mauve façade and green roof clearly reflects the color scheme of the 1970s when it was built along the Plaza de Colón.

Calle de Génova, 2, 28010 Madrid, Spain

28 Naval Museum in Madrid, Spain

It is surprising to find the Naval Museum in Madrid … a long way from the Atlantic Ocean or Mediterranean. But step inside and be impressed. The Spanish Navy began during the 13th century. Its earliest accomplishments include the discovery of America and the first circumnavigation voyage. See the Mappa Mundi, the maps drawn by Juan de la Casa circa 1500 during Christopher Columbus’ explorations. Learn the navy’s role in expanding Spain’s influence as a rich, world power up until the end of the 18th century. You will also discover details about the modern accomplishments of this branch of Spain’s Armed Forces. The Museo Naval is part of the Spanish Armada’s Naval Headquarters.

Paseo del Prado, 5, 28014 Madrid, Spain

29 Bolsa de Madrid Stock Exchange in Madrid, Spain

The Madrid Stock Exchange was established in 1831. After the work of architect Enrique María Repullés was completed in 1893, the market moved into this palatial, neoclassical building called the Palacio de la Bolsa de Madrid. The Bolsa de Madrid handles financial transactions in fixed-income securities such as bonds and private company debt. The sixty minute, guided tour of the Madrid Stock exchange is a visual and educational delight. Spain has three other regional exchanges.

Plaza de la Lealtad, 1, 28014 Madrid, Spain

30 San Jerónimo el Real in Madrid, Spain

The church of San Jerónimo el Real was built in 1505 as part a Hieronyite monastery. Its proximity to the former Buen Retiro Palace gave it the status of a royal chapel. The impressive Isabelline Gothic design was renovated and expanded twice during the 19th century. The Roman Catholic church is dedicated to St. Jerome. He was a theologian who translated the Bible into Latin during the early 5th century. San Jerónimo has been called one of the four Great Doctors of the Church. St. Jerome the Royal is located near the Prado Museum.

Calle Ruiz de Alarcón, 19, 28014 Madrid, Spain

31 Real Academia Española in Madrid, Spain

In 1713, Juan Manuel Pacheco, Marquis of Villena, founded the Real Academia Española. Since then, the RAE’s mission has been to “fix the voices and vocabularies of the Castilian language.” Its members are accomplished academicians. The RAE’s influence reaches across 21 Spanish speaking countries through their affiliation with the Association of Spanish Language Academies. The Royal Spanish Academy’s headquarters have been located on Calle Felipe IV since this building opened in 1894.

Calle de Felipe IV, 4, 28014 Madrid, Spain

32 Prado Museum’s Casón del Buen Retiro in Madrid, Spain

Museo del Prado has evolved into Spain’s national art museum since it was founded in 1819. El Prado’s has a collection of over 21,000 Spanish and European artworks. Approximately 1,300 of these are on display attracting over 2.3 million visitors a year. This is the Casón del Buen Retiro, now the Prado Museum’s library and study center. In the 1630’s, Philip IV of Spain commissioned Alonso Carbonel to design this as a ballroom. The former Salón de Baile is one of only two buildings surviving from Felipe IV’s palatial recreational residence called Palacio del Buen Retiro. On the right is a statue of Queen María Isabel de Braganza.

Calle de Alfonso XII, 28, 28014 Madrid, Spain

33 Felipe IV Entrance at Buen Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain

In 1630, Philip IV acquired a large tract of land adjacent to his Buen Retiro Palace. The private gardens for the royal family expanded until the end of Queen Isabella II’s reign in 1868. The following year, El Retiro became a large public park. The central west entrance is through the Puerta de Felipe IV. The gate was created in 1680 by architect Melchor de Bueras. In the foreground is the Garden of Parterre developed in 1722. The female form holding a theater mask is the Monument to Jacinto Benavente. This sculpture was cast by Victorio Macho in 1962. In the background is the east façade of the Casón del Buen Retiro. In 1637, it was the ballroom for Palacio del Buen Retiro. Now it is a Prado Museum annex.

Calle de Alfonso XII, s/n, 28014 Madrid, Spain

34 Alfonso XII Monument at Buen Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain

The visual highlight of Buen Retiro Park is the Alfonso XII Monument designed by José Grases Riera. This tribute to “The Peacemaker,” who reigned from 1874 to 1885, involved over 40 artists before it was finished in 1922. On top of the semicircular colonnade of Ionic columns is a bronze, equestrian statue of the former King of Spain sculpted by José López Sallaberry and Theodore of Anasagasti. In the foreground is the Great Pond. This large, artificial lake was created in 1632. Retiro Pond is popular for paddling around in a rented rowboat.

Parque del Retiro, Plaza de la Independencia, s/n, 28001 Madrid, Spain

35 Velázquez Palace at Buen Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain

In 1884, the Palacio de Velázquez was constructed within Buen Retiro Park as a hall for the National Mining Exhibition. Its namesake is the architect, Ricardo Velázquez Bosco. The ceramic work decorating the arched entryway was created by Daniel Zuloaga. Velázquez Palace is currently used for temporary exhibits by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Reina Sofia Museum is managed by the Ministry of Culture.

Parque del Retiro, Paseo Venezuela, 2, 28001 Madrid, Spain

36 Crystal Palace at Buen Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain

Three years after finishing Velázquez Palace, Ricardo Velázquez Bosco was the architect for the Crystal Palace. The glass, domed structure was inspired by London’s Crystal Palace. Initially, it was designed as a giant greenhouse for displaying exotic plants from the Philippines. Today, Palacio de Cristal is used by the Reina Sofia Museum for occasional exhibits. The water fountain in the middle of an artificial pond accents the building’s elegance. It is scenes like this that justify the Buen Retiro Park’s English translation: Park of the Pleasant Retreat.

Paseo República de Cuba, 4, 28009 Madrid, Spain

37 Cecilio Rodriguez Gardens at Buen Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain

The Buen Retiro Park is over 350 acres so it is difficult to explore all of it. Most people gravitate towards the major landmarks. One section easy to miss is along Avenida Menéndez Pelayo. Cecilio Rodriguez Gardens features sculptured hedges and trees and blooming flowers along checkerboard promenades. Your stroll will not be encumbered by crowds. However, you may encounter an occasional peacock. This delightful respite is named after the gardener who developed it during the 1940’s.

Paseo Fernán Núñez, 1X, 28009 Madrid, Spain

38 Fallen Angel Statue at Buen Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain

Inspired by John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” sculptor Ricardo Bellver created a statue of Lucifer’s expulsion from heaven in 1877 for Spain’s National Exhibition of Fine Arts. In 1885, a bronze version was erected on a pedestal within a fountain at Buen Retiro Park. This image of Satan is located within the Rosaleda Gardens. Some people claim the 23 foot Fuente del Ángel Caído is the world’s only public monument to the Devil.

Parque del Retiro, Glorieta del Ángel Caído, s/n, 28014 Madrid, Spain

39 Palacio de Fomento in Madrid, Spain

If your Madrid travel plans include a train at Atocha Station, make time to savor the Ministry of Agriculture Building across the street called Paseo de la Infanta Isabel. The Palacio de Fomento was designed by the prolific and gifted architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco and opened in 1897. Most fascinating is the Neoclassical façade’s artwork. The two female caryatides flanking the entrance represent Industry and Commerce. The ensemble along the roofline are copies of sculptures created by Agustí Querol Subirates in 1906. In the center are allegories for Science, Art and Glory. On either side are winged horses from Greek mythology. The artist called this collection La Gloria of los Pegasos. Look closely and you will notice even the street lamps are adorned with busts.

Paseo de la Infanta Isabel, 1, 28014 Madrid, Spain

40 Reina Sofía Art Museum in Madrid, Spain

The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is a national museum of 20th century Spanish art. Among its extensive collection are works by Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. The attraction is partially housed in a former, 19th century hospital plus a modernist expansion by celebrated French architect Jean Nouvel. This 2005 facility includes a library and auditorium. Museo Reina Sofía is dedicated to Queen Sofía, the wife of King Carlos I who reigned from 1975 until 2014. She has been a very active representative of Spain’s Royal Family, a champion against drug addiction and other social causes plus an influential promoter of the arts.

Ronda de Atocha, 2, 28012 Madrid, Spain

41 Bear and Strawberry Tree Statue in Madrid, Spain

According to folklore, Madrid’s original name was Ursaria, meaning “Land of the Bears” because of the high population of bears once living in the forests. Consequently, the symbol of Madrid has long been a bear eating from a strawberry tree. The image has also been part of the city’s coat of arms since the 13th century. This 13 foot, bronze sculpture by Antonio Navarro Santafé has stood at a busy plaza called Puerta del Sol since 1967.

Plaza Puerta del Sol, 13, 28013 Madrid, Spain

42 Billboards at Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Spain

Puerta del Sol has not only been Madrid’s center since the 15th century but also Kilometer Zero for all of Spain’s roads. Because the “Gate of the Sun” is surrounded by city landmarks and entertainment plus is a major underground transportation hub, the square seems busy 24/7. This provides lots of eyeballs to view the giant Calvin Klien billboards. The neon sign for Tío Pepe – a brand of sherry owned by the González Byass – has been a square landmark since 1936. On the right is an equestrian statue of Charles III. He was the King of Spain from 1759 until 1788.

Plaza Puerta del Sol, 11, 28013 Madrid, Spain

43 Convent of Las Descalzas Reales in Madrid, Spain

From 1519 through 1556, Charles V amassed an enormous geographical empire while the King of the Romans, Italy and Spain. After abdicating his rule and wealth, he retired to a monastery in Extremadura, Spain. Meanwhile, his second daughter Joanna established this Convent of Las Descalzas Reales in 1559. In order to join the Order of Saint Clare, women were required to forfeit their dowry. The resulting riches were spent on religious artifacts. Although a few nuns still live in the convent, it was transformed into a museum in 1960.

Calle de la Misericordia, 3, 28013 Madrid, Spain

44 Santa Cruz Palace in Madrid, Spain

This red brick tower with a Habsburg Baroque style by architect Juan Bautista Crescendi was the Royal Prison and Casa Court when completed in 1643. In 1767, the jail and courthouse were converted into the Santa Cruz Palace. Since 1901, the Palace of the Holy Cross has been the headquarters for Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The historic building is located at Plaza de la Provincia.

Plaza de la Provincia, 1, 28012 Madrid, Spain

45 Casa de la Panadería at Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain

Plaza Mayor is in the center of Madrid. The large square (423 x 308 feet) is surrounded on four sides by red, four-story buildings with porticos on the lower levels. The most famous and beautiful façade defines the northern edge: Casa de la Panadería. The first version of The Bakery House was built in 1619. The current structure by architect Juan de Villanueva is from the late 18th century. Notice the elaborate frescos between the windows. These mythological figures – including Cupid and Bacchus – were designed by artist Carlos Franco and painted in 1992. In the center is a relief of the Spanish coat of arms. This is how the heraldic shield appeared when Charles II was King of Spain from 1665 until 1700.

Plaza Mayor, 27, 28012 Madrid, Spain

46 Philip III Equestrian Statue at Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain

The Plaza del Arrabal was commissioned by King Philip II of Spain and was completed in 1619 during the reign of his son, Philip III. This equestrian statue by artist Jean Boulogne and Pietro Tacca was created to honor Felipe III while he was still king. This monument has witnessed a lot of history since 1616. The square has been used as a market, bullring and for public executions. The buildings have burned down three times. It has also had several names including Plaza de la Constitución and Plaza de la Repúbilica. Today, Plaza Mayor is a major draw for tourists featuring shops and restaurants.

Plaza Mayor, 27, 28012 Madrid, Spain

47 St. Michael’s Basilica in Madrid, Spain

Basilica Pontificia de San Miguel is a Roman Catholic church with a convex, Baroque design by Santiago Bonavía. When it opened in 1745, the church was dedicated to Saints Justo and Pastor. The Santos Children were only seven and nine years old when they were martyred in 304 for their Christian faith. During the 19th century, the minor basilica was renamed in honor of Michael the Archangel. In the niches are four statues representing faith, hope, charity and fortitude. The allegories were sculpted by Roberto Michel and Nicolás Caresana.

Calle de San Justo, 4, 28005 Madrid, Spain

48 Casa de la Villa in Madrid, Spain

This twin-tower building by architect Juan Gomez de Mora was the Town Hall and city prison when it opened in 1696. Above each entrance is a relief of Madrid’s coat of arms. Casa de la Villa was the heart of local government until 2007 when the administrative and political functions moved to Palacio de Comunicaciones. Limited tours are available to admire the stained-glass ceiling, 17th century frescos by Antonio Palomino and salons once occupied by the city council.

Plaza de la Villa, 5, 28005 Madrid, Spain

49 Abrantes Palace in Madrid, Spain

Juan de Valencia el Infante commissioned Juan Maza to build this stately residence in the mid-17th century. The building became the Abrantes Palace in 1842 after a major renovation and the Duke of Abrantes moved in. Within a few years it became offices for the newspaper “The Correspondence of Spain.” In 1888, it was purchased by the Italian Government. The building is now headquarters for the Italian Institute of Culture, an embassy of Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The IIC’s mission is to sponsor an academic exchange with Spain while prompting the Italian language, arts, sciences and culture.

Calle Mayor, 86, 28013 Madrid, Spain

50 Puerta de Toledo in Madrid, Spain

The Puerta de Toledo gets its name as the prior entrance into Madrid from the city of Toledo. The 62 foot tall, triumphal arch was commissioned during the Napoleonic occupation of Madrid. The monument was finished by architect Antonio Aguado in 1827 during the second reign of King Ferdinand VII. On top of this northern façade is a sculpture grouping of two angels embracing the city’s coat of arms. The gate is located within a roundabout called Glorieta de Toledo.

Glorieta Puerta de Toledo, s/n, 28005 Madrid, Spain