Cultural hotspots in Madrid

by Eche Egbuonu
   
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For hundreds of years the Spanish capital has been considered an assembly point for those seeking rich cultural experiences. The city provides a vast number of cultural, entertainment and leisure activities that draw in millions of tourists each year. Madrid has a modern infrastructure, but at the same time it has preserved its historical heritage. This is all too evident when walking through the neighbourhoods and streets.

A trip through its historic centre will lead to the Prado Museum, home to one of the globe’s finest collection of European art. As one of the most prestigious art museums in the world you can be sure you’ll gain wonderful insight into the 8,000 pieces of artwork stored. Alternatively you can visit the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and get an impression of 13th -20th century art from the museum that once held the world’s second largest private collection of paintings.

Spanish designers are always trying to strengthen their presence within the worldwide fashion industry. From this desire the Madrid Fashion Week was born. With great concerts, catwalks and fashion the Madrid Fashion Week is a great platform to discover the latest trends. The event is usually scheduled shortly after the prestigious New York Fashion week and generally occurs twice a year, in February and September.

La Latina can be considered one of Madrid's most scenic areas, with quite a few beautiful churches and plazas, in addition to some great tapas. Its location in the heart of Madrid is almost symbolic in the sense that it is fundamental to Madrid’s very essence. El Rastro is a network of meandering streets and on Sunday it transforms into Europe’s largest outdoor market. To get the full El Rastro experience it’s best to stop at a number of small bars and enjoy Caña and Tapas in a vibrant atmosphere.

For reflection and recreation, Madrid’s Retiro Park is a great destination. Formerly a private retreat used solely by Spain’s royalty, Retiro Park today is a scenic public park that features monuments, sculptures and gardens that provide a perennial getaway for both locals and tourists alike. With a large awning, vast lush spaces and natural beauty exuding, it is no surprise Madrid ranked among the top 12 greenest European cities in 2010.

Malasana has been likened to London’s Soho and Manhattan’s East Village. What was once home to the Movida movement of the 70’s has seen an upmarket shift, an influx of boutique hotels and the arrival of trendy clientele. As such it is perfect for those with unconventional tastes coupled with an interest in fashion.

The Royal Palace of Aranjuez, located on the fringes of the Tajo River it was constructed in the 16th century by King Philip II as a royal summer residence. The palace was reconstructed in the 18th century after it was ravaged by fire, since then the palace has been well preserved and is open to the public. The palace is home to the Museo de la Vida en Palacio which gives great insight into the lives of Spanish monarchs. For an even grander experience visit the El Escorial royal palace and discover why this impressive complex attracts over 500,000 visitors a year.

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