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A city that you must visit
The Origins of how Madrid came to be named is still unclear. With documented origins dating back to the 2nd century B.C.E. as a settlement of the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Roman Empire Madrid fell under the rule of Germanic Sueves, Islamic conquests, and Christian Kings. Some believe the origin of the name "Madrid" comes from legend, that Madrid was founded by Ocno Bianor (son of King Tyrrhenius of Tuscany and Mantua) and was named "Metragirta" or "Mantua Carpetana". Others contend that the original name of the city was "Ursaria" ("land of bears" in Latin), due to the high number of these animals that were found in the adjacent forests, which, together with the strawberry tree ("madroño" in Spanish), have been the emblem of the city from the middle Ages. The most common belief today is that the name evolves from "Mayrit", from the Arabic term "Mayra" (referencing water as a "trees" or "giver of life") and the Ibero-Roman suffix "it" that means, "place". Regardless of what is believed to be true, Madrid is a city balancing its historical beauty and modern infrastructures making it the capital and largest city in Spain.
The Prado Museum is one of the finest museums in Europe. It is situated on the stylish Paseo del Prado, a lovely part of Madrid with the Retiro park just a short walk away and right next to the fountain of Neptune and the stock exchange. It has some great art from artists like Goya, El Greco, Velázquez and Hieronymous Bosch. As it is such a large museum, and can take an age to get around, you may want to consider making 2 trips to the museum. The Spanish, Flemish, and Venetian schools are also well represented with outstanding masterpieces of Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Rubens, Van Dyck, Dürer, Brueghel. Nowhere else in the world can such a fine selection of Spanish and Venetian works be found. It is a must see for all visitors, and if you are tight on cash don’t worry! Sundays are Free!
Puerto del Sol
Puerta del Sol is the place where young people meet in the evening, or start there walk into the commercial center of old Madrid, home of lavish department Stores and small Boutiques. On the 31st of December New Years is brought in, to the chimes of the Puerta del Sol clock. The design of the Puerta del Sol, as we see it today, was begun in 1859 under the leadership of José Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, Who believed that by opening large squares in the city would help create new markets, and trade. From the Puerta del Sol you can easily walk to Plaza Mayor or up calle Arenal to Opera and the Royal Palace. Also along calle Alcalá you will find the Spanish Parliament or Plaza Santa Ana it is a Puerto del sol central location is a perfect way to start you journey of Madrid.
Built between 1617 and 1619, and restored in 1790 after a fire, it is a part of the city known as “Madrid de los Austrias” (the Hapsburg monarchs having built it.), or what some prefer to call “Old Madrid”. Plaza Mayor is the principal square in Madrid, and what some Spanish believe to be the finest square in all of Spain. The centre of the square is occupied by a statue of Philip III who was responsible for its construction in 1617. The Plaza Mayor was once the focal point of the old city, where bullfights, royal coronations and even inquisitions took place. On Sundays, the square becomes a focal point for traders and buyers of old coins and stamps, and other goods as well as Produce. Both within and surrounding the square you will find shops dedicated to the buying and selling of antiques, mainly stamp and old coins. At Christmas time the square converts into a huge Christmas market where you can buy decorations and traditional gift for the family. During Easter the square becomes a center point for Catholic processions.
Nothing beats Sunday afternoon in Retiro Park. Situated behind the Prado museum, it is the most popular and widely visited park in Madrid. On a Sunday afternoon you will see families walking entertained by the multitude of street entertainers and lovers kissing in holding one another in the many lawns lining the many paths of the park. Retiro is also a central meeting point for all sorts of people, from the roller skating youngsters and older men playing 'petanca' (boules) to football players and joggers of all ages. The Retiro was originally built for the Spanish king Phillip IV and was opened to the general public in the 1800's. As a result of its regal patronage it has many beautiful buildings. One of the most beautiful is the 'Crystal Palace', made entirely of glass and opened to the public throughout the week. The central focus of the park is its large lake where you can go boating or simply lay around on its steps and listen to street entertainers perform. The park has a number of 'terrazas' (open air bars) where you can sip a beer or enjoy an 'horchata' (made from tiger nuts or almonds).
Madrid hosts the largest Plaza de Toros (bullring) in Spain, Las Ventas, established in 1929. Las Ventas is considered by many to be the world center of bullfighting and has a seating capacity of almost 25,000. Madrid's bullfighting season begins in March and ends in October. Bullfights are held every day during the festivities of San Isidro (Madrid's patron saint) from the middle of March to the middle of June, and every Sunday, and public holiday, the rest of the season. The style of the plaza is Neomudéjar. Las Ventas also hosts music concerts and other events outside of the bullfighting season.
The Royal Palace of Madrid
the official residence of the King of Spain, located in Madrid. King Juan Carlos and the royal family do not reside in this palace, instead choosing the smaller Palacio de la Zarzuela, on the outskirts of Madrid. However, the Palacio Real de Madrid is still used for state occasions. The vast palace is richly decorated by artists such as Velázquez, Tiepolo, Mengs, Gasparini, Juan de Flandes, Caravaggio, and Goya. Several royal collections of great historical importance are kept at the palace, including the Royal Armoury and weapons dating back to the 13th century, and the world's only complete Stradivarius string quintet, as well as collections of tapestry, porcelain, furniture, and other objects of great historical importance.
Below the palace, to the west, are the gardens of the Campo del Moro that were given this name due to the fact that here in the year 1109, Muslim leader Ali Ben Yusuf, encamped with his men in the attempt to recapture Madrid and its Alcázar (fortress) from the Christians. The east façade of the palace gives onto the Plaza de Oriente and the Teatro Real operahouse. To the south is a vast square, the Plaza de la Armas, surrounded by narrow wings of the palace, and to the south of that is located the Catedral de la Almudena. To the north are the Jardines de Sabatini (Sabatini Gardens), named after one of the architects of the palace. he palace is open to the public and it is closed when used by the king for state functions like state banquets for visiting heads of state, official government receptions and the presentation of new ambassadors to the king.