One of the things I love about working at Harrisburg Academy is the international flair of our school community. Whether it’s the foreign language instruction for younger students, International Fair in the spring, or the international students from Germany, China, and Spain – it all adds to the robust teaching and learning community here at the Academy.
As the Early Childhood, Lower School, and 5th grade Spanish teacher, I’m often asked about my life in Spain. A few years ago, a parent approached me for travel tips for Madrid. My paternal grandparents were from Spain, and I grew up in Madrid where I did all my schooling. So I was excited to put together a tour that featured the main attractions in that beautiful city, and am happy to reshare that with you now.
As the capital and largest city in Spain, Madrid is home to the Spanish Royal family, as well as the Spanish Government. Surrounded by mountains and natural parks, Madrid is a modern metropolitan city and the economic and industrial center of Spain. Located in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, it is connected to all major Spanish cities by road, train, or air. The weather in Madrid varies a lot depending on the season, from hot and dry in the summer, and cool in the winter. The population of the city is almost 3.5 million and that of the Madrid metropolitan area is almost 6.3 million. It is also the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin.
If you are lucky enough to visit Madrid, these are the places to see!
- El Palacio Real or the Royal Palace, is the official residence of the Spanish Royal family; but is only used for state ceremonies.
- El Museo del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum. It features one of the world’s finest collections of European art.
- El Museo Reina Sofía is Spain’s national museum of 20th century art. It is home to Picasso’s famous “Guernica.”
- Puerta del Sol is the center of the radial network of Spanish roads. It is one of the most famous and busiest areas of downtown Madrid. Stroll down the old streets, visit shops, and walk to Plaza Mayor, only few blocks away.
- Plaza Mayor, like Puerta del Sol, is a must. Stop by for a glass of sangria or lunch. If you prefer, walk down to Mercado San Miguel for lunch or tapas.
- La Gran Via is one of the most famous streets in Madrid. It leads from Calle de Alcalá to Plaza España. Beautiful architecture, numerous shops, cafés, restaurants, hotels, and movie theaters, etc.
- The last part of the Gran Via leads to Plaza España, famous for the statue of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza.
- La Plaza de Cibeles has the beautiful marble sculpture with fountains that became one of the symbols of Madrid. It is surrounded by important buildings: Banco de España, Palacio de Cibeles o Palacio de las Comunicaciones, that used to be the headquarters of the Postal Service.
- La Puerta de Alcalá is an old city gate at the Plaza de la Independencia and is another symbol of Madrid, located near the main entrance to the beautiful park Parque del Buen Retiro.
- The Retiro Park was created as a royal park. It was built as a retreat for the royal family in the 17th century. There is a beautiful artificial lake where you can rent a rowing or pedal boat.
- Barrio de las Letras or Huertas is famous for being the literary neighborhood of Madrid. Many writers lived and spent their free time there. You find Cervantes’ house in this “barrio”. It is a great area for food and drink.
- La Plaza de Toros de las Ventas is the famous bullring in Madrid. Bullfight season usually starts at the end of March and runs through mid-October.
- Estadio Santiago Bernabeu: This stadium is one of the world’s most famous soccer venues. It is home to the Real Madrid team and is located in the modern part of the city, on the Paseo de la Castellana, which is one of the longest and widest avenues of Madrid.
- If you have time, go to Toledo which is a beautiful medieval town south of Madrid. UNESCO declared Toledo a World Heritage City of the three cultures, because it was inhabited for centuries by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Many famous people were born or lived in Toledo, among them, El Greco, the famous painter.
I was so excited to hear that the parent followed my tour and had a wonderful time in Madrid. So I hope some of you may go to Madrid and have the time of your life. Remember: eat good food, drink fine wine, and have a great time!