Travel

Madrid: a treasure trove of history

Under a Spanish spell Gran Via at night   | Photo Credit: MarioGuti

As I drove from the Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport to the city centre, the architectural marvels of ancient Madrid enthralled me as much as the blue sky.

In Madrid, capital of Spain, the natives love their blue sky with fervour. I learnt that one of the favourite touristy things to do is to go up to the terraces on buildings such as the City Hall to view the sky. For centuries, poets, writers and singers have been praising the beauty of the sky in this part of the world. Interestingly, the sky here is associated with women, and most of the buildings have statues of goddesses, angels and women warriors on their terraces.

People relaxing at the al fresco tables of a pavement restaurant bar illuminated by the warm lamp light of historic central Madrid

People relaxing at the al fresco tables of a pavement restaurant bar illuminated by the warm lamp light of historic central Madrid   | Photo Credit: fotoVoyager

As dusk sets in, nightlife begins. In Madrid, every evening feels like a weekend with flowing music and wine. There are countless bars and it is one of the liveliest and most sought-after tourist destinations in Europe. In short, Madrid never sleeps. Every building has a story to tell. The Hyatt Centric Gran Via, where I stayed, is a treasure trove of history. It stands on the Gran Via, the Spanish Broadway that is a happening street with history wherever you turn.

What to see
  • The Prado
  • One of the most popular art museums in the world, it is 200 years old with a collection dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • The Royal Palace
  • Built in the 1700s by King Philip V, the Royal Palace is considered the largest in Western Europe. With over 3,000 rooms, the palace is a treasure of arts and paintings. Besides the royal library, there is the armoury and other articles used by the royal family. A guided tour of the palace will take half a day.
  • Gran Via
  • Also known as the Spanish Broadway, this new street is the shopping destination in Madrid. It’s one of the busiest roads in the city and has many sought-after retail stores of popular brands lined up along the 1,300-metre-long stretch.
  • Plaza Mayor
  • A majestic symmetrical rectangular square features a uniform architecture. The plaza, which was originally called the Plaza del Arrabal, later became the Plaza Mayor. There are nine entrances to the colourful square.
  • Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
  • Even if you are not a football lover, a visit to this stadium is worth it. It has been the home of the Real Madrid football club and has a seating capacity of 81,000 plus. This stadium has also hosted the World Cup and several European Cup matches. It is located in Chamartín about 13 kilometres from the International Airport. The stadium is well connected by trains and buses.
  • Retiro Park
  • It means the Park of the Pleasant Retreat in English. The Retiro Park is one of the biggest in the city spread over 350 acres. It belonged to the Spanish monarchy until it became a public park in the late 19th Century. Besides a lake, the park has several monuments and sculptures.

City that never sleeps

On the rooftop of this huge hotel stands the Roman goddess and huntress, Diana. A damaged steel beam also lies on the terrace. Christened the Girder of Peace, this beam was hit by one of the shells launched on the Telefonica Building during the Spanish Civil War. For close to 80 years, the perforated girder remained hidden. In 2016, during renovation work on the building, the girder surfaced, once again jogging painful memories. It is today preserved at the top of the centennial staircase in the hotel.

Bullfighter sculpture in front of Bullfighting arena Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid,

Bullfighter sculpture in front of Bullfighting arena Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid,   | Photo Credit: ventdusud

Madrid has music, arts, history, shops, parks, museums, and above all, very friendly people. Gran Via is not only home to the world’s best brands but also offers loads of street shopping. It is not uncommon to see people playing music on the streets for money. And as night falls, cafés, bars and clubs come alive, offering foodies a spectacular range of Spanish delicacies.

The writer was in Madrid at the invitation of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts.

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Printable version | May 19, 2021 6:43:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/madrid-a-treasure-trove-of-history/article26445571.ece

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