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Art Triangle

This route, known as the "Paseo del Arte” or Art Walk, is unique in the world, and takes visitors on a path through paintings and sculptures, architecture and nature, in one of Madrid’s most emblematic areas: the Paseo del Prado. The route can easily be done on foot, and leads to three major art galleries in succession: the Prado Museum, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía Museum and Art Centre.

This first-rate location makes it possible to enjoy, within a few square metres, Velazquez’s Meninas, Goya’s Majas, Giovanna Tornabuoni by Ghirlandaio, as well as Les Vessenots en Auvers by Van Gogh and Picasso’s Guernica, together with other masterpieces of world art.

One of the most traditional walks in Madrid is now in fact an “artistic triangle”, which offers visitors the chance to explore the history of art and to enjoy one of the finest parts of Madrid.

Prado Museum

Located in the heart of Madrid, since 1819 the Prado Museum has been at the centre of an extensive artistic network which includes works by masters from all over the world.The museum is housed in two different buildings, located very close together: the Villanueva building (the best known), in the Paseo del Prado, and the Casón del Buen Retiro.Its various rooms contain not only exceptional examples of paintings by Spanish artists (Goya, Velázquez, Zurbarán...), but also works by the great masters of other schools (Titian, Reubens and Hieronymous Bosch, for example), as well as outstanding sculptures and other forms of artistic expression. 



Thyssen Bornemisza Museum                                                                                                           
The 19th-century Villahermosa Palace was remodelled by the architect Rafael Moneo to house this fabulous collection of paintings.The palace had its origins at the time of the urban planning reforms undertaken by King Charles III, the monarch of the Enlightenment in Spain.The site was originally bought by a court painter who built himself a large townhouse.When the Prado Salon became the fashionable new centre for the Madrid elite of the 18th century, it was bought by the Duke of Villahermosa who demolished it and designed a building according to the new architectural style based on French neoclassicism.

Reina Sofía Museum and Art Centre

Various works of art on display in the Reina Sofía Museum and Art Centre and the exterior of the museum.
At the southern end of the avenue known as the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk) is the Reina Sofía Museum and Art Centre, whose permanent collection was opened by their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain on 10 September 1992.This museum, dedicated to the art of the 20th century, is located in an area of particular resonance with the citizens of Madrid: the roundabout of Charles V, popularly known as "Atocha".It is one of the largest museums in the world with some 12,505 square metres of exhibition rooms.


Whether they are symbols famous throughout the world such as the Puerta de Alcalá Arch, the Cibeles Fountain, the Monastery of El Escorial or the Palace of Aranjuez, or the enigmatic remains of Egyptian history right in the heart of the city, the Madrid region has numerous monuments which should not be missed.

These are places admired both by visitors and by local residents, and which have inspired everything from the celebration of sporting victories to popular anthems. Take a tour of any of the towns in the region to discover and take part in their cultural heritage.

Puerta de Alcalá
This is one of Madrid's most symbolic monuments. King Charles III of Spain ordered the building of the Puerta de Alcalá (Alcalá Arch) in 1778, and charged Sabatini with its design and execution. The idea was to replace the old and damaged archway of that time with another which would provide a more grandiose point of convergence for the avenues that meet there.Located right in the heart of the city in the Plaza de la Independencia Square, it is positioned at the beginning of the Calle Alcalá, very near the main entrance to the Retiro Gardens.The arch, built in the neo-classical style, has 5 openings: 3 semicircular arches and 2 lintel arches. It was a work without precedent in 18th-century European architecture.Today it is the most recognizable and best-loved image of Madrid, and has become the symbol of the city for both the local inhabitants and visitors.


Cibeles Fountain

This fountain, which has become an iconic symbol of Madrid, has stood in the square of the same name between the Paseo de Recoletos and the Paseo del Prado since 1782.The fountain depicts the goddess Cybele, the symbol of earth, agriculture and fertility, on a chariot drawn by lions, and was designed by Ventura Rodríguez in the reign of Charles III of Spain. The marble fountain originally stood next to the Buenavista Palace in the Paseo de Recoletos, and was moved to its present location in the middle of the square in the late 19th century.Any description of the Cibeles Fountain would be incomplete without a mention of the magnificent buildings around the square: the Buenavista Palace, the Linares Palace, the Palace of Communications or central post office, and the Bank of Spain.This monument has now become a symbol for fans of the Real Madrid football club, who throng around the goddess to celebrate their victories.

Temple Debnod

The Temple of Debod is one of the few examples of Egyptian architecture that can be seen in its entirety outside Egypt, and the only one of its characteristics in Spain.It was built in the 4th century B.C., and until a few decades ago it stood in southern Egypt, very near the first Nile waterfall and the great religious centre dedicated to the goddess Isis in Philae.This Egyptian temple was given to Spain in 1968 in gratitude for the efforts of the Spanish archaeological team who helped save the temples in the Nubia valley when they were threatened with flooding from the waters of the Aswan dam.The temple was inaugurated in 1972, and can now be seen in its new home to the east of the Plaza de España square, next to the Paseo del Pintor Rosales. This monument, acknowledged to be the oldest in Madrid, is oriented in the same direction as it was in its place of origin: from east to west.


Almudena Cathedral

The first plans for building a great cathedral in Madrid date from the 16th century, in the time of Charles I of Spain. Various projects were considered, and the archiect Francisco de Cubas was finally chosen to carry out the work. His design was in the Gothic style but adapted to the Romantic style of the period.Building was started in 1883 and remains incomplete. This great project has always been dogged by controversy, not least because of the mixture of styles which have resulted from the various modifications of the plans.The final result, and after six different architects had directed the intermittent building work over a period of more than a hundred years, has very little in common with the original design by the Marquis of Cubas.Building on the cloister was completed in 1955 and on the façade five years later, although it was not until 1993 when it was finally inaugurated by Pope John Paul II.

Crystal Palace

Located in the Retiro Park in Madrid, the Crystal Palace, also known as the Chocolate Box, was designed by Ricardo Velázquez in 1887 for use as a hothouse during an exhibition on Spain's colonies. Once the exhibition was over it became the site of the Overseas Museum.Surrounded by a lake, it has a metal structure clothed in glass, and its design became an architectural model for similar projects in several European cities due to its curved panes with their silicone frames which cushioned dilation and ensured watertightness.This building, after undergoing various stages of neglect, is currently the property of the Ministry of Culture, and has been allocated for use as a venue for temporary modern art exhibitions from the Reina Sofía National Art Centre.
There is another palace designed by the same architect near the Crystal Palace, built in 1883 for an exhibition on Mining and Fine Arts.



Royal Sites



Royal Palace of Madrid
This privileged location is the site of one of Madrid's main tourist attractions. It was once a fortress, then the old Alcázar or citadel, and finally the Royal Palace. It is the official residence of His ajesty the King of Spain, although he does not actually live here. Apart from its role as a museum, it is only used for ceremonial purposes on state occasions such as diplomatic functions and official events.The origins of the palace date from the 9th century, when the Muslim kingdom of Toledo, wishing to defend itself against surprise attacks by the Christians, built a fortress which was later used by the kings and queens of Castile. In the 16th century a citadel was built on the same foundations.On Christmas Eve, 1734, it was reduced to ashes by a fire. Soon after Philip V ordered a new palace to be built on the same spot. Work on the building was carried out between 1738 and 1755. It was designed as a vaulted structure made of stone and brick, and no wood or flammable materials were used in its construction. Charles III of Spain was the first monarch who took up residence there, in 1764.

Convent of the Descalzas Reales

This convent, founded by Juana of Austria, the sister of Philip II, is located in the centre of Madrid. She was born here in what was at that time a palace and the home of her parents, Charles I of Spain and Isabel of Portugal. Her body lies in a chapel, with a kneeling sculpture by Pompeyo Orani.The convent, built in the Plateresque style, has an important collection of paintings, tapestries and religious imagery. The reason for this is that a number of the noblewomen who entered the convent brought with them their dowries.


Royal Monastery of la Encarnación

This monastery was built in the 17th century on the orders of   Margarita of Austria, the wife of Philip III. The project was awarded to Juan Gómez de Mora, but due to a fire the plans then underwent extensive modifications which were completed in 1761. The neoclassical style designed by Ventura Rodríguez complements the interior décor of the Salón de Reyes (Kings' Room), the choirstalls, the cloister and the sacristy.José Ribera, Antonio Pereda, Lucas Jordán and Gregorio Fernández were some of the artists whose works were chosen for the picture gallery. Leading figures among the sculptors are Juan de Mena and Francisco Salzillo, whose pieces can be seen in the most important room in the monastery, the Reliquary Room. The monastery has a veritable trove of relics, including a phial with the blood of San Pantaleón, which every 27 July undergoes a mysterious liquefaction process.

Royal Palace of El Pardo

This area, one of the most extensive woodlands in Madrid, includes among other spaces, the Zarzuela Palace, the usual residence of their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain. The lush vegetation in the countryside around the Monte de El Pardo safeguards the privacy of the palace occupants.These 16,000 hectares of woodland were used as a hunting estate for the monarchy. Since the Middle Ages it has been the site of a variety of buildings such as the Casita del Príncipe (Prince's House) and the convents of the Franciscan Concepcionista and Capuchin orders. This last convent was founded by Philip III, and conserves in its interior a figure of a recumbent Christ by Gregorio Hernández, and the Virgin of los Ángeles by Francisco de Rizi.


Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

During the empire of Philip II some of the most important political decisions in the world were taken in this area of the Madrid region.Currently holding the designation of World Heritage monument, this was the residence of Philip II, who in El Escorial created his palace, the great library and a pantheon intended as the final resting place of his parents, Charles I of Spain and Isabel of Portugal, his family and successors. The group of buildings also comprises a large basilica and a monastery.It was designed according to the plans of Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera, and the last stone was put in place in 1584. The same architect also designed the Casas de Oficios or Official Buildings opposite the monastery's north façade, and his successor, Francisco de Mora, designed the Casa de la Compaña (Company Quarters).The basilica has two great cenotaphs: that of its founder, Phillip II, and that of Charles I of Spain, with their respective families, one each side of the high altar. The kneeling sculptures in gilded bronze are by Pompeyo Leoni, as is the altarpiece.

Royal Palace of Aranjuez
This was originally a recreational area used by Ferdinand and Isabella. The current palace is characterised by its red and white façade. Its construction was begun by Philip II, who used the same architects as for the Escorial. Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera began the work, which was later completed by a team under the orders of Ferdinand VI.This imposing structure lies between the Tagus and Jarama rivers. It is built in the style of Herrera, and its façade is adorned with the statues of the three kings who took part in its construction (Charles III of Spain added a large parade ground). Particularly worth noting for its beauty and craftsmanship is the staircase by Bonavia with its Roccoco balustrade, and the Porcelain Room whose walls are covered in porcelain. This palace contains an interesting exhibition on life in the royal residences.


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