by Sarah Brickley
Among Spain’s many vibrant cities and serene resort towns, Madrid seems to get written off as the boring middle child. But no traveler should overlook this capital city! Here are five great reasons to visit Madrid.
1. Kilometer Zero. The center of the city, known as Sol, is an over-hyped zone of shutterbug sightseers. But if you can briefly brave the flocks of tourists, make your way to the clock tower of the former Royal Post Office. Then, look down. Embedded in the sidewalk is a weathered semicircle—less than two feet wide—containing an image of Spain and the phrase “Origen de las carreteras radiales.” Despite its lackluster appearance, “Kilómetro Cero” is the supposed geographical center of the nation. It is also the starting point for the country’s six major highways. All roads lead to Madrid!
2. The Prado Museum. Thanks to a recent $219 million renovation, the enormous art collection is more alluring than ever. Even if you can’t tell a Rafael from a Rubens, don’t miss the Prado’s numerous masterpieces, including Velasquez’s “Las Meninas.” Titian, Picasso, Goya, El Greco, Dürer, and Boticelli are among the hundreds of painters represented.
3. Real Madrid. For sports fans, a stop in Madrid should be a no-brainer. While David Beckham may have moved on, Real Madrid is still one of the most popular teams in one of the most popular sports on Earth. Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is in the center of the city, easily accessible from several subway stops.
4. Leaning Towers. The Leaning Tower of Pisa has got nothing on the Puerta de Europa! At the head of Madrid’s main street, Paseo de la Castellana, stand two 375-foot architectural marvels. The identical structures lean toward each other at a 15-degree angle—that’s twice as tilted as Pisa’s tower! As the world’s first leaning high-rises, these are certainly the least boring office buildings you’ll ever see.
5. The Rastro. Do you need a new pair of earrings, gently-used tap shoes, some 1987 cassette tapes, or a useless knick-knack? Every Sunday, vendors offer an endless array of items at this expansive open-air market. Even if you set out with the intention of simply browsing, you are sure to walk away with a trinket or two. Polish your bargaining skills before going, and you could score a unique souvenir with little more than pocket change.