Walk the Paseo del Prado and Paseo de Recoletos

Here’s a walk that I have done many, many times and I thought I’d share it with readers of Mad About Madrid.

We will start off in the Glorieta del Emperador Carlos V (or the Glorieta de Atocha). Atocha station, which occupies the south side of the square, is the main railway station in Madrid, and trains from both the Madrid community and the Spanish regions arrive here. The station was inaugurated in 1851, destroyed and rebuilt in 1892.  The old terminal building was taken out of service in 1992 and turned into a shopping centre and tropical gardens. The latter is a great place to chill and take in some of the 500 plant species. Atocha station is also well-known as the place where 191 people were murdered in 2004 and you will also find special consoles there where you can leave a hand silhouette and message.

350px-PicassoGuernica To the West of the square you will see the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Food. The building was completed in 1897 and with its Corinthian columns and winged statues on its roof is very impressive. Heading South-west of the Plaza you will find one of three museums which make up Madrid’s Golden Triangle (the other two are the Prado and Thyssen), the  Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The art on display in this museum is mainly Spanish and includes one of the most well-known paintings in the world – Picasso’s Guernica.

Head north off the square and you start to walk up the Paseo del Prado. The word “Prado” in English means meadow and was the place outside the main city walls where Madrileños used to go for recreation. The Paseo del Prado is one of the main boulevards of Madrid and, like much of this part of the city, came about under the reign of Carlos III. Around this time the area was covered in trees and the idea was to convert it into a place with gardens and trees and with the urban design of José de Hermosilla fountains (Cibeles, Neptune and Apolo) would be added.

On the west side of this boulevard you will see the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid (Royal Botanic Gardens), again under the command of Carlos III (in 1781). It covers around 8 hectares and has around 5,000 different plants and trees from around the world in its collection. Given the uneven terrain it occupies, the Botanic gardens have various terraces for different types of plants and trees. Towards the end of the boulevard, also on the west side, you will find one of the most finest art galleries in the world – the Prado Museum.  The museum was opened in 1819  and over time two further buildings were “incorporated” into the Museum – the Casón del Buen Retiro and the Salon de Reinos. The former housed Picasso’s Guernica, when it was returned from the USA and before it went to the Reina Sofía Museum.

On the opposite side of the Paseo del Prado you will find some of Madrid’s “literary” streets leading off from there – c/ de Leon, c/ Huertas, c/ Lope de Vega, c/ Cervantes. Miguel de Cervantes – author of Don Quijote – actually died in c/ de León. Lope de Vega – another famous author lived in c/ Cervantes  and other notable Spanish writers like Quevedo and Góngora also lived in this district. That is why the barrio is now called Barrio de las Letras. At night time this area becomes a hive of activity when Madrileños and tourists hit its many bars and restaurants.

At the end of this first stretch of the Paseo del Prado, you will find the Plaza de Cánovas del Castillo – often called Plaza de Neptuno because of Neptune’s statue in the middle of the square. The fountain was designed by Ventura Rodríguez in 1782 and created by Juan Pascual de Mena between 1780 and 1784. It used to be situated more towards the Plaza de Cibeles and actually looked towards it as opposed to looking towards the centre of the city.

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Easter Tour of Madrid

st year I will be offering my own walking and tapas tours of Madrid this Easter (between 5th and 13th April  ). Here is an overview of the tours:

Walking Tour – They are designed to take people on tours of some of my favourite Madrid haunts, from streets, buildings, plazas, parks, museums and, definitely, a bar! The plan is for the the tours to last around 3-4 hours and will include a coffee stop and a beer/tapa stop towards the end.

The Tapas Tours will take you round my favourite tapas bars in central Madrid and will be combined with a running commentary of the barrios/locations we will be walking through as we do our ‘bar hop’. I expect that we will go to around 4 – 5 locations and it will take about 3-4 hours.

My intention is to take people to places that they would never have thought of going and to give valuable advice on how to make your stay
in Madrid the best possible. This advice will include useful tips and advice which you can use for the rest of your stay in Madrid, from
events, venues, bars, restaurants, ways to save money and excursions.

Seeing as it is Easter, the tour will also have a certain feel about it and I will show be showing off some of the sights of Madrid at Easter (that means we’ll see one or two churches!).

The cost will be 55 Euros (a 35 Euro deposit will be required beforehand) for the walking tour and 85 Euros for the tapas tour (the latter will include drinks and tapas in four places). I envisage that groups will be quite small – probably no more than 6 people – and suggest you email me to book your place and to find out more information.

If you’re interested in any other specific tour experiences – food, for example, – let me know.

Tour of Madrid in August

Madrid Tour

From the 17th August to 31st August, 2006 I will be organising walking tours of Madrid. They are designed to take people on tours of some of my favourite Madrid haunts, from streets, buildings, plazas, parks, museums and, possibly, a couple of bars! The plan is for the the tours to last around 3-4 hours and will include a couple of refreshment stops.

My intention is to take people to places that they would never have thought of going and to give valuable advice on how to make your stay in Madrid the best possible. This advice will include useful tips and advice which you can use for the rest of your stay in Madrid, from events, venues, bars, restaurants, ways to save money and excursions.

The dates and times are quite flexible and prices will cost 60 Euros, a deposit required beforehand. I envisage that groups will be quite small (probably no more than 5 people) and suggest you email me to book your place.

Viewing Madrid Through Google Earth

Royal Palace as seen with Google Earth

If you don’t know what Google Earth is, here is a brief synopsis:

Google Earth is a free-of-charge, downloadable virtual globe program. It maps the entire earth by pasting images obtained from satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS over a 3D globe.

The satellite pictures of Madrid, though not as perfect as a city like New York, are still superb and allow you to clearly make out buildings,streets and parks. The Retiro Park and Royal Palace are clearly visible and you can even overlay roads to see the main streets of the city. It is not a bad tool to use if you plan to do some walks around the city and over time I’m sure the quality of images will get even better. There is another satellite mapping service for the Madrid region called Geomadrid but I don’t believe the quality of the images and its presentation is as good.

In order to use the software you will need to download it on to your desktop.

Glide Through Madrid’s Streets on a Segway

segwayA couple of weeks ago my wife and I had the pleasure of travelling around Madrid in a very different way – on a Segway. If you’re not familiar with a Segway, here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

The Segway HT is a two-wheeled, self-balancing, computer-controlled, electrically-powered gyroscopic light-mode transportation device

Computers and motors in the base keep the Segway upright at all times. Users lean forward to move forward, and back to move backwards. Turning is done mechanically via hand control. Segways are driven by quiet, non-polluting electric motors at up to 12.5 mph (10 mph in the
P-series).

Antony Bruce, a Scotsman with a South African accent (or so I thought!), is the owner of Madrid Segs, a company which offers visitors, and even locals, a new way to explore the city. Though the company has not been going long, Antony is an expert Segway user who makes client security a key priority.

Madrid Segs takes people around the streets of Madrid, which means that like most people we had to have a little bit of training beforehand. Using a Segway is a slight shock to the system – you move your body forward to go forward and backwards to stop, turning the handle makes you go right or left – though it didn’t take us long to get to grips with how it worked. Having worked out the basics Antony let us out on the streets of Madrid.

First stop was the Sabatini Gardens, next to the Palacio Real, where Antony gave us a brief history of the Palace and the Alcazar, which stood on the same spot before it. For someone who has only lived in Madrid a short period of time, his knowledge of the city is very good and both my wife and I learnt something new about the city. From here we travelled over to the Plaza de Oriente before heading down to the Almudena Cathedral.

A typical outing on the Segway will take in Plaza Mayor, Madrid de los Austrias, Barrio de los Letras, Prado Museum, Plaza de España and the Templo de Debod and Paseo de Pintor Roasles – a beautiful part of Madrid that most tourists don’t tend to go to. The routes are well thought out and there are few obstacles – Antony has never had any incident with his Segways.

The price of 60 Euros for around two and a half hours includes a ‘pit stop’ for a drink in Plaza Mayor and was certainly worth every ‘centimo’! Antony even managed to take some pictures of us on the Segways and post them to an online account for viewing when we got home.

For more information, visit the MadSegs site or email Antony.

Food and Wine Tours of Madrid

Tour Update and Notice

As Alun has
mentioned early in my introduction, we hope in the near future to offer guided
tours of some of
Madrid’s culinary treasures. Highlighting
both well-known monuments to food and more importantly, those little known
treasures – we hope to offer a unique perspective on the food scene in
Madrid. To start with, we will be offering
2 formats for you to choose from based on your specific interests:

A Cook’s Tour
For anyone who likes to buy treats to bring
back home, or for those of you who might have a kitchen in the room you are
staying in, this is the tour for you. We will take you to 4 different shops in
Madrid, where you will have the chance to
buy some of the finest food and wine
Spain has to offer.

First, a wine shop
where we will get a chance to taste some wine while learning a little about
where it comes from and how it is made. Second, ever think that Manchego was
all
Spain had to offer as far as cheese? Well, we’ll
prove that theory wrong as we walk up the street to a cathedral of all things
cheese
. Walls lined with every type of fermented milk you can imagine.  Following this, we will move on to a chocolate
shop
whose reliquary holds some of the finest chocolates available to mortals! To round it all off, how about a stop at a Market
where you can have the chance to buy fresh ham, ripe vegetables, myriad fish, not
to mention much more.  All in all, this
3 hour tour will show you some of the finer gourmet treats
Madrid has to offer.
Cost: TBA

Tapas, Wine and Fun
Come stroll with us down Madrid’s streets stopping in at a select
few bars to try a variety of the typical flavors of
Spain. During each stop you will have a choice
of wines all of which come accompanied by tapas.  During this time you will learn something of
the history of tapas; have a chance to gather some recipes; and also learn something
about the wine regions that abound in
Spain.
Cost:TBA

While we
are in the process of setting up the dates, times and prices for these tours weI
want to make sure that no one is left out. If you are going to be in town in
the next month or are already here send us a note! We’ll work something out and
make sure that you don’t miss anything during your stay here in
Madrid!

Please
contact us at alunjohn (at) gmail.com with
any questions, or suggestions, that you might have.

Till soon,
Ryan Opaz

City Council of Madrid Offers 37 Guided Tours

Th City Council of Madrid is offering visitors, and citizens, of Madrid 37 guided tours of the City. The tours cover all interests and needs. The tours are set to run from February to June and cost around 3.10 Euros on foot or 6 Euros by bus/car. Here are a selection of them from the website:

  • Madrid’s Barroque Churches
  • Madrid’s Convents
  • Panoramic Views of Madrid on Bike
  • Goya in Madrid
  • Legends of Old Madrid
  • Medieval Madrid
  • Classic Taverns of Madrid

However, all of the above information is in Spanish – I would assume that the tours will also be in Spanish. Should you wish, you can download an English version from the Descubre Madrid site.