A Sightseeing Tour of Madrid’s Main Attractions

After a nice afternoon and evening in Salamanca, I rose early on the morning of June 1, 2010 to leave for my drive to Madrid from Salamanca. I had lucked out with another gorgeous day and drove eastwards through the Spanish Meseta and over the Sierra de Guadarama Mountains into the capital Madrid. After a fairly easy search I was able to locate the airport and return my rental car shortly before noon.

Taking the subway from the airport to downtown Madrid

At the Madrid Airport tourist information booth I asked about how to get to my hotel on the Gran Via and was given the explanation that I just had to catch the subway, change once at the Nuevos Ministerios subway stop and then exit at Plaza de España, one of Madrid’s most important squares. I was really impressed by the public transportation in Madrid: it’s fast, efficient and inexpensive, and you can even get downtown by subway right from the airport.

The Alcazar Regis Hotel is a former apartment

Hotels in Madrid can be quite expensive, so quite a few weeks ago I had booked a very reasonably priced hotel over the Internet: the Alcazar Regis is a simple 2-star property right on the Gran Via, Madrid’s most impressive grand boulevard. And at 29 Euros a night it was a downright steal! What surprised me is that this Madrid hotel was located on the fifth floor of a building as part of a former apartment. I had to take the undersized freight elevator in the back of the ground floor to even get up to my hotel. The Alcazar Regis features 14 bedrooms and mine was a simple, single room with an ensuite bathroom, a perfect base for me two days in Madrid.

My hotel room in Madrid: simple, yet central

After I had gotten settled I headed back out into the city and grabbed a quick lunch on the go. I was impressed by the sights of the Plaza de España which was hustling and bustling with people. Several locals had spread out in the shade underneath some trees in a bid to get away from the stifling hot Madrid weather. A monument to Spain’s most famous writer, Miguel de Cervantes, dominates the square while the north side is anchored by the Edificio España, a 25-story high stepped back tower built in the late 1940s and early 1950s, anchors the Plaza on the north side. Formerly a hotel, the building is now empty and being redeveloped for luxury residences.

The Edificio España with the Cervantes memorial in front

To get better acquainted with the attractions in Madrid I embarked on one of the popular hop-on / hop-off double-decker bus tours called Madrid Vision. With a price of 17 Euros, I figured this was one of the best ways of getting an overview of the city. I managed to snag a seat in the front row of the upper deck and had a perfect view of the buildings and monuments passing by.

The Royal Palace of Madrid

One of the first major stops was the Palacio Real, Spain’s Royal Palace, one of Europe’s biggest palaces. Although this is the official residence of the Spanish royal family, they actually do not reside here and the palace is mostly used for ceremonial purposes. Next to the palace is the Catedral de la Almudena, Madrid’s Gothic Revival cathedral that was consecrated very recently in 1993.

The cathedral La Almudena

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