Two weeks in Madrid, Barcelona and Sitges – The beginning

As many of you know, I spent a two week vacation in Spain, where I visited Madrid, Barcelona and Sitges. Madrid is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is the third largest European city behind London and Berlin, and is the capital of Spain.

Madrid is a bustling city, which like New York, never seems to sleep. Unlike Barcelona where restaurants don’t open until late and many bars don’t open until 11 pm, in Madrid dining is available when every you want it and there are many bars open for “happy hour.”

Plaza Mayor

Hapsburg Era

But it is the architecture of Madrid with it’s public parks and plazas, that captures my heart the most. There is virtually no traces of Madrid’s medieval past. Some of the oldest existing structures date back to the Hapsburg dynasty. Plaza Mayor is an example of this style with its simple red brick exterior and grey towers which came to symbolize “Castillian Baroque.”

Banco de España

French & Italian Style

During the 18th & 19th century, Madrid’s architecture was predominately influenced by the French and Italians. The buildings become more ornate as they moved from the Castillian Baroque style to more intricate designs featuring elaborate pediments. King Charles III wanted to raise Madrid to an equal status with Paris, Rome or London, which led to the building of The Prado, the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Botanical Gardens, the Plaza De Cibeles and Puerta de Atocha. This style was continued into the 19th century with the building of the Bank of Spain (Banco de España).

Metropolis Building20th Century

Probably one of the best known and emblematic buildings from the 20th century is the elaborate and ornate Metropolis building in downtown Marid on Gran Via.

Parks & Green Space

Madrid is one of the greenest cities in Europe with the highest number of trees and green surface per inhabitant. No resident is more than A 15 minute walk to a park. Parque del Retiro, which once was the palace grounds for Felipe IV, is the largest and most popular parks in central Madrid. We’ll explore the Retiro on Sunday, the perfect time to visit it. The Casa de Campo is a huge park west of the city boasting 6.6 square miles and features three different ecosystems: oak, pine and river groves.

But throughout the city you will find plazas, parks and public spaces. All perfect places to take a break and enjoy the beauty of Madrid.

Originally I planned to write an article for the blog each day, but on the second day I had a computer crash. So now, back home in the US, I am taking my notes and pictures and writing the stories after completion of my holiday, but posting them to correspond to the date when the photos were actually taken. I hope the articles will encourage more of you to visit Spain and to learn to enjoy it and appreciate it as much as I do.