Barcelona is the most visited tourist spot in Spain, thanks in part to its proximity to France and Italy, its popularity with tour ships sailing the Mediterranean, and its lively art and culinary scene.
But Madrid, the beautiful and historic capital of Spain, hoe to over 3 million people, should absolutely not be missed. Offering some of the same tempting food and a fabulous 350-acre park, plus three not-t0-be-missed museums, including the venerable Prado, the city itself, like so much of Spain, is filled with buildings, monuments, fountains, not to mention street signs and ornaments that give the interested visitor a window on fascinating history as well as lens-worthy sights.
Madrid, the third largest city of Europe (after London and Berlin) is ripe with traffic congestion and crowds, but the cool thing about it is that everything you’ll want to see is within a small radius of the city, and easily walkable. You don’t need a car, cab or those stupid easy on, easy off tourist busses, which are a ripoff. You’ll get where you want to go faster on foot, and they’re so crowded, you’ll be standing up, and not sitting. So save your 25 Euros and see the city on foot.
Below are my suggestions for where to go for the best photo spots in Madrid, a companion to the latest Photowalk video.
Our suggested guide to Photowalking in Madrid, Spain, from El Brilliante to Retiro Park
Begin with some tapas at the historic El Brilliante bar (Plaza del Emperador Carlos V, 8, 28012). But don’t just take my word for it. “This breezy, no-frills bar-eatery is a Madrid institution for its bocadillos (filled rolls) – the bocadillo de calamares has been a favourite for more than half a century,” says Lonely Planet.
The best of Madrid is just around the corner. From here, you will be on the backstreets of Madrid, full of little cafes (loved the Chocolateria) really old buildings, cobblestone streets and one wonder after another. It’s the best spot for a Madrid photo backdrop. Calle de Sta. Maria, 28, 28014
The actual name of this district is the Barrio de las Letras, and it’s considered the literary quarter, once home to many writers of the 16th century, including Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega. Some of their quotes are spelled out as you walk by. A good starting point is this address: 📍Calle de Las Huertas, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Next up: museum time, all on Paseo del Prado, and home to three of the great museums, the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and Reina Sofia. The Prado gets the biggest crowds, but photo wise, it’s not much. Guards will be all over you to stop taking pictures when you pull out your camera, and the grounds don’t offer a lot. If it’s greenery you’re after, the Retiro park around the corner (more on that in a minute) is a much better bet,
Also around the corner is the Westin Palace Hotel: Originally built in 1911 at the suggestion of then King Alfonso XIII, it’s an architectural stunner with expensive rooms. Our tip: try the ornate tea room, and get a shot of the ceiling!
From here, it’s onto Puerta del Sol. This is the Times Square of Madrid, a big, gathering spot that’s home every Dec. 31st to New Year’s celebrations. Huge crowds gather here and enjoy the street performers, everyone from Mickey Mouse and Minnie to Winnie the Pooh. It’s also a haven for picketpockets, so be careful.
My best Madrid photo tip of all is to head to the El Corte Ingles (Puerta del Sol, 10) and go up 7 floors to the roof, where you can get a killer shot of the square from above. No drone necessary. The rooftop restaurant requires you to buy a drink to get out there, but it’s worth it. This is where I got my favorite shot of Madrid. (Photo info: Shot on Sony RX10IV, enhanced with Snapseed and Lightroom Mobile apps.)
Next stop: the Mercado de San Miguel market, a tapas lovers paradise, with stall after stall of different Spanish delicacies, from seafood and pastries to paella, brava potatoes and peppers.
Now let’s relax at the Retiro Park, or as it’s known in Spanish, Parque del Buen Retiro. This rivals the great parks of major cities.
The park is full off long, wide, giant tree lined walkways that are favored by locals for jogging, cycling, roller blading and even kayak riding. It’s home to the Crystal Palace, a glass enclosed collection of art, and historical makers, sculptures, busts and the like, surrounded by a massive lake and ducks, turtles and seagulls. Plus, as you would expect, you can find many cafes to relax in during your visit.
And finally, the world-renowned Puerta de Alcalá monument in Madrid, Spain,
Every day during our recent visit we saw people lined up to get selfies of them in front of this grand monument, which is reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe of Paris. At one time the Alcala was the gateway to Madrid and is now just a giant roundabout that routes traffic. It’s also great spot for a time-lapse, or if you have the nerve, a drone shot, as there’s a big patch of grass to give you some space to fly.
Beyond the monument, the Alcala/Salamanca neighbourhood.is also a wonderful, quiet place to stay, full of small tapas bars, cafes and fun streets to walk through. We stayed at the H10, with comfy, stylish rooms, a giant morning breakfast and such a great location, with the monument just a few blocks away, and so many local eateries on all sides. We found the H10 via the Portugal Trails independent travel service, which is highly recommended.
Adios Madrid! Next stop of the Europe Photowalk: Sevlla. Stay tuned.