Some cities blow you away from the get-go; others slowly grow on you as you become acquainted with the place. Madrid is a city that genuinely seduces you with an intoxicating mix of staggering architecture, resplendent palaces and a venerable dining scene. After a ten year hiatus, Air Malta has commenced its route to the Spanish capital.
Words by Air Malta | Extract taken from August's 2020 il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
Madrid has a shorter architectural history than many of its European capital counterparts. Although it has been inhabited since prehistoric times and was a Moorish stronghold in the 9th century, it remained a provincial town until Philip II moved the royal court from Toledo to the city of Madrid in 1561, making it the de facto capital of Spain.
PL A Z A MAYOR
Plaza Mayor was designed by Juan de Herrera and Juan Gómez de Mora in the 1600s. This grand public space, with its tall grey slate spires and brick-red facades that are typical of the Castilian Baroque style, is also characterised by symmetry and austerity. The plaza's most eye-catching building is Casa de la Panadería. It was initially the most important bakery in Madrid. Carlos Franco decorated its stunning façade.
Throughout the years, the Plaza Mayor has been used for a variety of different purposes. It was once a renowned marketplace for food and other wares. It's also been the site of many events such as bullfights, public executions, trials during the Spanish Inquisition and crowning ceremonies. After a series of fires, Plaza Mayor has been rebuilt several times throughout history.
To get there, you can use one of the various gates, each one with their unique charm.
Aside from this square, the city also has its share of treasures from the past, including the unmissable Baroque Palacio Royal (The official residence of the Spanish Royal Family in Madrid), to the Neoclassical Museo Nacional del Prado.
But while history resonates all around, Madrid is much about the here and now as the past. It's about eating tapas with friends in a bustling bar or seeing the sun go down over a drink in a buzzing plaza.
MADRID’S CULINARY SCENE
The dining scene in Madrid piques the imagination. Here you'll find Michelin-starred eateries, lively taberna's and long-running family-run restaurants all offering a different take on local cuisine, alongside influences from across the whole of Spain. Try and find yourself a menu featuring Cocido Madrileño. As the weather starts to turn at the end of summer, the smell of this simmering pork stew begins to waft through the streets of Madrid.
For a culinary joint, first head to the streets surrounding tourist hotspot Puerta del Sol as they offer endless rewards for foodies, whether devouring one's way through the eateries lining Calle Mayor until you reach the sprawling food halls of the Mercardo de San Miguel. This is one of Madrid's oldest and most beautiful food markets, encased within the early 20th-century glass walls, and you really shouldn't miss it!
Away from the centre, some of the quirkiest and newest restaurants in Madrid can be found on Calle Ponzano. Situated in the chic Chamberí neighbourhood, it's a complete culinary destination in its own right. The street pulsates with life and is adorned with some of the top stars of the contemporary dining scene. Take a pit stop, and plan your next great meal, in Madrid, it really won't be far away.
Culture takes on many forms in this thriving city. Poignant museums like the Museo de Historia de Madrid (Museum of History of Madrid) and the National Archaeological Museum of Spain provides a glimpse into centuries past, with their impressive collections. Skipping forward a few centuries, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is a world-famous modern art museum featuring a diverse collection of 20th-century Spanish art, from Picasso to Solana.
Then, of course, there's the hallowed Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, home to Real Madrid, where global football superstars take to the field. After soaking up the sights, head to Parque del Retiro one of Madrid’s largest public parks.
GO BEYOND THE PERIPHERY
But you'll find the Madrid Region offers much, much more should you venture away from the city. For example, the cities of Aranjuez, Alcalá de Henares and San Lorenzo del Escorial, all of which have been declared World Heritage Sites. Or small picturesque towns such as Chinchón, and the charming villages in the mountain certainly make a splendid day trip. Wine lovers don't miss the opportunity to explore the exquisite vineyards of the Ribera del Duero district. The area is a Spanish Denominación de Origen Protegida located in the country's plateau to the North of Madrid. It is one of eleven 'quality wine' regions within the autonomous community of Castile and León.
Air Malta operates direct flights between Malta and Madrid. Visit www.airmalta.com for more information.