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Madrid in November - 10 things to do

Updated: 13 hours ago

Madrid can be visited in all seasons, but the summer can be hot and the winter cold, so autumn and spring are good seasons. Then there are also fewer tourists.

Madrid is a large city with approx.3.3 million inhabitants (6.6 million with suburbs), but the old city center is surprisingly intimate with most everything within walking distance.

The old, original part of the city has narrow, charming streets.

A little outside you will find large monumental buildings with beautiful decorations.

There are plenty of restaurants in the old town, although some of them may be closed during periods from November to February.

There is a lot to experience in Madrid, but here is a list of ten things that are nice to do:

1) El Museo del Prado

2) El Palacio Real de Madrid

3) El Museo de Reina Sophia

4) La Cathedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena

5) La Plaza Mayor

6) La Puerta del Sol - the entrance to the old town

7) El Parque de Retiro

8) El Palacio de Cristal

9) Flamenco

10) Sobrino de Botín - the world's oldest restaurant

1. El Museo de Prado

The Prado Museum is one of Spain's three most visited tourist attractions.There can therefore be a long queue to buy tickets.If you buy a ticket in advance, you get straight in.

The building is huge and even if you set aside plenty of time, it is difficult to see everything. The museum has an impressive collection of older art, and also has exhibitions of more modern art.

Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take pictures in the museum, but there is a rich selection of art books that you can buy.

2) El Palacio Real de Madrid

The current palatial building of El Palacio Real de Madrid was begun in 1738 and completed in 1764, but there have been fortifications and castle here since the 11th century.

In front of the main building there is a large castle square.

From the east side of the square you get a good view of the castle grounds at the back and the city below.

You are led into a large hall and then on to a number of halls. It is permitted to take pictures in the halls, but not in the halls.

The halls are even more beautifully decorated than the halls.None of them are the same, and you are impressed with each new "living room" you are shown into. Both the floor, walls and ceiling are works of art.

The castle has been the main seat of the royal house until the current king and queen took over.

They live in another castle and this picture is the only presence from them.The palace is now used for ceremonies and special events.

At the back of the castle there are two castle parks which should also be visited.

One of them is called Jardines de Palacio. It is quite small.

The other is called Campo de Moro.It is bigger and nice to go for a walk in.

3) El Museo de Reina Sophia

The art in the museum, which is named after Queen Sophia, is more recent than that found in the Prado Museum.

The building has two external lifts.It is square with a large atrium in the middle. Around the atrium there are corridors.

The building was originally designed as a hospital - la Hospital General de Madrid. The construction of the hospital began in 1587, but the current building dates from 1756.

The large ceiling height and the large airy halls were medically justified. Although micro-organisms were not known at the time, it was known that plenty of air was important to prevent infection.

The building has experienced a lot. It has received injured soldiers from the civil war, it has been an epidemic hospital for patients with plague and other infectious diseases, and it has been a place of storage for dangerous mentally ill people.

During the plague epidemics, the dead were buried in the earth under the cellar. It has given rise to tales of ghosts and paranormal phenomena that are still under "investigation".

However, high ceilings and plenty of light are also good conditions for exhibition spaces for art. The hospital was closed in 1865, and the building was then unused for a long period.

Due to decay, it was proposed to demolish the building, but in 1977 it was listed. Restoration began in 1980, and six years later the building was filled with art.

The permanent collections are located on the second floor. On the other floors there are thematic exhibitions.

It is permitted to take pictures in most of the museum, but unfortunately not in the halls where many of the most interesting and famous pictures are exhibited.

The three great Spanish artists of the last century: Picasso, Dalí and Miró are given a lot of space. Pablo Picasso is best known for his cubist art, but there are also other types of works by him on display, such as this portrait of a woman.

Salvador Dalí was a great admirer of Picasso. Dalí and Picasso were close friends, they gave each other mutual inspiration, but they were also competitors. Here are a couple of his paintings.

Joan Miró was also an admirer of Picasso and a friend of both Picasso and Dalí. He was inspired by both of them. Here are a couple of his surreal photos.

4) La Cathedral de Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena

The Almudena Cathedral is located in the area of the palace right outside the castle gate.It is the most significant religious building in Madrid.

Construction began in 1883, but progressed very slowly for long periods and was only completed in 1993.

Along the way, architectural changes were made to create a more harmonious adaptation to the castle's architecture.

The cathedral was built in honor of Santa María, who is one of Madrid's most important saints.It is built on the site where the small church Iglesia de Santa María stood.

The cathedral has three floors. The top floor is in the dome where there is also a museum. The main floor is designed as a Latin cross with several altars and five chapels.

The entrance to the lower floor is from the back of the Cathedral.Here you can find a number of graves, including those of King Filipe III's spouse Queen María de la Mercedes - for whom this was supposed to be a pantheon.

5) La Plaza Mayor

La Plaza Mayor is a large rectangular open space surrounded by connected buildings.

Today this is a marketplace with restaurants and stalls, but originally it was a place for public events. Among other things, it was here that the Catholic Church canonized its saints.

It was King Felipe II who four hundred years ago had the buildings and the square erected. The statue of him on horseback was erected in 1848.

The space is 129 meters long and 24 meters wide. The way in is through one of nine arched openings in the buildings.

6) La Puerta del Sol

La Puerta del Sol is located a few hundred meters from the Plaza Mayor. It is considered the entrance to the old town of Madrid.

It's a beautiful place, but it's currently undergoing renovations, so it's difficult to get a photo of the iconic statue of the bear eating the strawberry tree - perhaps Madrid's most photographed motif and most bought souvenir.

7) El Parque de Retiro

El Retiro Park was originally laid out as a palace park for one of the king's palaces, the Palacio del Buen Retiro. It was opened to the public in 1767 and has since been Madrid's largest public park.

The park has a large network of footpaths and a number of open spaces.

The roads leading to the biggest attractions in the park are wide, but only official vehicles are allowed to drive here. The park is therefore peaceful and quiet throughout.

The park has its own palace - Palacio de Velázquez - and an artificial lake where you can rent a rowing boat and admire the monument in honor of King Alfonso XII.

8) El Palacio de Cristal

The Crystal Palace was built centrally in Retiro Park in 1887 in connection with a large exhibition from the Philippine Islands.

It is shaped like a Greek cross and consists almost entirely of glass in metal frames. The dome is 22 meters high.

The palace is now used for exhibitions of modern art. At the moment there is an installation of artificial smoke and mirrors.

9) Flamenco

Flamenco is an artistic form of expression that has emerged gradually over the last couple of hundred years as a result of impulses from Arab, Jewish and Romanian culture. It started in Andalucia in Spain.

Flamenco consists of dancing, stepping, singing and playing the guitar and is presented in special flamenco theaters - Tablao Flamenco - where you can usually also be served food or drink.

The art form has a large element of improvisation, and those in the group who do not dance often contribute by clapping, stomping or shouting to stimulate the dancer.

There are a number of Flamenco theaters in Madrid and most of them have high quality performances.

10) Sobrino de Botín (the world's oldest restaurant)

The restaurant Sobrino de Botín was opened in 1725. The founder was the Spaniard James Botín. It has been in continuous operation since then and is thus, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the world's oldest existing restaurant.

The restaurant was first called Casa Botín, but was later taken over by Botín's brother-in-law who gave it today's name Sobrino de Botín, which means Botín's brother-in-law.

Here, the interior is mostly as it was in the 18th century.

Fransisco Goya is said to have worked here while he was waiting to enter art school, and it is said to be Ernst Hemmingway's favorite restaurant. He is said to have been good friends with Emilio Gonzáles, who is the grandfather of the current owner, and has mentioned the restaurant in the book "The Sun also Rises".

One of the specialties is slow-roasted suckling pig or mutton. This dish gets mixed reviews.Some have been satisfied, but our food was cooked far too little. This is perhaps not a place you visit for the food, but mostly for the atmosphere and history. During the season, you should book a table in advance.

Madrid has a large selection of restaurants. If you like tapas, it might be worth visiting Calle de la Cava Baja - which is popularly known as tapas street. The tapas restaurants are lined up here.

For those who must have gluten-free food, it may be good to know that there is a restaurant with a separate sheet in the menu for gluten-free dishes where you can even get the dessert Tiramisu gluten-free.

Bresca Taberno di Bologna is an Italian restaurant with very pleasant staff, fast service and very good food - also the gluten-free food. All raw materials are from Italy.

All the places and tourist attractions described in this post are within walking distance if you choose a hotel somewhere in the middle between the Atocha train station and Plaza Mayor. We chose Hotel Catalonia on Calle de Atocha. Then we got approx. 10-15 minutes to walk from the train station to the hotel and about the same from the hotel to the Plaza Mayor.

Hotel Catalonia has two hotels on opposite sides of the road, not far from each other. We stayed at the Hotel Catalonia Atocha and were very happy with it. Good standard, good common rooms and acceptable prices. There are of course also other good hotels, but it pays to choose a location somewhere between Atocha and Plaza Mayor.

The old part of the Atocha train station is worth a visit in itself. Here, the disused train hall has been turned into a green park where you can stroll among lush vegetation while waiting for the train.

It may make sense to plan the excursions. Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol are only a few hundred meters apart. The Palacio Real and the Cathedral de Almudena are also just a few hundred meters from the Plaza Mayor. The parks Les Jardines del Palacio and Campo de Moro are close to the castle. It can therefore be worthwhile to visit these places at the same time.

The Prado Museum and the Reina Sophia Museum are very close to the train station. So do the Retiro Park and the Crystal Palace. There is also a botanical garden which may be worth a visit. It may make sense to visit these places at the same time.

Restaurant Sobrino de Botín is located near Tapasgaten Calle Cava Baja. All these restaurants are located just off Calle Atocha. Calle Atocha is therefore a good starting point for all these places.

The streets in the central part of Madrid have many good photo subjects. Only the imagination sets the limits. It is allowed to take pictures in public spaces, but there are restrictions in some of the museums. If you take pictures of beggars or street musicians, you will be welcomed if you pay a small penny.

It costs money to enter the Palacio Real (12 Euro), the Prado Museum (15 Euro) and the Reina Sophia Museum (10 Euro). At times there can be long queues to buy tickets. If you buy tickets online in advance, you skip the queue and save a lot of time. Children and senior citizens pay half price in the castle and in the Prado museum and get free entry in the Reina Sophia museum.

More excursions:

Excursion of the week: Madrid

Suitable for: Everybody

Getting there: For those traveling from elsewhere in Spain, the easiest way is to take the high-speed train to Atocha station in Madrid. It only takes 2-3 hours. The train travels at 300 km/h and you get to enjoy the beautiful landscape while you travel. But many of the train departures only go to other stations so you have to take the subway or a taxi to get to Atocha station. It can therefore be worthwhile to check the train departures carefully so that you get the correct booking. If you come by plane, it will also be worthwhile to take a taxi or train from the airport to Atocha and use this as a base.

Especially in the big cities in Spain, it pays to use public transport rather than your own car. This link may be useful for booking train or bus tickets.

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