A visit to historical Madrid and ambitious Valencia

A visit to historical Madrid and ambitious Valencia



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Madrid's exciting atmosphere and cultural treasures win the hearts of many visitors. From buzzing plazas, cultural sites, and world-class museums to beautiful parks and exclusive boutiques. In the evening the city comes to life. Madrileños love going out, eat tapas in their favorite bars in town, and the evening stroll is their cherished ritual.

What not to miss in Madrid?

Prado Museum

Truly of world-class, the Prado Museum - opened in 1819 - hosts more than 9,000 artworks. Most of the collections are masterpieces made in between the 12th and the 19th-century and boast pieces of painters like Fra Angelico as well as native masters like Goya and Ribera. The Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions of art by prestigious artists. Combine your visit with the near Thyssen, Reina Sofía, and Archaeological Museums for more notable cultural highlights.  

Plaza Mayor

This elegant 17th-century cobblestone square was built during the reign of Philip III. Back then, it was the center of commerce and a venue for ceremonial events, dramatic performances, and knightly tournaments. Today, the expansive Plaza Mayor is a pedestrian area with many cafés and restaurants that are frequented by tourists as well as by the Madrileños.

Parque del Retiro

Just beyond the bustling streets, The Buen Retiro Park (Parque del Retiro) is an oasis of peace in the heart of Madrid. This historic lush 120-hectare park has an elegant ambiance with its wonderful landscaping, tree-lined paths, and beautiful water areas. Walk to the Crystal Palace and its surroundings for a relaxing moment at the pond or head to the central lake for a picnic. For a livelier atmosphere look for street entertainers, puppet shows, concerts or exhibitions that always take place in the park.

Gourmet Madrid

Anyone that likes to experience new tastes and culinary traditions should visit the Mercado de San Miguel. This old traditional market is converted into a modern gastronomic experience and is a paradise for food lovers! Here you’ll find (and can sample) a huge variety of food from Spanish hams, cheeses, fruits and veggies, seafood, sangria, and wine. The smells and flavors are all delicious! The market is centrally located, at the beginning of the La Latina neighborhood, where you can find the city's very best tapas, but also for a lively night out and top restaurants you are here in the right place.

Puerta del Sol 

The Puerta del Sol - the ‘official’ center of the nation - lies in the heart of Madrid and is characterized by the statue of the bear and the tree, Madrid’s emblem. 

This spacious town square has been the scene of many historical events, including the Spanish resistance to Napoleon and the proclamation of the Second Republic in 1031. Today the Plaza del Sol is one of the liveliest squares in Madrid. Connected to the square on the north, lies the "Gran Via", undoubtedly one of the busiest and most commercial avenues in the city with plenty of shops, boutiques, and bars.

The Palacio Real

The residence of the Spanish royal family, The Royal Palace, is built entirely of granite and white Colmenar stone and rises above a steep slope overlooking its lush gardens. Inside, at the entrance of the hallway, there is one of the most striking features of the interior, the impressive staircase surrounded by interesting artworks and sculptures. 

In less than 2 hours, the Renfe high-speed train brings you from the Atocha Train Station in the center of Madrid to the Estació del Nord located in the medieval city of Valencia.

Under the rays of the warm southern sun, Valencia's plazas are full of life, and the gold-azulejo domes of the churches sparkle in the sunlight. Valencia has a rich cultural heritage and a mix of old and new buildings, giving the town a unique atmosphere.

Glorious monuments are the evidence of a rich past where Valencia played a major merchant and aristocratic role. Yet, Valencia has entered impressively the 21st century with the construction of the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, where visitors can immerse into a new world of artistic and scientific discovery. 

Foodies looking for a real taste of Valencia should try sampling some local products from the Central Market or savor a dish of paella, for which the town is famous. Valencia's beaches - featuring fine golden sand and spectacular views of the Mediterranean - and beautiful gardens offer perfect spots to take a relaxing break in the sun.

Things you need to see in Valencia

Seu Cathedral and The Holy Grail

Located in the Plaza de la Reina - one of the most beautiful squares in Valencia located in the old town - the Seu Catedral is probably most famous for its claim of owning the Holy Grail (the actual cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper). The Cathedral of Valencia - with its symbolic Miguelete Tower - was built in the 13th century however its construction ended only two centuries after. Today it is the largest church in the city. The Sue was built on the site of an old mosque and exposes beautiful Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architectural elements.

You can climb the Miguelete bell tower and enjoy great views of the city and of the azure-hued tiles of the domes, which are a distinctive feature of Valencia's skyline.

Mercado Central (The Central Market)

The Mercado Central is one of the oldest food markets in Europe. The building - inaugurated in 1928 - is decorated with Valencian-style mosaics and ceramics and gives room to almost 400 merchants. Here the Valencians buy their fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and other local food. If you just want to sense its ambiance, take then a seat at the tapas bar in the center of the market; from here you have a complete view of many of the shops.

Paella

For centuries, Valencia has been one of the most important rice-producing areas in Spain and is, therefore, the undisputed home of Paella. Paella is made like a kind of risotto and includes an array of meat, seafood, and vegetables that blend with a slow-cooked rice spiced with saffron. Since it takes a few hours to unite all its flavors, paella is usually made in huge portions that require special pans and skills. Since the dish was born here, many restaurants compete for your appetite. Browse the specials around town and try the several varieties this signature dish is offered. 

Jardin del Turia

The 'Jardins Del Turia' - the largest urban gardens in all of Spain - is a unique park that runs along the dried-up river bed of the old Turia river. Get a bike, and pedal it down from the Biopic Zoo toward the water (you can rent bikes on one side and drop them off at the other). 

As you cycle, you pass under the various bridges that connect the two parts of the city, some being hundreds of years old. Keep your eyes open to get a glimpse of impressive sculptures, fountains, skateboard parks and much more.

Along the old river bed, it is possible to see an enormous variety of plants and trees, and right next to it, you will find the Botanical Gardens and the Royal Gardens. The gardens offer an excellent way as well to walk to the City of Arts and Sciences

The City of Arts and Sciences

In the ‘City of Arts and Sciences’ - an impressive futuristic center - visitors can experience cutting-edge cultural and scientific exhibitions. The complex houses the Science Museum, the Hemisfèric (a planetarium and IMAX theater), the Oceanogràfic aquarium and the Reina Sofía Palace of Arts among other attractions.

Most travelers are enthusiastic about the many sights that this complex offers, and suggest you wear comfortable shoes; the center is so extensive, you'll be doing a lot of walking.

The beaches of Valencia

If you’re looking for some chill out time in the sun, Valencia’s beaches are right around the corner. Along the coastline of the city, pristine and undeveloped beaches are lined up next to the popular ones like the Playa Malvarrosa, a broad and open beach with fine sand. Parallel to this beach, you find the Paseo Marítimo, a splendid seafront promenade, which is the ideal place to go walking, roller skating, jogging, or savor a delicious paella and a glass of wine.

Pictures

Madrid, Prado Museum https://flic.kr/p/Uydk8T

Madrid, Plaza Mayor https://flic.kr/p/qd8vFM

Madrid, Parque del Retiro. View on Crystal Palace https://flic.kr/p/8wiRwb

Madrid, Mercado de San Miguel https://flic.kr/p/9FNuZs

Madrid, Statue of the bear and the tree @Puerta del Sol https://flic.kr/p/5bCpbn

Madrid, Gran Via https://flic.kr/p/cbs2Td

Madrid, Royal Palace https://pixabay.com/en/palacio-real-madrid-spain-palace-2002977/

Valencia, Seu Cathedral https://flic.kr/p/BEDaf

Valencia, Miguelete Bell Tower https://pixabay.com/en/bouquets-flowers-ornaments-358121/

Valencia, Moscaic decorations of the Mercado Central https://flic.kr/p/fNkhz6

Valencia, Fruit Stall of Mercado Central https://flic.kr/p/4EY7Ao

Valencia, Paella Valenciana https://flic.kr/p/woNcT

Valencia, City of Arts and Sciences

In the Jardin del Turia https://flic.kr/p/7t7Fmg

Valencia, Paseo Marítimo https://flic.kr/p/4RHNku

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