Madrid: A Monumental City

At this point, I am no expert on Madrid. I’ve spent nearly three days here and most of that was in the rain. But, it’s been a good taste of the city and enough to have a few thoughts on it.
Overall, it’s an interesting town. Obviously at 5.5 million people it is the biggest city in Spain and it definitely feels that way with it’s massive sprawl, due it’s cornfield-esque starting point in the absolute and very flat heart of Spain. So, it’s only sensible that there would be a great many things to see in Madrid and a great many things to do. As I mentioned previously, a lot of the activities are based around being outside, but it’s the case that there are many things to see indoors as well. The museums for instance, are excellent. The Prado tops the list with one of the most amazing collections of art that I’ve ever seen. Countless works that I’ve only seen in art textbooks are here, like the Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch or Las Meninas by Velázquez among countless others.
Then there is the Reina Sofía Museum, which has a good number of known works, but at a cost of great controversy. For instance, it has Dalí’s most famous works, which were basically stolen from Figueres to give this very new museum something to show. Then of course there is Guernica by Picasso which was only supposed to hang in The Prado once it was returned to Spain, but now hangs in the Reina Sofía. Beyond these famous works, the museum feels quite empty and haphazard as the collection was built artificially. But, if you’re an art fan, you will absolutely have to go and see these paintings, which is what the federal government was scheming to bank upon.
Beyond cultural displays, Madrid is a great town to walk around. It is relatively flat and there are a lot of neighborhoods to see. The only thing that I couldn’t get in to was how austere these neighborhoods were. Maybe it was just the rain, but you’d walk in to one neighborhood and it would be all bars on a street. Then, you walk in to another and it’s all restaurants. Then another would be all pensions or just houses. There was no variety to what was in each neighborhood making them a bit off-putting and not terribly welcoming to hang out in. By contrast, I could probably spend the rest of my life in just Eixample or the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona. Lavapies (feet washer in English) by contrast is best for cheap going out and is pretty dead during most of the day.
Towering above all of this though is the fact that Madrid is a capital and capitals have big freakin’ buildings. Whether it’s the Royal Palace or even just the post office, everything is on a huge, monumental scale that was indeed intended to dwarf the common citizen and make them awestruck at the capital of their country. These buildings are grand and impressive, but not approachable. I think this is where my main problem with Madrid lies in the fact that I have a lot of trouble really digging in to it.
Don’t get me wrong in this, Madrid is definitely worth visiting, but if you haven’t seen other Spanish cities like Barcelona or Sevilla, make it a city of less priority on your Spain checklist of sites. Any trip of 3-4 days there is bound to be a great time; especially if done when the weather and thusly the businesses are more welcoming. After all, a 1.50€ glass of good red wine in a bar and affordable jamón in the restaurants, is pretty hard to beat when it comes to startin’ up the good times.
Madrid: A Monumental City