As you go down calle Hortaleza look up at the building at 1 calle Mejía Lequerica and you will notice a sculptured lizard scuttling up the side of the building just underneath the roof. A strange sight indeed in the suburbs of Madrid.
Nearest metro station: Tribunal
Exit Tribunal metro station onto calle Fuencarral. Cross the road and in front of you will see the red building which is the museo de historia de Madrid. Take the street to the right of the museum which is called calle Beneficencia. Follow the street to its end where you should turn right onto calle Mejía Lequerica. Go down calle Mejía Lequerica and you will come to a crossroads. Cross the road in front of you (calle Hortaleza) and turn right.
Just before you cross calle Fernando IV look up to the yellow building on your right hand side (where calle Mejía Lequerica and calle Hortaleza meet) and you will see the sculptured lizard on the left side of the building just under the roof - this street corner is the best spot from which to take a photo as the lizard is in plain view.
Cross calle Fernando IV and continue straight down calle Hortaleza and you will end up back on Gran Vía right opposite the
Gran Vía metro station.
Google map: bit.ly/QQr2q0
An alternative to the big city art establishments is La Tabacalera. A community-run gallery/workshop space/music venue/café/bar in the multicultural barrio of Lavapies, this old tobacco factory is the laid back, graffiti-walled hangout for the cool kids, mums and dads of Madrid. If you want to mix with locals and brush up on your Spanish the vibe is friendly, the art is edgy and the drinks are cheap. Any given night of the week there is bound to be a salsa-class, skateboarding practice, art exhibition or workshop in session, open to anyone and all for free.
Calle Embajadores 53, Madrid
Metro stop: Embajadores
The CaixaForum Madrid by architects Herzog and de Meuron, opened in 2008 and is located near the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums.
The converted former power station presents itself like a walk-in sculpture, with several exhibitions and events hosted concurrently. The building looks over the Paseo del Prado with a daringly beautiful planted wall and contrasting Cor-ten steel and brick facade.
My family and I went there after a visit to the botanical garden for a 'quick look' - we stayed three hours and hadn't even exhausted the impressive Richard Rogers architects exhibition (until 18 Oct 2009) with dozens of models. Even the younger kids were happy!
A cool cafe and bookshop rounds of this 'must visit' gem.
Paseo del Prado, 36
Tel.: 91 330 73 00
Atocha, línea 1
I can rightly claim the "hombre más baratas en Madrid" crown after surviving a weekend on €38.
The Madrid Metro – the Orient Express compared to the London Underground – runs from the airport to city for a paltry €2. Visit the Parque del Retiro and explore the Crystal Palace art installations, monuments including the beautiful but sinister El Angel Caído, go boating by Alfonso XII's grandiose statue, then watch free street performers and puppeteers. Sip your sangria and toast the Madrid teleférico's 40th anniversary at the terminal bar: the skyline's not as exciting as Barcelona but it's relaxing and cheap.
Window-shop the Gran Via and continue to Plaza de España, Teatro Real, Palacio Real and Plaza Mayor for some classic Spanish architecture. Don't miss the El Rastro fleamarket on Sundays: calling it a flea market is a disservice to the sprawling city of stalls filled with delicious food and exotic crafts. It covers several blocks and gets very crowded so mind your valuables.
Madrid's gloriously rowdy tapas bars were out of my budget so I made do with the supermercado for flavoursome food. Ubiquitous Carrefour City and Express stores stock tasty Iberico ham, chorizo and other Spanish treats at unbeatable prices.
From horrific realisation to splendid sunny weekend of exploration, Madrid is perfect for a Spanish holiday on the cheap.
Metro - €2 one way from airport to central city, daypass tickets available. www.metromadrid.es/en/viaja_en_metro/tarifas/billetes/contenido07.html
Teleférico - €5.10 round trip, Paseo del Pintor Rosales, nearest metro Arguelles. www.teleferico.com/tarifas
El Rastro - start at Puerta de Toledo metro from 10am on Sundays. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Rastro
Parque del Retiro (and other locations) - madridspain.ca/attractions/retiropark.html
Carrefour store finder (use Google translate) - www.carrefour.es/
Art work hangs from the lime green painted walls and exposed pipes at this trendiest of hang-outs in Chueca. It's laid-back and an ideal escape from the nearby mania of Gran Vía. The staff are sound enough to knock off any euro cents you might be missing for your cafe con leche.
11 Calle Colón, Tel. 91 522 9107, Metro Gran Vía
It is the city's museum of modern art, heavily featuring Spanish modern artists - Dali, Miro and Picasso, and houses Picasso's Guernika. It's much more manageable than the Prado; the building itself is gorgeous, all white and airy, with a lovely garden in the central quadrangle. It used to be a mental hospital.
The top floor also houses contemporary installations which make the mind boggle. Enough for an hour or two of culture, without feeling obliged to see the rest, or be overwhelmed at the amount of work to see.
My favourite is a preparatory sketch of a bull with mad eyes Picasso made, for Guernika. My first stop whenever I am in town.
Free Saturday afternoons from 2pm.
On the Ronda de Atocha, opposite the Atoha railway station. 15 minute walk south of Plaza Major. Metro - Atocha
Goya painted the fresco on the dome/ceiling. It is stunning and now restored it looks fresh with brilliant colour. Entry is free.
Metro Principe Pio at Station Norte. Walk down Florida past aprtments on right,shops on left to cross roads. At the moment massive construction works are blighting the area, walk back by the river path or back along Florida to stop at Horno Antonio for excellent coffee and pastry with the locals.
El Retiro is the nicest park in Madrid. It's pretty big and has loads of interesting features: the lake, where you can hire little rowing boats; Casa de Vacas where you can see art exhibitions; and the Palacio de Cristal where art exhibitions are shown. El Retiro is great all year round for walking, running, cycling, having a drink or simply lying on the grass.
Famous for the monastery built by Philip II, a building as austere and powerful as its patron, San Lorenzo offers plenty to the visitor. The monastery tour is essential; you'll see a vast basilica with some fine art (the Cellini Crucifixion in particular), the 'panteon' where most of Spanish royalty lies rotting away, King Philip's bedroom overlooking the high altar, and a fine art collection.
After all this, a bit of relaxation is needed. Try Cafetín Croché for posh cocktails in Art Nouveau environment, or Café Babel for something more arty and bohemian.
Train from Atocha or Chamartín stations to El Escorial, then station bus to monastery. Buses 661 or 664 from the Moncloa bus station.
Madrid's second most famous art museum. It doesn't have Las Meninas or cute art students doing copies of the Old Masters. But nor does it have the Prado's crowds and the endless succession of suffering Jesuses and portraits of Spanish royalty and their mates.
Paseo del Prado, 8
The museum not to miss while in Madrid is the Thyssen-Bornemisza. This private art collection housed right accross from the infinitely more famous Museo del Prado, features paintings from the 16th through the 20th centuries by some of the world's most prominent artists, including Caravaggio, Monet, Degas, Gaugin, Van Gogh, Picasso, O'Keefe and Hopper, among others. The quality an diversity of the collection is uncomparable, yet it is a size that is manageable and won't cause 'museum-fatigue'. So you'll have enough time and energy after your visit to get out and see the rest of what Madrid has to offer!
Paseo del Prado, 8
Fantastic museum full of modern art - if nothing else, it contains Picasso's incredible (and enormous) Guernica. Like a lot of the museums in Madrid, admission is free on Sundays.
Metro: Atocha; www.museoreinasofia.es/
Beautiful botanical gardens right next to the Prado. An oasis of calm to wander, read and relax when you want to escape the noise and pace of central Madrid. Also has a gallery with changing exhibitions showcasing contemporary artists - I saw fantastic Stephen Gill photographs when I was there in June.
Pl. de Murillo
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