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
This is a great gay hostel with really friendly staff - who are always willing to offer you advice on where to go and what to see - they even hand out free club passes!
The rooms are more like a hotel than a hostel, with TVs, comfortable beds and balconies overlooking Puerta del Sol square. There's also free internet and a free breakfast of freshly baked buns.
The location is excellent, you are right in the center of town, so we could walk everywhere.
Puerta del Sol Square, Madrid
Is this the coolest transport interchange in the world? A sight in its own right, Atocha station is definitely worth visiting when you're in the area - which you will be as it is just minutes from the Prado and Reina Sofia art galleries. The juxtaposition of grand nineteenth century industrial architecture with the recently added tropical arboretum is striking, bold and beautiful. And on a rare rainy day, it's a great place to picnic!
Atocha Station, Plaza del Emperador Carlos V, Madrid
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
In the heart of Madrid you'll find this beautiful park that's a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Amble around the wide winding lanes through fabulous park land and greenery and make sure you visit on Sunday as the place comes alive with musicians and street entertainers alike.
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