You have heard of El Corte Ingles, the famous department store in Madrid where you can find almost anything under the sun. Most tourists do their shopping there. But if you have a young adolescent with you, you might want to do your shopping (or rather hers!) inside the Mercado de Fuencarral or along the Calle de Fuencarral. In this pedestrians-only street, you will find a big choice of clothing and other fashionable objects for the young. But to get a feel of the local colour and come into contact with the Madrileños you will have to go to the "El Rastro" flea market. It runs along the whole of Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores and the metro station that takes you right to its doorstep is the one at Tirso de Molina (Line 1). It's open only on Sundays from 9h00-14h00 so it's important that you reserve your Sunday morning for this trip. You can end your flea market experience by going to one of the tapas bars that abound in the area before going to the Retiro Park to rest your tired feet!
El Rastro - Madrid's flea market.
A stall selling fans which are very much a part of the señoritas make-up. Think of Carmen and flamenco dances where fans are often used as a prop.
Madrid's flea market is second to none. A leisurely stroll along this leafy street on a Sunday morning is as much a ritual as going to Mass for many Spaniards.
This stall takes great pains to decorate one side of its "wall" with a strikingly colourful piece of tissue in order to attract attention in this highly-animated street.
The Royal Palace (El Palacio Real), though used by the King of Spain for official state ceremonies, is not where the royal family reside. Their actual residence is at the Zarzuela Palace on the outskirts of Madrid. The Royal Palace, however, remains one of the top tourist attractions in Madrid mainly for its collection of armoury and paintings. Apart from the Throne Room, one of the most impressive rooms is the banquet hall with its extremely long table seating some 100 guests. The decoration of all the rooms is lavish and sumptuous, to say the least, with works by some of the greatest painters in Spain on display. If you want to see the vast collection of medieval armour, turn to your left as you face the Palace façade as the Royal Armoury is not inside the Palace proper. However your visit of the armoury will be in very dim lighting (I was told by the guardian that this was necessary in order not to cause damage to the armoury).
The Royal Palace (El Palacio Real)
You will pass by this imposing cathedral called Catedral de la Almudena on your way to the Royal Palace.
A policeman on horseback keeps an eye on the crowds queueing up to visit the Palacio Real.
The façade of the Royal Palace. Before entering the Palace walk over to the left side to see the Royal Armoury.
Madrid is indeed a beautiful city to visit. There are fountains and trees everywhere along the main roads of the city. The Spaniards know how to enjoy life - eating, drinking and making merry till the early hours of the morning. They are never in a hurry and you as a visitor are soon taken up with their easy-going lifestyle.
One of the many fountains lighted up at night. This picture was taken from the Madrid Vision open-top bus which stops at all the touristic places and allows you to hop on and off as you wish.
Fuente de Neptuno (Neptune's Fountain) at Plaza de Canovas del Castillo in front of the Prado Museum. In the statue Neptune is seen holding a trident in one hand, and a coiled snake in the other.
The Plaza Espana with its fountain and monument to Cervantes. Nearby, for just a month, are makeshift stalls selling decorative objects and materials by Latinos living in Madrid.
If you still have time left after seeing all that you wanted to see in Madrid it would be a pity not to make a side trip to Toledo, as it is just half an hour away by train from the Atocha railway station. Go here for more on visiting Toledo. Others though, might prefer to go to Segovia, which is a bit farther away.
More sights in Madrid
A gigantic tropical garden right in the middle of the Atocha railway station. It is from the Atocha railway station that you take your train for Toledo. The other railway station for long-distance travel is at Chamartin.
The entrance to the world of Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Do you know that the Presidential Balcony is not the best spot to see a match but is the safest as it is on the street level and allows for a quick exit in case of trouble?
There is no Spaniard worthy of his name who is not a connoisseur of ham as displayed here in a bar. A top-quality ham goes by the name of jamon de bellota, as the pigs are reared on acorns. Price: Nearly 100 euros per kg.
Yes = Si
Hello = Hola
Good morning = Buenos dias
Thanks = Gracias
I don't understand = No entiendo
Excuse me = Perdoname
money = dinero
Do you speak English? = Habla ingles?
Please = Por favor
today = hoy
tomorrow = manana
yesterday = ayer
now = ahora
OK = De acuerdo
How much? = Cuanto cuesta?
Where? = Donde?
When? = Cuando?
Goodbye = Adios